Distinguish Jacksonville: Asa Philip Randolph

September 3, 2007 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Sometimes we forget the influence and role many former Jacksonville residents have played in shaping the society we live in today. Raised in Jacksonville, Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a prominent 20th century African-American Civil Rights leader and founder of the first black labor union in the United States.

The Early Years

Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida. He never grew up being "racially internalized", meaning that he never saw himself any less than the white kids around him. His father was a minister of the A.M.E. Church who moved the family to Jacksonville, Florida in 1891. In 1911, Randolph moved to New York City's Harlem in hope of becoming an actor.

Randolph's parents objected to his dramatic aspirations, so while at the City College of New York, he switched his studies to politics and economics. While at City College, he met his future wife, Lucille Green. Green was a teacher who had quit that career and opened a lucrative beauty salon when her first husband died. After their marriage, Randolph's political activities would often cause Lucille the loss of some customers.

Also at City College, Randolph met Chandler Owen, a sociology and political science student at Columbia University. Together, they formed the radical Harlem magazine, The Messenger, in 1917 which espoused socialist views. He ran, unsuccessfully, as the Socialist candidate for New York's Secretary of State in the 1921 election [1]. The Brotherhood was associated with the American Federation of Labor.



Becoming a Civil Rights leader

Randolph emerged as one of the most visible spokespersons for African-American civil rights. In 1941, he, Bayard Rustin, and A. J. Muste proposed a March on Washington to protest racial discrimination in the armed forces. The March was cancelled after President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the Fair Employment Act. Some militants felt betrayed by the cancellation because Roosevelt's pronouncement only pertained to defense industries and not the armed forces themselves. In 1947, Randolph formed the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service, later renamed the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience. President Harry S. Truman abolished racial segregation in the armed forces through Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.

Surprisingly, Randolph was also notable in his support for restrictions on immigration.

In 1950, along with Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, and Arnold Aronson, a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, Randolph founded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights(LCCR). LCCR has since become the nation's premier civil rights coalition, and has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.

Randolph also helped Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. As the U.S. civil rights movement gained momentum in the early 1960s and came to the forefront of the nation's consciousness, his rich baritone voice was often heard on television news programs addressing the nation on behalf of African-Americans engaged in the struggle for voting rights and an end to discrimination in public accommodations.*



Honors and Awards

* On September 14, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson presented Randolph with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

* A statue of A. Philip Randolph was erected in his honor in the concourse of Union Station in Washington, D.C.

* Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida currently houses a permanent exhibit on the life and accomplishments of A. Philip Randolph.

* New York City high school 540, located on the City College of New York campus, is named in honor of Randolph. The school serves students predominantly from Harlem and surrounding neighborhoods.

* The A. Philip Randolph Institute is named in his honor.

* James L. Farmer, Jr., co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, cited Randolph as one of his primary influences as a Civil Rights leader.

* Randolph's efforts on behalf of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters were portrayed in the Robert Townsend film 10,000 Black Men Named George. The title refers to the demeaning custom of the time when Pullman porters, all of whom were black, were just addressed as "George".

* A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is in Chicago near the Pullman Historic District.

* Randoph is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

**text courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia**

Locally, A. Philip Randolph Blvd., which runs through the Eastside and Sports District, is named in honor of Asa Philip Randolph.

For more information on Asa Philip Randolph visit these links:

A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum - www.aphiliprandolphmuseum.com

A. Philip Randolph Institute - www.apri.org