10,000 Black Men Named George

Film. By Robert Townsend. 2002. 89 minutes.
Docudrama about A. Philip Randolph and The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black Union in America.

  • Themes: African American, Labor, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity | Reading Levels: Adult | Resource Types: Films

10000BlackMenThe powerful true story of the first black-controlled union, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

When the Great Depression struck America in the 1920s finding work was hard, but if you were poor and black it was virtually impossible. Working as a porter for the Pullman Rail Company was an option, but it meant taking home a third as much as white employees and working some days for free. You could forget about being called by your real name — all black porters were simply called “George” after George Pullman.

Asa Philip Randolph, a black journalist and socialist trying to establish a voice for these forgotten workers, agrees to fight for the Pullman porters’ cause and form the first black union in America. Livelihoods and lives would be put at risk in the attempt to gain 10,000 signatures of the men known only as “George.” This is the true story of how a courageous leader came to be known as “the most dangerous man in America.” [Producer’s description.]

Detailed description of the film from vernonjohns.org.

Written by Cyrus Nowrasteh. Actors: Andre Braugher, Charles S. Dutton, Mario Van Peebles, Brock Peters, Carla Brothers.

Comment: Milwaukee high school teacher Tanya Kitts wrote on the Rethinking Schools Teaching About Labor Issues page: “10,000 Black Men Named George shows the history of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, though it has a short nude scene which could be skipped over. The film could be used to identify tactics of the workers, the tactics of opponents, the reasons the workers wanted to unionize, and the accomplishments and sacrifices of the workers. It’s also a good critical look at the racism in the established unions of the time.”

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