More than 300 people gathered into the historic Pullman Factory Complex Thursday evening, to voice how they feel about the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum named as a site in a proposed Senate Bill (1962), which would designate a National Park in the community.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a surprise appearance to tell the packed room that the City of Chicago fully supports the bill. He said he wants to help revitalize the Pullman community and bringing more businesses and tourists would do just that.
Representatives from the National Park Service and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency attended, including Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL), 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale and others. Supporters of the bill say that naming the museum as a site would bring honor to the rich African American contribution to labor and really highlight the story of A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. President of the Mass Chapter of APRI, Tony Taylor supports the bill and is pushing for this particular history to be recognized and honored.
Kelly introduced legislation in January that would include the Pullman Historic District as a national historical park. Sen. Dick Durbin has another version of the bill that he is still putting together. If the bill is approved, Pullman would become a part of the National Park Service System.
Supporters like Beale said that making Pullman a part of the national park site would create more jobs and bring in between $32-$35 million a year in annual revenue. He said it’s important for people to really look at what the project can bring.
“We have to do a lot to build our community, as far as restaurants and we have to build hotel chains, we have to build all kinds of shops because once this gets out, Pullman is no longer a secret, the secret is going to be out so that the entire nation will come to our community and so we have to give them something to come to, we have to make sure that the planning is in place, that’s why it’s really important that the community step up to the plate, don’t sit on the sideline,” Beale said.
Kelly said that so far the legislation has 37 cosponsors. She said it’s difficult to get bills passed in the House and that the bill is still in committee, but there’s another way to pass it. The Antiquities Act, which was passed in 1906, allow the president to designate any federal public land as a national monument. To date, 16 presidents have used in during their term. President Barack Obama has used it five times to make places like the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Maryland a National Monument.
U.S. National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said that he has had the opportunity to tour the Pullman community and that he believes the museum should be named as a site. The historic museum is worthy of being a designated site he said because the history is nationally significant, there is no other museum that tells the Pullman Porters’ history and there are many supporters. He said the NPS always looks at those three criteria before creating a national park.