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A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights
    Book Description:

    A. Philip Randolph's career as a trade unionist and civil rights activist fundamentally shaped the course of black protest in the mid-twentieth century. Standing alongside W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and others at the center of the cultural renaissance and political radicalism that shaped communities such as Harlem in the 1920s and into the 1930s, Randolph fashioned an understanding of social justice that reflected a deep awareness of how race complicated class concerns, especially among black laborers. Examining Randolph's work in lobbying for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatening to lead a march on Washington in 1941, and establishing the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Cornelius L. Bynum shows that Randolph's push for African American equality took place within a broader progressive program of industrial reform. Some of Randolph's pioneering plans for engineering change--which served as foundational strategies in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s--included direct mass action, nonviolent civil disobedience, and purposeful coalitions between black and white workers. Bynum interweaves biographical information on Randolph with details on how he gradually shifted his thinking about race and class, full citizenship rights, industrial organization, trade unionism, and civil rights protest throughout his activist career.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09006-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)

    When nearly a quarter of a million people, black and white, gathered on the National Mall in late August 1963, they brought to life the signature moment of A. Philip Randolph’s long career. Having threatened such a demonstration in 1941 to protest employment discrimination during the Second World War, Randolph was happy to see his idea for a march on Washington resurrected as a mass demonstration of support for President John F. Kennedy’s proposed civil rights bill. Indeed, in the aftermath of the civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, where high-compression water hoses and police dogs shocked the conscience of...

  5. Part 1. Building Black Identity at the Turn of the Century

    • 1 A. Philip Randolph, Racial Identity, and Family Relations: Tracing the Development of a Racial Self-Concept
      (pp. 3-23)

      Asa Philip Randolph remembered everything about his childhood. He remembered that his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, was a racially divided city where African Americans still managed to thrive.¹ He remembered that east of Florida Avenue was the Oakland neighborhood where the city’s leading African Americans lived and he first attended school. He remembered that on the corner of Jefferson and West Ashley was the Finkelstein building that initially housed a grocery store but eventually became the Hotel de Dreme, one of the city’s most notorious bordellos. And he remembered the Richmond Hotel on Broad Street where in later years jazz...

    • 2 Religious Faith and Black Empowerment: The AME Church and Randolphʹs Racial Identity and View of Social Justice
      (pp. 24-44)

      As a child, Asa Randolph distinctly remembered being quite dismayed that not all African Americans were members of the AME Church, an institution revered in the Randolph household for its longstanding and firm opposition to racial oppression.¹ Like thousands of other African Americans who joined the AME Church in the years after the Civil War, he and his family viewed church affiliation not only as a profession of religious faith but as an equally important assertion of personal and racial independence.² “In fact,” Asa explained, in recalling his upbringing in his father’s church, both he and his family believed that...

  6. Part 2. Constructing Class Consciousness in the Jazz Age

    • 3 Black Radicalism in Harlem: Randolphʹs Racial and Political Consciousness
      (pp. 47-62)

      Just as he remembered the Jacksonville of his childhood, Asa had equally vivid recollections of Harlem in the 1910s and 1920s. Despite his parents’ strong misgivings about him leaving home, Asa moved to Harlem in 1911 and thus was on hand to witness some of the most momentous events of the period.¹ He was present in 1916 when Marcus Garvey arrived in the city and made his first public speech in Harlem. He was there in February 1919 when the all-black Fifteenth Regiment of New York’s National Guard returned from World War I and marched through the streets of Manhattan...

