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A Message from Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for 2024 Black History Month

This year’s Black History Month theme is “African Americans and the Arts,” honoring Black Americans’ significant artistic achievements. Among the countless ways that Black artistic expression has helped shape American society and culture, it had a significant role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, contributing to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination in employment and created the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Freedom songs sustained the civil rights movement; they inspired, mobilized, and gave hope to those who marched, sat in, and protested for civil rights for all Americans. “We Shall Overcome” and other freedom songs were rallying cries in the fight for justice even in the face of physical violence and punishing economic consequences exercised by opponents of equality for Black Americans. Since the EEOC opened its doors in 1965, its work has embodied the same hope and perseverance expressed in freedom songs.

Freedom from discrimination at work is the core of the EEOC’s mission. EEOC staff around the country are dedicated to that mission and understand how important it is to serve everyone who comes to us for help. Given America’s long history of racial injustice and discrimination, this work is particularly important for Black workers. In fiscal year 2023, the EEOC’s work on behalf of Black job applicants and employees included the following:

  • The EEOC resolved 19 lawsuits, including several systemic and class cases, alleging race and/or national origin discrimination for nearly $4.9 million in monetary relief benefiting 89 individuals. In one of the cases, the EEOC alleged that a construction contractor subjected the two charging parties and other Black employees to racial harassment (including being subjected to dehumanizing racial epithets) and retaliated against the charging parties.
  • In another case, the EEOC alleged that the three employers subjected Black servers, hostesses, and bartenders working at a national franchise restaurant between 2017 and 2020 to racial harassment and failed to rehire them because of their race and in retaliation for their complaints of discrimination. The 3-year consent decree in this case provides for $650,000 in damages to 6 individuals, injunctions against discrimination and harassment based on race and retaliation, annual training, and reporting.
  • The EEOC successfully conciliated a systemic investigation after finding evidence that a car manufacturing company paid a class of Black managers substantially less than their white peers and subjected them to retaliatory harassment as a result of their complaints of wage discrimination. The EEOC obtained $2.5 million for 19 aggrieved individuals, as well as extensive injunctive relief.

Last fiscal year, the EEOC also conducted education and outreach activities to promote racial justice and confront systemic barriers in the workplace, including, among others:

  • 220 racial justice events reaching 24,188 attendees;
  • 188 race and color outreach events reaching 21,386 attendees;
  • 31 outreach events at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), reaching 1,626 attendees; and
  • 684 vulnerable worker outreach events reaching 74,769 attendees.

This Black History Month, we remember the freedom songs that have helped civil rights advocates “[k]eep [their] eyes on the prize” as we continue the EEOC’s tireless work for racial justice and equality on behalf of the American people.


Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her/hers)


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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