Randolph, A. Philip

(1889-1979)
   A. Philip Randolph was born in Florida and attended the Cookman Institute. In 1911, he moved to New York City and took courses at City College. Together with Chandler Owen, Randolph opened an employment office in Harlem to try to unionize fellow African American migrants and enlist black recruits for the Socialist Party. In 1917, Randolph and Owen began to produce The Messenger, a left-wing journal aimed at black audiences. Their opposition to African American participation in the war effort during World War I led to them being charged under the Sedition Act, but the charge was dismissed because the judge believed they were the dupes of white radicals. During the Red Scare, The Messenger was described as the “most able and most dangerous” of all black publications.
   After World War I, Randolph voiced opposition to Marcus Garvey’s call for racial separatism and from 1925 onward was involved in trying to organize the Pullman car porters into a trade union. He established the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) with The Messenger as its official publication. In 1935, the BSCP was finally given a charter by the American Federation of Labor and recognized by the Pullman Company in 1937. Randolph was the BSCP president until his retirement in 1968. He was appointed to the New York City Commission on Race in 1935 and also became president of the National Negro Congress concerned with the economic situation of African Americans. Faced with continued discrimination in the developing defense industries, in 1940 Randolph called for a March on Washington to protest in July 1941. Threatened by a potentially embarrassing demonstration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order outlawing discrimination and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Committee to investigate complaints, and the march was called off. Randolph unsuccessfully campaigned for the establishment of a permanent fair employment practices act. With the reintroduction of selective service after World War II, Randolph again mobilized black opinion to protest against segregation in the armed forces, and in 1948 President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 initiating the integration of the military.
   Randolph organized a Prayer Pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., in 1957 and supported Youth Marches for Integrated Schools in 1958 and 1959. In 1955, he was appointed as one of the vice presidents of the newly merged AFL-CIO. It was Randolph who in 1963 suggested a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march was one of the highpoints of the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s. However, Randolph subsequently agreed to a moratorium on demonstrations to support Lyndon Johnson in the presidential election. The same year, Randolph established the Randolph Institute to encourage links between labor organizations and the civil rights movement. Although such actions separated him from the increasingly militant and separatist black power groups, he remained an influential figure in civil rights until his death.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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