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 offers 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 this present day they're mostly remembered as Pullman porters and music layers. the true historical past is way richer, a story of never-ending fight, perseverance, and partial victory. In a sweeping narrative, Arnesen re-creates the heroic efforts by way of black locomotive firemen, brakemen, porters, eating motor vehicle waiters, and redcaps to struggle a pervasive process 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. a long time earlier than the increase of the fashionable civil rights circulation within the mid-1950s, black railroaders solid their very own model of civil rights activism, organizing their very own institutions, demanding 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 hard work within the 20th century. (20001115)
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Extra info for Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality
Some of the most tumultuous labor conﬂicts of the late nineteenth century—in 1877, 1885–86, and 1894—centered on the railroads. In many instances, bitterly fought railroad strikes collapsed in the face of massive corporate, state, and federal repression, and failed strikers often found themselves effectively blacklisted out of the industry. Brotherhood leaders drew conservative lessons from these defeats, discouraging overt class conﬂict, decrying any sympathetic action on behalf of other aggrieved workers, and generally holding their organizations aloof from the affairs of other labor associations.
Those dissatisﬁed with their wages, working conditions, or lack of promotion opportunities might lodge a protest only at their own risk, for they received little sympathy from either the organized white labor movement or their white employers. Alternatively, they might vote with their feet, quitting their jobs in pursuit of real or elusive dignity and economic improvement elsewhere. As much as some Race in the First Century of American Railroading 41 41 black railroaders appreciated or even enjoyed their jobs, their grievances were real, as was their resentment of racial subordination.
Despite their low opinion of black intelligence and skill, southern white brotherhood men from the 1880s through the post–World War I era deeply feared and resented African-American participation in the labor market, holding it responsible for their own organizational weakness and for many of their other problems. Compared to their northern counterparts, southern white ﬁremen and brakemen had considerable difﬁculty maintaining strong union locals. The “white ﬁremen’s organization has very little or no strength in the South, compared with the North,” complained ﬁreman C.
Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality by Eric Arnesen