Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph

Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph

Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph

Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph

Synopsis

At one time, Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a household name. As president of the all-black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), he was an embodiment of America's multifaceted radical tradition, a leading spokesman for Black America, and a potent symbol of trade unionism and civil rights agitation for nearly half a century. But with the dissolution of the BSCP in the 1970s, the assaults waged against organized labor in the 1980s, and the overall silencing of labor history in U.S. popular discourse, he has been largely forgotten among large segments of the general public before whom he once loomed so large. Historians, however, have not only continued to focus on Randolph himself, but his role (either direct, or via his legacy) in a wide range of social, political, cultural, and even religious milieu and movements. The authors of Reframing Randolph have taken Randolph's dusty portrait down from the wall to reexamine and reframe it, allowing scholars to regard him in new, and often competing, lights. This collection of essays gathers, for the very first time, many genres of perspectives on Randolph. Featuring both established and emergent intellectual voices, this project seeks to avoid both hagiography and blanket condemnation alike. The contributors represent the diverse ways that historians have approached the importance of his long and complex career in the main political, social, and cultural currents of twentieth-century African American specifically, and twentieth-century U.S. history overall. The central goal of Reframing Randolph is to achieve a combination of synthetic and critical reappraisal.

Excerpt

Reframing Randolph gives us a deeper understanding, appreciation, respect, and much needed critical analyses of the complexities of A. Phillip Randolph, who, through his oratory, his written words, and his organizing and mobilizing skills, was able to improve the working conditions and economic lives of African Americans and move America’s social and civil rights landscape closer to the promise of equality for all.

These roads were sometimes straight, sometimes rocky, and sometimes narrow, but all of them led to the improvement of self, the improvement of the human condition, and the improvement of the working conditions for black workers in general and the Pullman Porters in particular. These roads also led Randolph to his long envisioned plan of a march for freedom on the nation’s capital. In reflecting on his role in the labor and civil rights movements as researched and analyzed by the historians who contributed to this book, I am reminded of the importance of Randolph in those movements and how his labors and legacy indirectly and directly touched my own life.

Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, during the early 1950s and 1960s, I knew the world of Jim Crow and the suffering that many families and . . .

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