The Organizer

The Organizer

In New York City, Randolph settled in Harlem. He was a part of a great
migration of about 500,000 southern blacks who moved to northern cities looking
for new opportunities during 1900 to 1920. Asa was impressed with the sense of
community spirit and racial pride he found in Harlem. He enjoyed the feeling. It
was different from what he felt back home in Florida. Getting started in New
York City was tough. Competition for jobs was great. The better paying jobs went
to the better educated blacks, and Randolph had to settle for jobs such as
dishwasher, janitor, and waiter. Randolph recognized that if he was going to
improve his lot, he had to get more education. He was very impressed with the
people he met in Harlem. He wanted to get involved. Randolph felt more education
would be the key to his getting involved and to his success in Harlem.
Therefore, he decided to attend evening school at the City College of New York.
While attending City College, Randolph was influenced by the ideas of socialism.
The Socialist Party, like the trade unions, advocated for working class people.
Randolph was attracted to both of these groups because he believed economic
justice provided the best means for achieving racial equality in America.
Randolph joined school discussion groups and got involved in political
activities. He was involved in debates involving politics and labor unions. An
able spokesman, Randolph became very popular in Harlem. His ideas about
community and racial issues were widely known. While attending a party given at
Madame C.J. Walker's fashionable home in Harlem, a popular meeting place for
discussion groups, Randolph met Lucille Campbell Green. Mrs. Green, an
attractive widow, owned a beauty salon. She was a graduate of the hair styling
school operated by Madame Walker, who became a millionaire by manufacturing and
marketing hair care products for black women. After a courtship, Randolph and
Lucille were married. She was devoted to her husband and supported his efforts
to achieve economic justice, equality, civil rights, and social reforms. At one
of the debates, Randolph met a man who offered him a job writing pamphlets to
advertise the services of his employment agency. The writing job brought him in
contact with other important people in Harlem. In January, 1917 one such person
was the president of the black waiters' organization who asked Randolph and his
friend Chandler Owen to edit a magazine that would deal with the concerns of
hotel waiters. Soon after that, the Hotel Messenger was published. In August of
the same year, however, Randolph was fired for writing an editorial in support
of young waiters who were in opposition to senior waiters. Randolph and his
friend launched another magazine, the new Messenger. This one would be a
magazine with a socialist message. It would be "the first voice of radical,
revolutionary, economic and political action among Negroes in America,"

according to Randolph. The first issue of the Messenger was published in
November 1917, at 15 cents per copy. The monthly magazine developed a small but
loyal readership of young black intellectuals and white socialist members. Mr.
Randolph understood the power of organization and communications. His organizing
skills and magazine caused such concerns in 1919 that a federal government
report declared Randolph "the most dangerous Negro in America." The Messenger
was a strong voice and a political force in Harlem for about five years. In 1923
the magazine's readership began to decline so much that in 1928, it ended
publication.

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