Black History Month: A. Philip Randolph
As we close out Black History Month 2020, I wanted to take some time to highlight the accomplishments of A. Philip Randolph. He is not as well known as Martin Luther King, Jr., but his efforts helped lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, Randolph was fighting for the rights of black workers almost 50 years before the civil rights movement. This is what has led many to refer to Randolph as the “father of the Civil Rights Movement”.
Fight for Equality Pre- Civil Rights Movement
Soon after graduating college, Randolph went right to work for workers by forming the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first predominantly black labor union. Under Randolph’s leadership, the Brotherhood achieved around $2 million of pay increases, shorter work weeks, and overtime for its members.
In addition to his work with union members, Randolph fought hard for the integration of the U.S. military in the 1940s. Randolph’s pressure on President Truman was instrumental to Truman’s signing of the executive order to end segregation in the military.
March on Washington
When Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to organize the March on Washington in 1963, A. Philip Randolph was the first person to call. This was because Randolph had previously organized his own March on Washington Movement 20 years before. Randolph’s March on Washington Movement eventually convinced President Roosevelt to prohibit discrimination by defense contractors. The 1963 March on Washington went on to become one of the main symbols of the Civil Rights Movement.
For his contributions for the Civil Rights Movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded A. Philip Randolph the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Randolph also co-founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, focused on the continued fight for political, economic, and social equality for workers.
One interesting bit of trivia about Randolph is that he was the son of a African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church preacher. I’m an A.M.E preacher’s kid too, so maybe there’s something about us and our desire to fight for the rights of the disadvantaged!A. Philip Randolph-Champion for Workers' RightsClick To Tweet