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The International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first successful black trade union in the United States. From 1943 until 1978, this was its local chapter office. With A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) as leader, the IBSCP was founded in 1925 for porters, attendants, and maids working for the Pullman Palace Car Company, which provided first-class train accommodations. In 1938 the female relatives of union members founded the International Ladies' Auxiliary. The IBSCP published the Messenger, which linked civil rights issues to work and economic equality issues.

Randolph, along with Bayard Rustin, was a central figure in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, much of which was planned here. The local chapter of the IBSCP also organized Washington's commercial laundry workers.

The transom emblazoned with the name of the union was donated to the Smithsonian Institution after the building's sale returned it to its original purpose, a private residence.

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