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EXHIBITIONS / Derailed / John K Crutcher


John K Crutcher

This monologue portrays John K Crutcher, a Porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway, as he retells the events of Christmas Eve 1954. Performed by Laurence Dean Ifill at Union Station.

John Crutcher is one of the lesser-known heroes of the struggle by porters for citizenship rights. He is associated with two incidents in particular by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to change working conditions for the porters. In the first one, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) tried to fire him for not being on the job when expected, when he left his work to borrow money from a friend so he could cover his expenses when on the “road.” Crutcher had found out that because his car would be travelling empty from Toronto to Winnipeg, he would not be earning any tips and would have no money to support himself. The second case was when Crutcher became the first porter to apply for a promotion to conductor—a position typically held only by white workers. Eventually, Crutcher withdrew his application, but this act sparked the process that would lead to dismantling segregation on the trains.

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