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A. Philip Randolph: What You Need to Know About the Founder of the First Black Labor Union in the US

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There are numerous notable African-American leaders, and Philip Randolph happened to be one of them in the twentieth century. He was a prominent #Black civil rights leader. He established the first Black labor union in the United States. Randolph was seen as a modest individual. He never regarded anyone as inferior or superior to himself. It could be because he was not “racially internalized” as a child.

Randolph’s father was an African Methodist Episcopal Church clergyman who relocated the family to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1891. Randolph, like many other young black males at the period, eventually traveled north in search of better possibilities. He relocated to New York and attempted to break into the entertainment industry. His parents were opposed, so he attended City College of New York. He began his studies in politics and later switched to economics.

While in college, he met his wife, Lucille Green. She was a former teacher who had left the classroom to run a beauty salon. Randolph held strong political beliefs that he was not afraid to discuss. Because of his views, Lucille’s beauty salon suffered, and she lost customers who disagreed with Randolph’s.

Randolph met Chandler Owen, a sociology student, and together they founded The Messenger, a radical Harlem magazine influenced by Hubert Harrison. Randolph was a candidate for New York Secretary of State in 1921, but he was unsuccessful. Later, he founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. His greatest success came as President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925.

It would be his first serious attempt to form a labor union for Pullman Company employees. Because Pullman Company employed a large number of Black people at the time, many people were critical of Randolph’s efforts.

In 1935, the Pullman Company began negotiating with the Brotherhood, and a deal was reached in 1937. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was awarded $2,000,000 in pay raises, reduced workweeks, and overtime compensation. The Brotherhood later joined the American Federation of Labor. Randolph became one of the most visible civil rights activists. In 1941, he collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. Randolph founded the Committee Against Jim Crow in the Military in 1947.

On August 28, 1963, Randolph’s idea of a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was achieved, attracting nearly 300,000 people to the nation’s capital. The event is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement, and it did contribute to public awareness of the issue. When President John F. Kennedy was slain three months later, however, Civil Rights legislation was blocked in the Senate. The Civil Rights Act was not passed until the following year.

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