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Pullman porters were men hired by George Pullman to work on the railroads as porters on sleeping cars. Starting shortly after the American Civil War, George Pullman sought out former slaves to work on his sleeper cars.

Pullman Sleeper Car

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Prior to this time in the 1870s the concept of sleeping cars on railroads has not been widely developed. Pullman porters served American railroads for nearly 100 years from the 1870s until the late 1960s. [1] Pullman porters were unionized in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under A. Philip Randolph. Randolph would become an important leader in the civil rights movement.

While the pay was very low by the standards of the day, in an era of significant racial prejudice, it was one of the best jobs available for African American men at that time. By the 1960s between the decline of the passenger rail system and the cultural shifts in American Society, the contribution of the Pullman Porters became obscured, becoming for some in the African American community a symbol of subservience to cultural and economic domination.

A Pullman porter.

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Contribution to a black middle class

Pullman Porters are credited by many people as contributing to the development of the black middle class in America. In the late 19th century they were among the only people in their communities to travel extensively. As a result they became a conduit of new, information and ideas from the wider world to their communities. Many Pullman porters saved rigorously in order to ensure that their children were able to obtain an education and thus better employment.

Notable Pullman porters

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103933268 Interview with Larry Tye
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