The C.L. Dellums papers provide insight into Dellums' career as a civil rights activist and labor
leader. They encompass files he maintained as both the International Vice-President of the
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and as a member of the Fair Employment Practices
Commission. In addition, they include some biographical materials and associated artifacts.
Cottrell Laurence Dellums was born to William H. and Emma Dellums on January 3,1900 in
Corsicana, Texas. At age twenty-three, he moved to Oakland, California in an effort to escape the
strict racial segregation prevalent in the South. His initial goal was to obtain a law degree from the
University of California at Berkeley, but most African Americans in Oakland worked in the service sector as waiters, janitors,
laborers, and railway porters. Realizing
that he could not afford to attend law school on the salary of a service worker, Dellums abandoned
this dream and started work as a Pullman porter in January 1924.