Shortly after the Civil War, many freed slaves and sons of slaves worked their way to the West, to find work in an industry dominated by African-Americans, as Pullman Porters. It's a history of discrimination and embittermint, but also pride at becoming self-supporting. Porters worked long hours for little pay, and many spent half their wages on food, lodging and uniforms. Still, a third became homeowners and helped grow a black middle class.
"We have to honor local history, and we've been working on this since July," said Christine Saed, senior librarian of the West Oakland Branch Library. "The porters and the railroad are a very important part of the black community that first came to Oakland from the south."
Larry Tye, author of "Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class" will speak about his book, and retired porters will offer stories and reflections. Members of the Oakland Heritage Alliance will conduct a tour from the library to a renovated railroad station nearby, and entertainment will include jazz, blues, country and gospel music.