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, concierge, nanny, and occasionally doctor and undertaker to cars full of white passengers, making the Pullman Company the largest employer of African American men in the country by the 1920s.
In the world of the Pullman sleeping car, where whites and blacks lived in close proximity, porters developed a unique culture marked by idiosyncratic language, railroad lore, and shared experience. They called difficult passengers "Mister Charlie"; exchanged stories about Daddy Jim, the legendary first Pullman porter; and learned to distinguish generous tippers such as Humphrey Bogart from skinflints like Babe Ruth. At the same time, they played important social, political, and economic roles, carrying jazz and blues to outlying areas, forming America's first black trade union, and acting as forerunners of the modern black middle class by virtue of their social position and income.
Drawing on extensive interviews with dozens of porters and their descendants, Larry Tye reconstructs the complicated world of the Pullman porter and the vital cultural, political, and economic roles they played as forerunners of the modern black middle class. Rising from the Rails provides a lively and enlightening look at this important social phenomenon.
Drawing on interviews with primary sources and voluminous private papers, Tye presents a fascinating and revealing portrait of the man who, more than any other, defined and personified public relations, a profession that today helps shape our political discourse and define our commercial choices.
The result is Home Lands, an narrative that tells the story of the new Jewish diaspora. Tye picked seven Jewish communities from Boston to Buenos Aires and Dusseldorf to Dnepropetrovsk deep in the Ukraine, and in each he zeroes in on a single family or congregation whose tale reflects the wider community's history and current situation. He met each community's leaders, talked with their scores of young people and old, and went with them to High Holiday services and Sabbath celebrations.
The first impression that emerges from his travels is each city's uniqueness. Far more striking than the differences, however, is the unity. Jews all over the world still have enough customs and rituals in common for outsiders to see them as part of the same people, and for them to define themselves that way. It is that new comfort level, that sense of finally feel comfortable in the lands where they are living, that is at the heart of this engrossing book. Readers' eyes will be opened to how Germany, just a generation after the genocide, has the world's fastest-growing Jewish population; how the Jews of Buenos Aires have carved a place for themselves in a land that also gave refuge to Nazi henchmen like Adolph Eichman, and how Ireland is home to a tight-knit Jewish community that, remarkably, has produced Jewish Lord Mayors in Belfast, Cork and, twice from the same family, in Dublin. In Boston, Tye tells the story of his own family, whose roots run deep in the city's Jewish community.
Home Lands is a book that is deeply personal even as it sheds light on the larger Jewish experience.