by Vanita Oelschlager & Mike Blanc
Vanita Books, Inc.** 2/01/2014
Age 7 to 12 42 pages
“Children and adults under the age of 40 are forgetting about the Pullma Porter. They were very important figures in the history of America. This book will teach children and adults who the porters were and why they were so important in our history. Porters worked in early train cars, they would look, listen and learn from their predominantly white passengers. They would read the newspapers passengers left behind, listen to conversations and begin to talk to one another. The Porter learned how important education was for children and how important it was to take this message home to his children. He eventually landed at the forefront of the civil rights movement”
“Who was the most important African-American in the 100 years following the end of the Civil War in 1865?”
Railroads came to be important ways to travel in early America, starting with its inception in 1830. The ride was not accommodating. Travelers were uncomfortable and dirty, and ate only if they brought their own food. George Pullman changed all that. He built The Pullman Sleeping Car. It had fancy sleeping and dining cars. Those who could afford it ate fine meals and slept on loom and leaf mattresses dressed in fine linens. Pullman heated the trains and put in lights (candlelight).
The Civil War freed slaves and Pullman hired the best and smartest to work as train porters. Porters had numerous jobs; from maid to shoeshine boy, and both nurse and nursemaid. Porters carried rulebooks that spelled out how to handle every possible situation they could encounter, but their main role was making beds at night and turning them back into seats the next day. A passenger could fall out of bed, tossed by the train, if the porter made the bed incorrectly.
A porter’s appearance had to be “porter-perfect,” including the uniforms, which they had to buy. Porters earned little, depending more on tips earned by giving extra attention to, and doing extra things for, the customer. Most riders simply called the porters “George” after Mr. Pullman. Rarely did they bother to learn a porter’s real name. Pullman Porters worked 240 hours a month for as little as $10.
By 1925, the porters began unionizing, thanks to A. Philip Randolph, another porter. Twelve years later, in 1937 the union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, became reality. Better wages and working conditions were the result. In 1956, Pullman Porters held the Montgomery Bus Boycott, starting the civil rights movement. A. Philip Randolph introduced Martin Luther King at the Washington rally on August 28, 1963 and gave Mr. King the reigns to the civil rights movement. It was a porter, E. D. Nixon, who asked Rosa Parks to refuse a seat in the back of the bus.
By late 1960, Americans preferred to travel by airplane and the Pullman Porters began fading out. Pullman porters are important to America’s history. They struggled for equal rights, civil rights, and helped the exploration and settlement of the United States.
The Pullman Porter: An American Journey tells the story of the Pullman Porters who worked hard making train travel comfortable for Americans exploring the United States. The book is a comfortable weight, with thick cream pages border in brown. The digitally finished paintings together became a book of realistic illustrations. Every page is a brown tone. The porters are meticulous in appearance.
The text is long for a picture book. Most young children will not sit through the story, but many would love the illustrations. The Pullman Porter makes a great elementary adjunct textbook. It seems Ms. Oelschlager did not leave any details out of her book. Elementary kids will learn this history thanks to the straightforward text and the realistic and engaging illustrations. Teachers can utilize The Pullman Porter in classroom discussions of the American West, early train transportation, the civil rights movement, and the early freedom of the African-American. The Pullman Porter, not being a dry textbook, will hold children’s attention and help them remember the lesson.
I like The Pullman Porter and was instantly attracted to the cover. Inside are many little bits of information a normal textbook will not tell you. Things like Whoopi Goldberg and Thurgood Marshall being descendants of Pullman porters. The porters being the catalyst for the civil rights movement is a fact I did not learn in any American History class. The Pullman Porter will entertain adults interested in American history or trains in general. I think kids from fourth grade up through middle grade will enjoy The Pullman Porter. Schools should make this book available on the shelves of their libraries. History comes alive between the pages of The Pullman Porter: An American Journey.
Learn more about The Pullman Porters HERE.
Meet Vanita Oelschlager HERE
Meet Mike Blanc HERE.
THE PORTER PULLMAN” AN AMERICAN JOURNEY. Text copyright © 2014 by Vanita Oelschlager. Illustrations © 2014 by Mike Blanc. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Vanita Books, Inc., Akron, OH.
NEW FOR SPRING, 2014 AT VANITA BOOKS