tv Pullman Porters CSPAN January 3, 2016 9:15pm-9:28pm EST
located about six miles east across the bay from san francisco. c-span's city tour staff recently went to the city. learn more about oakland all weekend here on "american history tv." rick: pullman porters was associated with the business of railroads and really got a label of an idea because in the years slightly after the civil war, we are talking about 1867 through 1858, wrote travel was still pretty rough, and of course, the industry was growing. people traveled by the railroad, they were smoky, they were cramped, they were dirty, it was not a very convenient way to travel. what pullman came up with the idea -- but pullman came up with the idea that if we could make these cars, the so-called luxury
cars, we could travel in luxury and that would be a boon to the industry. so he sold the whole idea of what become -- became the pullman porters. that train of thought was that, what can luxury cars and people have where they could have everything that they would want intellectually hotel? they would want to be served in the same way and the same capacity. what better way, pullman thought, into filling this dream and this fantasy with a lot of passengers was to have black folks wait on them. the pullman porter is basically to attend to the needs of the white passengers on the train. that would run the gamut from shining shoes to attending to the sick to serving meals, to
making down the births and attending to the passengers or anything else that a passenger really wanted. this group of men, a lot of them coming out of the south, not the majority, necessarily, but if there was any opportunity to free oneself from the drudgery of agricultural laborer or the dangers of industrial laborers and a lot of factory jobs that a lot of black people had to take from the south, sharecropping aside, you would do it. so if an opportunity presented itself to work on this train, however long the hours and the demeaning conditions that
existed, it was fine, and the most dangerous animal on the train was often the passenger themselves. porters were paid as a group and were afforded a lot of luxuries that would affect the quality of their lives that were not available to an average african-american working as a custodian or some other form of menial labor. this disposable income or extra income, especially from the tips that could be made, allowed pullman porters to care for their families and their extended families to a greater extent than they would otherwise. it afforded them the opportunities to purchase homes and properties. it afforded them the opportunities to purchase automobiles, for example. these are all items that were certainly available to most well-to-do consumers and not to the large majority of the american public, regardless of race. so this kind of employment
allowed pullman porters to move into areas that we would today classify as sort of the middle class. they were middle-class and within the lack community itself -- the black community itself. they were sort of the catalyst for a lot of businesses that were started wherever they decided to live, and a lot of places were terminal points along the railroad, like here in oakland, where this is the terminus of the railroad. many of them decided that they like california and that they were going to stay in california, and thus they contributed to the jump starting of the african american community here in oakland. so in terms of community building for the black community , they are essential. they are not the only once, i might add, but they are important.
here in oakland, one of the i guess most important things that the pullman porters are known for is the founding of the first black labor movement, the brotherhood of sleeping car orders -- car porters, founded under the direction of a. philip randolph. the unit was founded in 1825 -- 1925. there was a man who became a pullman porter and became the west coast representative of the pullman porters for many years. not only that, in addition to being a west coast representative of the pullman porters, and the key right-hand man of a. philip randolph.
we are standing here in the archives department of the african american museum and library in oakland. we have three departments, and museum department, our reference department, and our archives. the archives is a very important department here. we have lots of visits from researchers and scholars and the general public are interested in exploring the history of african-americans, then we are happy to say to come on in. if you want to come in and do some research on pullman porters , they have quite a few things that they can dig into. we are here looking at a few items, mainly from one collection, the j. j. bryant collection, donated from mrs. bryant a couple of years ago. it is really beautiful. this is a photograph of j. j. br yant outside one of his workstations.
as you can see, he's got his full uniform on and he is ready to work. he has a big, thick pair of gloves on. and as you can see, this is actually the jacket that he is wearing in this in this photograph. you can see that his cap is well-worn, his home in porter cap. -- his pullman porter cap. i was telling you earlier about the importance of the pullman porters being the first black trade union. and i mentioned the importance of the man on the west coast who was the right hand man for a. philip randolph who was the founder of the brotherhood of sleeping car porters, and the man who is on the right of this picture is c. l. dillon, and he
is very important to us, because he was the president of the fourth international group, so he held a high rank of the government body of the brotherhood of sleeping car porters. this group fought for almost 15 years, they fought to be recognized as a legitimate labor union themselves that were affiliated with the american federation of labor. this is a little sampler that came out, signed by actually taught in, who was the secretary of treasury of the brotherhood of sleeping car porters, and it is asking why every porter should join the brotherhood of sleeping car porters and pay dues, so it is kind of a 19 point list of why.
some of the lists here say because the brotherhood has stood firm against great opposition for over five years. this is because, they say they are for a wage increase or $40 and 0 -- or $440 more per year, which is a great raise to read that wasn't just a great raise, that was a great salary. here is another reason to talk about raising salary, "because the brotherhood has put more wages in the pockets of every brother porter this means that there is a wage increase of five dollars each. at the time that that was written, that was a good deal. what counter these menial
positions, and they understood this, was the level of respect that these guys had within their own community. they were looked upon as being professionals. they have a job, they wore uniforms, they were seeing of the world, and they brought the country back. he could discuss issues that the locals didn't know anything about. and not only that, they would demonstrate their commitment in various ways, by spreading the money around. by purchasing homes and properties, you could point to this or so and so -- point to mr.-so-and-so's house. they also spread money and supported churches. those kinds of activities that gave them the kind of prestige in their communities that we think, well you are still a
servant, but they knew the kind of jobs that they could have. but it depends on how you dealt with it psychologically and in terms of surviving and improving the quality of your life and the quality of your family. by extrapolation over the years, the quality of life for those who live in your community. >> our city's tourist staffers laid travel to oakland, california, to learn about its rich history. learn more about oakland and other stops on our tour at c-span.org. you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. >> c-span has your best access
to congress in 2016. the house and senate will reconvene on january 4, to mark the second session of the 114th congress. on tuesday, generated, the house is back from legislative work and first notes with paul ryan as speaker of the house. and on monday, january 11, the senate returns at 2:00 p.m. eastern, be sure to follow c-span's capitol hill producer craig kaplan on twitter. for daily congressional updates. c-span, live coverage of congress on tv, on the radio, and online, at c-span.org. >> the george washington book prize is awarded annually to a work which advances public understanding of george washington and america's founding era. this year, the prize went to play right and after lin manuel miranda, for his broadway musical