Fifty years ago, as the first Consortium class was beginning its work with our brand new organization, the members of that class had a chance to interact with the first corporate partners.
In a Sept. 1, 1967, letter to Continental Oil Executive Vice President Howard W. Blauvelt, the Consortium class outlined ideas about how the company could be more active in civil rights and equal employment opportunity. Many of the suggestions will be familiar to readers today.
The company, which we now know as ConocoPhillips, was one of two petroleum-related corporate partners at the launch of The Consortium. The company contributed $7,500 and was one of the first 27 partners of the organization.
In an April 15, 1968, letter to Consortium founder Sterling Schoen, Blauvelt acknowledged the suggestions and bunched them into four categories: provide meaningful positions; assist Negro education; community leadership; and influence racial attitudes of white employees. Blauvelt acknowledged the good suggestions and, in some cases, gave his company good marks for its work in several of those areas.
He wasn’t upbeat about the likelihood of change in the fourth area: “Our management philosophy and experience have indicated that we cannot dictate the racial attitudes of our employees,” he wrote. “We recognize these attitudes develop from within each person. Lecturing creates only defensiveness and counter-reaction.”
The letters appeared in the first annual report for the “Consortium for Graduate Study in Business for Negroes” in May 1968. Here is the full letter from the first Consortium class to Howard Blauvelt.
September 1, 1967
Mr. Howard W. Blauvelt
Executive Vice President
Continental Oil Company
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10020
Dear Mr. Blauvelt:
During Continental’s recent case presentation at Washington University, you asked us the following question:
“What do you think the Continental Oil Company should be doing in the area of civil rights and equal employment opportunity?”
The following proposals are the result of our lengthy and serious discussions; these proposals should not be considered all inclusive, but their implementation would indicate that CONOCO recognizes the necessity of extending its commitments and responsibilities within the total community. The commitment to action implicit in your request is evidence of the role of leadership we believe Continental will assume in this area.
- Hire qualified Negroes for positions of importance and responsibility and not just for “window-dressing.”
- Avoid the creation of “Negro jobs” and “Negro departments.”
- Expand recruitment of qualifiable Negroes.
- Establish direct lines of communication within the local Negro community via social action groups, radio stations aimed at the Negro market, etc.
- Make the employees aware that good race relations are in the best interests of the company.
- Have public relations program to improve human relations among employees.
- Have economists point out the economic disadvantages of segregation.
- Have a random sample of employees brainstorm problem of ways to improve race relations in the company.
- Join with other Plans for Progress companies to jointly present the case for community action on the race problem.
- Negotiate non-discrimination clause in all labor contracts.
- Establish an incentive system to receive suggestions from employees to help solve current racial problems facing both the company and the community.
- Hire a Negro behavioral scientist who is aware of the Negro’s existing conditions and the problems the Negro employee might face.
- Require all supervisors to take a course in human relations provided or financed by the company.
- Sponsor social events and encourage all employees to participate.
- Create recreational facilities in local communities for all employees.
- Use fully integrated inter-company sports to promote better relations between Negroes and whites.
- Encourage the formation of interracial committees in the company and the community.
- Have an employees’ grievance committee handle charges of unfair racial treatment.
- Improve and increase on-the-job training.
- Let the community know where the company stands on controversial issues, acting as a positive force in securing fairness of treatment instead of following community mores.
- Encourage informal, integrated groups to discuss current social problems, i.e., race relations, slums, etc.
- Provide educational opportunities for employees who wish to upgrade themselves.
- Provide funds to predominantly Negro colleges to attract prominent educators with special emphasis on the technical field.
- Encourage company engineers to teach at predominantly Negro institutions to illustrate the needs for and the advantages of people engaged in engineering and other technical occupations.
- Work with local school boards to develop employable skills in those students who plan to terminate their formal education with high school.
- Establish cooperative training programs leading to meaningful employment in predominantly Negro high schools and colleges.
- Provide scholarship assistance to promising Negro employees to enable them to move into managerial positions.
- Establish scholarships at Negro colleges.
- Establish scholarships to integrated colleges for graduating high school students.
- Establish awards for outstanding Negro students at the high school and college level in fields of interest to the company.
- Hire and train more Negroes native to the area of the local plants.
- Locate plants or divisions in slum areas to take advantage of the labor supply, to aid in the elimination of slums and to improve the overall economic and social conditions.
- Form not alignments with political parties, but with civic-minded businessmen and politicians. (With special emphasis on urban committees, e.g. “The Urban Coalitions”).
- Sponsor educational and cultural projects for children to improve relations and demonstrate interest in their future.
- Advertise for employees in Negro publications.
- Offer legal assistance to employees involved in court action against discriminatory practices in the community.
- Have lobbyists work for the passage of fair housing, fair employment, and non-discriminatory labor laws.
- Confer with representative Negro leaders to seek solutions to the real problems of the Negro community and assist in their solution.
- Practice fair employment because it is right and in the long term interests of the company — not in response to government pressure.
- Establish an integrated summer work program for college sophomores, juniors, and seniors of average and better ability. Students should be housed together.
- Send evaluation forms to places to be visited by recruiter so interviewees can evaluate the sincerity of recruiters and return forms to the company.
Members, Consortium for Graduate Study in Business for Negroes