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 supplies us an untold piece of that important American institution—the tale of African americans at the railroad. African americans were part of the railroad from its inception, yet this day they're mostly remembered as Pullman porters and music layers. the genuine background is way richer, a story of unending fight, perseverance, and partial victory. In a sweeping narrative, Arnesen re-creates the heroic efforts via black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating vehicle waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive procedure of racism and task discrimination fostered via their employers, white co-workers, and the unions that legally represented them even whereas barring them from club. many years earlier than the increase of the fashionable civil rights flow within the mid-1950s, black railroaders solid their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, difficult white exchange unions, and pursuing criminal redress via country and federal courts. In recapturing black railroaders' voices, aspirations, and demanding situations, Arnesen is helping to recast the heritage of black protest and American hard work within the 20th century. (20001115)
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Additional info for Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality
Even for those not intent on pursuing professional or political careers, service work could enable blacks to realize entrepreneurial ambitions. Tennessee native Richard Smith Bryan, for example, spent eight years in the service of the Pullman Company in the 1880s until he had saved enough to found the Estella Café in Chicago, an establishment that eventually commanded a large and lucrative black patronage and allowed him to become a leader in black Chicago’s fraternal and labor societies. 54 Beyond the visible realms of service and common labor on the tracks, African Americans made up a portion of the more skilled operating trades.
To admit that African Americans possessed the qualiﬁcations to be ﬁremen and brakemen would have required whites either to alter drastically their stereotypes of black inferiority or to acknowledge that these jobs were strictly of a manual nature requiring no higher training, knowledge, or even character traits. Neither of these options proved palatable. Instead, white railroaders subjected their black counterparts to denigration, repeatedly resorting to stock racial caricatures in articulating their case against black advancement.
Blacks often worked longer hours than whites, putting in “more preparatory time before a train starts than white employees,” found the Eight-Hour Commission, a federal body studying the standard workday of railroad employees. ”58 Railroad managers similarly found that they could use black labor to ensure control over their white labor force and as a bulwark against trade unions. White union members often correctly traced their inability to organize to the deterrent effect of black competition and attributed their loss of southern strikes to black strikebreakers.
Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality by Eric Arnesen