Randolph, A. Philip
A. Philip Randolph
Born April 15, 1889
Crescent City, Florida
Died May 16, 1979
New York, New York
Labor and civil rights leader
During World War II (1939–45), A. Philip Randolph fought racial discrimination in war industries and the armed services. His efforts built a foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. A. Philip Randolph was one of the most influential black American leaders of the twentieth century.
A. Philip Randolph was born on April 15, 1889, the second of two sons born to a poor family in Crescent City, Florida. His father, an itinerant minister who traveled about the area to various small rural churches, also worked as a tailor to provide for his family. The Randolph family emphasized religion and education. In 1903 Randolph attended Cookman Institute, an all-black male Methodist school, where he excelled. In addition to being a good athlete, he showed particular skill at drama, public speaking, singing, and literature. Randolph graduated in 1907 at the top of his class. Following graduation, Randolph worked at odd jobs in Jacksonville, Florida, while giving public readings, singing, and acting in plays. In search of better job opportunities and less racial discrimination in the North, in April 1911 Randolph joined the great migration of Southern blacks moving to the North. Randolph headed to Harlem in New York City, where he held various jobs including waiter, porter, and elevator operator. He also joined a theater club where he tackled Shakespearean plays. Through these parts, Randolph developed public speaking skills that would benefit him through much of his life. Randolph married a fellow theater club member in November 1914. They would have no children.
Seeking to establish a more stable career, Randolph abandoned acting and enrolled in City College of New York. The college offered a free education for those with strong academic skills. At college, Randolph became interested in politics and organized his own political group, the Independent Political Council.
In New York, Randolph met Chandler Owen (1889–1967), a student at Columbia Law School. They were attracted to the growing labor union activity in the United States that was seeking improved working conditions, such as a forty-hour workweek. Union activity was considered a radical movement in the 1910s. They also joined the Socialist Party in late 1916. The party promoted the rights of individual citizens over dominance of big business. Randolph and Owen often stood on street corners in Harlem promoting the ideas of socialism and calling for blacks to join unions. Yet to most blacks, socialism and unions represented a white man's world with little relevance to them.
In 1917 Randolph organized a union of elevator operators. He and Owen were also hired to publish Hotel Messenger, a newsletter for the Headwaiters and Sidewaiters Society of Greater New York. However, their positions on labor issues were too radical for the organization, and after only eight months, Randolph and Owen were fired. They created their own magazine simply called the Messenger, in November 1917. Published until 1928, the Messenger became a highly respected black journal attracting some twenty-six thousand readers. In the Messenger Randolph and Owen expressed many controversial views, even leading to their brief arrest for expressing antiwar views in 1918 during World War I (1914–18). Their activity continued to expand. They organized the first black socialist organization in Harlem, the Friends of Negro Freedom, and unsuccessfully ran for local public offices.
During the economic boom years of the 1920s, Randolph's radical political efforts lost their following. His attempts to organize black workers had limited success. However, in 1925 a group of porters invited Randolph to speak about trade unions. The Pullman Company employed the porters to provide services to railroad passengers. The porters asked Randolph to organize a union for them. On August 25, 1925, Randolph introduced The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters at a mass meeting.
The Brotherhood soon rose in power as Randolph proved a very effective leader. In 1928 it was accepted into the American Federation of Labor (AFL), a national federation of labor unions representing various types of skilled craft workers. The arrival of the Great Depression (1929–41) in late 1929, however, set back the unions' effectiveness until 1933 when newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45; see entry) signed into law legislation formally recognizing organized labor unions. In 1935 the Brotherhood became the first black union to gain formal recognition by industry. By 1937 it reached an agreement with Pullman over working conditions. The agreement brought an additional two million dollars in wages to the porters and greatly increased Randolph's national prestige.
In addition to his union activity, Randolph continued to press for social change, including racial equality for black Americans through economic progress. In 1935 Randolph became the first president of the newly created National Negro Congress (NNC). The NNC was a national organization designed to coordinate all existing black political groups in an effort to improve the economic condition of black America.
In 1940 almost thirteen million black Americans lived in the United States. The mobilization of industry for war production beginning that year presented a new opportunity for economic improvement of black Americans. In addition, the Democratic Party pledged during the 1940 presidential campaign to work for civil rights in order to maintain the large black vote President Roosevelt received in 1936. However, disappointment soon returned. As industry began increasing its workers, the actual percentage of black workers in industry declined. Many industries sought only white workers.
Randolph and other black leaders decided it was time to take action, including public protests and mass demonstrations. In January 1941 Randolph called for a national march on Washington. In May plans were set for at least ten thousand black Americans to march on July 1. At the time, Roosevelt was trying to build national unity for the upcoming war effort. His predecessor, President Herbert Hoover (1874–1964; served 1929–33), experienced a public relations disaster in 1932 when thousands of World War I veterans marched on Washington wanting advanced payment of pay bonuses. The last thing Roosevelt wanted was another embarrassing march on Washington.
