Alternative Histories of Labor continues with Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle, a 1989 film about the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Erik Gellman of Roosevelt University will introduce the film and lead a short discussion afterward.
When: Sunday, August 28 at 7pm
How much: Free
About the Film
Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle chronicles the organizing of the first black trade union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The inspiring story of the Pullman porters provides one of the few accounts of African American working life between the Civil War and World War II. The film describes the harsh discrimination that lay behind the porters’ smiling service. Narrator Rosina Tucker, a 100-year-old union organizer and porter’s widow, describes how after a 12-year struggle led by A. Philip Randolph, the porters won the first contract ever negotiated with black workers in the United States. It both recovers an important chapter in the emergence of black America and reveals a key source of the Civil Rights movement. (Paul Wagner and Jack Santino, 1989, 58 min., DVD projection)
About Erik Gellman
Erik S. Gellman is an Associate Professor of History at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He earned his B.A. from Bates College and Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University. Specializing in the 19th and 20th century United States, Gellman’s research interests include African American and working-class history, social movements, and comparative ethnic and racial studies. His most recent publications include Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights (UNC press, 2012, paperback 2014) and The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America (with coauthor Jarod Roll, University of Illinois Press, 2011). He’s currently working on a book based on last year’s photography exhibit at Chicago’s Gage Gallery called Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay (under contract with University of Chicago press).
About the Series
Drawing energy from the wave of attention to labor issues prompted by the spread of “right to work” laws and the Fight for Fifteen movement (among others), Alternative Histories of Labor aims to expand on the dominant narrative of labor movements as mostly white and mostly male. Seven film screenings and discussions will highlight the roles of women and racial/ethnic minorities in US labor movements.
The series is sponsored by South Side Projections, SEIU Healthcare Local 1, Rebuild Foundation, and the University of Chicago Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.