A. Philip Randolph – Biography, Activism & March on Washington

A philip randolf


  1. early years and move to harlem
  2. the ‘messenger’ and randolph’s socialist politics
  3. Foundation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP)
  4. activism for civil rights and the march on washington
  5. later years and foundation of a. Philip Randolph Institute
  6. sources
  7. a. Philip Randolph was a labor leader and civil rights activist who founded the country’s first major black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Trunks (BSCP), in 1925. In the 1930s, his organizing efforts helped end the racial discrimination in the defense industries and segregation in the united states. armed forces. Randolph was also one of the main organizers of the March on Washington in 1963, which paved the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.

    early years and move to harlem

    Asa Philip Randolph was born on April 15, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida, where his father was a preacher at the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She grew up in an intellectual household, and Randoph and her older brother attended Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, a Methodist school founded during Reconstruction as Florida’s first all-black institution of higher learning.

    inspired by the writings of prominent black intellectual w.e.b. du bois, randolph moved to new york city in 1911. he settled in harlem, where he found a job as an apartment building switchboard and enrolled in courses at the city college of new york. Randolph’s devotion to the socialist cause led him to work for the Brotherhood of Labor, an employment agency for black workers. In 1914 he married Lucille Green, a young widow and Howard University graduate who owned a beauty salon in the building where he worked.

    the ‘messenger’ and randolph’s socialist politics

    Randolph and Chandler Owen, a law student and socialist thinker, met in 1915 and became good friends. The two men joined the Socialist Party the following year and soon began publishing a magazine, Hotel Messenger (later renamed Messenger), to promote their socialist views and rally their African-American compatriots to the cause. In 1918, Randolph and Owen were arrested and briefly imprisoned for sedition for their public criticism of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential administration and his policies during World War I.

    Randolph was an early supporter of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born founder of the Universal Negro Betterment Association (UNIA). But by 1920, he and other influential black leaders in Harlem had begun to publicly criticize Garvey, which helped spur a federal investigation that would eventually lead to Garvey’s deportation.

    Foundation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP)

    In the summer of 1925, Randolph received an invitation to speak with a group of porters for the Pullman Palace automobile company, a Chicago-based company that hired primarily African-American men to serve white passengers aboard its cars. luxurious railway carriages. Pullman porters were typically paid much lower wages than white laborers and were subjected to punitive working hours and conditions. After this initial meeting, Randolph agreed to help organize the Brotherhood of Bed Car Trunks (BCSP), the first predominantly black union in the country.

    under randolph’s leadership, the bscp became the first black union to be granted a charter by the american federation of labor (afl). In 1934, Congress amended the earlier railroad labor law to specifically cover workers in sleeping cars, making it illegal for Pullman to fire BSCP members. The new legislation paved the way for Randolph and the BSCP to win a collective agreement and sign a contract with Pullman that recognized the union, reduced monthly work hours for loaders, and increased wages.

    after the afl merged with the congress of industrial organizations in 1955 to form the afl-cio, randolph joined the organization’s executive council; he became one of its first two black vice presidents in 1957.

    civil rights activism and the march on washington

    meanwhile, in addition to workers’ rights, randolph had gained national prominence as an outspoken advocate for racial equality. In 1941, he announced a large protest march in Washington, D.C., with the goal of convincing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end discrimination in the nation’s defense industries. After roosevelt responded by issuing executive order 8802, which opened war industries in world war ii to black workers and created the fair employment practices commission (fepc), randolph canceled the planned march. In 1948, Randolph’s activism similarly helped persuade President Harry Truman to desegregate the United States. armed forces with the approval of the universal military service and training law.

    Randolph organized several other major protest marches in the nation’s capital in the late 1950s, including the Pilgrimage of Prayer (1957) and two youth marches protesting slow school segregation in the South. In 1959, he helped found the Negro American Labor Council (NALC), whose goal was to fight racial discrimination within unions.

    in 1963, randolph worked with fellow activist bayard rustin to lead the mass march on washington on august 28th. At that event, nearly 250,000 people gathered to hear from civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Randolph, whose beloved wife, Lucille, died just weeks before the event, told the crowd that they were witnessing the start of a new fight “not just for black people, but for all Americans who thirst for freedom and a life better”.

    later years and foundation of a. Philip Randolph Institute

    The March on Washington helped pave the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first major piece of civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era. That same year, Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Randolph the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his career in activism. In 1965, Rustin took over the newly founded A. Philip Randolph Institute, which replaced NALC as the primary way to advance Randolph’s civil rights and labor goals.

    Randolph retired as BCSP president in 1968, his public profile gradually fading as his health declined. he spent his last years living quietly in new york city and died in 1979, at the age of 90.


    j.y. blacksmith. “a. philip randolph dies at 90.” Washington Post, May 17, 1979.

    a. philip randoph: biography. Martin Luther King Jr. stanford university institute for research and education.

    andres e. kersten. a. philip randolph: a life on the cutting edge. (rowman and littlefield, 2007)

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