Tye (Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora) takes us on a
long ride on the rails as he follows the lives, experiences, and aspirations of black Pullman porters from their early days working Pullman sleeping cars in the aftermath of slavery, through the Jim Crow era, to the rise of civil rights and the decline of rail travel after World War II. Tye notes that the Pullman company fixed on blacks as the perfect “servants” in catering to rail riders’ fantasies of opulence. But these jobs also meant access to information and insight into white privilege, which the porters parlayed into social status and social activism. By becoming organized through the trade unionism of A. Philip Randolph, the porters showed what collective black action could do-an experience that propelled them into civil rights. Tye relies on interviews with porters and their descendants to get the inside stories of life on the railroad and to gauge the resultant rise in wealth and personal pride. Sometimes romantic and always fast-paced, Tye’s work is worth the ride for its comprehensive survey of a topic that deserves much attention. Recommended for academic and major public libraries.