The organization of work changed greatly after the Civil War. Two major trends were the increasing industrialization and mechanization of jobs accompanied by the almost complete disappearance of individual crafts, and the rise of a white-collar class of clerical workers, service and salespeople, and multi-level management personnel. These phenomena were accompanied by a steady and sometimes overwhelming influx of foreign immigrants into the labor force as well as a growing number of women.
In New Haven, blacks from 1900 to 1930 made almost no inroads into clerical work or sales jobs, both of these being areas where they would have been in relatively equal contact with whites, either as co-workers or as representatives to the public. Private industry, including the utilities, the telephone company, and other businesses, excluded Negroes completely from these jobs. Also, as small, one-person businesses became less prevalent, the few Negroes who had gained a small foothold in the business community as barbers, restaurant owners, etc., disappeared except in all-Negro neighborhoods where there were, as always, barber shops, funeral parlors, and beauty shops. Some of these were operated and owned by Negroes, but often with low capital and only marginal success.
Government jobs, particularly letter-carrying and clerical jobs in the post office in New Haven, did provide one exception to the exclusion of blacks from jobs in the public sector. Negro women, however, were not equally successful in obtaining secretarial positions, even in the post office.
As the traditional home-centered occupations such as baking, sewing, and laundering became more commercialized and mechanized, Negro women, who had often worked in their homes, also lost employment. In 1930 the only factory jobs where they were significantly employed were in laundries and in the garment factories, although in the latter they were severely under represented as a group.
Negro men were almost totally excluded from the major industrial and manufacturing jobs in rubber, ammunition, cigar and tobacco processing, and iron and steel. The few jobs which were available to Negroes in those areas were those which were so unpleasant or physically difficult that no one else could be found to do them: drilling and digging inside tunnels, tending coke ovens, or carrying heavy loads.
There were, however, a few New Haven firms which were exceptions to this rule: a meat-packing company where Negroes were employed as butchers, a trucking firm which hired them as drivers, and dry cleaning establishments where they were hired as pressers.
By far the largest number of Negroes in 1930 as in 1830, were employed either as common laborers (a third of all Negro workingmen) or in personal or domestic service (over half of all Negroes employed in the city). Even in this latter category, however, there were many indications that Negroes were now competing with whites and were beginning to lose ground as the general employment situation became worse at the beginning of the Depression. Many restaurants and hotels which had traditionally employed black waiters or chambermaids began to switch to all-white staffs, and even Yale University, long a mainstay of Negro service employment, switched to white chambermaids and student waiters, although blacks were retained in other job categories.
This long-term lack of new jobs available to blacks in the period from 1870 to 1930 must also be seen in light of the arrival of the immigrant population, particularly the Italians, who arrived between 1890 and 1920. Although foreigners too were initially an object of distrust and disdain, they were seen as less odious by potential employers. Particularly as these groups began to fill low-level management jobs connected with hiring and to the extent that they became members of craft unions that had some influence over hiring, they reinforced the exclusion of blacks by giving preference to people from their own ethnic group.