Black History Exhibit Premieres In Miami-Dade Museum

Black History Exhibit Premieres In Miami-Dade Museum

Monday, February 14, 2011

(WSVN Channel 7 News)

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) --A local museum now has a special
exhibit that highlights the contributions African Americans made to the
railroad industry.

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum displayed the exhibit,
just in time for Black History Month.

"The
African American Experience" contains hundreds of artifacts that
illustrate the evolution and influence the African American community
has had on the railroad industry.

When railroad service was at its
peak in the US, some train lines carried about 200,000 people everyday
across the country. Many African Americans were attendants on these
trains. "The African Americans didn't just work on the train cars. They
worked in the train stations, freight stations. They worked in the
dining cars," said Michael Hall, the executive director of the Gold
Coast Museum. "They were basically people who took care of you on the
sleeping cars that would fold down your bunk and make your sheets and
also serve you in the dining car, back in the days when train travel was
almost like taking a cruise ship today. It was very elegant."

Pullman
porters were hired to work on sleeping cars. In addition, many African
American men and women helped clear swamps to lay railroad tracks for
the trains. The pullman porters are considered by many to have
contributed to the development of the black middle class in the US.
"African Americans did not have the opportunities that we all enjoy
today, and being a pullman porter was really one of the few good jobs,"
Hall said.

Alan Laird was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to
the museum in Southwest Miami-Dade. Laird, the son of a railroad worker,
donated many items to the exhibit and collected artifacts from the
1900s to the 1980s in order to illustrate the major role African
Americans played in a huge part of American history. "Everybody traveled
on the train, and everything you bought in a store, everything in
commerce traveled on the train. The train was America," said Hall.

The
Gold Coast Railroad Museum is open seven days a week.

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