When most of us think of the Labor Day holiday, we think of it as the weekend that signifies an end to all of the exciting summer gatherings and the end of wearing white clothes until the next season.
The day is much more than a 3 day weekend, in fact, it was created as the “workingman’s holiday”, a day to celebrate the many men who worked hard and were often unappreciated. The actual Labor Day holiday was created after the Pullman Strike in 1894. It was a way for then President, Grover Cleveland, to gain favor with the railroad workers. When these stories are told, you don't hear about the Black men that were apart of this movement. Pullman porters were Black men who worked in the train cars attending to their mostly white passengers while performing such tasks as shining shoes, carrying bags and janitorial services. During this period, Pullman was the largest employer of Blacks in the nation and was a large amount of the Pullman company’s workforce.
Black Pullman workers often experience less than perfect conditions and low wages when it came to the work they did. Not being appreciated by their employer and observing how effective a union can be in getting results, the men formed their own union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters established in 1925. Asa Philip Randolph, a civil rights pioneer lead the fight so the workers can receive recognition by the American Federation of Labor. After fighting for over 10 years, porters were able to experience improved working conditions.
While everyone in the country is preparing for socially distanced gatherings, we must not forget about the many Black men who worked and fought for us to be able to enjoy this day.