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The Pullman Porter: 'World's Most Perfect Servant' Or Symbol Of Racial Oppression?

Bellman, concierge, housekeeper, valet: If the job of the Pullman porter  was complex, his place in the American consciousness is even harder to pin down.

Was he “the world’s most perfect servant,” as Pullman’s advertising boasted, or a symbol of racial oppression? Icon of gracious travel, or underpaid victim? And what of his contributions to the modern civil rights movement?

In this encore broadcast,  a conversation with Peter Hansen, editor of Railroad History about how more than 40 years after the Pullman Company went out of business, attitudes about its frontline employees reflect our continued ambivalence.

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.