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Pullman Porters and the Road to Civil Rights: American Songster Radio Season 2 Episode 4

Charles Henry Flemons (Dom's father) in Texas with Cousin Slick
From Flemons Family Collection
Charles Henry Flemons (Dom's father) in Texas with Cousin Slick

This is epsidoe four from season two of American Songster Radio.

In 1854, Nat Love - aka "Deadwood Dick" - was born into slavery in Tennessee. At a young age, he made his way out West to work on a ranch in Holbrook, Arizona. By 1890, the west was becoming a more densely populated area, and opportunities in the cattle business were on the decline. Love made the difficult decision to retire from the ranch and start a new career, working on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad as a Pullman porter.

Deadwood Dick wasn’t the only black cowboy to make the transition "from the trails to the rails." The Pullman Company recruited numerous African-Americans in the west to serve as passenger car attendants. Their ranks grew as the west modernized and urbanized. Over time, the Pullman porters would become an important force in political organizing and in the distribution of African-American media across the country.

In this episode of American Songster Radio, Dom discusses the links between black cowboy tradition, the Pullman porter experience, and the emergence of the civil rights movement. He also shares a live version of the song he wrote about the Pullman porter experience, "Steel Pony Blues."

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