The year 2020 marks a milestone in the life of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter (NAPRPP) Museum AKA the Pullman Porter Museum because it celebrates twenty-five years as the premier guardian of the history of Blacks in America’s labor union movement, and keeper of A. Philip Randolph’s legacy.
To commemorate this milestone the NAPRPP Museum will host the A. Philip Randolph “Gentle Warrior Award” gala fundraiser celebration. Fox News Emmy award winner Tia Ewing and WVON’s Cliff Kelley — two of Chicago’s favorite media personalities — will emcee the event. The celebration will be Saturday, February 22, from 5 to 9:30 p.m. at the historic Parkway Ballroom, 4455 S. King Drive. Entertainment will be provided by award-winning jazz singer Joan Collaso and the Larry Hanks Trio.
The dual purpose of the event is to congratulate the museum on its milestone and to present awards to the honorees, at what has become a staple during Black History Month events, the red carpet Hollywood-style A. Philip Randolph “Gentle Warrior Awards.” This coveted honor is presented to deserving individuals who “push gently, yet forcefully, against the boundaries of conventionality with a warrior spirit, in much the same manner as A. Philip Randolph did throughout his career.” The presentations represent the high point of the evening.
The 2020 honorees: Greggory Kelley, president of SEIU Health Care Illinois, Reverend Michael Pfleger, pastor of Saint Sabina Church and Change Agent honorees, Fritz Kaegi, Cook County Assessor, Naomi Davis, founder Blacks in Green, and Jason Campbell, founder, chief branding strategist at Brand B Sports.
Located in Chicago’s Pullman National Monument, NAPRPPM was founded in 1995 by historian Dr. Lyn Hughes. Its history is rooted in her resolve to make the cultural institution the foremost chronicler of the Black labor movement, with emphasis on the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first Black labor union in America to be chartered under the American Federation of Labor and the first to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S corporation, the Pullman Company. The museum provides an enduring tribute to A. Philip Randolph, the union’s founder.
While the museum is small in size, it is large in stature because of its unique niche within the pantheon of museums worldwide.
Museum president David Peterson says, “We are painfully aware of a need for additional space each time a tour bus of 70 arrives. For 10 years, we have made the request to the city of Chicago to acquire the abandoned 1880 firehouse, located in the Pullman National Monument, in order to renovate it and relocate the museum. But our ongoing request to past administrations fell on deaf ears.”
Within its walls are artifacts, memorabilia, interactive displays, exhibits, and rare documents. Among the offerings are original porters’ items donated by descendants of the labor pioneers. Over one million people have visited the museum since its founding. This includes researchers, students, union members, history buffs, the curious, and tourists wishing to become acquainted with this era.
Peterson says, “Since our attempts to relocate have been stalled, for now, we decided to expand exhibit space in our existing footprint. The goal for the fund-raiser is to raise enough funds to seed phase one of the expansion of the museums’ exhibit space. With the help of some of the unions like the District Council of carpenters, our friends at the Chicago Federation of labor, and IBEW, we hope to rally enough support to be able to accomplish that.”
Considered a hidden “crown jewel” among cultural institutions, the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is also one of the centerpieces of the National Park Service’s Pullman National Monument. Founder Hughes swells with pride as she reflects on the 25-year journey, whose operational budget to date has been without the financial support of the foundation community and government grant support.
“Proceeds from the celebration will allow the museum to continue and strengthen this mission,” said Hughes. The union community, museum founder Hughes and museum President David Peterson invite the public to support the event. “This celebration will shine a light on the Black labor contributions in this country and reminds us of the power of the movement, the sacrifices made, and the ultimate victory by a committed group of men,” declared Peterson.
For more information on the museum and to purchase tickets to the A. Philip Randolph “Gentle Warrior Awards,” log on to www.aprpullmanportermuseum.org/special-events. -html.