Industrialist George Pullman launched the Pullman Palace Car Company on Chicago’s South Side in the 1880s to manufacture rail cars, creating a company town with shops, schools and a church. While the town failed, the company persevered. In the early 20th century, the Pullman Company was the nation’s largest employer of African Americans. And after decades of unfair and abusive labor practices, A. Philip Randolph organized the first African American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, at the Pullman Company. Pullman porters were instrumental in the rise of the black middle class in America.

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