Under the leadership of William B. Wilson, the first Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, the Division of Negro Economics was created in 1917. The purpose of the Division was to increase and place the amount of black workers in war production. The Department also established labor advisory committees in the south, investigated work conditions of black women and enforced equal pay. George Haynes, a founder of the National Urban League, was tapped to initiate the division’s three part plan to: organize inter-racial committees to promote mutual understanding and deal with discrimination; mount a national publicity campaign to promote racial harmony and cooperation with the WWI effort, and develop a staff of black professionals to operate the division.
Though the Division made great strides in its early days to promote racial harmony and job creation for all, many of its efforts were eroded after WWI concluded. During the bloody summer of 1919, the country erupted into race riots, and congress did not see fit to fund the division for another year. Nonetheless, Haynes decided to push the Division to work for housing for black workers and bring them into the industrial age.