Cover: Frank Boyd

Minnesota is not without its strong presence of Black intelligentsia and social activists. Both Black community hubs, Phyllis Wheatley and Rondo neighborhood, have a rich tradition of African American involvement and the production of excellent men and women striving for political and economic progress. Frank Boyd is placed amongst the ranks of these geniuses.
imageBorn in Atchison, Kansas in 1881 to a father who had been enslaved, Boyd spent his earlier years as the offspring of a struggling sharecropper. Shortly after his fourth birthday, his mother passed leaving him and his siblings with his father and relatives. A high percentage of youth in the sharecropping economy balanced work life and school at an early age. Boyd was no exception. He worked odd jobs and tasks between the family’s migration between Kansas and Nebraska. Having very little success to sustain livable wages, Boyd and one sibling moved and settled in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1904. Immediately he began working as a barbershop porter for several years before he was hired as a Pullman Porter in 1907.
By 1912, Frank Boyd was knee deep into the issues and challenges of the Pullman porter. Entrenched in white-supremacy tactics of racism, the Pullman Company was a notch higher than slave wages. Ironically, the company relied entirely on ex-enslaved Blacks for decades as its primary hiring source for porters. Boyd challenged the $25 monthly earning by organizing porters to sign a petition to raise wages to $60 after two years of service. The company responded by raising wages to $27.50 a month. Though the petition was unsuccessful this effort became the catalyst for Boyd’s activism.
Boyd became a champion in organizing porter and galvanizing the need to unionize. He was a part of the early attempts to form a union and, along with A.W. Jordon was successful at establishing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Protective Union fraternal organization (precursor to Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porter Union) in 1919. The fraternal organization was challenged and destroyed by the Pullman Company; however, it helped to fuel Boyd’s focus and determination for equitable wages. He briefly endorsed the companies Employee Representation Plan, chairing a committee in St. Paul, but soon realized it was “a form without the necessary substance to establish justice.”
August 25, 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters labor union headed by Asa Phillip Randolph and Ashley Totten was formed in Harlem, New York. Frank Boyd immediately joined the union and began organizing the St. Paul Local #3. He resigned from the Employee Representation Plan and organized the first meeting of St. Paul’s BSCP in September of 1925. Boyd voluntarily supported the BSCP locally and national for 34 years and when his job was threatened by the St. Paul assistant district superintendent of the Pullman Company, C. C. Healey, he declared his position by arguing for the rights and equality of porters. Although membership in local #3 grew, Boyd’s effectiveness in organizing porters squared him with the Pullman Company and he was terminated as a porter.
Frank Boyd tirelessly committed his life to organizing the union and challenging social justice issues in the Twin Cities. During the summer of 1930 Boyd mobilized hundreds Rondo community members to protest the lynching of J.W. Wilkes, a Pullman porter murdered in Kansas by white-supremacy because of his employment security. In 1941, he was appointed to the NAACP’s, “On to Washington”, steering committee that had the sole purpose of mobilizing a march on washington against job discrimination. Although the march was postponed, Boyd used this as a vehicle to champion the vocal presence to denounce bigotry and discrimination in St. Paul employment practices. Legend has it that Boyd challenged and shamed Ku Klux Klan organizers at a meeting which led to their departure from the city days later.
Randolph exalted Boyd at a testimonial dinner ceremony in 1951 crediting the remarkable work of the union upon the work and shoulders of his excellence. Several articles was written and published in the “Black Worker”, the BSCP national newspaper. Minnesota politicians recognized the power, integrity, and strength of Boyd’s activism and elected him, along with Miss Alyce Anderson sister of famed singer Marian Anderson, as an electoral college delegates for the Democratic Party, the first two African Americans to every hold this position. Hopeful for the next generation, Boyd continued to support the younger generation with their growing involvement in social justice.
Majority of our African American spokesmen and politicians today couldn’t inform usimage about the personality and accomplishments of Frank Boyd. Notwithstanding, most of them stand upon the shoulders of this profound giant for Black political progress. Most important, we memorialize his work and contribution to St. Paul with a park dedication on Selby and Western Avenue, yet, its important to understand his principle of action. Boyd committed his life to the union cause of equitable social justice unpaid, was uncompromising to racism on the political scene, and supported a systemic “passing” of the torch by actively guiding younger activist. His life, like so many others, become a template of leadership and service for our benefit of survival.

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