A. Philip Randolph Museum announces $30 million expansion

The announcement was made on what would have been the labor union pioneer’s 133rd birthday.

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The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum honors A. Philip Randolph, who organized the first successful Black union in 1925.

The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum honors A. Philip Randolph, who organized the first successful Black union in 1925.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A $30 million expansion of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum was announced Friday on what would have been the civil rights and labor activist’s 133rd birthday.

Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union, the nation’s first successful Black union. He died in May 1979.

The Community Economic Development Program announced Friday will expand the Museum 44, the Green Initiatives and the A. Philip Randolph Advocacy and Training programs; create a hospitality district called “Randolph’s Way;” and establish a business corridor called Pullman Porters Row.

“This is going to be a Black labor district where we elevate the stories of Black legends,” said David Peterson, president of the museum. “People will be able to get training for jobs, we’re going to work hand in hand with the unions so we can get things done.”

The training will be done in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor, IBEW Local 134 and Hire360.

Lyn Hughes, who founded the museum 27 years ago, Secretary of State Jesse White and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly were among the guests at Friday’s announcement.

Hughes called the expansion “a game-changer, not just for this museum but for this community.”

Although only $5 million has been raised, museum officials hope to complete the project by the end of 2022.

The current museum space is about 1,800 square feet. But with the expansion into the adjacent building, owned by the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, that will double.

The museum will expand into the adjacent building, owned by the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, doubling its space.

National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

Once complete, the museum will double in size. In partnership with the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, which owns the building next to the museum, the two, three-story row houses will be combined to provide space for a multimedia civil rights wing.

“We want to make this a facility that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said David Doig, president of the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative. “There’s a history that’s being told not only about the labor history of Pullman, which is important, but the history of the porters and what they’ve meant, not only for unions, but for all of America, and particularly in the civil rights movement.”

Peterson also announced the creation of the Jesse White Labor Research Library and a women’s history museum named for Hughes.

“My senior year of high school … somebody had firebombed our house, trying to kill us,” said Peterson. “I vowed that I’d come back and make a change. So what we’ve done is bought the building [I] lived in, and we’re going to turn it into the Dr. Lyn Hughes Women’s History Museum.”

The Women’s History Museum will detail the stories of the Ladies Auxiliary, who were essential to the success of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters but whose stories often went untold, Peterson said.

While the museum is within the boundaries of the Pullman National Monument, Kelly said she is working in Congress to have the museum designated as its own national monument and park.

“Black history is American history,” Kelly said. “All kinds of people need to know our history because, with that, there’s a deeper appreciation of what we have brought to the table.”

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