A. Philip Randolph – Youth Version

A. Philip Randolph - Youth Version

The Organizer
Service Not Servitude
New Leader in

A. Philip Randolph was one of America's foremost human and
civil rights leaders. He devoted a lifetime of effort to the struggle for social
and economic justice for all people. Mr. Randolph believed that the black
community could only achieve freedom from oppression and exploitation in a
society committed to the principle that everyone is entitled to a dignified and
meaningful life. He further believed that the aspirations of all minorities
could best be realized by supporting and participating fully in the electoral
process and in working with the trade union movement to insure that the promise
of America becomes reality. Freedom, Randolph believed, is only possible in an
environment of political, social, ant economic security. His life has benefited
us all. Norman Hill, President A. Philip Randolph Institute April, 1989
"At the banquet table of nature there are no reserved seats. You get what you
can take, and you keep what you can hold. If you can't take anything, you won't
get anything; and if you can't hold anything, you won't keep anything. And you
can't take anything without organization." - A. Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph was the second son of Rev. James and Elizabeth Randolph.
His father named him Asa after one of the great kings of the Old Testament.
Asa's father, Rev. James W. Randolph, was an AME (African Methodist Episcopal)
minister. Rev. Randolph was self-trained, as many of the ministers who were
"called to preach" immediately after the Civil War. He had grown up in the South
during the period when Rev. Henry McNeal Turner was a very attractive and
powerful leader for African Americans. Rev. Turner was a bishop in the AME
church in charge of the Georgia and Florida districts. He was also a member of
the Georgia legislature. Bishop Turner preached a philosophy of freedom and
self-reliance as well as salvation. AME leaders and preachers taught their
people a form of political militancy which has distinguished their church as the
cradle of racial protest in America. The religious training of Asa's father was
deeply rooted in the AME philosophy which taught him to minister to the social
needs of his people as well as to their souls. Rev. Randolph was an independent
preacher. He was a student of African culture and would often preach about the
contributions blacks made to civilization. As evidence, he would offer Bible
verses and points from his study of world history. Rev. Randolph was a man of
great pride, boldness and integrity. According to those who knew him, he could
never bring himself to "lick the boots" of anyone, not even the most powerful
leaders of his church. He was a fearless fighter for fairness and for the rights
of his people. Asa's mother was Elizabeth Robinson, the youngest of four
daughters of James and Mary Robinson. The Robinson family moved to Baldwin,
Florida from Monticello, Virginia. The Robinsons were former slaves and members
of an AME church in their home state of Virginia. They became active members of
the AME church in Baldwin. In 1885, a year after Rev. Randolph became pastor in
Baldwin, he married Elizabeth. Two years later, their first son James William,
Jr. was born. Asa Philip was born on April 15, 1889, after Rev. Randolph was
moved to an AME church in Crescent City, Florida. When Asa was two years old,
the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. As a child growing up in
Jacksonville, Asa was greatly influenced by his father. He liked to read, and
his father encouraged him to read by providing books at home. At age 14, Asa was
accepted to Jacksonville's Cookman Institute, a high school which was
established by Methodist missionaries after the Civil War. In school, Asa was
very popular with his classmates. He was a lead singer in the choir, a star on
the baseball team, and an excellent speaker. Asa graduated from Cookman
Institute in 1907 and finished at the top of his class. His valedictory speech
was on the importance of racial pride. (Cookman Institute later became
Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona.) Asa continued to live in Jacksonville after
graduating from high school. He tried many different jobs. He worked for an
insurance company, a grocery store, a drug store, and even tried his hand as a
construction worker. Asa was very disturbed about the lack of opportunities in
his hometown. Rev. Randolph wanted his son to be an AME minister. Asa was a good
speaker. He knew the Bible, and he had an attractive personality. He had all the
attributes of a good preacher. However, Asa had other ideas. In 1911, shortly
after he became 22 years old, Asa hired out as a hand on a steamship bound for
New York City. He was in NYC once before as a teenager and worked as a newsboy
for a summer.

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