“Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!”

in Citizen Hobo

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780226143781
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226143804 | DOI:
“Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!”

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  • History of the Americas


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This chapter describes the cultures and ethical codes of hoboes. Like the great army of tramps, the most striking feature of this hobo community was its unprecedented mobility. To facilitate extreme transiency, hobo laborers perfected the dangerous art of freight hopping to an extent unrealized by their eastern counterparts. For hoboes, the main stem was a domain of the racially privileged, for, regardless of their homeless condition, they enjoyed an individual mobility and access not shared by their excluded counterparts. In their journals, memoirs, letters, and testimonies to investigators, migratories repeatedly celebrated their freedom from employers' demands, factory whistles, or just the empty, dreary life that the workaday world entailed. The privileges of mobility that hobohemia drew upon and fostered accrued almost exclusively to white men. A preserve of working-class whiteness, hobohemia was also an important domain of masculinity.

Keywords: hobo; white man; hobohemia; tramps; masculinity

Chapter.  13792 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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