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Black History Month Labor Profiles: A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph

During Black History Month, we will be profiling past and present leaders in the intersecting movements to protect and expand the rights of African Americans and working families. We'll highlight both important leaders of the past and those who are continuing the legacy of those strong leaders who laid the foundation for the present. Today, we take a look at A. Philip Randolph.

A. Philip Randolph was one of the greatest black labor leaders in America's history and a key founder of the modern American civil rights movement. Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Fla., and he grew up on the east side of Jacksonville.

He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), the first predominantly African American labor union, and served as the organization's first president. For the next 10 years, Randolph led an arduous campaign to organize the Pullman porters, which resulted in the certification of the BSCP as the exclusive collective bargaining agent of the Pullman porters in 1935. 

Randolph called it the "first victory of Negro workers over a great industrial corporation."

Click here to learn more about the battle to organize the sleeping car porters.

In the 1940s, Randolph was instrumental in leading the fight to end discrimination in defense plant jobs in World War II and the desegregation of the armed forces after the war.

Over the years his nonviolent protests and mass action efforts inspired the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Randolph was a key figure in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march, most widely known for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, propelled the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. It was a combined effort by the civil rights and labor movements.

Moved by this success, Randolph and Bayard Rustin founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) in 1965 to continue the struggle for social, political and economic justice for all working Americans. APRI is an organization of black trade unionists that continues fighting today for racial equality and economic justice.

Read Randolph's full biography from APRI here.

We will continue with Black History Month labor profiles throughout the month. Don't forget that you can win one of 100 Black History Month posters by texting the code “BLACK” (for Black History Month) to 235246.

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