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 old mind's eye. Now, for the 1st time, Eric Arnesen supplies us an untold piece of that very important American institution—the tale of African american citizens at the railroad. African americans 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 via black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating motor vehicle waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive approach of racism and activity discrimination fostered by means of their employers, white co-workers, and the unions that legally represented them even whereas barring them from club. many years earlier than the increase of the fashionable civil rights flow within the mid-1950s, black railroaders solid their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, tough white exchange unions, and pursuing felony redress via kingdom and federal courts. In recapturing black railroaders' voices, aspirations, and demanding situations, Arnesen is helping to recast the background of black protest and American exertions within the 20th century. (20001115)
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Extra info for Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality
Southern whites did what they could to prevent the growing exodus; in the words of historian James Grossman, “Anti-enticement laws dating back to 1865 were dusted off, reenacted, or tightened,” while “scores of towns, cities, and counties” enacted laws restricting the recruiting abilities of labor agents. In August 1916, the Savannah city council unanimously passed a local ordinance requiring employment bureaus whose agents dispatched local workers to points outside the state to pay a $1,000 license fee.
87 When entreaties failed, white ﬁremen, brakemen, and yard switchmen sometimes turned to more drastic methods. At one extreme were racial violence and terrorism. In 1891, for instance, the introduction of a small number of black brakemen into the previously all-white Mobile and Montgomery division of the L&N railroad provoked violent opposition. 88 But racial terrorism was generally a tactic of last resort, a desperate ploy in desperate times, not a staple element of brotherhood tactics against black workers.
The contrast with the prewar era could not have been more stark. Even before the United States entered the military conﬂict in Europe, the world war had radically disrupted traditional sources of labor for northern industry. “The railway labor problem for 1916 presents more than ordinary 44 44 BROTHERHOODS OF COLOR difﬁculties to the intended employer,” one observer of railroad maintenance concluded, for “the world’s war has stimulated many manufactures and has created new ﬁelds of employment” while the “mandates of war have drawn many thousands of toilers away from the country to the trenches and to employment in war industries abroad.