Pullman Porter Museum celebrates 25th anniversary, connects lessons of the past to challenges of the present

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum on the South Side of Chicago is celebrating its 25th anniversary as Black History Month begins.

The Pullman porters left behind a legacy of hard work and dedication. They fought for fair wages, and to make their voices heard. Generations continue to learn from them to this day.

"You see legacy and integrity, once again what these gentlemen represented," said David Peterson, Jr., president and executive director of the Pullman Porter Museum.

For the last 25 years, the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum has kept the history of the Pullman porters on display. Asa Philip Randolph founded the brotherhood of the sleeping car porters, which is America's first and only black labor union.

"It was important because the porters were sort of the ushers of the Great Migration," Peterson, Jr. explained. "So between 1916 and 1970 there were five million blacks leaving the South and 500,000 came to Chicago."

The museum pays homage to the men and women that played the role of porters, waiters and maids to passengers on the sleeper cars. The porters also transported publications like the Chicago Defender south to let people know about the opportunities available here in Chicago.

"Jobs, homes, everything and basically a better life. They were letting people know this is the way to escape the Jim Crow south," said Peterson, Jr.

The museum stands in the heart of Chicago's Pullman neighborhood, teaching the next generation about the legacy of the Pullman porters and how they can change the future.

"We've started a youth and young adult division called Museum 44: Where Hip Hop Meets History," Peterson, Jr. said. "We teach the kids how to use their voice and their phones to create their own messaging that makes sense. We have a podcast that we do with the kids, teach them about planning and urban development so we can teach them about ownership in their neighborhood."

The Pullman Porter Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments, and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

The museum has an expansion plan in the works, and will also hold their Gentle Warrior Awards fundraiser.

The 2020 A. Philip Randolph Gentle Warrior Awards will be held Saturday, February 22. For more information, click here.
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