Frank Boyd: Celebrated Organizer in Minnesota’s Labor Union, “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters”

1 Posted by - June 28, 2023 - BLACK MEN, CIVIL RIGHTS, LATEST POSTS

Frank Boyd was a celebrated organizer in Minnesota for the country’s most influential African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Boyd was born on November 17, 1881, the oldest of four children. He grew up in Atchison, Kansas, a railroad town where he received seven years of schooling.

In 1907, Boyd found work as a Pullman porter, tending passengers on the Pullman Company’s sleeper cars. For an extra charge, porters provided travelers with beds and other comforts. It was a desirable job given the lack of jobs for Black men during that time.

On the road, porters were on duty almost 24 hours a day, always on call; workers received no overtime pay until they had worked 400 hours in a month. The company charged them for their food, uniforms, and even the polish they used on passengers’ shoes. Still, by the early 1920s, the Pullman Company employed more Blacks than any other company in the country.

Boyd took part in organizing attempts in 1909 and 1910 and a wage-increase petition in 1912. In 1918, he joined porters from the Milwaukee Road in the Railway Men’s International Benevolent Industrial Association. The early unions all failed. In 1919, another group formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Protective Association in New York.

In the summer of 1925, a small group of Pullman porters persuaded Harlem socialist A. Philip Randolph to lead the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), another attempt to organize porters nationwide.

Boyd quit the company union in September. In January 1926, despite warnings from his boss, Boyd held open BSCP organizing meetings in St. Paul. It is most likely Boyd knew he had been fired from his job, anyway; he never found stable work again.

Union achievements came slowly. The BSCP battled Pullman and lobbied Congress for a decade before gaining recognition in 1935.

In later years, Boyd moved to Los Angeles, and ultimately died there in 1962. A. Philip Randolph referred to Boyd as a black revolutionist.



1 Comment

  • Lyndia December 29, 2019 - 4:19 pm

    I don’t know if being a Pullman Car Porter, was a desirable job, but it did have its benefits. Those men got a chance to travel, see parts of the country that they never knew existed, mix with different people, hear different conversations, read a variety of newspapers and magazines. The role they played in the fight for Civil Rights, The Great Migration, WW1 and 2, The Don’t Buy Where You can” Work campaign, leaves nothing to be desired. Those were some brave men, and put their jobs on the line MAN TIMES, not to mention, they were extremely clever. Please read “Up from the Rails.” It is a well written and researched book.