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First black woman Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer releases autobiography

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 4:28 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 4:29 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) -The first Black Woman to be a train engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad is releasing a new autobiography about her career. Edwina “Curlie” Justus has written “Union Pacific Engineer,” about her 22-year career with the railroad at North Platte.

“When I said that I wanted to be an engineer, I thought I was going to be an engineer in Omaha, I didn’t think they were going to send me to North Platte,” said Justus.

In her book, Justus shares her efforts to become the first African-American woman to work as a train engineer for Union Pacific during the 1970s, at a time when such a career field was still dominated by men.

“There are times that people told me I was like a token and the only reason that I got hired was that I was a black female,” said Justus.

Justus, now living in Omaha, Neb., explains how she persevered despite incidents of sexism and racism that she experienced on the railroad while striving to become an engineer. She was welcomed and encouraged by other railroad employees at the time to strive for her goal.

Both Edwina and her former husband, the late Art Justus, became train engineers for Union Pacific. They lived in North Platte with their family while operating trains to cities such as Cheyenne, Gering and Marysville, Kan.

Edwina later became a familiar name in North Platte when she ran for mayor in 1996. She came in third in a field of six candidates.

Justus retired from Union Pacific in 1998 and later moved back to her native city of Omaha, where she continued to be active in a variety of causes.

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