ELA 3: The Pullman Porters

Wait...so on trains you not only can get a bed, but also people to attend to your every need? Sign us right up. We may never fly again.

3rd GradeLanguage Arts
Elementary and Middle School3rd Grade
LanguageEnglish Language

Transcript

00:24

Catching the Z's can seem pretty much impossible. [Angry looking old man]

00:26

But fear not!

00:28

Sleep and travel can sometimes go hand-in-hand, thanks to the sleeping cars on trains. [Kid asleep holding his teddy bear]

00:32

And today we'll be talking about the people who worked on these cars...

00:35

Pullman Porters.

00:36

So what exactly is a porter?

00:38

Well, in the simplest of terms, a porter is someone who helps the train's guests with [Coop pointing at a blackboard]

00:42

their luggage and whatever else they might need a hand with.

00:44

A Pullman porter, then, is a porter who works specifically in sleeping cars. [Dino pointing at a blackboard]

00:48

They're probably tasked with the super important jobs of delivering warm milk and reading bed [Porter carrying a tray of books with a glass of milk]

00:53

time stories…

00:54

They were named after George Pullman, the inventor and manufacturer of train sleeping cars.

00:59

Now you may be thinking, “Wow, do we really need a whole lesson on train porters?” [School kids looking unenthusiastic]

01:03

But here's the thing: Pullman Porters came about after the end of the Civil War, and

01:08

up until the middle of the 20th century, they were only black men. [Painting of old Pullman Porter]

01:12

Also important to note: the only people who were staying in these Pullman sleeper cars

01:16

were middle class white people.

01:19

Now you might be thinking that this doesn't look great.

01:21

After all, we just ended slavery, so why are African American men still serving white people? [Picture of the abolition of slavery act]

01:27

And you'd be right – this period wasn't exactly a shining moment for racial equality. [White people walking away]

01:32

But here's the thing: George Pullman was intentionally hiring ex-slaves as porters in order to give

01:37

black men an opportunity for real work.

01:39

This helped to begin the development of the black middle class of America. [People working in a kitchen on one of the cars]

01:43

And sure, the pay wasn't exactly great – but it was one of the best jobs available to African

01:48

American men at the time.

01:49

What's more, these porters formed the very first black worker's union under the leadership

01:53

and direction of A. Phillip Randolph. [Picture of Randolph]

01:56

This union, called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, played a huge role in the Civil

02:00

Rights Movement of the United States, so it's importance can't be overstated. [Picture of the union protesting]

02:04

All in all, Pullmans Porters and the BSCP were all important parts of building the

02:09

post-Civil-War America we know today.

02:11

And that's the kind of news that helps us sleep well at night…even if we're smashed [Girl sleeping]

02:15

between two strangers on a red-eye. [Angry looking old guy]