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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pullman Porters Men of Charcter

Hat Tip to Ms. Yantin and the folks at MSNBC. Ms. Yatin is great, she provided a powerful link on the black NY Pullman Porters - the largest group of black workers in post-slavery America, who are finally being recognized as the early engine of the civil rights movement. This is a must see clip below, which aired on NBC Nightly News yesterday evening with Brian Williams. Great job MSNBC!


As reported in the video, it was era when America traveled by train, one of the best jobs an African-American man could land was working as a Pullman porter. It also was one of the worst. The hours were grueling — 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The first Pullman porters, hired after the Civil War, were former slaves. Their ranks swelled until they reached 20,000 in the early part of the 20th century, making them the largest group of African-American men employed in the country. Last Tuesday, Amtrak honored the legacy of Pullman porters, who fought bigotry to form the first-ever black labor union in the country in 1925, achieving better wages and shorter hours. Little is known about the extraordinary accomplishments of these men, who were the foot soldiers in the early civil rights movement. They ushered in a new generation of leaders like Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall, both porters themselves.

AAPP: This is a powerful and significant piece of history my friends. As noted from the great folks at the A. Phillph Randolph Institute Musuem, during the century spanning the years 1868-1968, the African-American railroad attendant's presence on the train became a tradition within the American scene. By the 1920s, a peak decade for the railroads, 20,224 African-Americans were working as Pullman Porters and train personnel. At that time, this was the largest category of black labor in the United States and Canada. The Pullman Porters organized and founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925. The BSCP was the very first African-American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation. A. Philip Randolph was the determined, dedicated, and articulate president of this union who fought to improve the working conditions and pay for the Pullman Porters.

The porters had tried to organize since the begining of the century. The wages and working conditions were below average for decades. For example, the porters were required to work 400 hours per month or 11,000 miles—whichever occurred first to receive full pay. Porters depended on the passengers' tips in order to earn a decent level of pay. Typically, the porters' tips were more than their monthly salary earned from the Pullman Company. After many years of suffering these types of conditions, the porters united with A. Philip Randolph as their leader. Finally, having endured threats from the Pullman Company such as job loss and harassment, the BSCP forced the company to the bargaining table. On August 25, 1937, after 12 years of battle, the BSCP was recognized as the official union of the Pullman Porters. Protected by the union, the job of a Pullman Porter was one of economic stability and held high social prestige in the African-American community. A. Philip Randolph utilized the power of the labor union and the unity that it represented to demand significant social changes for African-Americans nationally. More HERE

AAPP: As we see Black unemployment soar, and the recession take a heavier toll on our young and older black citizens, I only which, people like A. Philip Randolph and Rev. Leon Sullivan were alive today. I wish we could channel A. Philip Randolph and Dr. Leon Sullivan into a discussion joining in with these great pullman porters to take some time with the Congressional Black Caucus and other colored groups, and coach them on what true leadership is.

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