Collier County Museums, NAACP working on project to highlight Black community contributions

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
A Pullman baggage car could be refurbished in Collier County to tell the stories of Pullman Porters, Black men who worked on trains to serve white passengers. The job, often demeaning, was a way toward upward mobility. (CREDIT: WINK News)

A new push to highlight a critical piece of Black history in Collier County is underway.

To make the dream a reality, Collier Museums and the NAACP are hoping to raise money to refurbish a historic 1920’s Pullman-type baggage car to pay homage to Pullman Porters.

According to, Pullman Porters were Black men who were hired to serve white passengers traveling in a luxury railroad sleeping cars.

The job was often demeaning, but it paid well and was a pathway to the middle class for Black families struggling through Reconstruction after the Civil War, according to the website.

Collier County Museum and the NAACP plan to introduce their idea to the public at their Feb. 12 Black History Month event called the African Roots of Southern Cuisine.

NAACP President Vincent Keeys said he believes now is the time to showcase its significance.

“African-Americans have made significant contributions here in the City of Naples, and we just believe it would be a good place for us to tell that story right here with this baggage car,” Keeys said.

The railroads were an incredible vehicle for social mobility for Black Americans in the late part of the 19th century and the early 20th century, said Amanda Townsend, director of Collier County Museums.

The baggage car is underutilized, but Keeys has an idea that will change that.

“It is critically important that we get this project out front so that people can come here,” Keeys said. “They can recognize the City of Naples, but also recognize our contribution to building this city.”

Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County, agrees.

“This is just the very tiny step but the first step for us to take a place, this baggage car and allow our African-American and Black community to be able to create a place that has history and has art and teaches people about their culture,” Connolly-Keesler said.

For more information on the African Roots of Southern Cuisine, visit the Collier County NAACP’s website.

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