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The Killing Floor

Updated October 17, 2019

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The Killing Floor essay

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The Killing Floor The Killing Floor Frank Custer leaves his young family in rural Mississippi in pursuit of industrial employment in the northern “Promised Land” of Chicago, Illinois. Little did he know about the true extent of the journey he was about to embark on. Initially a move to secure work and improve upon the conditions which surrounded him and his family; Frank was about to change more in his life then just his economical status.

Immediately upon arriving in the bustling city, Frank and his close friend Thomas gravitate towards other working class African-Americans with similar backgrounds. Unable to read or write, the two men enlist the aide of their local YMCA in finding jobs at a local meat packing plant. Frank’s first encounters at the packinghouse set the tone for what is to entail. Racial tensions combined with aggressions concerning class associated positions boil just barely beneath the surface on the “killing floor.” Conditions at the meatpacking plant are considerably less then favorable. The hours are long, the work is backbreaking, and the position in which he works does not pay very well.

However, Frank’s compensation for these conditions are his relationships with the other men whom he lives near and works around. Spending his evenings playing cards and talking with the men introduces Frank to more then just a little relaxation; issues about politics, race relations, and especially the “white man’s union” dominate the colorful conversations. During this time I’m amazed at how Frank refuses to let himself get dragged into blindly believing the popular opinions in which his peers hold. He lives an honest life and pursues in finding the whole story beneath the surface of the current topics.

Frank consistently demonstrates that he will not settle with “keeping his place” as is expected of him. It appears as if the people he encounters from day to day are trying to keep segregation and the “Old South” alive. His peers along with members of the community are dissatisfied with the decisions and alliances with which Frank is making. They feel that the strides he is taking to improve himself i.e., saving money and purchasing a butcher knife, exhibiting real enthusiasm in learning the tricks of new trades, and joining the “white man’s union”, are unnecessary and a blatant demonstration of selling out to the white community. I find myself amazed at how persistent Frank is throughout the course of these events.

When he loses his job with the packinghouse and the union can not do anything about it, he still maintains union ties and beliefs, and perseveres in finding a new job. His love and concern for the welfare of his family proved more important then the relationships he is building with other men in the neighborhood. Going against popular opinions to reach for a goal is something that takes a lot of courage to do. He never gives up, re-securing his old job at the packinghouse Frank immediately goes to work on recruiting new migrants from the South into the union. When trouble brews with fellows he works hand in hand with, Frank turns the other cheek because he knows it will do no good to fight them at that moment, it’s better to wait and pick his battles.

From the moment Frank stepped off of the freight train and landed in the Promised Land, his life took a dramatic change. Originally in search of employment and a better life for his family, Frank found much more. Through adversity, loss of friendships, and unpopularity Frank discovered what it was like to be American, something that wasn’t afforded to him as a descendant of slaves residing in the “Old South” of Mississippi. Book Reports.

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The Killing Floor. (2019, Oct 17). Retrieved from