Yet Roosevelt on June 18 nominated Southern U.S. senator James F. Byrnes (1879–1972; see entry) to the Supreme Court despite strong protests from Randolph and others. The nomination further strained relations between the president and black leaders. Six days later Roosevelt met with Randolph and other black leaders, including Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), to resolve their grievances so that the march could be called off. In the meeting were several governmental leaders besides Roosevelt, including secretary of war Henry L. Stimson (1867–1950; see entry). Roosevelt knew Randolph had the ability to stage the largest demonstration by black Americans in the nation's history. Randolph demanded an executive order from Roosevelt banning racial discrimination in hiring by war industries and integrating the armed forces. Roosevelt agreed to ban discrimination in war industries, but, with advice from Stimson, not to integrate the military. On the
Fair Employment Practices Committee
The Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) was formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) under pressure from black American leader A. Philip Randolph to ensure that the U.S. war industries did not discriminate in hiring workers. The FEPC bounced from agency to agency for its first two years. It began in 1941 in the Office of Production Management (OPM), then to the War Production Board (WPB), and on to the War Manpower Commission (WMC). Finally, in March 1943, Roosevelt placed the FEPC within the White House as part of the Office of Emergency Planning. U.S. senator James F. Byrnes (1879–1972), who was no friend of racial integration, assumed control over it. However, Byrnes directed most business related to the FEPC to another White House assistant, Jonathan Daniels (1902–1981). Daniels was Roosevelt's assistant on racial matters.
The FEPC held a series of public hearings in Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Birmingham, Alabama; and New York City documenting instances of discrimination against blacks, Jews, and Mexican Americans in war industry hiring. Southerners accused the FEPC of spreading racial strife. As controversy increased, the administration called a halt to the hearings. By mid-1943 the FEPC was one of the most controversial agencies in wartime Washington. Southern Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives opened hearings in 1944 to investigate certain agencies, with the FEPC being the first. It even became a major domestic campaign issue for the 1944 presidential elections.
Despite its limited powers, the FEPC served as a forum where black Americans could be heard and bring their work-related issues forward. The FEPC was abolished by Congress following the war, when military contracts to industry wound down.
following day, June 25, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 requiring that all government contracts contain conditions prohibiting racial discrimination in the workplace. To carry out the plan, the order also created the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) with members appointed by the president. Randolph called off the march. It was a major victory for him. The executive order was the first major action by a U.S. president regarding equal rights since the 1870s, just after the American Civil War (1861–65). The executive order was also an affirmative action plan that preceded the 1960s affirmative action programs.
The FEPC became one of the hottest controversies on the U.S. home front during the war. During the summer of 1943 a series of race riots occurred around the country. One of the earliest outbreaks resulted from an FEPC order directing the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company to promote some black Americans to skilled welding positions. White workers protested, leading to fights between segregated white and black work crews. Some eighty workers were injured before the Alabama National Guard restored order. Riots also occurred in Beaumont, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Harlem. The worst riot occurred on Sunday, June 20, in Detroit, Michigan. The FEPC claimed the main cause for the racial unrest was poor housing, recreation facilities, and public transportation available for minorities. However, others blamed the FEPC and its rulings for stirring up trouble. With progress in relieving racial discrimination largely nonexistent in 1943, Randolph again began threatening another march. He wanted Congress to make the FEPC a permanent agency with more stable funding and greater authority to enforce actions.
With the 1944 presidential election campaign approaching, Roosevelt had not yet given the FEPC his personal support. Southern Democrats were angry that he had gone too far. Black Americans, including Randolph, believed Roosevelt was far less supportive than he should be as the nation's leader. To resolve the matter, on November 4, 1943, Roosevelt voiced strong support for the FEPC, claiming its decisions were mandatory.
Nonetheless, Randolph, along with White and others, persisted with pressure. They signed a large newspaper advertisement calling for legislation creating a permanent FEPC. The black leaders were able to block James F. Byrnes from becoming Roosevelt's vice presidential running mate. Roosevelt won the unprecedented reelection to a fourth term partly owing to the black American vote he once again received.
A lasting influence
Following the war, Randolph pressed again to end segregation in the armed forces. He formed the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation.
Needing the black vote in the 1948 presidential election, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) signed a presidential order ending racial segregation in the military in July 1948. It marked yet another major victory for Randolph.
In 1955 the AFL combined with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a national union organization composed of semiskilled factory workers. Randolph was one of two blacks on the new AFL-CIO Executive Committee.
By the 1960s Randolph was widely recognized as an elder statesman of black America. Through World War II Randolph paved the way for the later civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led by Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968). One of Randolph's biggest moments came on August 28, 1963, at seventy-four years of age. He was national director of the march on Washington, D.C., in which over two hundred thousand black and white Americans participated, seeking an end to racial discrimination. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Randolph delivered his last major public speech. He was followed at the podium by King, who delivered his epic "I Have a Dream" civil rights speech. As in 1941, the president—this time President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63)—had tried to convince Randolph to call off the event. Although Randolph's wife died only three months before the march, Randolph decided the march must go on.
