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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 (193945), 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.

Early life

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.

Political activism

In New York, Randolph met Chandler Owen (18891967), 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 (191418). 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.

Union leader

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 (192941) in late 1929, however, set back the unions' effectiveness until 1933 when newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945; served 193345; 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.

Wartime opportunities

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 (18741964; served 192933), 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 (18791972; 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 (18671950; 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 (18821945; served 193345) 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 (18791972), 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 (19021981). 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 (186165). The executive order was also an affirmative action plan that preceded the 1960s affirmative action programs.

Controversy builds

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 (18841972; served 194553) 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. (19291968). 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 presidentthis time President John F. Kennedy (19171963; served 196163)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

Books

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.

Web sites

A. Philip Randolph Porter Museum. http://www.aphiliprandolphmuseum.com (accessed on July 24, 2004).

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Randolph, A. Philip 1889–1979

A. Philip Randolph 18891979

Labor and civil rights leader

At a Glance

Equated Equality With Economic Opportunity

March on Washington

Forced Desegregation of U.S. Military

Eclipsed by Younger Leaders

Sources

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, Randolphs 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 lawyersomeone 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.

Randolphs 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.

At a Glance

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 Guardias 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 wasnt 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 companyand throughout the countryto 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 executivesall of whom embraced the precepts of racial segregationRandolph 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 bribewhich Randolph rejectedthe 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.

Equated Equality With Economic Opportunity

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 Hitlers 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.

March on Washington

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aware of Randolphs 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 Randolphor anyonecould 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 Randolphs 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 hes got your movement. You take ten cents from a Negro; youve 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 inhospitableeven hostileto 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 countrys premier politician. But while leaders around the nation saw the importance of Roosevelts executive order, many of themeven those within Randolphs Committeedecried 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 marchhe said it was a postponementin exchange for the order. They also claimed there were many other injustices that the march would have helped expose and perhaps remedy.

Forced Desegregation of U.S. Military

Randolphs 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 Americablack and whiteto 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 ranksincluding the armed forceswhile Roosevelts 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 presidents 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.

Eclipsed by Younger Leaders

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 Randolphs 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 dont 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, Randolphs 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.

Sources

Books

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.

Periodicals

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.

Isaac Rosen

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Randolph, A. Philip

A. Philip Randolph

Born: April 15, 1889
Crescent City, Florida

Died: May 16, 1979
New York, New York

African American civil rights leader and trade unionist

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 (15641616), 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 (18551926). (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.

Making changes

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 (193945), 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 (18821945) 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 (18841972) 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 (19291968) 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.

Legacy

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, 19541963. 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.

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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."

Further Reading

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). □

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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.

further readings

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.

cross-references

Civil Rights Movement; Labor Union.

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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).

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Randolph, A. Philip

Randolph, A. Philip (1889–1979), labor and civil rights leader.Born the son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Randolph was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Graduating from Cookman Institute in 1911, he moved to New York's Harlem, working and attending City College. In response to increasing segregation and discrimination against blacks, Randolph shunned moderate reform and racial integration, as advocated by W. E. B. Du Bois, and emphasized instead socialism and trade unionism. In 1917, he founded and co‐edited the Messenger, a radical monthly magazine, which campaigned against lynching, opposed U.S. participation in World War I, urged African Americans to resist being drafted to fight for a segregated society, and recommended that they join radical unions. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson's postmaster general, Albert Burleson, revoked the Messenger's second‐class mailing privileges.

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.]

Bibliography

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

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Randolph, Asa Philip

RANDOLPH, ASA PHILIP


Asa Philip Randolph (18891979) 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 (19391945) 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 (19331945) 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, (19451953) 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. (19291968) 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


FURTHER READING

Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph; a Biographical Portrait. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 19541963. 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, 19251937. 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.

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Randolph, Asa Philip

Randolph, Asa Philip (1889–1979) US labour leader and civil rights activist. He founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (1925) and became a leading spokesman for the employment rights of blacks. He influenced President Roosevelt's executive order (1941) on fair employment practices and led the 1963 march on Washington for jobs and freedom.

