Exhibit Documents History of Racial Discrimination and Violence in the Railroad Industry

A new exhibit at the Catherwood Library of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, documents the history of racial discrimination in the railroad industry. The exhibit, “The Other Side of The Tracks: Discrimination and Social Mobility in the Railroad Industry,” will be on display through August 31.

Curators Elizabeth Parker and Steven Calco gathered historical photographs, documents, and objects from the extensive railroad collections of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives to create the exhibit. “With these gems from the archives, we try to bring untold stories to light of people who are misrepresented or underrepresented within the historical record,” Calco said.

The exhibit traces the historic struggles and successes of African American and women railroad workers in the twentieth century. Working on the railroads provided both financial and societal standing for numerous Americans, and for traditionally excluded populations, the struggle to attain these benefits often meant fighting discrimination and violence from both management and the labor unions. Black train employees also faced insidious threats from their White counterparts, including a wave of assassinations in the Memphis District of the Illinois Central Railroad from the 1910s to the 1940s.

Inequities in wages, lack of opportunities, and gender and racial discrimination were rampant in the railroad industry. The first labor groups and unions sprung from these harsh conditions, including the all-Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded in 1925 by civil rights leader Asa Philip Randolph.

Related Articles


  1. Hello
    Could you please tell me how can I fight race discrimination inside the Rail Road ? This been going on so long and has nothing been done. Are there any reporters willing to expose them for who they are ? Are they UNTOUCHABLE ? Can one person make a difference ?

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Yale Issues Formal Apology After Research Finds Historic Ties to Slavery

"Today, on behalf of Yale University, we recognize our university’s historical role in and associations with slavery, as well as the labor, the experiences, and the contributions of enslaved people to our university’s history, and we apologize for the ways that Yale’s leaders, over the course of our early history, participated in slavery," says Yale University President Peter Salovey, and Josh Bekenstein, senior trustee of the Yale Corporation.

Kean University Establishes New Center for Africana Studies

“This new center epitomizes the university’s commitment to equity and to serving our state, particularly our urban communities,” said Kean University president Lamont Repollet. 

Pew Research Center Provides Insight into Share of Black-Owned Businesses in the United States

Through analyzing data from the United States Census Bureau and the National Science Foundation, the Pew Research Center found that Black-owned businesses make up 3 percent of companies and earn 1 percent of gross revenue in the United States.

Martin Lemellle Appointed the Eleventh President of Grambling State University

Dr. Martin Lemelle has been serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Featured Jobs