Boston Globe, November 26, 2004
African-Americans took different routes from slavery to success, but one of the most important was work as Pullman porters in the sleeper cars of the railroads. Pullman service introduced men from the farms of the South to the breadth of the United States and trained many in the union organizing skills that later became sinews of the civil rights movement. Former Boston Globe reporter Larry Tye captures this in Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class (Henry Holt and Co.), which benefits from dozens of interviews with the last of the porters. Train buffs will relish Tye’s accounts of the workings of the sleepers and dining cars of the pre-Amtrak past.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2005
Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class by Larry Tye (Henry Holt; 315 pages; $26): Rescuing an icon from the edge of oblivion is no easy task; making room for him in the collective memory is harder still. But revealing his profound influence on our social and cultural institutions today requires insight and imagination. Tye has both.
He succeeds in explaining how, in the late 19th through the early 20th century, the young African American laborer who, while working as a porter (but also as a dining car waiter, fireman, brakeman, maid or cook) for the Pullman Rail Car Co. was the true harbinger of the civil rights movement and the precursor to today’s black middle class.