Much progress was realized after the historic march on Washington. The AFL-CIO adopted a strong national position in favor of the civil rights movement and lobbied for legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in the workplace. In 1964 Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act banning racial discrimination in public places. Also in 1964 Randolph established the A. Philip Randolph Institute to solve black labor issues and maintain ties between labor organizations and civil rights groups.
In 1968 Randolph was robbed and beaten outside his Harlem apartment building. Afterwards his health declined, leading him to resign as president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and from other labor positions. In 1971 Harvard University awarded Randolph an honorary degree. He died at the age of ninety in New York City on May 16, 1979. Randolph is remembered as a man of great integrity by both blacks and whites. In 1989 the U.S. Postal Service issued a Black Heritage Month stamp sporting his likeness.
For More Information
Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
Davis, Daniel S. Mr. Black Labor: The Story of A. Philip Randolph, Father of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972.
Pfeiffer, Paula F. A. Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.
A. Philip Randolph Porter Museum. http://www.aphiliprandolphmuseum.com (accessed on July 24, 2004).
"Randolph, A. Philip." American Home Front in World War II. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-and-education-magazines/randolph-philip
"Randolph, A. Philip." American Home Front in World War II. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-and-education-magazines/randolph-philip
Randolph, A. Philip 1889–1979
A. Philip Randolph 1889–1979
Labor and civil rights leader
Throughout his 90 years, labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph rocked the foundations of racial segregation, pressuring presidents and corporations alike to recognize and remedy the injustices heaped on American blacks. Embracing a nonviolent, forward-looking activism, Randolph garnered both praise and catcalls from those within and without the progressive movements he championed; he was alternately labeled a radical, a subversive, “the most dangerous Negro in America,” and “Saint Philip.” Though his methods for forcing change in racist laws and labor conditions were frequently questioned, Randolph’s generous, incorruptible character was never second-guessed.
Asa Philip Randolph was born April 15, 1889, to a poor family in Crescent City, Florida. His father, a bookish tailor and itinerant minister, wanted him to enter the clergy, but young Randolph, who read the works of German political philosopher and Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx while other children were pouring over Alice in Wonderland, was set on bigger challenges; he thought about becoming a congressman or lawyer—someone in a position of power and authority who could fight for the rights of blacks. After graduating from high school, he went to New York City, attracted by the ideas of educator and social theorist W. E. B. Du Bois, who had written about the need for talented blacks to excel and set an example.
Randolph’s socialist leanings were cemented while he worked odd jobs and took classes at City College. He met Chandler Owen, a young Columbia University law student who shared his intellectual interests and ideological convictions, and the two started a small employment bureau for largely untrained blacks arriving in the city from the South. Randolph and Owen began a publication, The Hotel Messenger, to serve as a mouthpiece for a fledgling union of black head waiters. But the young intellectuals, who used the paper to discuss wide-ranging issues of black suffrage, were too radical, too impolitic, for the waiters union, and the relationship soon ended. The paper, in its new incarnation as The Messenger, continued, however, to provide a forum for Randolph and Owen, who argued in its pages against U.S. involvement in World War I and advised blacks around the country to arm themselves against white mob violence. The U.S. Attorney at the time, wary of such militancy, reportedly called Randolph “the most dangerous Negro in America.”
Born Asa Philip Randolph, April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, FL; died May 16, 1979; son of James William and Elizabeth (Robinson) Randolph; married Lucille E. Campbell, 1914. Education: Attended City College of New York.
Started employment bureau for untrained blacks arriving from the South, New York City; cofounder of publication The Messenger; organizer of Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, New York City, 1925, president emeritus, 1968; organizer and director, March on Washington Movement, 1941; lobbied for integration of U.S. Armed Forces, 1948; organizer and director, Freedom March, 1963; American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), vice-president, executive council member emeritus. Member of Mayor La Guardia’s Commission on Race (New York City), 1935; honorary chairman, White House Conference on Civil Rights; founder and president, Negro American Labor Council.
Awards: Honorary LL.D., Howard University, 1941; Spingarn Medal, NAACP, 1942; civil rights award, American Federation of Teachers, 1973.
Randolph and Owen failed in their early attempts to organize other black labor forces in New York City. It wasn’t until 1925, after the two had parted company, that Randolph was called upon to unionize the sleeping-car porters of the Pullman Railroad Company, who had heard and read his eloquent demands for racial justice. The Pullman Company, then the largest employer of blacks in the country, had since 1909 successfully squelched the attempts of its porters to organize. The company summarily fired those porters who tried to rally their co-workers to support increases in pay and better working conditions. The porters saw in Randolph a brilliant leader who, as an outsider, would not collapse under corporate pressure.
Randolph recognized the difficulty of persuading blacks in the company—and throughout the country—to sympathize with a union, primarily because the only exposure most of them had to organized labor was through groups that were for whites only. Randolph also had to contend with the general impression among blacks that porters had a good life, traveling to exotic places around the United States and hobnobbing with the wealthy, albeit in the role of waiter or shoe-shiner. In his negotiations with Pullman Company executives—all of whom embraced the precepts of racial segregation—Randolph remained composed and cordial, using his quiet dignity to disarm those who used derogatory terms like “nigger” and “darkie.” New Republic contributor Murray Kempton wrote of Randolph in 1963, “He carries a courtesy so old-fashioned that the white men with whom he negotiates are sometimes driven to outsized rages by the shock that anyone so polite could cling so stubbornly to what he believes.” After ten years of discussion and a $10,000 bribe—which Randolph rejected—the Pullman Company caved in, sanctioning the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first black union in the country, and giving its members $2 million in wage increases.
