C.L. Dellums

C.L. DellumsBefore he helped organize the nation’s first African American union, C.L. Dellums had dreams of becoming a lawyer.  Born in Corsicana, Texas in 1900, Dellums moved to Oakland in the 1920s but found prejudice as alive and well in California as it was in Texas. Discovering that few good jobs existed for blacks, Dellums found work as a railway porter with the Pullman Company. At the time, the company was the premiere owner and operator of railway sleeping cars, a mode of transportation that was sweeping the nation. Dellums took the job but remained committed to his dreams. He read voraciously, and held the written and spoken word in high esteem. People who knew Dellums say that he  could have easily been mistaken for a Harvard graduate.

Dellums worked for $2 a day plus tips and owned a billiard parlor on 7th Street to supplement his income. The company expected railroad porters to work 400 hours, or travel 11,000 miles per month, to receive full pay. Porters received no overtime and had to pay for their own uniforms and supplies. Continue reading “C.L. Dellums”