William Sentner Papers
This collection documents William Sentner's involvement in St. Louis labor movements, various unions, as well as material regarding his political activities and legal battles. The collection contains photographs, labor newsletters, collected news clippings about Sentner, legal and union documents, and Sentner’s personal correspondence.
- Sentner, William, 1907-1958 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.
Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.
If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)
22.00 linear feet
36 boxes (Plus one oversized folder)
William (Bill) Sentner was born in St. Louis in 1907 to Russian-Jewish immigrants who worked in the garment industry. A bright student, he received a scholarship to attend Washington University. He studied architecture at the University until 1927 when his father died and he was forced to leave St. Louis to find work before completing his degree. He eventually ended up on the West Coast, where he encountered a radical seaman culture that was strong on militant organizing and exposed him to socialism, communism, and the writings of Carl Marx. Sentner eventually returned to St. Louis and became involved in the Unemployed Movement and the Trade Union Unity League.
One of Sentner’s first major successes in the labor movement was with the nut-picker’s strike of 1933, in which black and white female workers united to strike against low wages and racialized pay scales. The strike, led by African American women from the Funston Nut Factory, effectively engaged other working-class community members, who brought feasts to the women on the picket lines to demonstrate that they were prepared for a long fight if necessary. The workers eventually received all of their demands, except for the recognition of their union. The community organizing techniques used in this strike laid the groundwork for future organization efforts. Sentner organized the District 8 CIO United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (Local 813) in 1935.
For the next fifteen years, Sentner engaged in many other organizing efforts, sometimes risking his own health and safety to fight for a living wage for others. After one strike with the Metal Workers Industrial Union, Sentner was thrown in jail and brutally beaten, after which he decided to officially become a card-carrying member of the communist party.
After WWII, Sentner was accused of being a part of a communist conspiracy and fought a long battle against anti-communist sentiment before a loss of support forced him to forego seeking reelection to his position as head of the union at the end of 1948.
(Biography extracted from "Celebrating Labor Day with the Sentner Papers" by Rose Miyatsu, September 1, 2018)
Note written by Rose Miyatsu
This collection has been arranged into 10 series, as follows.
Series 1: District 8, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America
Series 2: Missouri Valley Authority (MVA)
Series 3: Communist Party Materials
Series 4: Smith Act
Series 5: Political Action and Social Issues
Series 6: Personal Correspondence
Series 7: Miscellaneous
Series 8: Antonia Sentner
Series 9: Photographs
Series 10: Objects
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by William Sentner, Jr. of Yardley, PA, 1988.
Selected and packed by Rose Feurer, graduate student assistant in University Archives, 1987-1988. Water damage to transcripts in Series 4, Sub-series 3 dried and boxed by Library Preservation staff, 1990. Processed by Dina Young in 1990-1991.
Additional accurals processed by Miranda Rectenwald in December 2020. Added to finding aid by Sarah Schnuriger in January 2021.
- William Sentner Papers
- Description rules
- Language of description
- 2021 January 22: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.
Collecting Area Details
Part of the Local History Collecting Area
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis MO 63130 US