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

Higher Education Grants or Gifts of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

American Students Studying Abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa

In the 2021-22 academic year, there were 4,614 American students who studied at universities in sub-Saharan Africa. This is about one tenth of the number of students from sub-Saharan Africa studying at U.S. universities.

Marcus L. Thompson Named the Thirteenth President of Jackson State University

Dr. Thompson has more than 20 years of leadership experience in early childhood, K-12 education, and higher education. He has been serving as the deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, where for over a decade he has been responsible for overseeing IHL staff.

U.S. Public Schools Remain Separate and Unequal

Approximately 522,400 students, or 1 percent of overall student enrollment, attended public schools where fewer than half of the teachers met all state certification requirements. Of the students attending those schools, 66 percent were Black and Latino students.

Featured Jobs