Randolph, Asa Philip

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Randolph, Asa Philip

Asa Philip Randolph, 1889–1979, U.S. labor leader, b. Crescent City, Fla., attended the College of the City of New York. As a writer and editor of the black magazine The Messenger, which he helped to found, Randolph became interested in the labor movement. In 1917 he organized a small union of elevator operators in New York City. After an unsuccessful campaign for the office of New York secretary of state on the Socialist ticket, he devoted his energies to organizing the Pullman car porters, a group of black workers he had tried to organize earlier. Despite bitter opposition by the Pullman Company, Randolph eventually won recognition for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, pay increases, and shorter hours. Randolph was elected president of the union when it was formed in 1925. An untiring fighter for civil rights, he organized (1941) the March on Washington Movement in protest against job discrimination. This movement, although it did not culminate in a march, is credited with hastening the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee during World War II. Randolph was also one of the most prominent leaders in the fight against segregation in the armed forces. His election to a vice presidency of the AFL-CIO in 1955 was, in part, in recognition of his efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in the organized labor movement. In 1963, Randolph was director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest civil-rights demonstrations ever conducted in the United States. The A. Philip Randolph Institute was founded in 1964 by Randolph and others to serve and promote cooperation between labor and the black community. Randolph retired from the presidency of the union in 1968, although he continued in his position as a vice president of the AFL-CIO.

See biographies by D. S. Davis (1972) and J. Anderson (1973).

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