Historian Fred C. Gamst states, "African Americans ... were railroaders par excellence but also ... endured hellish oppression and paved the way for the civil rights of other Americans." Gamst also says, "In dining-car service, blacks traditionally served as cooks, barmen, waiters, and kitchen helpers, but not as stewards." The Pullman company employed them to work on the cars it manufactured, while railroad lines employed them in dining cars and coaches. The distinctions are obvious in this picture. Of the total of 28 crew members, 19 are black and all wear white jackets or tops; 9 are white and dressed in dark jackets or work clothes, worn by the engineer, fireman, and baggageman. The uniforms alone indicate a segregated work force, even when this picture was taken in September 1953. All belonged to labor unions, the white employees to a variety of long-standing unions that represented engineers, fireman, conductors, and trainmen, while the African Americans belonged to New Deal-era unions, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Joint Council of Dining Car Employees. The crew served up to 400 passengers on this luxury train, the Milwaukee Road's Olympian Hiawatha that ran from Tacoma, Washington, where the picture was taken, to Chicago. The steamlined car shown here, a traveling advertisement for the railroad's luxury service, was the train's signature Skytop Lounge car, designed by Brooks Stevens, Milwaukee, a noted industrial designer with national credentials. The Milwaukee Road commissioned him to redesign the post-World War II Hiawathas, which had been first streamlined in 1935. The Milwaukee Road had the photograph taken for advertising and publicity purposes.
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