Rising from the rails : Pullman porters and the making of the Black middle class

Barcode Library status Notes
1017736 Item available
Creators & Publishers
New York : Henry Holt
Part of Stetson Kennedy Library

"From the 1860s, when George Pullman first hired African-Americans to work on his luxury sleeping cars, until the mid-twentieth century, when the Pullman Company ended its sleeper service, the Pullman porter held one of the best jobs in the black community and one of the worst on the train. He was maid and valet, nanny and doctor, concierge and occasional undertaker to cars full of white passengers. His very presence embodied the romance of the railroad. But behind the porter's ever-present smile lay a day-by-day struggle for dignity on the long trips that separated him from his family while exposing him to the more privileged culture of well-heeled riders. Rising from the Rails depicts the paradox of life as a Pullman porter and writes a missing chapter of American history."

"Larry Tye re-creates the singular setting of a Pullman sleeping car, a capsule of space and time where all the rules of racial engagement came into focus and many were suspended - so long as the train was moving. The dichotomy of the porter's working life - duties not far removed from slavery, opportunities not available to other black workers in Jim Crow America - made him both a representative of his time and a trialblazer. The period of the porter's employment by the Pullman Company coincides almost exactly with the struggle of newly freed slaves for the full legal freedoms finally achieved in the 1960s, and his largely unrecognized role in this struggle was critical. As the patriarch of black labor unions and the civil rights movement, he was among the first African-Americans to effectively claim a right to respect. He was also the father and grandfather of the African-Americans who today run cities and states, sit on corporate and editorial boards, and number among this country's leading professors, scientists, and clergy."

"Drawing on extensive interviews with dozens of African-American railroad workers and their descendents, Rising form the Rails tells the quintessentially American story of how minority finds a foothold in the workplace and the nation's psyche."--BOOK JACKET