Rail, Water and Passengers  

Sleeping Car PortersThe railroad linked the land and water at Oakland with both freight and passengers. Freight traveled in freight cars but many passengers traveled in luxury: the railroad's Pullman Sleeping Cars, attended by the Pullman Porters. The Porters were African Americans whose job required that they provide calm, courteous service no matter how unreasonable a passenger might become. The work was hard, and hours could exceed 400 a month. The wages were 50 cents a day in 1872 and increased only slowly thereafter. But it was steady work, and the Porters were held in high regard in the community. They traveled widely and were an important source of news about job opportunities for African Americans around the country.

In 1925, the Porters formed a union to fight for better wages and more reasonable working hours. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was in the vanguard of the struggle for equality and civil rights across the nation. C. L. Dellums was among its leaders. Oakland's train station is named in his honor.

Deborah Cooper
Oakland Museum of California

Oakland Museum of California Logo  "Walk Along the Water"
  Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.

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