Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class

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Macmillan, 2005 - History - 352 pages
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"A valuable window into a long-underreported dimension of African American history."—Newsday

An engaging social history that reveals the critical role Pullman porters played in the struggle for African American civil rights

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 American men in the country by the 1920s.

In the world of the Pullman sleeping car, where whites and blacks lived in close proximity, porters developed a unique culture marked by idiosyncratic language, railroad lore, and shared experience. They called difficult passengers "Mister Charlie"; exchanged stories about Daddy Jim, the legendary first Pullman porter; and learned to distinguish generous tippers such as Humphrey Bogart from skinflints like Babe Ruth. At the same time, they played important social, political, and economic roles, carrying jazz and blues to outlying areas, forming America's first black trade union, and acting as forerunners of the modern black middle class by virtue of their social position and income.

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

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User Review  - busterrll - LibraryThing

Writing a book to promote one's view of a occurrence is one thing: But present both sides if you wish to be believed. Many errors and falsehoods are included in the book. I checked out some of his ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Tye (Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora) takes us on a long ride on the rails as he follows the lives, experiences, and aspirations of black Pullman porters from their early days working ... Read full review

Contents

ROUGH RIDES INTIMATE ENCOUNTERS
31
MY NAMES NOT GEORGE
73
SAINT PHILIP AND THE BATTLE FOR BROTHERHOOD
113
BEHIND THE MASK
169
TRAIN TO FREEDOM
199
A LEGACY THAT LASTS
229
Notes
255
Bibliography
273
Acknowledgments
295
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About the author (2005)

LARRY TYE has been an award-winning journalist at The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He now runs a Boston-based training program for medical journalists. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Satchel, as well as Bobby Kennedy, Superman, The Father of Spin, Home Lands, Rising from the Rails, and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. He lives in Massachusetts.

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