CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama’s visit to Chicago on Thursday will officially create the city’s first national monument, and commemorate the Pullman Historic District for its role in labor and civil rights history.

Obama was scheduled to speak at Gwendolyn Brooks Preparatory Academy at 2 p.m., to designate Pullman as a national monument. He began his political career as a community organizer in Pullman and nearby Roseland.

The independent Newberry Library has preserved thousands and thousands of records from the Pullman Palace Car Company, which manufactured railroad cars from the middle of the 19th century through the early 20th century.

Rachel Bohlmann, who heads the library’s Scholl Center for American History, said railroad baron George Pullman created one of the nation’s first company towns on prairie land that is now the neighborhood that bears his name, in an effort to insulate his workforce from the influence of organized labor.

“It was built in the 1880s by George Pullman as a way of – he believed – to move his factories and his workers from the kind of influence that – what he feared – was the kind of radical working class, labor-organizing influence of the city,” she said.

That didn’t work, as the Pullman Company’s treatment of its workers became the catalyst for the first industry-wide railroad strike in the nation in 1894, when approximately 125,000 workers on 29 railroads refused to work on trains containing Pullman Cars after Pullman slashed his employees’ wages.

When President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to suppress the strike dozens were killed in violent clashes between troops and workers.

Pullman also played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement, as African-American porters and maids employed by Pullman weren’t allowed to be part of the union, or allowed to live in the town. So they organized their own union in 1925, forging their own place in the civil rights movement in the coming years.

“These folks, African-American Pullman workers, were not allowed to live in the town. So it was a segregated town. They did not work in the factories in Pullman, because they were relegated in the segmented labor market to service work. So they were, as I said, working as porters and maids. So they were earning a lot less,” she said.

A. Philip Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first all-black labor union in the nation, in 1925. That union became the first labor group led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor, and played a significant role in the civil rights movement.

Later, in the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt signed off on changes to the Railway Labor Act, leading to a boost in the BSCP’s membership, and their first contract with the Pullman Company in 1937, providing pay raises, shorter workweeks, and overtime pay.

Leaders of the union also helped convince Roosevelt to ban discrimination by defense contractors. They also convinced President Harry Truman to end racial segregation within the military years later.

Hundreds of row houses and other buildings from Pullman’s company town still stand today in the Pullman Historic District, including the Hotel Florence, and the Pullman Administration Building – which is home to the Pullman Company’s clock tower, though the building and tower were seriously damaged in an arson fire in 1998.