Randolph, who would become known as “Saint Philip of the Pullman Porters,” continued to rise through the ranks of organized labor, founding the Negro American Labor Council and becoming the first black vice-president of the powerful American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States. Underlying his passion for labor rights was a conviction that equality for blacks could only be achieved if economic opportunity did not fall along racial lines; as long as blacks were kept in menial jobs, unable to tap into advancing technology, Randolph believed, they would forever be treated as second-class citizens, relegated to the back of buses and restaurants.
Throughout his life, Randolph pursued economic egalitarianism through a process of coalition-building and working from the inside, which occasionally angered black militants who thought he should have been less conciliatory. He disagreed with black leaders, including Jamaican black-nationalist Marcus Garvey, who saw it as futile for blacks to attempt to rise above their hardship in the United States and advocated that they return to Africa, the land of their ancestors. Randolph was quoted as saying in Ebony magazine in 1969, “The idea of separatism is harkening to the past and it is undesirable even if it could be realized, because the progress of mankind has been based upon contact and association, upon social, intellectual and cultural contact.”
Randolph, whose legend was sealed with his victory at the Pullman Company, began looking out at the nation for other areas, other industries, in which blacks were locked out of economic parity and therefore deprived of justice. In 1940 he found his rallying point in the discrimination practiced in private defense plants and the segregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. The issue was particularly acute because the United States was viewing with growing alarm the activities of German leader Adolf Hitler’s war machine in Europe. Ebony contributor Lerone Bennett, Jr., wrote in 1977, “The total mobilization required by the racist nazi ideology focused renewed interest on the racist American ideology and unleashed explosive forces in the black community, where preachers, politicians, and pamphleteers announced that blacks were sick and tired of dying abroad for a freedom that had no reality at home.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aware of Randolph’s prominence, nonetheless hedged when the labor leader asked that this discrimination be stopped. Acknowledging that friendly requests and congenial meetings would never work on their own, Randolph hatched the idea of leading a protest march of 10,000 blacks in Washington, D.C., a city still in the grips of segregation. At first, newspapers and civic leaders questioned whether Randolph—or anyone—could assemble so many blacks for such a demonstration. But the march idea caught on, and eventually Randolph raised the stakes to President Roosevelt by saying that 50,000 blacks were to come, and then 100,000. As acceptance of Randolph’s project grew, so did criticism. The harshest words came from those who argued that in excluding whites from his March On Washington Committee, Randolph was perpetuating the same divisiveness the march was designed to eliminate. Randolph responded, according to The New York Review of Books, by saying, “You take ten thousand dollars from a white man; you have his ten thousand dollars, but he’s got your movement. You take ten cents from a Negro; you’ve got his ten cents, and you also have the Negro.”
President Roosevelt knew the criticism challenging Randolph was minor relative to the excitement surrounding the upcoming march. He sent some of his biggest liberal guns, including his wife Eleanor, to convince Randolph that an “invasion” of so many blacks into a city inhospitable—even hostile—to them would be a mistake that could lead to violence. But Randolph did not back down, saying that if there were violence, it would be at the hands of racist whites. July 25, 1941, less than a week before the scheduled demonstration, Roosevelt issued his historic Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in the defense industry and led to the Fair Employment Practices Committee.
Randolph was praised for having successfully played hardball with the country’s premier politician. But while leaders around the nation saw the importance of Roosevelt’s executive order, many of them—even those within Randolph’s Committee—decried the fact that the president had not provided adequate means of enforcing it. They called Randolph a sell-out when he agreed to cancel the march—he said it was a postponement—in exchange for the order. They also claimed there were many other injustices that the march would have helped expose and perhaps remedy.
Randolph’s next presidential sparring match began where his bout with Roosevelt had left off. In 1948 he told a congressional committee that he would advise the youth of America—black and white—to boycott any draft until the U.S. Armed Forces were integrated. Although one senator warned that such advice could amount to treason, Randolph proclaimed that he would oppose a “Jim Crow [a system of laws and customs in the South that segregated blacks from white society]” Army until he rotted in jail. Randolph found it hypocritical that the government condoned segregation in its own ranks—including the armed forces—while Roosevelt’s order had effectively forced private industry to integrate. President Harry Truman was, like Roosevelt before him, reluctant to accede to Randolph. But he finally gave in because he was in the middle of a heated reelection campaign and wanted to use civil rights to appeal to northern urban voters.
