JUSTICE FOR THE FORGOTTEN
A. Philip Randolph was the father of a combined workers’
movement and civil rights revolution that encompassed four decades
and five presidencies. In 1925, one of Randolph’s great crusades began – a seemingly impossible test on behalf
of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the national union he organized while working out of a Harlem office. The porters
worked dreadful hours under degrading conditions for the George Pullman Palace Car Company, a powerful corporation in an age
when rail transportation was critical to the country’s growth.
For a salary of less than seventy dollars
a month, Pullman porters were expected to perform 400 hours of service; wrote historian William H. Harris. Notoriously anti-labor,
Pullman refused to recognize the porters union and retaliated with harassment, firings and the use of company spies. Randolph
would not surrender even during the bitter years of the Great Depression as his small union struggled from day to day without
funds or public support.
Finally, after 12 years, Randolph got Pullman to sign a contract the first ever reached
between a black union and a leading American company. Other victories followed. In 1941, Randolph's plan to stage a massive
jobs and human rights demonstration in Washington resulted in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's order to the defense industry
to end job discrimination.
In 1948, Randolph convinced President Harry S. Truman to issue an executive order desegregation
the military. In 1955 with Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House Randolph became a national vice president of the newly
merged American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. In 1963 during the administration of John F.
Kennedy Randolph was the guiding force behind the March on Washington for jobs and Freedom. About 250,000 marchers of all
colors and creeds demanded that Congress enact laws that would permit blacks equal entry to the voting booth and workplace.
In 1964, the first federal fair employment legislation included at the insistence of Randolph
and the AFL-CIO and became part of the landmark Civil Right Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The significance
of Asa Philip Randolph goes beyond pivotal achievements and events. Randolph is a reminder that there remains an underclass
of American's, white, brown and red as well as black & who remain outside the scope of reforms of other times, and that
today's problems require a new kind of focus and national commitment.
A man of unshakable integrity, Randolph's every action affirmed his love of country and
faith in the ability of Americans to secure justice for the weak and forgotten. Fearing no opponent or critic, Asa Philip
Randolph never passed the buck. Salvation for a race, nation or class must come form within, he said. The man affectionately
called labor's Gentle Warrior died in 1979 at the age of 90.