The Hammond Public Library’s African American History Month program is Tues., Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. David Peterson, executive director of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, discusses Pullman porters as well as A. Philip Randolph, organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African American labor union.
The museum is based just across the state line in Chicago’s Pullman community. That is where George M. Pullman, after the Civil War, built a town to house employees for his railroad car company. Once his company built the cars, formerly enslaved men were hired as porters to serve passengers.
The work was never-ending, as porters could be called upon at any time to shine shoes, carry luggage, turn down beds, and perform other tasks. Almost all porters were African American, while almost all supervisors were white. The pay was low, but it still was higher than what many other African Americans were earning. Porters suffered the indignity of being called “George” — no matter their actual name — because they worked for George Pullman’s company. The porters were instrumental in establishing a Black middle class in America. Union members fought for better working conditions, better pay, and civil rights.
The public is invited to attend this free program to learn more about this important chapter in history. The library is at 564 State Street, at the intersection of Sibley and Sohl, in Hammond; (219) 931-5100, ext. 310. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library Hammond, Ind., Inc.