Editors Note: This post is from a past article submission. I am sharing it for all who may be interested in Black labor history. It will be also in the archives section. -M.P.
Labor activist and civil rights leader Asa Phillip Randolph is a prominent figure of the twentieth century. Born in Florida to Reverend James William Randolph and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, Asa was the second son. Randolph would leave Florida for New York in 1911, participating in what came to be known as the Great Migration. It was in New York that he would become involved in union organizing and civil rights.
Randolph is most known for co-founding the Messenger along with Chandler Owen and organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Randolph often connected the necessity of work with fighting inequality. He saw the unions as a vehicle of change for African-Americans to address grievances around issues of fair pay, equal access to employment, and work conditions. Randolph would also use his publication to speak out against lynching and advocate for integration. He was suggesting a March on Washington in 1941, but it was canceled after Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the Fair Employment Act.
Randolph in his political work and union organizing made the necessary connections between civil rights and the labor movement. 22 years later Randolph would play a role in organizing the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. One of the biggest contemporary issues faced today is the wholesale assault on unionized labor. It is important to remember that figures like Randolph did see the necessity of labor as vital to the political well being of African Americans. Below, are some good additional sources of info on A. Phillip Randolph:
A movie about the struggles of founding the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters: 10,000 Black Men named George
A. Phillip Randolph- A Life in the Vanguard by Andrew E. Kersten
145th Street was named after Randolph in 2009.-http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/two-harlem-streets-named-for-civil-rights-leaders/