Rising From the Rails

Rising From the Rails

Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class

Paperback - 2005
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"A valuable window into a long-underreported dimension of African American history."-- Newsday

When George Pullman began recruiting Southern blacks as porters in his luxurious new sleeping cars, the former slaves suffering under Jim Crow laws found his offer of a steady job and worldly experience irresistible. They quickly signed up to serve as maid, waiter, concierge, nanny, and occasionally doctor and undertaker to cars full of white passengers, making the Pullman Company the largest employer of African Americans in the country by the 1920s.

Drawing on extensive interviews with dozens of porters and their descendants, Larry Tye reconstructs the complicated world of the Pullman porter and the vital cultural, political, and economic roles they played as forerunners of the modern black middle class. Rising from the Rails provides a lively and enlightening look at this important social phenomenon.

* Named a Recommended Book by The Boston Globe , San Francisco Chronicle , and The Seattle Times

Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2005.
Edition: 1st Owl Books ed.
ISBN: 9780805078503
0805078509
Branch Call Number: 331.8811385
Characteristics: xvii, 314 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.

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f
floy
Jul 04, 2011

This is an important book for people interested in the civil rights movement, workers' movements, and equal rights. It opened my eyes to the history of the Pullman Porters. Did you know the railroad sleeper car company started right after the Civil War and they hired only black men because, in essence, the white customers wanted to experience what slavery had been like for white people. The porters were often called "George" by the customers because the owner of the company was George Pullman and the tradition of taking a name from your "owner" had been the rule during slavery. Most porters hated being called George almost as much they hated the n word. This history of the Pullman Porters is also a history in microcosm of America in the post-Civil War era when Jim Crow reigned. A. Phillip Randolph began organizing a union for the Pullman Porters and labored twelve years before the company finally recognized the union and negotiated with them. Randolph was instrumental in the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement and his role has not been given its proper attention. I was fascinated by the book.

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