    • 4 Crossing the Color Line: Randolphʹs Transition from Race to Class Consciousness
      (pp. 63-82)

      In some ways, campus life at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1912–13 directly complemented aspects of the radical environment that Randolph found in Harlem. While Hubert Harrison, W.A. Domingo, and other black radicals were turning uptown street corners into open-air forums on racial discrimination, socialism, and the worldwide plight of people of color, CCNY students were organizing campus rallies to protest the spread of authoritarian governments in Europe and supporting textile strikes in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1912), and Patterson, New Jersey (1913), led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).¹ The energy and vociferous support such...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  7. Part 3. The Rise of the New Crowd Negroes

    • 5 A New Crowd, A New Negro: The Messenger and New Negro Ideology in the 1920s
      (pp. 85-100)

      Harlem during World War I was a place of incredible energy. The community was growing rapidly as the mass migration of southern blacks continued apace; Marcus Garvey’s stirring message of race pride rang from street corners and convention halls throughout the community; and black journalists and essayists of all political stripes published page upon page of commentary on the plight of black people the world over. It was in this dynamic wartime environment that A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen co-founded theMessenger, a militant journal that styled itself as “the only magazine of scientific radicalism in the world published...

    • 6 Black and White Unite: Randolph and the Divide between Class Theory and the Race Problem
      (pp. 101-116)

      As with its discussions of New Negro race consciousness, theMessenger’s emphasis on the economic roots of racism and the importance of organized labor in the fight against discrimination connected its editorial perspective on class to Randolph’s previously expressed views on social justice. In addition to equal access to the social and political fruits of civilization’s progress, Randolph also insisted that social justice required the overthrow of any “profit economy” achieved “at the cost of a lower level of income and social well-being for the majority of the population.” In his view, any economic system that allowed one group to...

  8. Part 4. Blending Race and Class

    • 7 Ridinʹ the Rails: Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Portersʹ Struggle for Union Recognition
      (pp. 119-135)

      When a group of Pullman porters approached A. Philip Randolph about helping them form a union in August 1925, he quickly envisioned the radical potential of such an enterprise. Randolph believed that not only could the nascent Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters mark “an epochal stage in the life of the Pullman porter,” but that it could also serve as “a significant land-mark in the history and struggle of the Negro workers in America.”¹ Equally important, however, was the practical opportunity it created for him to put into action his ideas about the relationship between socialism and the race problem....

    • 8 Where Class Consciousness Falls Short: Randolph and the Brotherhoodʹs Standing in the House of Labor
      (pp. 136-156)

      After Pullman’s stalling tactics effectively undercut the Brotherhood’s appeal to the Mediation Board, Randolph and the porters devised a new strategy to compel Pullman to negotiate. In April 1928, the Brotherhood organized a strike vote among porters and maids to trigger emergency provisions of the 1926 Railway Labor Act that sought to force Pullman into arbitration. The Pullman Company retaliated by laying off hundreds of porters and hiring strikebreakers to make sure that its operations would not be disrupted. Convinced that rail service would continue with no serious interruption, federal mediators determined that there was no emergency and, thus, refused...

    • 9 Marching Toward Fair Employment: Randolph, the Race/Class Connection, and the March on Washington Movement
      (pp. 157-184)

      Even before the final resolution of the Brotherhood’s dispute with Pullman, Randolph had concluded that the race and class issues confronting black workers were inseparable. He realized that as industrialization continued to transform the nation’s economy in the war years, the central problem facing African Americans was no longer just one of civil rights but of economic rights as well. By the time the Brotherhood and Pullman signed their first wage contract, Randolph was persistently pressing the point that civil rights without economic rights lacked any real social substance.¹ Even after the threatened march on Washington was cancelled, this idea...

  9. Epilogue: A. Philip Randolphʹs Reconciliation of Race and Class in African American Protest Politics
    (pp. 185-200)

    In pushing the principle of equal job opportunity in establishing the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), Randolph brought together for the first time all of his core beliefs about improving the lives of African Americans. This initiative clearly highlighted the fact that genuine social justice required fair access to both civil and economic rights, that issues of race and class were inextricably linked, and underscored the political potency of mass action for affecting social change. Though his subsequent efforts to challenge racial discrimination in other facets of American society would continue to refine these key points somewhat, Randolph’s basic understanding...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 201-226)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-236)
  12. Index
    (pp. 237-244)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-246)