James Haughton, Presente!

James Haughton, 1979

April 17, 2016

James Haughton, PRESENTE

Text excerpted from Sam Roberts memoir published May 5, 2016 in the New York Times. 

James Haughton, Who Fought Racial Barriers in Building Trades, Dies at 86

James Haughton, a civil rights advocate who aggressively challenged racial barriers to hiring at construction sites in the 1960s and ’70s and promoted programs to train black and Hispanic apprentices in the building trades, died on April 17 in Manhattan. He was 86.

Mr. Haughton, a construction worker’s son, was best known for breaking with more moderate proponents of equal opportunity in hiring and housing to form what became known in 1969 as Fight Back, a group based in Harlem.

Fight Back documented discrimination; staged boycotts, protests and sit-down strikes; and filed lawsuits (sometimes with Columbia University’s Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law) against contractors and unions that were closed to newcomers, a consequence, the group said, of nepotism and racism.

James Haughton Jr. was born in Brooklyn on Oct. 8, 1929, the son of West Indian immigrants, James Haughton Sr. and the former Mary Miller. He grew up near the Fort Greene section and graduated from Boys High School and, in 1951, the City College of New York. He served as an Army lieutenant during the Korean War and received a master of public administration degree from New York University in 1960.

His wife, Eleanor Burke Leacock, an anthropologist, died in 1987. Besides Ms. Asbell, he is survived by four stepchildren, Elspeth, Claudia, David and Robert Leacock; and six step-grandchildren.