You can't separate the phenomenal birth of unionism in the United States of America from the Pullman porters. This same small group of men, who grew to be 10,000 strong, was also the organizational foundation for the civil rights movement and all of the gains that were made in the '40s and the '50s. That, and the black church.
For the next three seconds, he still dared to let himself hope. Perhaps she was making a grand entrance. Perhaps she would be carried in like Cleopatra, hidden in a roll of fine carpet. Perhaps- Three porters, grunting, pulled in a handcart. A crevasse opened before him and in fell his heart. No need to remove the tarpaulin wrapping. He recognized the stone slab by its size and weight. She had returned his present. She would have nothing more to do with him.
There were so many bands in New Orleans. But most of the musicians had day jobs, you know -- trades. They were bricklayers and carpenters and cigar makers and plasterers. Some had little businesses of their own -- coal and wood and vegetable stores. Some worked on the cotton exchange and some were porters. They had to work at other trades 'cause there were so many musicians, so many bands. It was the most musical town in the country.
At the beginning of the 20th century, before the migration began, 90 percent of all African-Americans were living in the South. By the end of the Great Migration, nearly half of them were living outside the South in the great cities of the North and West. So when this migration began, you had a really small number of people who were living in the North and they were surviving as porters or domestics or preachers - some had risen to levels of professional jobs - but they were, in some ways, protected because they were so small.
You should not have too many people waiting on you, you should have to do most things for yourself. Hotel service is embarrassing. Maids, waiters, bellhops, porters and so forth are the most embarrassing people in the world for they continually remind you of inequities which we accept as the proper thing. The sight of an ancient woman, gasping and wheezing as she drags a heavy pail of water down a hotel corridor to mop up the mess of some drunken overprivileged guest, is one that sickens and weighs upon the heart and withers it with shame for this world in which it is not only tolerated but regarded as proof positive that the wheels of Democracy are functioning as they should without interference from above or below. Nobody should have to clean up anybody else's mess in this world. It is terribly bad for both parties, but probably worse for the one receiving the service.
Inside the terminal at Keahole, they sat waiting to board, watching husky Hawaiians load luggage onto baggage ramps. Arriving tourists smiled at their dark, muscled bodies, handsome full-featured faces, the ease with which they lifted things of bulk and weight. Departing tourists took snapshots of them. 'That's how they see us', Pono whispered. 'Porters, servants. Hula Dancers, clowns. They never see us as we are, complex, ambiguous, inspired humans.' 'Not all haole see us that way... 'Jess argued. Vanya stared at her. 'Yes, all Haole and every foreigner who comes here puts us in one of two categories: The malignant stereotype of vicious, drunken, do-nothing kanaka and their loose-hipped, whoring wahine. Or, the benign stereotype of the childlike, tourist-loving, bare-foot, aloha-spirit natives.
I have had so many Dwellings, Nat, that I know these Streets as well as a strowling Beggar: I was born in this Nest of Death and Contagion and now, as they say, I have learned to feather it. When first I was with Sir Chris. I found lodgings in Phenix Street off Hogg Lane, close by St Giles and Tottenham Fields, and then in later times I was lodged at the corner of Queen Street and Thames Street, next to the Blew Posts in Cheapside. (It is still there, said Nat stirring up from his Seat, I have passed it!) In the time before the Fire, Nat, most of the buildings in London were made of timber and plaister, and stones were so cheap that a man might have a cart-load of them for six-pence or seven-pence; but now, like the Aegyptians, we are all for Stone. (And Nat broke in, I am for Stone!) The common sort of People gawp at the prodigious Rate of Building and exclaim to each other London is now another City or that House was not there Yesterday or the Situacion of the Streets is quite Changd (I contemn them when they say such things! Nat adds). But this Capital City of the World of Affliction is still the Capitol of Darknesse, or the Dungeon of Man's Desires: still in the Centre are no proper Streets nor Houses but a Wilderness of dirty rotten Sheds, allways tumbling or takeing Fire, with winding crooked passages, lakes of Mire and rills of stinking Mud, as befits the smokey grove of Moloch. (I have heard of that Gentleman, says Nat all a quiver). It is true that in what we call the Out-parts there are numberless ranges of new Buildings: in my old Black-Eagle Street, Nat, tenements have been rais'd and where my Mother and Father stared without understanding at their Destroyer (Death! he cryed) new-built Chambers swarm with life. But what a Chaos and Confusion is there: meer fields of Grass give way to crooked Passages and quiet Lanes to smoking Factors, and these new Houses, commonly built by the London workmen, are often burning and frequently tumbling down (I saw one, says he, I saw one tumbling!). Thus London grows more Monstrous, Straggling and out of all Shape: in this Hive of Noise and Ignorance, Nat, we are tyed to the World as to a sensible Carcasse and as we cross the stinking Body we call out What News? or What's a clock? And thus do I pass my Days a stranger to mankind. I'll not be a Stander-by, but you will not see me pass among them in the World. (You will disquiet your self, Master, says Nat coming towards me). And what a World is it, of Tricking and Bartering, Buying and Selling, Borrowing and Lending, Paying and Receiving; when I walk among the Piss and Sir-reverence of the Streets I hear, Money makes the old Wife trot, Money makes the Mare to go (and Nat adds, What Words won't do, Gold will). What is their God but shineing Dirt and to sing its Devotions come the Westminster-Hall-whores, the Charing-cross whores, the Whitehall whores, the Channel-row whores, the Strand whores, the Fleet Street whores, the Temple-bar whores; and they are followed in the same Catch by the Riband weavers, the Silver-lace makers, the Upholsterers, the Cabinet-makers, Watermen, Carmen, Porters, Plaisterers, Lightemen, Footmen, Shopkeepers, Journey-men... and my Voice grew faint through the Curtain of my Pain.