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 a vital position in America's historic mind's eye. Now, for the 1st time, Eric Arnesen provides us an untold piece of that important American institution—the tale of African americans 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 tune layers. the genuine heritage is much 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 procedure of racism and task discrimination fostered by way of their employers, white co-workers, and the unions that legally represented them even whereas barring them from club. many years sooner than the increase of the trendy civil rights flow within the mid-1950s, black railroaders solid their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, hard white exchange unions, and pursuing felony redress via nation and federal courts. In recapturing black railroaders' voices, aspirations, and demanding situations, Arnesen is helping to recast the historical past of black protest and American hard work within the 20th century. (20001115)

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This proved problematic for whites because the employment bar against black engineers, which prevented black occupational mobility, had the unintended consequence of allowing black firemen to acquire considerable seniority and enabled them to claim a large number of preferred runs on passenger and freight trains. Newer white workers were compelled, in the words of the firemen’s brotherhood vice president G. A. ” This state of affairs, white workers insisted, was unacceptable in a city and state that had disfranchised its black citizens and extended segregation statutes to public transportation and accommodations.

In their eyes, new immigrants, blacks, and capital jointly challenged their entire way of life. At the beginning of the twentieth century, brotherhood men argued that they had entered a new era of economic concentration in which capital—alternatively described as “Big Business,” the “Interests,” the “Plutocracy,” and the “aristocracy of wealth”—advocated unrestricted immigration and the use of blacks to lower whites’ standard of living. ”74 From the brotherhoods’ perspective, the new immigrants and African Americans constituted a deadly threat to the wages and working conditions of true American workers.

With negroes in any of the yards at Houston, which is the great distributing point of Texas, the united brotherhoods are not sole dictators of railway traffic. 89 The widely publicized Georgia “race strike” of 1909 demonstrated southern white railroaders’ weakness. In an effort to reduce labor costs, the superintendent of the Atlanta Terminal yards removed ten white assistant hostlers from their regular positions, placed them on the “extra” list, and employed ten blacks at a lower cost to replace them.

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