Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Chicago Division, Photographic Archives

Institution: Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (312) 642-4600
Date: 1940-1969
Extent: 1.6 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was the first successful trade union of African American workers in the United States. It began in New York City on Aug 25, 1925, by a small group of Pullman Porters and A. Philip Randolph, an editor and labor advocate. Milton P. Webster, a former porter, began organizing the Chicago Division of the BSCP in Nov of the same year. Over the next twelve years, the Chicago Division emerged as the heart of the international BSCP because of its devotion to the union's fight for recognition. Chicago, as a railroad hub of the nation and the home of nearly one-fourth of the Pullman porter work force, was a logical place to launch a campaign for improvement in the working condition of the porters. Chicago was also the headquarters of the Pullman Company, which had a notorious record of anti-union activity.

Among the objectives of the BSCP were the advancement of the social, moral, and material interests of its members; lawful efforts to raise members' standard of living; and the maintenance of harmonious relations with employers. Grievances that the BSCP sought to redress included low wages; long work hours; lack of pay for time spent in preparing cars and receiving passengers; insufficient rest opportunities for porters during and between trips; requirements that porters-in-charge perform conductor's work without additional compensation; and lack of collective bargaining privileges.

The union was officially dissolved during the last convention of the BSCP, held on Feb 28, 1978. The thousand remaining members merged with the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks.

Scope and Content Note:
Primarily group portraits taken at conferences and meetings of the BSCP labor union. Includes small formal identified portraits of key Chicago members, a few unidentified portraits, and informal photographs of unidentified convention speakers. Several photographs depict a testimonial dinner for founder A. Philip Randolph. Also includes a few group portraits at events sponsored by BSCP's International Ladies Auxiliary, informal scenes at an unidentified election (for BSCP officers?) and snapshots of an unidentified church. A single image shows men before a billboard advertising BSCP war bond support in St. Louis during World War II.

Related Material: