Photo credits: Archer Alexander
The first African-American labor union to join the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP).
According to BlackFacts.com, Asa Philip Randolph created the BSCP on May 8, 1925. It attracted 18,000 passenger train employees from throughout Canada, Mexico, and the United States as members. The position of Pullman porter was an important source of income for the black population in the United States following the American Civil War. In the 1960s, BSCP membership fell due to a fall in railway freight. In 1978, the BSCP merged with a like-minded organization to form the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC).
The BRAC is currently known as the Transportation Communications International Union (TCIU).
The BSCP’s leaders, including A. Philip Randolph, the organization’s founder, and first president; Milton Webster, vice president, and lead negotiator; and C. L. Dellums, vice president, and second president, became leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. They worked particularly in the area of fair employment. The leaders continued to play an important role in the movement after it shifted its focus to the abolition of segregation in the South. E. D. Nixon, another member of the BSCP, was a leader in local desegregation activities.
These leaders were in charge because they were good at organizing, moved around often, and did not depend on local governments for money.