The Crusader Newspaper Group

Hidden agenda to remove the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum from The Pullman National Monument

By Dr. Lyn Hughes

Lyn Hughes
Lyn Hughes

This article is written in response to comments made by Lynn McClure; Midwest Regional Director of the National Parks Conservation Association, speaking on behalf of the Pullman National Monument. Her comments appeared in the Chicago Tribune article written Sunday November 7, 2016:

“The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is in the Pullman district, but Randolph’s work organizing and guiding the union was done largely out of Harlem, in New York City, McClure said, which presents challenges to the Chicago site.”

What is most troubling to me is the fact that for two years before the designation of the Pullman National Monument (PNM) in EVERY piece of marketing material distributed, stories written, all documents, suggestions, etc.; not to mention the great speech by Barack Obama… “Black Labor,” “A. Philip Randolph” and “the Pullman Porters” was mentioned REPEATEDLY, and used as a selling point to gain the respect and support of the Black community. Why is it now that the designation has been granted and the development is taking place, the story of the Porters has mysteriously become “challenging to the site”?

Another equally important question, why is it that anyone thinks we need assistance in telling (interpreting) our own story? What an insult!

“You cannot separate A. Philip Randolph from the Pullman Porters. That is what made history. Further the efficacy of any attempt to change that to the contrary is nonexistent.”

The only “challenge” that I see with the exception of the work being done by the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative is the GENTRIFICATION TRAIN traveling at high speed headed straight toward the north end of the PNM; where the population is 95% African American and where the museum is located and has been for 22 years. That train is being driven by those outside private consultants who have a laser like focus, strategically targeted by continuous attempts to change the narrative that we at Pullman are finally and collectively telling, just fine, by ourselves. By definition WE are the longtime community residents, business owners and stakeholders.

That is not to say ALL of Pullman, because that would be a misrepresentation, because whether people will admit it openly or not, there are still those closet racists who say and do things behind closed doors to undermine the work that was set is in motion by President Obama’s designation. It has taken this community decades to get to a place where WE as a direct result of the designation, have been forced to recognize, it is in our best interest to work together.

The executive order makes it clear, as it states the inclusions of Black Labor History. That is where the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum comes in. We were telling that story before the National Park Service came. In addition, we continually take every opportunity to remind people, that Dr. Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, made it very clear that the “Black Labor History” story was a strong interest of theirs because of its missing place in the National Park’s vast inventory. He acknowledged the museum’s significance in the plans when he said to me, “the Pullman Porter Museum is already telling this story, you are ready to go.”

That being said, the only way to stop us from doing what we have been doing for two decades is to remove us. Make no mistake, there are efforts in motion to do just that. However, since our operational budget is not funded by foundation and government funds, it makes it very difficult for those efforts to be successful.

In our opinion, the comments made in the Tribune article are yet ANOTHER example of an attempt at revisionist history writing. The purpose is to push a personal agenda to further a clandestine plan to Co-Opt and/or exclude the Black Labor History Story told at the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum located in Pullman National Monument. This kind of action a primary concern most Blacks have had, and still have, when dealing with the new developments of a National Park in the urban community in this case, specifically, the far south side of Chicago.

While Ms. McClure, who presents herself as the spokesperson for the
National Park Service (NPS) and the Pullman National Monument (PNM), has an amazing resume and solid track record for project development and Conservation, the history of the Pullman Porters is not on that list, nor her area of expertise.

We are not a community organization who just so happens to occasionally mention this body of work… we are the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, scholars, historians, and preservationists who are a recognized authority on this subject matter. We will not sit back and allow revisionist history to occur by people who are simply attempting to “cherry pick” the parts of the story that appeal to their own self-interest… either personal or professional.

In the wise, respectful and realistic words of architect Richard Wilson, who so eloquently stated in this article….

“An opportunity we need to work on is elevating that Pullman Porter story,” Wilson said, calling it “this amazing African-American heritage story.”

In response to the historically incorrect and irresponsible words quoted by McClure in the Tribune article, the Pullman Porters did in fact organize largely in Chicago, the location of the largest population of Porters in the country. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union was a national organization and organizing did take place in several other cities, and New York was one of them.

However, it is significant to note that, beginning in the 1920’s in Chicago, the Porters’ earliest organizing efforts were supported by the likes of Mary McDowell, co-founder of Hull House and Ida B. Wells Barnett. In fact, one of the earliest meetings was held at Wells’ home at 3624 South Parkway (now King Drive). That meeting was followed by another important one which was held at the Metropolitan Church, which was renamed as Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, where Dr. Leon Finney is the pastor. These are not media sound bites, they are facts that just a little research will reveal.

If McClure is not speaking for the NPS, who is she speaking for? Who hired her? What is her scope of work? Who authorized her to speak on behalf of the community? And what is the real agenda for the north end of the Pullman National Monument?

Not only is the story of A. Philip Randolph and the Pullman Porters a major focus of our content at the museum, it is a significant piece of Black history, and a labor of love and respect that we have done for two decades, it is your history, let your voices be heard.

Send email to:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Dr. Lyn Hughes is the founder of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum at the Pullman National Monument.

Recent News

Scroll to Top