Civil Rights Tour: Employment - Rosina Tucker, Labor Organizer

1128 7th Street NE

In a 1982 interview with a Washington Post reporter when she was 100 years old, longtime labor activist Rosina Corrothers Tucker recalled how her house at 1128 7th Street had been the center of operations for meetings and other events as she helped organize workers in the Pullman Car Company into a union. In the years before the union was officially recognized, she explained, meetings had to be held in secret, so she would close all her shades to prevent Pullman personnel from spying.

On behalf of her husband and thousands of other black men and women who worked as porters, attendants, and maids in sleeper cars, Tucker spent much of her adult life advocating for fair treatment and wages. "Organized labor was new to us," recalled Tucker, and the company frequently retaliated by transferring or firing porters suspected of union involvement. Tucker traveled to the homes of some 300 porters across the District, encouraging them to join the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, collecting union dues, and to "see that the men got knowledge of the progress" the union was making on their behalf.

Largely as the result of Tucker's and other women's efforts to swell the organization's ranks, the Pullman Company eventually signed a contract with the Brotherhood in 1937. Tucker became the national secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood's Ladies Auxiliary, and served as a liaison between the union's local branch and the Brotherhood's president, A. Philip Randolph who was headquartered in Harlem, as well as with the Auxiliary's president, Helena Carter in Chicago.

Locally, Tucker was a frequent speaker at meetings of the DC Voters League, where she shared the podium with Nannie Helen Burroughs in 1939. She also fought for black access to decent schools before legal desegregation in 1954; testified before Congressional committees that controlled labor and day care laws in the District; and helped organize unions for laundry and domestic workers.