Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Badge: African American Activism


The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first union of African Americans to gain real economic bargaining power with an employer. The porters were almost all employees of the Pullman Co., which from the 1870s through the 1950s, employed more African Americans than any other single firm in the U.S. From the 1920s through the 1940s, porters helped southern African Americans migrate by bringing back information on jobs and housing in the North. Porters were also involved in Civil Rights activities. Union leader A. Philip Randolph pressured President Franklin Roosevelt into issuing Executive Order 8802 in 1941. It barred discrimination in defense industries and created the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Pullman porter E.D. Nixon helped plan the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955-56. Later, Randolph was involved in planning the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. This badge is from the union's convention in 1948.


Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Badge, 1948, National Museum of American History.