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The Pullman Porters and the Railcar: Nexuses of the Great Migration

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Civics +4 Age Level Elementary (9 to 12 years old)

The Pullman Porters and the railcar were carriers of hope during the era known as the Great Migration. Pullman Porters were employed by George Pullman who created the nation’s first luxury railcar and made his home in Chicago, Illinois. During the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of African Americans sought greater employment and housing opportunities in northern cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New York. They traveled to the North primarily on railcars though segregated from white passengers and in less comfortable conditions. The Pullman Porters were pillars in the Black community and made positive impacts on African American migrants, entrepreneurs, and social causes effecting the Black community.  

This collection displays the story of the Pullman Porters and demonstrates the railcar as a nexus of the Great Migration. A restored Pullman Palace railcar, Southern Railway No. 1200, is now housed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

Keywords: Pullman Porters, George Pullman, Railcars, The Great Migration, NMAAHC, African American History, American History