Hildene hosts author of book about Pullman porters

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MANCHESTER — Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home will host author Larry Tye as he presents "The Pullman Porters' Legacy - Lessons for Today" on Feb. 16. Tye is the author of the book, "Rising From the Rails, Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class."

The book, written in 2004, has strong ties to Hildene and its restored Pullman railcar, Sunbeam, which came from South Carolina to Hildene.

The luxury railcar came off the Pullman line in 1903, the same year Hildene construction began in Manchester. Robert Lincoln, the son of President Abraham Lincoln, was president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, the largest manufacturing company in the world and the largest employer of African Americans in the United States.

Tye came to Manchester in 2007 to deliver a lecture, the final in a series of presentations focused on the Pullman company, its leadership and its workers.

Tye is a former award-winning journalist at the Boston Globe and a New York Times bestselling author, writer of nonfiction and biographies.

Thirteen years after his first appearance at Hildene, Tye will talk about the porters and their rise to prominence thanks to their work on the Pullman cars, which is detailed at the Hildene's display.

Writing in the preface to his book, "Rising from the Rails," Tye hints at what he will talk about at Hildene.

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"The most influential black man in America for the hundred years following the Civil War was a figure no one knew. He was not educator, Booker T. Washington or the sociologist W.E. B. DuBois, although both were inspired by him. He was the one black man to appear in more movies than Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier. He discovered the North Pole alongside Admiral Peary and helped give birth to the blues. He launched the Montgomery bus boycott that sparked the civil rights movement - and tapped Martin Luther King Jr. to lead both. The most influential black man in America was the Pullman porter." For his talk, Tye plans to focus on "The Pullman porters: A 100 year legacy of rising from the rails and tearing down racial barriers." He will discuss, "why what these amazing men did resonates today, more than ever."

Tye continues to write books and acknowledges that the porters were inspiration for two of them, his 2009 biography of a Negro League superstar, "Satchel Paige: The Life and Times of An American Legend," and another he just started for Houghton Mifflin, "The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Satchmo Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America."

This special Hildene event will take place in The Beckwith at the Welcome Center from 2 to 3 p.m. with a book signing and reception to follow.

Attendees will also learn more about Hildene's unique educational program: Pullman Porters: Unsung Heroes. Registration is required. To register, email Stephanie@Hildene.org or call 802-367-7960 by Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12.

Admission is $5 for students, $10 for members and volunteers, and $15 for nonmembers, and includes an opportunity to visit Hildene's restored 1903 Pullman car Sunbeam and exhibit "Many Voices."

The southernmost site on the Vermont African American Heritage Trail, the exhibit focuses on the experiences of the black Pullman porters and the enormous impact these men had on the Civil Rights Movement.

For more information, visit www.hildene.org.


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