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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 provides us an untold piece of that very important American institution—the tale of African americans 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 song layers. the true background is way richer, a story of never-ending fight, perseverance, and partial victory. In a sweeping narrative, Arnesen re-creates the heroic efforts by means of black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating motor vehicle waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive method of racism and activity 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 ahead of the increase of the fashionable civil rights circulation within the mid-1950s, black railroaders cast their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, hard white alternate 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 historical past of black protest and American exertions within the 20th century. (20001115)

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Additional resources for Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality

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In Chicago, one group of blacks formed an “Anti-Strikers’ Railroad Union” whose 30 30 BROTHERHOODS OF COLOR express purpose was to fight the ARU and replace its strikers. With black brakemen and firemen running their freight trains out of Birmingham, L&N officials could declare with confidence “the backbone of the strike . . as practically broken” only shortly after it had begun. ”70 His revisionist perspective revealed more his political views and wishful thinking than a realistic reassessment of the balance of forces in the 1890s.

I was . . on the Southern Pacific Railway in 1884, when 295 colored firemen and an equal number of brakemen were discharged” through the influence of the white unions, a correspondent to the New York Age, a black weekly, recalled. ”86 But the success of these white railroaders was the exception, not the rule. More often, employers possessed the power to resist white demands for black exclusion. As cheaper, nonunion workers, blacks served management strategies for meeting labor shortages and impeding unionism, and employers were loath to abandon them without a fight.

Employers found black firemen and brakemen to be cheaper than white labor and an often effective deterrent against white unions; white workers found the presence of black labor a cause of their own low wages and poor working conditions, as well as unemployment. Neither side doubted the inferiority of blacks; they differed in their understanding of what white supremacy actually meant in practice and how it was to be achieved in the labor market. With most skilled crafts and industrial jobs closed to them in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americans had few alternatives to accepting either agricultural or common labor on plantations, mines, docks, sawmills, turpentine and lumber camps, and railroads; or service work in the homes of white people, in hotels, or on trains.

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