The Pullman Porter: 'World's Most Perfect Servant' Or Symbol Of Racial Oppression?

Dec 30, 2012

Bellman, concierge, housekeeper, valet: If the job of the Pullman porter  was complex, his place in the American consciousness is even harder to pin down.

Was he “the world’s most perfect servant,” as Pullman’s advertising boasted, or a symbol of racial oppression? Icon of gracious travel, or underpaid victim? And what of his contributions to the modern civil rights movement?

In this encore broadcast,  a conversation with Peter Hansen, editor of Railroad History about how more than 40 years after the Pullman Company went out of business, attitudes about its frontline employees reflect our continued ambivalence.