A. Philip Randolph - Youth Version
Service Not Servitude
New Leader in America
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.