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Mon, 09.01.1890

The Red Cap Pullman Porters, a story

*The Red Cap Porter profession is marked on this date in 1890.  This is a profession associated with post Reconstruction African American heritage.  It was a practice of railroad station porters wearing red-colored caps to distinguish them from blue-capped train personnel with other duties.  

The first Red Cap began on Labor Day of 1890 by a Black porter in order to stand out from the crowds at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  In the United States and Canada, the term "porter" has a somewhat different history and contemporary usage, then the rest of the world.

It was the Civil War policy of George Pullman, head of the Pullman Company, who wished to tap into a huge potential workforce that was also non-unionized. This eventually changed with the organization of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph. Until desegregation had its effect in the United States in the 1960s, the occupation of porter was almost the exclusive province of African American and Black Canadian men.

In addition to carrying passengers' baggage to their berth or room, porters also provided personal services, such as clothes pressing and shoe shining.  In 2019, writer Cecil Foster published the book They Called Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada, a study of the history of Black Canadian train porters.  

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

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