Pullman Porters Helped Build Black Middle Class : NPR

Driveway moment. Listen to audio. Story about Freeport, Maine at the end.

pullman200_2-927642239c875233670eb982e4c8b526b5a3370f-s600-c85Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown were descendants of Pullman porters — that distinctive and distinguished figure from yesteryear — the uniformed African-American train worker, who forged his way into the middle class.

As part of this year’s National Train Day celebration on Saturday, Amtrak is honoring the legacy of Pullman porters in Philadelphia. The porters served first-class passengers traveling in the luxurious Pullman sleeping cars, and the safe, steady work that allowed tens of thousands of African-Americans access to middle-class life.

The legacy of Pullman porters is complex, author Larry Tye tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep.