Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the by Eric Arnesen

By Eric Arnesen

From the time the 1st tracks have been laid within the early 19th century, the railroad has occupied an important position in America's old mind's eye. Now, for the 1st time, Eric Arnesen offers us an untold piece of that important American institution—the tale of African american citizens at the railroad. African american citizens were part of the railroad from its inception, yet at the present time they're mostly remembered as Pullman porters and music layers. the true historical past is way richer, a story of unending fight, perseverance, and partial victory. In a sweeping narrative, Arnesen re-creates the heroic efforts through black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating motor vehicle waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive method 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 prior to the increase of the trendy civil rights circulate within the mid-1950s, black railroaders cast their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, not easy white alternate unions, and pursuing felony 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 exertions within the 20th century. (20001115)

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By the beginning of the twentieth century, blacks constituted the vast majority of firemen, brakemen, and yard switchmen on the Gulf Coast lines; Race in the First Century of American Railroading 25 25 they made up some 90 percent of the firemen on the Seaboard Air line and the majority of such positions on some divisions of the Illinois Central, the Southern, and the L&N railroads in the South. 56 Southern railroad companies had good reasons for employing blacks as firemen and brakemen. Most important, African-American men were a source of cheap labor.

With black brakemen and firemen running their freight trains out of Birmingham, L&N officials could declare with confidence “the backbone of the strike . . as practically broken” only shortly after it had begun. ”70 His revisionist perspective revealed more his political views and wishful thinking than a realistic reassessment of the balance of forces in the 1890s. To be sure, white railroaders’ views of nonwhites reflected many of the dominant culture’s assumptions about African Americans and immigrants from Asia, Mexico, and southern and Eastern Europe.

It “is not the fault of six million Negroes that they are here. They were brought by the avarice, cupidity [and] inhumanity of the white race. ” L. W. ” Debs and his allies encountered strong opposition from the convention floor. Denver delegate Samuel A. ” Heberling, not Debs, carried the day when the convention narrowly upheld the racial restrictions on ARU membership. 69 During the ARU’s disastrous strike and boycott of Pullman cars in the summer of 1894, such a stance surely cut off white railroaders from potential black allies and weakened them in relation to their employers.

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