Philip Randolph


Philip Randolph

Raised in abolitionist traditions by his minister father,  mirrored those beliefs for more than 60 years as a champion of equal rights. He came to national prominence by organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and achieved the first union contract signed by a white employer and an African American labor leader (in 1937). In 1941 he conceived a march on Washington, DC, to protest exclusion of African American workers from defense jobs. Faced with the public relations threat of 100,000 marchers, President Franklin Roosevelt established the wartime Fair Employment Practice Committee. Randolph founded the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation, which in 1948 pressured President Harry Truman into ending segregation in the armed forces. Although in later years he became less militant, Randolph was a dedicated socialist from his college days in New York. His lifelong belief in unionism and integration flowed from that philosophy, and he went into action in 1917 by co-founding The Messenger, a weekly magazine of African-American protest, and lecturing across the country. For his outspoken leadership, Randolph’s opponents characterized him as “the most dangerous Negro in America” because of his proven power to create change. He was still the acknowledged patriarch into the early 1970s and into his 80s, after his key role in organizing the historic, 250,000 strong March on Washington in 1963.


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