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EXHIBITIONS / Derailed / Ernest Russell


Ernest Russell

This dramatic monologue portrays Charles Ernest Russell, a Senior Porter who is sent a letter from the civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, to organize a Canadian chapter of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Performed by Derick Agyemang.

In 1939, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) porter Charles Ernest Russell was brought before management in Montreal on the charge that he was sleeping on the job on a cross-Canada run. This was a major accusation that could lead to hefty demerit points that cumulatively could lead to his dismissal. Ironically, Russell was the head of the management-appointed Welfare Association that acted as an in-house union for CPR porters. When he went home, Barbados-born Russell wrote a letter to the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) in the United States, Asa Philip Randolph, asking him to come to Canada and organize Canadian porters in his newly established BSCP. This was the beginning of the fight to end segregation in Canada and would lead to meaningful change for the porters.

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