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Putting It All Together

The African-Americans who labored in the rail yards and on dining cars under adverse conditions made contributions to the rail industry for many decades with little or no recognition and little chance for advancement. Exclusion from the labor organizations that represented the interests of other workers meant that conditions improved very little until A. Philip Randolph began organizing the Pullman porters and working for the inclusion of black workers in unions representing other railroad trades. The following activities are designed to encourage students to look more closely at this aspect of railroad history.

Activity 1: A. Philip Randolph: A Life of Service
Use your research skills to acquire information about the life of A. Philip Randolph. There are books and extensive internet resources available about his contributions on behalf of railroad workers and in numerous other areas of American life. Compile a list of his accomplishments and create a chronology that highlights the top ten or more as a profile of his life. Use any artistic skills you may have to make this chronology something that you would display in your classroom or another location in your school.
Activity 2: African-Americans and the B&O Museum
Plan a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum. Explore the exhibits on the 40-acre campus and take a ride on the “mile-one express” as it travels the route of the first commercial railroad in the United States. Be sure to visit the exhibit on Platform #1 devoted to the contributions and history of African-Americans on the B&O. Also, examine history close up on the #409 “combination car” in the roundhouse. The passenger section of the car is a stark reminder of the days when some railroads imposed racial segregation on “Jim Crow” passenger cars.
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