A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter

May 14, 2013 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian

A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter. Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.  New York: Walker and Company, 1989.

 

Local author Fredrick McKissack died recently at the age of 73.  He wrote many award- winning books with his wife, Patricia McKissack in the past 33 years.  Let's celebrate that partnership and look back at a book they wrote in 1989.

 

A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter chronicles the first black-controlled union, made up of Pullman porters, who after years of unfair labor practices staged a battle against a corporate giant.

 

The McKissacks recount the saga of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first major black labor union to be admitted to the American Federation of Labor. The union brought together many freed slaves who had been hired by George Pullman to pamper the passengers in his sleeping cars.

 

Known as the Ambassadors of Hospitality, the Pullman porters embodied the service on which Pullman built its empire.  But the miles the porters logged on the road masked the years of abuse they suffered at the hands of management. The porters were determined to get better pay and more humane working conditions.

 

The McKissacks tell a moving story as Randolph and the porters successfully form the first legal black union to win major concessions from a corporate giant. The book brings the stories to life with poetry, song, historical photographs and personal reminiscences of porters and their wives.  The text is full and engaging and offers an excellent introduction to labor history.


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