Fifteen years later, Randolph reaffirmed his commitment to civil rights by setting into motion a march that actually did materialize. Like his predecessors, President John F. Kennedy worried that bringing thousands of blacks to Washington would lead to violence. Randolph, with the same measured arguments he had used time and time again, was able not only to allay the president’s concerns but also to get his endorsement. The historic August 28, 1963, March on Washington, during which revered civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, succeeded in coalescing and electrifying the civil rights movement. “The objective of Aug. 28 was more than civil rights legislation,” Randolph wrote in the New York Times. “The full march was a challenge to the conscience of the country; it was a creative dialogue between Negroes and their white allies, on the one hand, and the President, the Congress and our American democratic society, on the other. Its aim was to achieve a national consensus not only for civil rights legislation, but for its implementation.”
Throughout the 1960s, the status of Randolph as a champion of labor and civil rights was obscured by the emergence of younger, more dynamic firebrands. Still, King, who had been recruited into the civil rights movement by one of Randolph’s proteges, referred to the inveterate activist as “the Chief.” Even Malcolm X, the militant Muslim crusader who dismissed nonviolence as a weak response to racism, gave Randolph a back-handed compliment by saying he was the least confused among black leaders. In 1969, Randolph, a confirmed pacifist, was quoted in Ebony as saying “I love the young black militants. I don’t agree with all their methodology, and yet I can understand why they are in this mood of revolt, of resort to violence, for I was a young black militant myself, the angry young man of my day.”
Randolph died in 1979, a beloved, yet displaced, “emeritus” leader. Bayard Rustin, Randolph’s friend and disciple, wrote in the Yale Review in 1987: “He was imperturbable and implacable in his single-minded commitment to his ideals and principles. He was a self-made gentleman and a prudent tactician with the grit and toughness of a boxer. Mr. Randolph was a man of quiet courage, of resoluteness without flashiness, of perseverance without pretension.”
Anderson, Jervis, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait, University of California Press, 1986.
Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Franklin, John Hope, and August Meier, editors, Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century, University of Illinois Press, 1982.
Garfinkel, Herbert, When Negroes March, Atheneum, 1969.
Hanley, Sally, A. Philip Randolph, Chelsea House, 1989.
Ebony, May 1969; February 1977.
New Republic, July 6, 1963.
New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.
New York Times, September 29, 1963.
Time, July 4, 1960.
Yale Review, Spring 1987.
"Randolph, A. Philip 1889–1979." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/randolph-philip-1889-1979
"Randolph, A. Philip 1889–1979." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/randolph-philip-1889-1979
Randolph, A. Philip
A. Philip Randolph
The American labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, considered the most prominent of all African American trade unionists, was one of the major figures in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality.
Early life and education
Asa Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, on April 15, 1889, the second of two sons of James and Elizabeth Randolph. His father was a traveling minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and his mother was also devoted to the church. Both of his parents were strong supporters of equal rights for African Americans. The young Randolph had a close relationship with his older brother, William. The brothers' early childhood games included role playing in which they worked for African American rights. The family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1891. Asa attended local primary schools and later went on to the Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, Florida.
In the spring of 1911 Randolph left Florida for New York City, where he studied at the City College of New York while working as an elevator operator, a porter, and a waiter. While taking classes at the City College, Randolph discovered great works of literature, especially those of English playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616), and he also began to sharpen his public speaking skills.
Beginning the fight
Following his marriage in 1914 to Lucille E. Green, he helped organize the Shakespearean Society in Harlem and played the roles of Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo, among others. At the age of twenty-one Randolph joined the Socialist Party of Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926). (The Socialist Party is a political party that believes the producers, or working class, should have the political power and ability to distribute goods.) In 1917 Randolph and Chandler Owen founded the Messenger, a radical publication now regarded by scholars as among the most brilliantly edited work in African American journalism.
Randolph's belief that the African American can never be politically free until he was economically secure led him to become the foremost supporter of the full integration of black workers into the American trade union movement (bringing blacks into the ranks of trade unions, which fight for the rights of workers). In 1925 he undertook the leadership of the campaign to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), which would become the first African American union in the country. The uphill battle, marked by fierce resistance from the Pullman Company (who was then the largest employers of African Americans in the country), was finally won in 1937 and made possible the first contract ever signed by a white employer with an African American labor leader. Later, Randolph served as president emeritus (honorary president) of the BSCP and a vice-president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
In the 1940s Randolph developed the strategy of mass protest to win two major executive orders, or orders from the government. In 1941, with America's entrance into World War II (1939–45), he developed the idea of a massive march on Washington, D.C., to protest the exclusion (to keep out) of African American workers from jobs in the industries that were producing war supplies. He agreed to call off the march only after President Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945) issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination (selection based on race) in defense plants and established the nation's first Fair Employment Practice Committee. In 1948 Randolph warned President Harry Truman (1884–1972) that if segregation (separation based on race) in the armed forces was not abolished (to put an end to), masses of African Americans would refuse entering the armed forces. Soon Executive Order 9981 was issued to comply with his demands.
