Sunday, February 14, 2016
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pullman-portersGeorge Pullman hired former slaves as his car attendants. It became popular for people to address them as "George." A famous Illinois resident was George Pullman, who perfected the railroad sleeping car,  giving passengers with money an extra fare way to comfortably travel over night. After the Civil War, every U.S. overnight train carried Pullman cars. The Pullman Company built the cars in South Chicago and also operated them on the railroads, charging an extra fare. Pullman hired former slaves as his car attendants, or Pullman Porters. It became popular for people to address them as "George," because George Pullman was their employer.

The predominately African-American men who were porters worked long hours at very low pay, dependent upon tips from their passengers for their income. In 1925 they organized a union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, led by A. Phillip Randolph of New York and Milton Webster of Chicago. Because of their race, they received little support, but in 1937, they were able to win a contract with the Pullman Company, greatly improving workers' conditions. The Brotherhood was active in the Civil Rights movements, with many porters taking local leadership to push for dignity and equal treatment.

"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

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