Across Cultures

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Watch 60 films, 170 excerpts and over 80 archival artefacts selected by NFB specialists as part of this unique project.

The Road Taken

The Road Taken
1996, director: Selwyn Jacob

Film (52:02)


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  Description     The film  
A nostalgic ride through history, The Road Taken documents the experiences of Blacks who worked as sleeping-car porters on Canada's major railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s.

There was a strong sense of pride among the porters--they were well-respected by their community, and they had steady work and were able to provide for their families. Yet, harsh working conditions were a bitter reality and there were no opportunities for promotion to other railway jobs. Finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams charged the railway companies and the porter's union with discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, and Blacks were able to work in other areas.

Interviews, archival photos, and memorable film footage of train travel combine with the music of noted Toronto jazz musician Joe Sealy, whose father was a porter, to reconstruct a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.