In 1957 Randolph organized the Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington to support civil rights efforts in the South, and in 1957 and 1958 he organized a Youth March for Integrated Schools. In August 1963, Randolph organized the March on Washington, D.C., fighting for jobs and freedom. This was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s (1929–1968) famed "I Have a Dream," speech, and a quarter million people went in support. Randolph was called "the chief" by King. And in 1966, at the White House conference "To Fulfill These Rights," he proposed a ten-year program called a "Freedom Budget" which would eliminate poverty for all Americans regardless of race.
The story of Randolph's career reads like a history of the struggles for unionization (creating trade unions) and civil rights in this century. He lent his voice to each struggle and enhanced the development of democracy (government by the people) and equality in America. Randolph always said that his inspiration came from his father. "We never felt that we were inferior to any white boys," Randolph said. "We were told constantly and continuously that 'you are as able,' 'you are as competent,' and 'you have as much intellectuality as any individual.'" Randolph died on May 16, 1979.
However, Randolph's message lived on. Seventeen years after his death, Randolph's civil rights leadership and labor activism became the subject of a 1996 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, "A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom." The tribute that took him from "obscurity" to a force that "moved presidents," was presented during Black History Month, in February, telling his story through reenactments, film footage, and photos.
Included were powerful images of the quest, including the formation of the National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes in 1919 and the twelve-year battle to organize porters in spite of the Pullman Company's use of spies and firings to stop it.
Throughout Randolph's years as a labor and civil rights leader, he rocked the foundations of racial segregation, pressuring presidents and corporations alike to recognize the need to fix the injustices heaped on African Americans. Embracing a nonviolent, forward-looking activism, Randolph will be remembered as both a radical activist and "Saint Philip."
For More Information
Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Cwiklik, Robert. A. Philip Randolph and the Labor Movement. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1993.
Hanley, Sally. A. Philip Randolph. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.
Patterson, Lillie. A. Philip Randolph: Messenger for the Masses. New York: Facts on File, 1996.
"Randolph, A. Philip." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-philip-0
"Randolph, A. Philip." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-philip-0
A. Philip Randolph
A. Philip Randolph
The American labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), considered the most prominent of all African American trade unionists, was one of the major figures in the struggle for civil rights.
The son of an itinerant minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, A. Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, on April 15, 1889. He attended Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, after which he studied at the City College of New York. Following his marriage in 1914 to Lucille E. Green, he helped organize the Shakespearean Society in Harlem and played the roles of Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo, among others. At the age of 21 Randolph joined the Socialist party of Eugene V. Debs. In 1917 he and Chandler Owen founded the Messenger, a radical publication now regarded by scholars as among the most brilliantly edited ventures in African American journalism.
Out of his belief that the African American can never be politically free until he was economically secure, Randolph became the foremost advocate of the full integration of black workers into the American trade union movement. In 1925 he undertook the leadership of the campaign to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), which would become the first African American union in the country. The uphill battle for certification, marked by fierce resistance from the Pullman Company (who was then the largest employers of blacks in the country), was finally won in 1937 and made possible the first contract ever signed by a white employer with an African American labor leader. Later, Randolph served as president emeritus of the BSCP and a vice-president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
In the 1940s Randolph developed the strategy of mass protest to win two significant Executive orders. In 1941, with the advent of World War II, he conceived the idea of a massive march on Washington to protest the exclusion of African American workers from jobs in the defense industries. He agreed to call off the march only after President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in defense plants and established the nation's first Fair Employment Practice Committee. In 1948 Randolph warned President Harry Truman that if segregation in the armed forces was not abolished, masses of African Americans would refuse induction. Soon Executive Order 9981 was issued to comply with his demands.
In 1957 Randolph organized the Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington to support civil rights efforts in the South, and in 1957 and 1958 he organized a Youth March for Integrated Schools. In August 1963, Randolph organized the March on Washington, fighting for jobs and freedom. This was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famed "I Have a Dream," speech, and a quarter million people came in support to the nation's capital. Randolph was called "the chief" by King. And in 1966, at the White House conference "To Fulfill These Rights," he proposed a 10-year program called a "Freedom Budget" which would eliminate poverty for all Americans regardless of race.
The story of Randolph's career reads like a history of the struggles for unionization and civil rights in this century. He lent his voice to each struggle and enhanced the development of democracy and equality in America. Randolph always said that his inspiration came from his father. "We never felt that we were inferior to any white boys…" Randolph said. "We were told constantly and continuously that ('you are as able,' 'you are as competent,' and 'you have as much intellectuality as any individual.')" Randolph died on May 16, 1979.
However, Randolph's message lived on. Seventeen years after his death, Randolph's civil rights leadership and labor activism became the subject of a 1996 PBS documentary, A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom. The tribute that took him from "obscurity" to a force that "moved presidents," was presented in conjunction with Black History Month, in February, telling his story through reenactments, film footage and photos.
Included were powerful images of the quest, including the formation of the National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes in 1919 and the 12-year battle to organize porters in spite of the Pullman Company's use of spies and firings to thwart it.
Throughout his years as a labor and civil rights leader, Randolph rocked the foundations of racial segregation, pressuring presidents and corporations alike to recognize the need to remedy the injustices heaped on African Americans. Embracing a nonviolent, forward looking activism, Randolph will be remembered as both a "radical subversive" and "Saint Philip."
