The Life of A. Philip Randolph


A. Philip Randolph was a Black American labor unionist, civil rights activist, and socialist politician born on April 15th, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida. He later moved to Jacksonville, Florida with his mother, a seamstress, and his father, a tailor and minister. He was an excellent student and was very interested in literature, communications, and drama, eventually becoming valedictorian of the 1907 graduating class at Cookman Institute in East Jacksonville (now Bethune-Cookman University).


Not only did he organize the first predominantly African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, but he also worked with other labor unions to push for just treatment of the African American workforce. They pressured Roosevelt and Truman to issue Executive Orders 8802 and 9981, respectively, which banned discrimination in the defense industries and ended segregation in the armed services.


He married Lucille Campbell, an activist and entrepreneur, who helped publish and finance his socialist paper, The Messenger. Remember Randolph’s earlier interest in drama? He helped organize the Shakespearean Society in Harlem, playing the roles of Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo.


He also worked with Martin Luther King Jr. to help integrate schools following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and also helped to organize the strategy for the March on Washington for Jobs on Freedom to better the social and economic lives of African Americans.

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