A. Philip Randolph was arrested in the streets for treason. He was a young man demanding rights for Black workers – or else. W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington agreed on one thing. They could not stand the “new radical negroes” like A. Philip Randolph! He was a socialist. A rabble-rouser. A labor man. They called him every name in the book. Today, we call him the single, most impactful social, political, and economic activist in Black history. Receipts you ask?
You’ve got to listen to today’s episode.
But here’s a little teaser. He unionized Black workers. Done. Leveraged that power to walk into the Oval Office and force President Roosevelt – by threat of mass demonstration – to desegregate the federal government and hire Black people, effective immediately! Done. Fair Employment Act. Randolph won a million new jobs for Black people. The middle class was created. Done. Then, Randolph stood toe-to-toe with Truman and audaciously told him that Black people would NOT fight in his war unless he desegregated the military. Truman hated Randolph. Didn’t matter. Executive Order 9981 abolished segregation in the armed forces. Done. Power ya’ll. (Press play on Nina Simone right here.) Then it happened. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was the largest political demonstration in American history. A. Philip Randolph was the originator, strategist and chief spokesperson. The demonstration was intent on two demands from Kennedy, then Johnson. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Rights Act of 1965. He won both.
There would be no Martin Luther King without A. Philip Randolph. While King raised the moral consciousness of a nation, Randolph secured the bag – a decisive political and economic defeat against American injustice. It’s no wonder a U.S. Attorney General called him “the most dangerous negro in America.” We’ll be that.
This is gonna be a good conversation. Before you dial in, look hard at these 5 photographs that only exist because A. Philip Randolph was born.
Join the second edition of GirlTrek’s Black History Bootcamp at blackhistorybootcamp.com to receive specially curated emails with inspiring words, survival tips, speeches + dedicated songs to listen to for each episode. Together we will discover the stories and explore the pivotal moments from some of the most powerful movements in Black history.
Disclaimer: We do not own the rights to the music and speech excerpts played during this broadcast. Original content can be found here:
The Impressions – Keep On Pushing:
PBS Documentary Film about Randolph: