A. Philip Randolph

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A. Philip Randolph bigraphy, stories - Leaders

A. Philip Randolph : biography

15 April 1889 – 16 May 1979

Asa Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) was a leader in the African-American civil-rights movement, the American labor movement and socialist political parties.

He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly Black labor union. In the early civil-rights movement, Randolph led the March on Washington Movement, which convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 in 1941, banning discrimination in the defense industries during World War II. After the war Randolph pressured President Harry S. Truman to issue Executive Order 9981 in 1948, ending segregation in the armed services.

In 1963, Randolph was the head of the March on Washington, which was organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech. Randolph inspired the Freedom budget, sometimes called the "Randolph Freedom budget", which aimed to deal with the economic problems facing the Black community, particularly workers and the unemployed.

Union organizer

Randolph’s first experience with labor organization came in 1917, when he organized a union of elevator operators in New York City. In 1919 he became president of the National Brotherhood of Workers of America,, accessed 17 August 2010 a union which organised amongst African-American shipyard and dock workers in the Tidewater region of Virginia.Crisis, November 1951, p626 The union dissolved in 1921, under pressure from the American Federation of Labor.

His greatest success came with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who elected him President in 1925. This was the first serious effort to form a labor institution for employees of the Pullman Company, which was a major employer of African Americans. The railroads had expanded dramatically in the early 20th century, and the jobs offered relatively good employment at a time of widespread racial discrimination. Because porters were not unionized, however, most were exploited and underpaid.

Under Randolph’s direction, the BSCP managed to enroll 51 percent of porters within a year, to which Pullman responded with violence and firings. In 1928, after failing to win mediation under the Watson-Parker Railway Labor Act, Randolph planned a strike. This was postponed after rumors circulated that Pullman had 5,000 replacement workers ready to take the place of BSCP members. As a result of its perceived ineffectiveness, membership of the union dropped by half.

Fortunes of the BSCP changed with the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. With amendments to the Railway Labor Act in 1934, porters were granted rights under federal law. Membership in the Brotherhood jumped to more than 7,000. After years of bitter struggle, the Pullman Company finally began to negotiate with the Brotherhood in 1935, and agreed to a contract with them in 1937. This gained employees $2,000,000 in pay increases, a shorter workweek, and overtime pay.Current Biography, 1940, pp. 671-72 Randolph maintained the Brotherhood’s affiliation with the American Federation of Labor through the 1955 AFL-CIO merger.

Marriage and family

In 1913 Randolph courted and married Mrs. Lucille Campbell Green, a widow, Howard University graduate and entrepreneur who shared his socialist politics. She earned enough money to support them both. The couple had no children.

Early life and education

Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida, the second son of the Rev. James William Randolph, a tailor and minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, a skilled seamstress. In 1891 the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, which had a thriving, well-established African-American community.

From his father, Randolph learned that color was less important than a person’s character and conduct. From his mother, he learned the importance of education and of defending oneself physically against those who would seek to hurt one or one’s family, if necessary. Randolph remembered vividly the night his mother sat in the front room of their house with a loaded shotgun across her lap, while his father tucked a pistol under his coat and went off to prevent a mob from lynching a man at the local county jail.