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Randolph, A. Philip

RANDOLPH, A. PHILIP

Asa Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889–May 16, 1979) was a civil rights leader and the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The younger of two sons, Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida, to Elizabeth Robinson and James William Randolph, an itinerant African Methodist Episcopal preacher. Randolph graduated from Cookman Institute (later Bethune-Cookman College) in Jacksonville in 1909. Unable to find any but manual labor jobs in the South, Randolph left for New York in 1911. There he came under the influence of Socialists and the International Workers of the World. He took speech lessons, which accounted for his Oxford English speaking style and soon became a soapbox orator, propagandizing on behalf of black unionism and Socialism, beliefs to which he adhered for the rest of his life. In 1913 he married Lucille Campbell Green, whose beauty shop earnings supported his subsequent undertakings.

Randolph opposed the entry of the United States into World War I, and in 1917 he began publishing the Messenger, in which he argued that since 99 percent of African Americans were workers their logical affiliation should be with the Socialist Party. Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, government repression decimated the Messenger radical group and left Randolph a confirmed anti-Communist. With declining Socialist support for the Messenger, Randolph became more conservative.

In 1925 Randolph was invited to organize the Pullman Company railroad porters, the one occupation in which African Americans held a near monopoly. It was only after the Great Depression brought Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal to power that Randolph succeeded in gaining recognition for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) from the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1935 and the Pullman Company in 1937. The National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) and National Labor Relations Act (1935), which guaranteed labor the right to organize and select its own bargaining agent without interference from the employer, enabled Randolph to achieve legitimacy for the union. Even before formal recognition of the BSCP by the AFL, Randolph used AFL conventions to denounce racism in the labor movement.

In the depths of the Depression the agreement between Pullman and the porters' union brought some $2 million in income to the porters and their families and prominence for Randolph in both the black and white communities. In 1935 Randolph became president of the National Negro Congress (NNC), an umbrella organization established to help African Americans cope with the economic distress of the Depression. Randolph resigned in 1940, charging that the NNC was Communistdominated.

By then defense preparations were pulling the country out of the Depression. Blacks, however, denied the opportunity to apply for defense jobs because of racial discrimination, remained disproportionately unemployed. When the Roosevelt administration proved impervious to their entreaties, Randolph conceived the idea of a mass march of African Americans on Washington to demand defense jobs and training. Realizing that the administration could not persuade Randolph to call off the march, scheduled for July 1, 1941, without some tangible gain, Roosevelt issued an executive order that created a temporary wartime Fair Employment Practices Committee, in exchange for which Randolph agreed to cancel the march. Uncertain how many African Americans would actually participate, Randolph was elated at the success of his strategy, and decided to keep his organization, the March on Washington Movement, intact to promote nonviolent civil disobedience in the fight for civil rights.

During the Cold War, Randolph counseled young black men to refuse to register or be drafted into a segregated military establishment. President Harry Truman capitulated, integrating the armed services in 1948. Next, in an effort to speed implementation of the Supreme Court school desegregation decision of 1954, Randolph mounted a prayer pilgrimage in 1957 and two youth marches for integrated schools in the nation's capital in 1958 and 1959. Becoming one of the AFL's two black vice presidents when the federation merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in 1955, Randolph launched an all-black labor group, the Negro American Labor Council in 1959 to fight racism within the labor movement. In 1963 Randolph proposed a march on Washington for jobs and freedom to be led by a coalition of civil rights organizations, major religious denominations, and the United Auto Workers. Although it marked the high point of the civil rights movement, the integrated march was somewhat marred for Randolph by his wife's death three months earlier. Afterwards the civil rights coalition dissolved into wrangling over prestige, financial contributions, and Black Power separatism. Randolph retired in 1968, after founding the A. Philip Randolph Institute in 1964 to carry on his ideas and methods.

Taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the Great Depression to form the nation's first black union, Randolph's unique contribution was promotion of nonviolent civil disobedience and a symbiotic relationship between the American labor movement and the cause of racial justice.

See Also:AFRICAN AMERICANS, IMPACT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ON; BROTHERHOOD OF SLEEPING CAR PORTERS (BSCP); NATIONAL NEGRO CONGRESS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. 1986.

Bates, Beth Tompkins. Pullman Porters and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black America, 1925–1945. 2001.

Harris, William H. Keeping the Faith: A. Philip Randolph, Milton P. Webster, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1925–37. 1991.

Pfeffer, Paula F. A. Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. 1990.

Randolph, A. Philip. The Papers of A. Philip Randolph, edited by John H. Bracey, Jr., and August Meier. 1990.

Randolph, A. Philip. Reminiscences. Columbia Oral History Research Office. Columbia University, New York.

Paula F. Pfeffer

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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




Civil Rights Movement">

"As a youngster, Randolph listened to his father's parishioners [church members] complain about the problems of racial prejudice. This exposure, combined with the experience of growing up in segregated Jacksonville [Florida]…raised his consciousness."

paula f. pfeffer in a. philip randolph: pioneer of the civil rights movement

A .Philip Randolph was one of the most important black labor leaders of the twentieth century and was highly influential in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike many other black leaders, Randolph sought social justice for black Americans primarily through increased economic opportunities. He formed a number of organizations to raise public awareness of the lack of opportunities in business and education for black Americans. He also organized groups to pressure presidential administrations to improve the situation of blacks. Most notable was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union, organized in 1925.

The stock market crash in late 1929 devastated the American economy, triggering an economic crisis known as the Great Depression (1929–41) that lasted throughout the 1930s. Black Americans were severely affected. Jobs traditionally held by blacks were given to desperate unemployed whites, and the unemployment rate of black Americans soared as high as 80 percent in some cities. Throughout the 1930s Randolph worked to improve labor conditions for his fellow black Americans. In 1935 the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters became the first black union to be recognized as a legal bargaining unit (could negotiate working conditions and wages with company management). In the 1940s Randolph was the main force behind ending segregation in the military. While continuing his efforts on behalf of black workers, Randolph became a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. At the massive black freedom march on August 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C., Randolph spoke just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), who on that day delivered his famed "I Have a Dream" speech.


Early life

Randolph was the second of two sons born to a poor black family in Florida. His father was a minister who traveled to various small, poor churches and also worked as a tailor to make ends meet. The family focused on religion and education. Randolph entered a Methodist school for young black men, Cookman Institute, in 1903 and excelled. He showed particular skill at drama, public speaking, singing, and literature. Randolph was also a good athlete. He graduated in 1907 at the top of his class. While working at minor jobs around Jacksonville, Florida, following graduation, he also gave public readings, sang, and acted in plays. Ready for a new start away from the South's strict segregation, Randolph headed to Harlem in New York City in April 1911. There he held various jobs, working as a waiter, a porter, and an elevator operator, and he began participating in a theater club. Tackling difficult Shakespearean plays, Randolph developed public speaking skills that he used for much of his life. Randolph met his future wife while participating in the theater group, and they married in November 1914. They did not have children.

Under pressure from his parents, Randolph gave up his pursuit of an acting career and enrolled in City College of New York, which offered a free education for those who were considered financially or intellectually deserving. At the college, Randolph became interested in politics. He organized his own political action group, the Independent Political Council.


A shift into politics

While a student in New York City Randolph became close friends with Chandler Owen, a student at Columbia Law School. They were intrigued and influenced by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a labor union that fought hard in the early twentieth century for more-humane working conditions such as a forty-hour workweek, considered an extreme idea in the 1910s. Randolph and Owen both joined the Socialist Party in late 1916. Members of the Socialist Party advocate social reform supporting the rights of individual citizens over the interests of big business. Unafraid to speak out about their beliefs, the youthful Randolph and Owen often stood on the street corner of Lenox Avenue and 135th Street promoting the ideas of socialism and calling for blacks to join unions. But to most blacks socialism represented a white man's idea with no practical application. Many black Americans were actually antiunion, because they needed the jobs the striking workers left open. In 1917 Randolph organized a union of elevator operators. Also, through much of that year Randolph and Owen were hired to publish Hotel Messenger, a newsletter for the Headwaiters and Sidewaiters Society of Greater New York. After eight months Randolph was fired from his publication duties when black Americans lost control of the organization. Randolph and Owen then created their own magazine called simply the Messenger, in November 1917. The Messenger became a highly respected black journal and was published until 1928. Its peak of circulation was in 1919 with 26,000 readers. The publication expressed many controversial views, including criticism of black leaders for their cooperation with and reliance on white leaders. Randolph and Owen were arrested and briefly jailed for their antiwar views in 1918 during World War I (1914–18). They also organized the first socialist club in Harlem, the Friends of Negro Freedom, and both unsuccessfully ran for public offices.

By the mid-1920s Randolph's enterprises had lost steam. He had tried organizing black workers but without great success. Then in 1925 Randolph was invited to speak to a group of porters about trade unions. The porters were employed by the Pullman Company to assist railroad passengers with luggage, provide food service, and other conveniences for the travelers. A short while later the porters asked Randolph to organize a union for them; he accepted. On August 25, 1925, Randolph introduced the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters at a mass meeting.

Union leader

Heading the Brotherhood, Randolph proved skillful in working with various groups of people. By 1928 the Brotherhood had joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL), a federation of labor unions representing various types of skilled craftspeople. With the onset of the Great Depression the union had difficulty achieving its goals, such as higher wages and better working conditions. Then in 1933 the newly elected president, Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45; see entry), introduced a policy under the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) that recognized unions as formal, legal groups. Finally, in the summer of 1935 the Brotherhood gained recognition as the legal bargaining agent for Pullman's porters. It was the first black union to gain such recognition by an industry. However, it would take two more years of negotiation between the Brotherhood and Pullman before agreement on working conditions was achieved on August 25, 1937. The agreement was a major victory, bringing an additional $2 million in wages to the porters. This victory greatly increased Randolph's prestige.

Despite his union victories, Randolph maintained an even broader vision of social change for black Americans. He continued to stress that blacks could only achieve social and racial equality after making substantial economic progress. In 1935 Howard University in Washington, D.C., hosted a conference on the economic condition of black America. Out of the conference emerged the National Negro Congress (NNC), an organization bringing together all existing black political groups to press for economic recovery. Randolph was its first president. Randolph remained a leader in the NNC until 1940 when, believing the Communist Party had gained too much influence in the organization, he resigned.



Increased economic opportunities

By 1940 as the United States got closer to entering World War II (1939–45), American factories increasingly shifted from the production of domestic goods to production of war materials. This wartime industry created many new jobs and began to rapidly pull white Americans out of the economic troubles of the Depression. However, black Americans were not benefiting from the new job growth, and many remained on unemployment relief rolls. Racial discrimination in employment and housing was pronounced, and the armed forces were segregated. To protest the lack of access to jobs in the defense industries, Randolph formed a coalition of black organizations to march on Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1941. Not relishing the prospect of a hundred thousand protesters converging on the capital, President Roosevelt tried to convince Randolph to call off the event. But Randolph held fast that black Americans must get better economic opportunities. Finally, in late June, Roosevelt relented and issued a presidential order prohibiting discrimination in defense industries. The order also created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to oversee progress in black employment and to hold hearings when complaints surfaced. Although the order did not end segregation in the armed forces, it did convince Randolph to call off the march. Randolph's coalition staged a number of mass rallies around the nation the following summer, further promoting black economic opportunities.

Fair Employment Practices Committee


One of A. Philip Randolph's key accomplishments during his long career was pressing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish an official policy that would prohibit racial discrimination in some industries and create an agency to investigate discrimination complaints. Discouraged and angered by the lack of jobs for blacks in the rapidly growing war industries in 1940 and early 1941, Randolph began organizing a major protest march on the nation's capital; the march was scheduled for the summer of 1941. Roosevelt wanted to avoid a potential crowd of one hundred thousand black American protesters descending on a highly racially segregated Washington, D.C. The president was trying to build strong unity in the nation to support the upcoming war effort. Therefore, Roosevelt desperately tried to convince Randolph to cancel his plans. An unrelenting Randolph only intensified his demands for better opportunities for black Americans in industry and the military. President Roosevelt finally issued a formal presidential order on June 25, 1941, prohibiting racial discrimination in employment in defense industries and creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).

Given little funding, few actual powers, and a small staff, the FEPC was primarily formed to hold public hearings on complaints about discrimination in defense industries and to develop policies for Roosevelt and Congress to consider. The FEPC could only use persuasion and publicity to pressure defense contractors to comply with the presidential order. Roosevelt gave the committee little public support, for fear of antagonizing Southern political leaders. After a June 1942 FEPC hearing in Birmingham, Alabama, Southerners became so angry with the FEPC that Roosevelt assigned the committee to the War Manpower Commission. As part of a regularly funded agency, Congress now had greater control over FEPC activities and, in particular, the funding to sustain it. Overwhelmed with continuing controversy, by 1943 the FEPC was no longer functional. Later that year Roosevelt replaced the FEPC with the Committee on Fair Employment Practices. The committee had greater powers and a larger staff than the FEPC had had. Roosevelt also banned discrimination by all government contractors, not just the defense industry. The new committee lasted another two years before being disbanded.




After the war Randolph renewed the campaign to end segregation in the armed forces. He formed the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation, and he applied pressure to President Harry Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53), who needed the black vote in the upcoming presidential election. In July 1948 Truman signed a presidential order ending racial segregation in the military. It was another milestone for Randolph.

However, progress toward further increasing black influence in the labor movement was very slow. In the 1950s the American Federation of Labor (AFL) member unions finally began accepting black members. When the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) joined together in 1955, they forged a much more progressive position on black participation. Randolph became one of two blacks on the new AFL-CIO Executive Council.



Elder statesman

Randolph was recognized as an elder statesman of black America and had a direct influence on the growing postwar civil rights movement. One of the proudest moments in Randolph's career came in August 1963. He was the national director in charge of organizing a march on Washington, D.C. Over two hundred thousand Americans—blacks and whites—would participate, seeking an end to discrimination in the United States. At this gathering in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Randolph delivered his last major public speech. He was followed at the podium by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who delivered his epic "I Have a Dream" civil rights speech. Just as President Roosevelt had done in 1941, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63) had tried to convince Randolph to call off the event. But this time Randolph had decided the march needed to take place.

By the mid-1960s the AFL-CIO became a strong supporter of the civil rights movement and legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in the workplace. The labor organization also became a key sponsor of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, established by Randolph in 1964. The institute was charged with keeping an eye on black affairs in labor and with improving ties between labor and civil rights organizations.

After being mugged outside his Harlem apartment building in the summer of 1968, Randolph's health deteriorated through the late 1960s and 1970s. In 1968 he resigned as president of the Brotherhood and from the AFL-CIO Executive Council. Randolph received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1971. He died at the age of ninety in New York City in May 1979.

In 1989 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp for Black Heritage Month with Randolph's likeness on it. Randolph followed a unique path in his career. While most black leaders climbed to prominence as religious leaders or educators, Randolph first gained recognition for his work on behalf of black Americans in the labor movement. Randolph is remembered as a man of great integrity by both blacks and whites.



For More Information

anderson, jervis. a. philip randolph: a biographical portrait. new york, ny: harcourt brace jovanovich, 1973.

davis, daniel s. mr. black labor: the story of a. philip randolph, father of the civil rights movement. new york, ny: e. p. dutton, 1972.

pfeffer, paula f. a. philip randolph: pioneer of the civil rights movement. baton rouge, la: louisiana state university press, 1990.

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Randolph, A. Philip

A. Philip Randolph

Born April 15, 1889 (Crescent City, Florida)

Died May 16, 1979 (New York, New York)

Labor activist

Civil rights activist

"A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess."

American labor leader and civil rights crusader A. Philip Randolph was instrumental in shaping some of the first federal laws designed to give African Americans equal rights in the workplace. For several decades Randolph served as president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union of black employees in the passenger rail service industry. He rose to national prominence as its leader and then turned his attention to the manufacturing industry when the factories were preparing for wartime production in the early 1940s. By warning U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) that he planned to lead black workers in a civil rights march on Washington, Randolph convinced Roosevelt to sign an executive order that forced factories with government contracts to stop discriminating against African American workers. Many years later Randolph did lead a march on Washington when he was the behind-the-scenes organizer of the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) delivered his famous speech, "I Have a Dream."

Early ambitions

Born Asa Philip Randolph in April 1889, Randolph was a Florida native and the son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. The family lived in Jacksonville's thriving African American community. The city had a number of black-owned businesses, some black police officers on its public safety patrol, and even a black judge. Such achievements were rare in a Southern city at the time, and for Jacksonville they ended with the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson. That case granted states and municipalities the right to segregate (separate) blacks and whites in public facilities. Like many African Americans, Randolph's father was deeply upset with the ruling. He refused to let either Asa or his older brother, James, take the streetcar to school after seating was segregated on the line, nor were they allowed to use the public library's blacks-only reading room.

In 1907 Randolph graduated from the Cookman Institute, Florida's first high school for black students, as valedictorian of his class. His parents could not afford to send either of their sons to college, and so Randolph worked in a series of low-paying jobs over the next four years. In 1911 he and a friend boarded a passenger steamboat headed for New York City. They worked in the galley, or ship's kitchen, in order to pay their way, and Randolph later recalled it as one of the hardest jobs he had ever had. He arrived in New York City with high ambitions: he planned to become a classical stage actor and was particularly devoted to the works of English dramatist William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Tall and with a deep baritone voice, Randolph was a commanding figure, and he would later put those qualities to use persuading audiences and even heads of state to see his point of view.

Randolph settled in Harlem, the area of Manhattan where many African Americans lived and where the Harlem Renaissance (the flourishing of African American art, music, literature, and culture) emerged a decade later. He took acting classes and auditioned for roles but failed to win any theater parts. To make ends meet, he took a number of low-wage jobs, including washing dishes and operating an elevator. When he learned that the City College of New York offered free tuition to city residents he began taking classes there. Some were in political theory, and he became especially interested in socialism, an economic system in which the means of production and distribution is owned collectively by all the workers and there is no private property or social classes. Like other politically minded young blacks in Harlem, Randolph imagined that a more equal economic system in America, as opposed to the current capitalist one, would help bring an end to discrimination against blacks and other minorities. (Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned by individuals or groups and competition for business establishes the price of goods and services.)

In 1914 Randolph married Lucille Green, a hair salon owner in Harlem who shared many of his political ideals. Both joined the Socialist Party in New York City, and Green also introduced him to Chandler Owen (1889–1967), an energetic Columbia University student. Randolph and Owen became soapbox orators (people who gave speeches from improvised platforms) in Harlem, urging passersby to become more politically active. In 1917 they were hired by the union of black hotel waiters in the city and given the task of starting a new magazine, the Hotel Messenger. One article that criticized a few union members cost them their jobs, but they decided to launch their own publication. Lucille Green provided the original funding for The Messenger, and its first issue appeared in November 1917.

Confrontation and opportunity

The Messenger was radical in its tone. It urged African Americans to fight prejudice and discrimination by joining the Socialist Party, and its articles and editorials were critical of American capitalism. When America entered World War I (1914–18; a war in which Great Britain, France, the United States and their allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies), The Messenger took an antiwar stance. Randolph's articles pointed out that in America racism was permitted by law, and blacks should question fighting and dying for a country that treated many of its citizens so unjustly.

Randolph's writings and public speaking engagements attracted government attention. He was arrested during a 1918 speech in Cleveland, Ohio, and the U.S. attorney general even tried to prevent the U.S. postal service from delivering The Messenger to subscribers. After the war, tensions lessened, although not in Harlem. There a new African American activist named Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) was attracting large crowds with his speeches. The Jamaican immigrant headed the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a black nationalist group that urged African Americans to return to Africa. Garvey even owned a steamship line that provided transportation to Africa. Randolph and Garvey disagreed sharply, with Randolph asserting that America belonged partly to the descendants of slaves who helped build the economy of the nineteenth century. He also considered Garvey's steamship venture a scam in which Garvey and his associates profited from the goodwill donations of middle-class blacks. The battle between the two sides escalated, and in September 1922 Randolph opened a package that contained a severed human hand. He suspected Garvey's group, but he certainly had other enemies by then. The attorney general had once called him the most dangerous black man in America.

The turning point in Randolph's career came in 1925, when Pullman Company porters in the New York area asked him to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). Pullman was an important brand name in American transportation at the time and had been for decades. Founded by George Pullman (1831–1897) in Chicago, Illinois, nearly sixty years earlier, the Pullman Company built luxury sleeping cars, known as Pullmans, for passenger rail service. In the period just after the end of slavery in the United States, George Pullman recruited former slaves to serve as porters inside the sleeping cars, which his company leased to the railroads. By the 1920s the term Pullman porter stood for excellent customer service. They prepared the sleeping berths, handled baggage, and even shined shoes. For decades it was one of the most respected jobs a black man could hold in America.

The Pullman porters were an underpaid and overworked lot, however. They earned an average of $67 a month and had to buy their uniforms with that money, along with the shoe polish they used on the job. They worked four hundred hours a month, or eleven thousand miles—whichever came first—and were expected to be at their departure train station a few hours before the train was scheduled to leave so that they could load baggage. They were not paid for those hours, however, because the four-hundred-hour count did not begin until the train pulled out. Some federal protections had been won for other railroad workers, but the porters were not included in that legislation. There had been attempts to organize a porters' union since 1909, but the Pullman Company had a long history of opposing labor groups. Some of the porters who had tried to form a union lost their jobs.

Battle for recognition

The Pullman porters needed a leader who was not a porter, and Randolph agreed to take the job. The BSCP was formally founded in August 1925 with the motto "Stands for Service Not Servitude." Over the next twelve years, Randolph worked tirelessly to organize BSCP chapters in the major American cities that were home to large numbers of Pullman porters. Membership in the brotherhood rose quickly, with 4,600 members out of a total Pullman porter workforce of 10,000 by 1928. They failed to make any progress in gaining formal recognition as a union, however, as the company chose to ignore it entirely. Randolph sent numerous letters to the Pullman headquarters, none of which received any reply, but behind the scenes the Pullman executives worked quietly to damage his reputation, with little success.

Randolph launched a campaign to help boost public awareness of, and support for, the BSCP. He argued that a Pullman union would help the company become more efficient and therefore more profitable. His goal was to force the company to reduce working hours to 240 per month, which was the federal guideline for other railroad employees, and increase the porters' wages to $150 a month. With the onset of the Great Depression (1929–41; a time of great economic hardship worldwide), Randolph's job became much more difficult. Jobs were scarce in every industry, and the Pullman Company harassed BSCP members. By 1933 membership had dropped to just 658 porters, and the union was evicted from its Harlem office. Randolph was broke as well but refused to abandon his cause. New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882–1947) saw that his shoes had holes in them and offered him a government job, but Randolph declined it.

The issue was resolved in 1934, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, a union-friendly Democrat in his first term in the White House, signed into law a bill that gave the porters the same protections as other groups of railroad industry employees. Pullman still refused to negotiate a contract with the BSCP, but Randolph called on some politicians in Washington who knew and respected him for help. The contract between the BSCP and the Pullman Company was finally signed in August 1937, and it reduced working hours for the porters to 240 a month. Wages were set at a minimum of $89.50 per month, much lower than the $150 that Randolph had wanted, but the contract was significant nonetheless as the first economic agreement between a white-owned institution and a group of African Americans.

Battles abroad and at home

Although Randolph had quit the Socialist Party many years before, he remained committed to the needs of the black working class and an end to discrimination. A new war loomed on the horizon when Germany, controlled by the fascist Nazi Party, invaded Poland in 1939. (Fascism is a system of government characterized by dictatorship, government control of the economy, nationalism, and the suppression of all opposition.) Germany and its allies began invading other European countries, and though the United States did not enter what became known as World War II (1939–45; a war in which Great Britain, France, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan) until late 1941, it was providing military aid to England. The U.S. economy began to rebound from the Great Depression as factories were converted over to wartime production and began adding shifts and the workers to staff them.

In January 1941 Randolph launched his mission to force the federal government to ban racial discrimination in employment and hiring practices in these plants, as well as in the military. U.S. troops were segregated into black and white units at the time, and American military officials feared that if soldiers were on equal footing, racial tensions would prevent them from working together as an effective group responsible for one another's lives. Randolph was determined to change both of these practices. He announced his intention to lead a march of black workers on the nation's capital on July 1. This was known as the March on Washington Movement (MOWM), and the nation's black newspapers, which had tremendous influence in the African American community at the time, picked up the cause. One of them even created the Double V campaign, which called for victory against fascism, but also victory at home over racism. It was an important symbolic effort, for the United States entered the war against a Germany that had, in the past decade, stripped its Jewish citizens of their jobs and then their civil rights.

Randolph believed that fifty thousand blacks would march on Washington, a number he later doubled. He asked to meet with President Roosevelt, but Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), the First Lady and a longtime civil rights supporter, was sent instead. She urged him to call off the march and asked how 100,000 travelers would be fed and sheltered if they arrived as planned. Randolph coolly told the First Lady that he expected them to use District of Columbia hotels and restaurants, although the city was deeply segregated at the time, and the

Blacks and the Labor Movement

African American workers often found it very difficult to gain steady employment before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in all forms, including in hiring practices. The organized labor movement in America that emerged in the late nineteenth century did not offer much help to minority workers. The unions served to protect the job security and safety of their mostly white members. Many of the unions had charters that prohibited black workers from joining and similar rules that discriminated against persons who had been born in foreign countries.

Early in the nineteenth century, African American tradesmen worked as caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard. They sealed the seams of warships to make them seaworthy, and there is evidence that they went on strike in 1835. Later, the Association of Black Caulkers was formed in 1858 in Baltimore, Maryland, when the workers were harassed by immigrants who wanted their jobs. There were a few other organizations for black workers in the years before the late 1860s. In 1850 free blacks in New York City established the American League of Colored Laborers. There was also a Waiter Protective Association of New York formed in that decade. In 1869 the Colored National Labor Union held its first convention in Washington, D.C.

By 1886 the newly formed American Federation of Labor (AFL) served as an umbrella organization (an association of related institutions, who work together to coordinate activities or pool resources) for twenty-five skilled-trade unions. There were not very many African Americans in such professions, but the AFL did have a rule against accepting a union that barred blacks. That changed after 1895 when the International Association of Machinists joined the AFL. It had been created from the merger of two other unions, one of which did not allow African American members. After this the AFL negotiated a deal in which it allowed the establishment of segregated locals, or union chapters.

In 1902 there were more than one million union members in the United States, but only forty-one thousand of those were African American. That changed with the migration of blacks from the South to the industrial cities of the North from 1914 to 1918. In the 1930s there was a split inside the AFL, and the unions that broke away organized themselves into the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO actively recruited black workers into its unions. An executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, thanks to the work of A. Philip Randolph, brought thousands of new workers into both AFL and CIO ranks. When the ALF and CIO merged in 1955, Randolph was elected vice president of the newly formed union. Over the next decade the AFL-CIO emerged as an active participant in the civil rights movement.

police force was almost entirely white. Both Roosevelts realized, therefore, that the potential for violence was enormous. On June 25 the president signed Executive Order 8802, also known as the Fair Employment Act. It ended discrimination in hiring practices at any company that had contracts with the federal government. It also included a rule that prevented labor organizations at such factories or workplaces from barring black members.

Executive Order 8802 was a massive victory for Randolph and a significant one for black workers. He called off the march and then went to work on his other mission to desegregate the U.S. armed forces. Again his powers of persuasion and his commanding words helped drive change. The war had ended, and a new peacetime military conscription bill was being debated in Congress. (Conscription, also known as the draft, is a process in which persons were compelled, or forced, to enlist in the military.) President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) invited Randolph and other black leaders to the White House in early 1948. While there, Randolph warned Truman that unless discrimination ended in America, blacks might not fight for their country again if another war occurred. Several days later Randolph testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and again stated that black men might resist a military draft if the armed forces continued to be divided into separate units by race, and that he would publicly support them if they did. In 1948 Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the U.S. armed forces.

The 1963 march

Randolph was still the president of what had become the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and he spent the remainder of his career fighting discrimination inside organized labor. He held a seat on the executive council of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and founded the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) in 1959. Four years later he organized another march on Washington, this one known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A record 200,000 protesters turned out for the August 1963 event, and it became a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle in twentieth-century America. The last speech of the day was scheduled to be given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). After Randolph introduced the minister, King delivered his stirring "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he envisioned an America free of racism and poverty, one in which "all men are created equal," as the Declaration of Independence stated.

King's speech is linked so dramatically to the 1963 March that he is sometimes mistakenly credited with being its organizer. In fact Randolph and his longtime associate Bayard Rustin (1910–1987) were the driving forces behind the event. The march helped sway public opinion and succeeded in convincing lawmakers to reconsider the status of blacks in America. A year later Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both were historic pieces of legislation that sought to forever end discrimination against blacks and other minorities in the United States.

In 1968 Randolph retired as president of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which later became part of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks. He died in New York City in May 1979. Though his name is sometimes forgotten in the history of the civil rights movement in America, he was a well-known figure in his day and a hero to African Americans. Randolph spent his long career fighting on behalf of the black worker at a time when a man or woman could be fired simply on the basis of skin color alone and few would dare to challenge an employer. His role in securing equal treatment and legal protection for African Americans, from both the federal government and from organized labor, helped lift thousands of black families out of poverty.

For More Information

Books

Miller, Calvin Craig. A. Philip Randolph and the African-American Labor Movement. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2005.

Reef, Catherine. A. Philip Randolph: Union Leader and Civil Rights Crusader. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2001.

Periodicals

Chenoweth, Karin. "Taking Jim Crow out of Uniform: A. Philip Randolph and the Desegregation of the U.S. Military." Black Issues in Higher Education (August 21, 1997): p. 30.

Hill, Norman. "A. Philip Randolph. (Labor)." Social Policy (summer 2002): p. 9.

Web Sites

A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum. http://aphiliprandolphmuseum.org/ (accessed on July 7, 2005).

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