By Eric Arnesen
From the time the 1st tracks have been laid within the early 19th century, the railroad has occupied a vital position in America's historic mind's eye. Now, for the 1st time, Eric Arnesen offers us an untold piece of that very important American institution—the tale of African americans at the railroad. African american citizens were part of the railroad from its inception, yet this day they're mostly remembered as Pullman porters and music layers. the true background is way richer, a story of never-ending fight, perseverance, and partial victory. In a sweeping narrative, Arnesen re-creates the heroic efforts by way of black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating automobile waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive method of racism and activity discrimination fostered through their employers, white co-workers, and the unions that legally represented them even whereas barring them from club. a long time sooner than the increase of the fashionable civil rights stream within the mid-1950s, black railroaders solid their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, tough white exchange unions, and pursuing criminal redress via kingdom and federal courts. In recapturing black railroaders' voices, aspirations, and demanding situations, Arnesen is helping to recast the heritage of black protest and American exertions within the 20th century. (20001115)
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Additional info for Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality
But advocating such a goal proved much easier than accomplishing it in the decades before World War I. At a conference of the various brotherhoods in Norfolk in 1898, the Firemen’s Grand Master, F. P. ”85 But more than education was required to persuade or force railroad managers to relinquish cherished managerial prerogatives, increase their labor costs, and abandon their insurance against white union demands. Before the 1890s, white railroaders’ antiblack efforts did not involve coordinated or sustained campaigns of economic coercion or violence, but rather only sporadic efforts on the part of local unions.
Whether their employers, the government, or the larger white public would acknowledge that place, however, was a different matter. 2 Promise and Failure in the World War I Era In 1919, the year of the most widespread labor upheavals in the nation’s history, black laborers in Petersburg, Virginia, launched a union that quickly attracted virtually all black freight handlers employed locally by the Norfolk and Western (N&W), the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL), and the Seaboard Air Line railroads. The new freight handlers’ association sought union recognition, the eight-hour day, “justice to all employees,” and the retention of all former privileges.
51 Given the countless drawbacks of railroad service work, why did so many African Americans accept and even remain in railroad service jobs? Primarily because railroad service jobs were relatively remunerative and secure. When asked what kept him in his waiter’s job for thirty-two years, Altamont F. Bolt responded: “Money! ” For decades—in the 1930s, 1940s, and beyond, “that was one of the best jobs you could get” outside of the post ofﬁce. Although Bolt spent much of his working life in the union era, many pre-union porters and waiters also praised aspects of their respective jobs.