Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle

1989 / 58 min. / DVD projection

Chicago Public Library, Pullman Branch
11001 S. Indiana Ave.
Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 6pm

Alternative Histories of Labor continues with Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle, a 1982 film about the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Erik Gellman and Christopher Reed of Roosevelt University will introduce the film and lead a short discussion afterward.

About the Film
The 100-year-old union organizer and widow of a Pullman porter is our guide on this survey of the history of the first African American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Through interviews with retired porters and historical sources, the film describes the poor treatment of black workers and the twelve-year struggle led by A. Philip Randolph for union recognition. The story of the Pullman porters is a vital part of American history and an important window into the roots of the Civil Rights Movement. (Paul Wagner, 1982, 58 min., DVD)

About the Speakers
Erik S. Gellman is an Associate Professor of History at Roosevelt University in Chicago. His most recent publications include Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights (2012) and The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America (with Jarod Roll, 2011). His current project is a book based on last year’s photography exhibit at Chicago’s Gage Gallery called Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay.

Christopher Robert Reed is Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University and author of The Depression Comes to the South Side: Protest and Politics in the Black Metropolis, 1930-1933 (2011), The Rise of Chicago’s Black Metropolis, 1920-1929 (2011), All the World Is Here!: The Black Presence at White City (2000), and several other works.

About the Series
The spread of “right to work” laws and the Fight for $15 movement have brought renewed focus to labor issues. Drawing on the energy of these and other current struggles in the workplace, Alternative Histories of Labor aims to expand on the dominant narrative of labor movements as mostly white and mostly male. These six film screenings and discussions highlight the contributions of women and racial/ethnic minorities to US labor movements.

The series is sponsored by South Side Projections; Illinois Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly; The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana; Black Cinema House; Contratiempo; and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago.