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Capital City Recognizes Pullman Porters

Washington, D.C.’s political establishment is giving the Pullman porters their due.

On Thursday, which is opening night of “Pullman Porter Blues” by the Arena Stage and the Seattle Repertory Theatre, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will proclaim the days between Thursday and Dec. 29 Pullman Porter Awareness Month.

Leaving aside the fact that defining Nov. 29 through Dec. 29 is a little strange, it’s a sweet gesture and in line with the city’s long history of African-American empowerment. The story of the porters is one that reflects U.S. labor history, the civil rights movement and the rise of the black middle class.

For more than 100 years, generations of African-American porters worked their way across the country on George Pullman’s sleeping cars and provided the inspiration for “Pullman Porter Blues.”

On Thursday, Lionell Thomas, executive director for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, will read the proclamation before the curtain goes up on the play. It is slated to run through Jan. 6.

On Nov. 15, the D.C. Council approved a resolution that recognized the Pullman Porter Awareness Month. The resolution was introduced by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and councilmembers Tommy Wells and Marion Barry.

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