Readability

Providers of Grandeur

[cap­tion id=“attachment_94851” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] Dig­nity: priceless.[/caption]

by baldilocks

Black His­tory Month

At Instapun­dit, Ed Driscoll points to a link illus­trat­ing the grandeur of fly­ing as a pas­sen­ger on the late Pan-​Am Air­lines and a com­menter men­tions the for­mer grandeur of train travel.

That got me to think­ing about those who pro­vided much of that grandeur: the Pull­man Porters. As a young man, one of my grand­fa­thers worked as a Porter.

George Pull­man, an indus­tri­al­ist who pio­neered the world’s first pop­u­lar sleeper trains, was obsessed with bring­ing lux­ury and con­ve­nience to the grow­ing rail­road indus­try after the Civil War. He did so by build­ing “palace cars” com­plete with chan­de­liers, com­fort­able beds, air con­di­tion­ing, and gourmet meals served by for­mer slaves turned porters.

Slaves had already done the hard work of build­ing many of the United States’ rail­road lines. Pull­man, who was as shrewd a busi­ness­man as he was a show­man, felt that servant-​like atten­dants would give rid­ers an even keener sense of com­fort and self-​indulgence. So he hired for­mer slaves — known to be cheap work­ers — to staff his palace cars. As his­to­rian Larry Tye writes, the say­ing went, “Abe Lin­coln freed the slaves and George Pull­man hired ‘em.”

They were forced to answer to the name “George”

Just because slav­ery had ended, that didn’t mean that the job of a Pull­man porter was dig­ni­fied. Pull­man porters were often addressed by the name “George” — a name that was based in the social stan­dards of slav­ery itself. As Lawrence Tye writes for the Ali­cia Pat­ter­son Foun­da­tion, at some point porters began to be addressed by their employer’s first name, just as a slave would be addressed by his master’s name before emancipation.

This humil­i­a­tion was height­ened by the seem­ingly end­less job descrip­tion porters were expected to ful­fill. As the Museum of the Amer­i­can Rail­road notes, Pull­man porters were “essen­tially at the beck and call of first-​class pas­sen­gers” but expected to be “oth­er­wise invis­i­ble.” They did every­thing from shin­ing shoes to car­ry­ing bag­gage to mak­ing beds. In some cases, they were even forced to sing and dance by con­de­scend­ing customers.

Pull­man porters occu­pied a spe­cial place within the African-​American community

Despite rou­tine dis­crim­i­na­tion, a job at Pull­man had real ben­e­fits. Pull­man porters were well-​traveled and rubbed shoul­ders with America’s elites. They were what Crew calls “a con­duit into what the larger soci­ety might be think­ing and doing.

Train travel was a pri­mary mode of trans­porta­tion in this coun­try up until the 1950s,” says Crew. In a time when many black men lacked mobil­ity and steady work, Pull­man porters were vital sources of com­mu­nity information.

Pull­man porters would bring African-​American news­pa­pers like the Chicago Defender or Pitts­burgh Courier back to their com­mu­ni­ties,” Crew tells Smith​son​ian​.com. Those news­pa­pers, he said, gave South­ern­ers infor­ma­tion on how and where they could escape the seg­re­ga­tion and vio­lence they expe­ri­enced at home.

Read the whole thing.

Pull­man Porter Museum

By the way, guess what killed Pan-​Am.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2012. Her sec­ond novel ten­ta­tively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done on Feb­ru­ary 2017! Fol­low her on Twit­ter.

Please con­tribute to Juliette’s JOB: Her new novel, her blog, her Inter­net to keep the lat­ter going and COF­FEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Inde­pen­dent Journalism!

baldilocks

Dignity: priceless.

by baldilocks

Black History Month

At Instapundit, Ed Driscoll points to a link illustrating the grandeur of flying as a passenger on the late Pan-Am Airlines and a commenter mentions the former grandeur of train travel.

That got me to thinking about those who provided much of that grandeur: the Pullman Porters. As a young man, one of my grandfathers worked as a Porter.

George Pullman, an industrialist who pioneered the world’s first popular sleeper trains, was obsessed with bringing luxury and convenience to the growing railroad industry after the Civil War. He did so by building “palace cars” complete with chandeliers, comfortable beds, air conditioning, and gourmet meals served by former slaves turned porters.

Slaves had already done the hard work of building many of the United States’ railroad lines. Pullman, who was as shrewd a businessman as he was a showman, felt that servant-like attendants would give riders an even keener sense of comfort and self-indulgence. So he hired former slaves—known to be cheap workers—to staff his palace cars. As historian Larry Tye writes, the saying went, “Abe Lincoln freed the slaves and George Pullman hired ’em.”

They were forced to answer to the name “George” 

Just because slavery had ended, that didn’t mean that the job of a Pullman porter was dignified. Pullman porters were often addressed by the name “George”—a name that was based in the social standards of slavery itself. As Lawrence Tye writes for the Alicia Patterson Foundation, at some point porters began to be addressed by their employer’s first name, just as a slave would be addressed by his master’s name before emancipation.

This humiliation was heightened by the seemingly endless job description porters were expected to fulfill. As the Museum of the American Railroad notes, Pullman porters were “essentially at the beck and call of first-class passengers” but expected to be “otherwise invisible.” They did everything from shining shoes to carrying baggage to making beds. In some cases, they were even forced to sing and dance by condescending customers.

Pullman porters occupied a special place within the African-American community

Despite routine discrimination, a job at Pullman had real benefits. Pullman porters were well-traveled and rubbed shoulders with America’s elites. They were what Crew calls “a conduit into what the larger society might be thinking and doing.

“Train travel was a primary mode of transportation in this country up until the 1950s,” says Crew. In a time when many black men lacked mobility and steady work, Pullman porters were vital sources of community information.

“Pullman porters would bring African-American newspapers like the Chicago Defender or Pittsburgh Courier back to their communities,” Crew tells Smithsonian.com. Those newspapers, he said, gave Southerners information on how and where they could escape the segregation and violence they experienced at home.

Read the whole thing.

Pullman Porter Museum

By the way, guess what killed Pan-Am.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done on February 2017! Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

baldilocks