Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class” as Want to Read:
Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  187 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
"A lively and engaging chronicle that adds yet another dimension to the historical record." -The Boston Globe

When George Pullman began recruiting Southern blacks as porters in his luxurious new sleeping cars, the former slaves suffering under Jim Crow laws found his offer of a steady job and worldly experience irresistible. They quickly signed up to serve as maid, waiter,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Rising from the Rails, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Rising from the Rails

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mikey B.
Nov 24, 2012 Mikey B. rated it really liked it
This book discusses the Pullman porters and how they became the Black middle class. They were more travelled than ordinary black folk of that era and also came into contact with a much wider diversity of people – particularly if you compare them to share-croppers in the Deep South. They instilled a work ethic in their families; sons could inherit the positions of their fathers.

There was a price to this as the author points out. The Pullman porters hid behind a mask – smiling and shining shoes f
I Be Reading
Feb 15, 2011 I Be Reading rated it it was amazing
My great-grandfather, who died long before I was born, was a Pullman Porter. I was so happy to find a book dedicated to the lives of these upstanding men, many of whom were the first to leave the farms in the South and went on to help create the black middle class. Five stars!
Sep 09, 2010 Don rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well researched, particularly in light of the difficulty in finding living Pullman Porters and setting up opportunities for oral testimony/history with them. Its one of the particular joys of reading a history book when it covers something that is seemingly forgotten, and may only get a sentence, if that, in a normal history textbook. The transition of African-Americans who were slaves in the South to working on these luxury sleeping cars is fascinating ...more
Tye makes the case for the centrality of black Pullman (sleeping car) porters to the development of the black middle class, labour history, and the civil rights movement. Lots I didn't know! I found the writing a little dull but it seemed well-researched and theirs is an important and interesting story. 3.5 stars.
Tonya Marshall
Apr 01, 2015 Tonya Marshall rated it it was amazing
Upon seeing the documentary, Rising From The Rails, I immediately wanted to read the book that was associated. Rarely is the history and significance of the Pullman Porter discussed and appreciated with American History. This book personalizes the challenges, struggles, indignities, and successes experienced by these beautiful group of men and the other auxiliary groups including women and other minorities working for the railroad at the end of the 19th century and 20th century.
This book gives
Roger Mckenzie
Mar 07, 2015 Roger Mckenzie rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the Pullman Porters. The stories of organising a union in secrecy were fascinating and eye opening. It's a shame, to say the least, that there was not more about the women working on the railroad but it was good to see how women were absolutely vital to the initial organising of the union.

Anything that tells the story of the vital contribution made by A Philip Randolph to trade unionism and to civil rights is fine by me but I was also pleased that the due res
Steven Freeman
Feb 22, 2017 Steven Freeman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Outstanding story of the role of the Pullman Porters in both the civil rights movement and the labor movement. A critical read about an important part of American history. Their sacrifices are mostly forgotten, but their impact on generations of African Americans (and workers in general) is significant.
Nov 13, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it
Seattle Rep commissioned a work on the Pullman Porters which became the Pullman Porter Blues. My husband and I saw it and, of course, immediately became interested in the historical background. This book is a great one for that. It not only traces the history of George Pullman and his decision to use black porters (he hired ex-slaves because they were already subservient and, since they were black, they would not be threatening to white riders.) It's fascinating to find that former porters were ...more
Oct 13, 2010 Toni rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Aylott
Nov 07, 2014 Chris Aylott rated it really liked it
Simultaneously romantic and gritty, journalist Tye's account digs into the paradoxical story of the Pullman porters and the almost forgotten role they played in the civil rights movement. On the one hand, the porters were thoroughly exploited by the Pullman company, with long hours and low pay relative to their fellow railroad workers. On the other, they were a beacon of upward mobility for their neighbors and a critical information network between black communities. If you believe that economic ...more
Nov 13, 2010 Marius rated it liked it
This book is good to very good but not great. It is a wonderful set of anecdotes about the resilience of Black people (and Black men in particular) in the face of very difficult circumstances. These stories of persecution and resilience are inspiring but there did not seem to be a realized thesis, that being that these men laid the foundation for the mondern civil rights movement. I would have liked to have seen more stories about the descendants of these Pullman porters..but it was still a good ...more
great content. lullaby writing. if you are a history buff and have some no-doze or an unlimited supply of coffee on hand, have at it. otherwise, give to a friend with insomnia and they will be grateful to you for the instant cure.
okay, so far, not horrible. but it still feels like homework.
i really don't want to read this, but it's the club's selection for january. we'll see. *eyeroll*

