Working conditions at Sparrows Point Steel Mill differed for white and black workers.
The text tells us that although everyone worked hard, black workers often had to perform the tasks that white workers would not touch. Black men who started work at the mill would initially be assigned to work at the bottom of partially built tankers in the shipyard. There, their job was to pick up any nuts, bolts, and rivets which would invariably fall more than thirty or forty feet down by workers who were welding or drilling above.
Eventually, if the black workers were fortunate, they would be moved to the furnace room, where again, they handled jobs no white worker would perform. The black workers would be assigned to shovel coal into blazing furnaces. They breathed in toxic coal dust and asbestos while performing back-breaking jobs. Black workers earned 80 cents an hour or less; whites earned more. By the time WWII commenced with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sparrows Point was quickly emerging as the largest steel plant in the world. Black families migrated from Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas to work at the steel mill.