Abstract: “Why a West Coast Paper Company Went South”: Corporate Expansion and Civil Rights in the Deep South

Owen James Hyman

Abstract

In November 1958, California paper manufacturer Crown Zellerbach released a report to its shareholders detailing why the firm “went South.” The company had just merged with the Gaylord Paper Company, making it the second largest paper manufacturer in the United States with access to thirteen paper mills, 31 paper conversion plants, over 2,200,000 acres of managed forests, and a half billion dollars in annual sales. With its expansion into the South, Crown committed itself to a major capital improvement program to update its newly acquired but outdated southern mills. In order to guarantee immediate returns on its investments and protect investor confidence, the company moved to limit work stoppages by acquiescing to the segregationist expectations of its southern workforce. These policies persisted in Crown Zellerbach's southern mills even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under pressure from white union members, Crown worked to avoid compliance with the act's equal employment provisions despite the company's image as a racially-progressive employer. In turn, it faced an extraordinary effort by a coalition of Louisiana and California activists, including some of Crown's own shareholders, to enforce civil rights law by intervening in its government contracts. The group proved able to construct a community of interested parties, from pulpwood workers to shareholders to customers, that cut across regional, racial, and class differences to force Crown to apply common standards in all of its facilities.