Demeaned, overworked and all called George: How Black train porters transformed Canada

By Jennifer Yang, Identity and Inequality Reporter, The Toronto Star; February 1, 2019

During the golden age of North American train travel, sleeping cars often came with porters who would carry your luggage and shine your shoes. Porters were smiling, courteous and unfailingly polite; for the better part of the last century, they were also Black, male, and sometimes referred to condescendingly as “George’s boys” — or, simply, “George.”

Both terms refer to George Pullman, a 19th-century American industrialist who pioneered and popularized a brand of train service modelled after the type of Black servitude found in Antebellum-era plantation houses. The first Pullman porters were ex-slaves and in Canada — where post-Confederation railway companies imported and replicated the Pullman model — Black porters worked for decades under discriminatory conditions for minimum pay.

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