Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle


"A moving account of the Pullman porters' remarkable (and largely untold) history." – Washington Post


Miles of Smiles tells the untold story of the Pullman porters who organized America’s first Black trade union – the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. But this inspiring film addresses larger issues of work, race and dignity and provides one of the few accounts of African American life between the Civil War and the modern Civil Rights movement.

Miles of Smiles is crafted from the historical records, movies and photos, but mostly the reminiscences of eight retired porters. The narrator is the remarkable Rosina Tucker, a 100-year old porter's widow and union organizer.

Aboard an old Pullman car sitting ghostlike on an overgrown siding, the porters reenact how they gave smiling service night and day. But these "miles of smiles" disguised a monumental organizing effort. After a 12-year struggle, the Pullman Company caved in to the porters, led by A. Philip Randolph. In 1937, the company signed the first labor agreement ever with Black workers. The Brotherhood soon became a training ground for Black leaders - from World War II to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott to the 1963 March on Washington.

Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle, winner of four regional Emmy Awards, was produced by Jack Santino and Paul Wagner. Jack Santino is the author of the book, Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle – Stories of Black Pullman Porters. To purchase a copy of Jack Santino’s book, based on interviews with retired Pullman Porters, click here.