Jun 24, 2008 Cassie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cassie by: a book club selection.
It probably took me over a month to finish this book. It nearly put me to sleep every time I picked it up. I found myself wanting to stop reading it many times but for some reason it kept calling me back. In the end it was a very intriguing and I feel like I learned a lot from it. I would only reccommend this book to someone who is interested in the history of the Pullman Porters or the Railways.
Sep 22, 2009 Liz rated it really liked it
Given that this book is written when so many Pullman porters are no longer alive, this book seems to be as factual an account as possible. Fascinating, heartrending, uplifting. Slavery may technically have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, but George Pullman found his own special way to keep it going. And yet it ended up benefiting so many people. A conundrum of a book, and an important piece of American history.
Feb 17, 2008 Karina rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 24, 2012 Creolecat rated it it was amazing
Porters were generally African American and a few Asian men who were hired to assistant travelers on passenger trains. George Pullman’s company employed more black workers than any other corporation in the U.S. The book delves into the history of these men who were invisible yet always there to be “Ambassadors of Hospitality”, how they became unionized and Tye interviews a number of former employees and their grandchildren.
As they did in their work lives, Pullman Porters fade into the background of labor, civil rights, and railway history. Yet their impact and ties to these movements cannot be understated. This book is an excellent resource for revealing a network of connections as expansive as the rails the Porters rode.
Jul 21, 2011 Fran rated it it was amazing
Terrific...Tye is a wonderful social historian. The Pullman porters were an important if overlooked force for change. So glad I read this. (Mary: the guy who set the fire in Loving Frank had been a Pullman porter and got me interested in their story).
May 09, 2009 Bess rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mine-all-mine
With any historical nonfiction, those of us who aren't historians ourselves sort of have to trust that it's an equitable treatment of the subject. I really hope this is because I found it fascinating and well-written.
May 30, 2010 Colleen rated it it was amazing
Great history and perspective on the employment of blacks by the Pullman Train company.
Dennis Williams
Oct 16, 2010 Dennis Williams rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for anyone interested in one of the great labor movements in U.S. History.
Mar 02, 2009 Reginald rated it liked it
A very interesting topic but it lost my attention for long stretches at a time.
May 12, 2009 Jenna rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get into this book. I heard a great review/story the other day about the book on NPR and went in w/ high hopes, but it just didn't pan out quick enough for me.
Oct 02, 2008 Nashira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent research done just in time to catch the few primary sources left. the romance of trains, the unchivalrous codes of the past, "masters" of the universe & more
Apr 11, 2009 Valerie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dad
Recommended to Valerie by: Dad
Although this book was not exactly riveting, it was filled with interesting information about the Pullman company and Porters and their ties to the civil rights movement.
Bookreader rated it it was amazing
May 01, 2017
Gail rated it really liked it
May 25, 2009
Kate rated it liked it
Sep 15, 2014
Shaun Richman
Shaun Richman rated it it was ok
Jan 23, 2017
Cheryl rated it liked it
Jul 16, 2009
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords
  • There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975
  • A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America
  • The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America
  • Myth of the Welfare Queen: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist's Portrait of Women on the Line
  • Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class
  • First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School
  • Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
  • The Wilder Shores Of Marx: Journeys In A Vanishing World
  • On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation
  • Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America
  • The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners
  • How Race Is Lived in America: Pulling Together, Pulling Apart
  • A Nation of Nations: A Story of America After the 1965 Immigration Law
  • The Origins of the Civil Rights Movements: Black Communities Organizing for Change
  • How to Rent a Negro
  • Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights: 1919-1950
Larry Tye is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent book is a biography of Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, U.S. senator, and presidential candidate. Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon explores RFK’s extraordinary transformation from cold warrior to fiery leftist.

Tye’s first book, The Father of Spin, is a biography of public relations pioneer Edward L.Bernays
More about Larry Tye...

Share This Book