The Road Taken

The Road Taken

| 52 min

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This 1996 documentary takes a nostalgic ride through history to present the experiences of Black sleeping-car porters who worked on Canada's railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s. There was a strong sense of pride among these men and they were well-respected by their community. Yet, harsh working conditions prevented them from being promoted to other railway jobs until finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams took his fight to the union.

Claiming discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, the Black workers won their right to work in other areas. Interviews, archival footage and the music of noted jazz musician Joe Sealy (whose father was a porter) combine to portray a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.

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The Road Taken, Selwyn Jacob, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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  • director
    Selwyn Jacob
  • producer
    Selwyn Jacob
    Dale Phillips
    Jerry Krepakevich
  • executive producer
    Dale Phillips
    Graydon McCrea
  • script
    Frederick Ward
  • narrator
    Frederick Ward
  • camera
    Charles Konowal
    Les Krizsan
  • sound
    Arthur McKay
    Norman Dugas
    George Novotny
  • editing
    Michel Lalonde
  • music
    Joe Sealy

  • KathyLVorgHistorian

    Loved this film. Many Black Veterans and inthe First and Second World War were porters because it was the few jobs offered to Black Men. My Owen Rowe was a Second World War Veteran and the tips he received as a Porter permitted him to survive whilst attending Sir George Williams College and McGill University in the 1950s. I created a FB page Canada's Black Sleeping Car Porters in honour of the Porters.

    KathyLVorgHistorian, 5 Feb 2022
  • None

    This was a most interesting film on the history of the Sleeping Car Porters in Canada . I was very excited to find near the 16'40" mark a picture of my Hometown Truro Bearcats Hockey team probably from the late 1940's or early 1950's possibly with the tall fellow in the back row being my oldest Brother Roy Johnson . A little over a minute later at 17'50" lo and behold there appeared Miss Cassie Tolbart a 95 year young lady we know here in Kingston looking so sharp a few years back talking about how as a Photographer in Montreal she took photos in two major Nightclubs and would sell them to the Patrons who would come to see all the top stars of the time like Champion Boxer Joe Louis and many others ! A wonderful film for all to see and hear ! Thank you NFB .

    None, 23 Jul 2021
  • None

    Awesome! with superb jazz soundtrack composed by son of Pullman Porter. .

    None, 1 Nov 2018
  • streetdreamfilms

    A well presented history, and the lure for me was the trains. It is easy to forget how foolishly mankind so recently looked upon each other, with white folks looking down their noses at the black men shining their shoes. Endurance indeed, and thank goodness our world is coming about - on that score anyway.

    streetdreamfilms, 8 Apr 2010

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