My Name's Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada

Description

128 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
$16.95
ISBN 1-895642-23-X
DDC 331.88'1138522'092

Publisher

Year

1998

Contributor

Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.

Review

“George” was the name most frequently uttered by white passengers to
gain the attention of the black porters who attended on the sleeping
cars on trains across Canada. The name derived from George Pullman, the
owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company and the largest single employer
of African Americans in the United States. It was not a name of
acceptance or friendship but a deliberate attempt to demean and
dehumanize. And it was just one among many indignities inflicted on
sleeping car porters. Porters were at the mercy of their white
passengers. A complaint from a customer would warrant a severe reprimand
or even dismissal from employment. The passenger was always right,
complaints were never investigated, and the porter did not have the
right to a hearing or arbitration.

The pressures of employment, the burden of long hours, and the family
separations necessitated by trans-Canada journeys all took their toll on
porters. This book tells the story of Stanley Grizzle who worked as a
sleeping car porter for 20 years. His reminiscences provide a valuable
account of the daily lives of porters and their families. Of equal
importance are the author’s reflections on the Brotherhood of Sleeping
Car Porters. He recalls their struggle to organize as a trade union,
their attempts to gain recognition from the rail companies, their
efforts to protect their members from arbitrary dismissal, and their
battle to establish the practice of collective bargaining. The struggle
of the Brotherhood took place against the backdrop of unionization in
Canada and the development of the Canadian labor movement. As this book
illustrates, even in the class struggle Canadian blacks were treated as
second-class citizens.

My Name’s Not George is a useful contribution to the history of
modern Canada: it reminds us not only of the indignities Canadian blacks
suffered but of the foundations they laid for a better future.

Citation

Grizzle, Stanley G., with John Cooper., “My Name's Not George: The Story of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/2540.