New Leader in America

New Leader in America

After the campaign which led to a victory for the sleeping car porters over
the Pullman Company, Mr. Randolph was recognized as a new leader in America. He
had not only distinguished himself as a leader within the labor movement,
Randolph had also gained recognition in the area of human and civil rights.
Randolph's contract with the Pullman Company was a milestone in history. It
marked the first time a white employer had signed a labor agreement with a black
union leader in America. The contract, which reduced the working hours for
porters from 400 to 200 hours per month and provided for better wages, was
hailed as a victory for all union workers. Randolph did not rest on his laurels.
In 1940, he began touring the country, building support for a "March on
Washington" which would be designed to force the United States government to end
discrimination against blacks who worked in government defense industries.
"Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within.Freedom is never
granted; It is won. Justice is never given; It is exacted." - A. Philip
Randolph
The march was cancelled after President Franklin Roosevelt signed
an Executive Order (No.8802) in 1941 which banned discrimination in civilian
defense plant jobs. Randolph had won a major victory towards guaranteeing fair
employment practices for all Americans. In 1947, two years after World II,
President Harry Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt, proposed a peacetime military
draft which called for universal military training. Randolph had witnessed the
discrimination against black soldiers during the war years. Therefore, he
objected to any type of peacetime draft unless it included a provision to ban
segregation. In a meeting which included other black leaders, Randolph
confronted President Truman with this idea and was bluntly rebuffed by him.
After the unsuccessful meeting with President Truman, Randolph launched a
campaign against racial discrimination in the armed forces. He urged blacks to
boycott the Army, Navy, and Air Force by refusing to register for the draft.
Although Randolph received many criticisms concerning his position, he was
successful with his boycott action. He was so successful that President Truman
honored his original request and signed an Executive Order (No.9981) in 1948
prohibiting discrimination and segregation in the armed services. This was
another victory for Randolph and civil rights. Randolph continued to fight for
human and civil rights. In 1955, he was elected a vice president of the American
Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), and in
1959, he formed the Negro American Labor Council in order that black workers
could be adequately represented within the labor movement. During 1957 to 1963,
Mr. Randolph organized many marches for integration and civil rights
legislation. In 1963, the most important march Randolph organized was the
"March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." More than 250,000 Americans
participated in the demonstration for strong civil rights laws and full
employment. It was at this march and rally that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
stirred the nation's conscience with his "I have A Dream" speech. The March on
Washington in 1963 was supported by civil rights, civic, religious, and labor
groups. The march was another victory for Mr. Randolph and civil rights. Bayard
Rustin, an associate of Mr. Randolph, wrote afterwards that "The march marked
the zenith of mass protest as a vehicle for social change. Within a year . . .
Congress had enacted the Civil Rights Act. And in another year, the Voting
Rights Act was passed." In 1964, Randolph's work to make America a better place
for all was recognized by President Lyndon B. Johnson when he was presented with
the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest award for civilians. In 1965, with
funds from the AFL-CIO, Randolph founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute
(APRI), an organization designed to enhance the role of the black trade
unionist, both in the black community and the trade union movement. Bayard
Rustin was selected as the first director. In 1966, under the leadership of
Randolph and Rustin, the A. Philip Randolph Institute presented "A Freedom
Budget For All Americans,"
which called for spending $185 billion over a
ten year period to eliminate poverty in the United States. The "freedom budget"
was not adopted. However, the proposal made a tremendous impact on the U.S.
Congress and on new legislation concerning poverty in America. Mr. Randolph
retired in 1968 as leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters after forty
three years in office. Ten years later, in 1978, his union merged with the
Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC), now known as the
Transportation Communications Union (TCU). Mr. Randolph died on May 16, 1979, a
few weeks after his 90th birthday. His life is celebrated. His work is being
continued by the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

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