Observing Black History Month from Hildene’s Pullman Car

Observing Black History Month from Hildene’s Pullman Car

Observing Black History Month from Hildene’s Pullman Car

Pullman porters earned good wages and had an opportunity to see the wider world, but often experienced an exploitive work environment.

Pullman porters earned good wages and had an opportunity to see the wider world, but often experienced an exploitive work environment.

Governor Phil Scott has declared February Vermont African American Heritage Trail Month, adding a Vermont exclamation point to the national celebration of February as Black History Month. He noted that the Trail, launched in 2013, “would not exist without the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, a team of volunteer researchers, and Vermont agencies.” The VAAHT is comprised of ten sites and 21 historic markers. It winds through the state, whose constitution was the first to prohibit slavery, leading Vermonters and visitors alike to museums and cultural sites where exhibits, films, tours and personal explorations illuminate the lives of African Americans in the Green Mountain State. Many of these historic places chronicle eras and events significant to the journey of all African Americans. You can learn more and download a map, go to vtafricanamericanheritage.net.

Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, is just such a place. The historic site’s exhibit at its 1903 Pullman car, Sunbeam, speaks to the significant journey taken by the Pullman Porters, African Americans whose lives and actions impacted future generations. In spite of the exploitive work environment, these men were able to improve their lives and those of their families, helping to give rise to America’s black middle class.

The exhibit includes a timeline overview, ‘Many Voices,’ that spans 100 years, representing the Pullman Company, its wealthy passengers, the black porters who worked on its rail cars and the voices of those who visit and are challenged to ask questions and engage in civil civic discourse with others about it, an outcome that fits squarely within Hildene’s mission, ‘Values into Action.’

Hildene was built by presidential son, Robert Lincoln, in 1905 during his tenure as president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. It is located off Route 7A, just south of Manchester Village.  Admission is required and includes the home and gardens, one of only three Lincoln stovepipe hats in existence, a goat dairy and cheese-making facility, and the sustainable agriculture and wetland floating boardwalk within the 412-acre estate. Visit hildene.org or call 802-362-1788 for further details.

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