There are two biographies available on Randolph. Jervis Anderson's A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (1986) and Sally Hanley's A. Philip Randolph (1989), as well as Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988) will provide good insight. There were two useful sites available through the internet. A guest editorial on Randolph's work was accessed at http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/ellens/NCRA/randolph.html (July 29, 1997). Information on the aforementioned PBS special can be accessed at http://www2.pbs.org/weta/apr/aprprogram.html (July 29, 1997). His career and life were discussed in numerous books on African Americans and the labor movement. Among the older studies are Sterling D. Spero and Abram L. Harris, The Black Worker (1931); Bruce Minton and John Stuart, Men Who Lead Labor (1937); and Edwin R. Embree, 13 against the Odds (1944). More recent studies are Saunders J. Redding, The Lonesome Road: The Story of the Negro's Part in America (1958); Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March (1959); Arna W. Bontemps, 100 Years of Negro Freedom (1961); Russell L. Adams, Great Negroes: Past and Present (1963; 3d ed. 1969); and Roy Cook, Leaders of Labor (1966). □
"A. Philip Randolph." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-randolph
"A. Philip Randolph." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-randolph
Randolph, Asa Philip
RANDOLPH, ASA PHILIP
Asa Philip Randolph played a central role in the drive for civil rights for African Americans from the 1920s to the 1970s. He was the most prominent African American labor leader during his lifetime, but his leadership went well beyond the struggle to integrate labor unions. As the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, he confronted U.S. presidents from
franklin d. roosevelt to john f. kennedy over the slow pace of civil rights reform.
Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida. He moved to New York City as a young man, where he attended City College of New York. He joined the Socialist party and campaigned against U.S. involvement in world war i, going so far as to attack w. e. b. du bois, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp), for urging African Americans to serve in the armed forces.
His life's work grew out of a request by Pullman car porters to help them organize a union. In the 1920s railroads dominated U.S. transportation. The dining cars, club cars, and sleeping cars of passenger trains were staffed by African American porters, who earned their money primarily from the tips of passengers. Ignored by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the porters turned to Randolph for assistance.
Randolph sought from the Pullman Company recognition of the union, improved working conditions, and a minimum wage. The struggle took twelve years, but Randolph finally achieved these goals. Despite his success the AFL continued to refuse to allow black members.
world war ii thrust Randolph into the national spotlight when, in 1941, he demanded that President Roosevelt ban racial discrimination in defense industries. Randolph informed the president that if his demand was not met, he would organize a mass march on Washington, D.C. Roosevelt capitulated, signing an order that integrated industries accepting federal defense contracts and which established the Fair Employment Practices Committee.
The membership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (now part of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks) declined in the 1950s, as airlines and automobiles became the dominant modes of long-distance transportation. Randolph continued to ascend, however, as he became vice president of the american federation of labor and congress of industrial organizations (AFLCIO) in 1957.
The only prominent African American to head a union, Randolph refused to act as a mere symbol of racial integration. He repeatedly urged the AFL-CIO to integrate its unions, earning the displeasure of the organization's leadership, including President George Meany.
Randolph again achieved national prominence for promoting a march on Washington, D.C. In 1963 he called for a march to protest racial discrimination and to demand jobs for African Americans. He later agreed to join forces with other civil rights leaders, including Dr. martin luther king jr., who had called separately for a march on Washington that would focus on the need for civil rights legislation. Randolph was given the job of organizing the march. On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 200,000 people heard King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and many millions watched on television. Randolph played a central role in this important event.
"I have spent all of my life in the labor and civil rights movements, which is to say that I have spent a lifetime in search of solutions to the problem of race and the problem of jobs."
—A. Philip Randolph
Randolph continued in the 1960s and 1970s to lobby for civil rights legislation and jobs for African Americans. He died May 16, 1979, in New York City.
Jervis, Anderson. 1974. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. New York:: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Neyland, James. 1994. A. Philip Randolph. Los Angeles: Melrose Square.
Pfeffer, Paula F. 1990. A. Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press.
"Randolph, Asa Philip." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip
"Randolph, Asa Philip." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip
Randolph, Asa Philip
Asa Philip Randolph, 1889–1979, U.S. labor leader, b. Crescent City, Fla., attended the College of the City of New York. As a writer and editor of the black magazine The Messenger, which he helped to found, Randolph became interested in the labor movement. In 1917 he organized a small union of elevator operators in New York City. After an unsuccessful campaign for the office of New York secretary of state on the Socialist ticket, he devoted his energies to organizing the Pullman car porters, a group of black workers he had tried to organize earlier. Despite bitter opposition by the Pullman Company, Randolph eventually won recognition for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, pay increases, and shorter hours. Randolph was elected president of the union when it was formed in 1925. An untiring fighter for civil rights, he organized (1941) the March on Washington Movement in protest against job discrimination. This movement, although it did not culminate in a march, is credited with hastening the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee during World War II. Randolph was also one of the most prominent leaders in the fight against segregation in the armed forces. His election to a vice presidency of the AFL-CIO in 1955 was, in part, in recognition of his efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in the organized labor movement. In 1963, Randolph was director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest civil-rights demonstrations ever conducted in the United States. The A. Philip Randolph Institute was founded in 1964 by Randolph and others to serve and promote cooperation between labor and the black community. Randolph retired from the presidency of the union in 1968, although he continued in his position as a vice president of the AFL-CIO.
