Based on primary sources (including interviews) as well as on published materials, a detailed account of the rise of the first black union and the conditions that made it necessary. Whatever his motives, after the Civil War George Pullman offered newly emancipated men steady jobs on his luxurious Pullman cars; at first the porters took pride in their new status and were grateful. But it was soon clear that the long hours, low pay, and threat of lost jobs for the meanest of reasons (e.g., any response to harassment by racist passengers) were neither fair nor tolerable. In 1894, Eugene Debs made an abortive attempt to unionize the railroad, excluding blacks; but it was left to A. Philip Randolph to lead the long fight for recognition. His efforts to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, begun in 1925, finally bore fruit when its first contract with a corporation was signed in 1937. This is not only a chapter in black history or labor history; it's also a stern reminder of the perennial struggle against arrogant power and unenlightened self-interest. The McKissacks' narrative, though not always smooth, is clear and dramatic. Bibliography of sources.