See biographies by D. S. Davis (1972) and J. Anderson (1973).
"Randolph, Asa Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip
"Randolph, Asa Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip
Randolph, A. Philip
During the interwar years, Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters Union. In 1941, when blacks were excluded from many defense industry jobs as the United States prepared for World War II, Randolph threatened a mass protest march on Washington. The demonstration was called off when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order (25 June 1941), establishing the Fair Employment Practices Committee to try to prevent such racial discrimination. In 1948, Randolph's advice helped convince President Harry S. Truman to issue an executive order banning racial segregation in the military.
[See also African Americans in the Military.]
Jarvis Anderson , A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait, 1973.
Paula F. A. Pfeffer , A. Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, 1990.
Clement Alexander Price
"Randolph, A. Philip." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-philip
"Randolph, A. Philip." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-philip
Randolph, Asa Philip
RANDOLPH, ASA PHILIP
Asa Philip Randolph (1889–1979) was an American labor and civil rights leader. During the first half of the twentieth century he was considered one of the most prominent of all African American trade unionists as well as one of the major figures in the African American struggle for civil rights. He maintained that African Americans could never be politically free until they were economically secure, and so Randolph became the foremost advocate of the full integration of black workers into the American trade union movement. In 1925 he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), which was the first African-American union in the country to sign a labor contract with a white employer.
In 1889 Asa Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, the son of an African Methodist Episcopal minister. Randolph graduated from the Cookman Institute in Florida in 1907, at the top of his class.
Randolph was a good singer and actor. The idea of becoming a professional performer led him to New York, where he found himself working as a delivery driver, sales clerk, and a laborer on the railroad. In 1911 he moved to Harlem, where most African Americans in New York lived during that era. Harlem was the nation's capital of black intellectual life at that time and the center of what would later be called the Harlem Renaissance.
In Harlem Randolph turned to politics instead of the stage. He began attending City College of New York (CCNY), studying history, philosophy, and economics. In college he made friends with political radicals and founded the Independent Political Council in 1913, a radical current affairs group. He also worked on the campaign of socialist John Royal who was running for city council.
By 1914 Randolph met Ernest Welcome and began working for Welcome's Brotherhood of Labor, an organization that brought workers from the South and helped them find jobs in New York. Randolph also married Lucille Campbell that year. She supported Randolph economically as he pursued his political activism. In 1915 Randolph began to emerge as a dominant voice in the "New Negro movement." In 1917 he co-produced the first issue of The Messenger, a journal that became what Randolph called "the first voice of radical, revolutionary, economic, and political action among Negroes in America." The Messenger has been regarded by scholars as among the most brilliantly edited magazines in African-American publishing.
In 1925 Randolph became the leader of a campaign to organize the African American men who employed as porters aboard most trains in the United States. In 1937, after years of continuous work, the first contract was signed between a white employer and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. This was a milestone for African American workers and the labor movement.
By 1940 Randolph was deeply involved in the black civil rights movement. During World War II (1939–1945) he planned a massive march on Washington, D.C. to protest the exclusion of African Americans from working jobs in defense industries. He agreed to call off the march only after President Franklin Roosevelt (1933–1945) issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in defense plants and created the nation's first Fair Employment Practices Committee.
In 1948 Randolph once again initiated strategic efforts to enhance civil rights for African Americans. He warned President Harry Truman, (1945–1953) that if segregation in the armed forces was not abolished, then masses of African Americans would refuse military induction. Truman soon issued Executive Order 9981, establishing "equality of treatment" in the armed forces.
Randolph continued his civil rights work on behalf of African Americans. In the 1950s he organized youth marches to integrate schools. It was Randolph who organized the famous march on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) gave his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a quarter million people who came to the nation's capital.
Randolph's career reads like a history of struggles for unionization, worker equity, and civil rights in the twentieth century. His efforts focused on securing political freedom for African Americans by creating greater economic security. He created unions and organized millions of people in the Civil Rights Movement. Randolph died in 1979, having realized many of his goals for African Americans and civil rights.
See also: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Civil Rights Movement, Labor Movement
Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph; a Biographical Portrait. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.
Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Davis, Daniel S. Mr. Black Labor; the Story of A. Philip Randolph, Father of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972.
Harris, William H. Keeping the Faith: A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1925–1937. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1977.
Pfeffer, Paula F. A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.
during the first half of the twentieth century he was considered one of the most prominent of all african american trade unionists as well as one of the major figures in the african american struggle for civil rights.
"Randolph, Asa Philip." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip-0
"Randolph, Asa Philip." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip-0
Randolph, Asa Philip
"Randolph, Asa Philip." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip
"Randolph, Asa Philip." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/randolph-asa-philip