Why was Philip Randolph important?

Philip Randolph

Why was Philip Randolph important?

American civil-rights activist

Asa Philip Randolph was a political strategist and one of the most famous labor organizers of the 20th century. He was known for his work organizing workers in the labor movement. His belief in the power of organized labor to fight against discrimination in the workplace, along with his skill at organizing nonviolent rallies, helped African Americans get better job opportunities.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was established by Randolph in the year 1925 (BSCP). As a result of Randolph’s efforts, the Black Suffrage Movement Civil Rights Organization (BSCP) became the first black labor union in the United States. The BSCP became a member of the American Federation of Labor. Randolph worked with Bayard Rustin to establish non-violent techniques for protesting discrimination in the military industries and armed forces. These strategies built upon the work that Randolph had already done with organized labor.

A. Phillip Randolph Photo by John Bottega for the World Telegram & Sun, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-119495

In 1941, they devised a plan to stage a demonstration in the nation’s capital to protest discrimination in the military sector. The planned march put President Franklin D. Roosevelt under a significant amount of pressure, which resulted in his issuing an Executive Order that abolished discrimination in the defense industry. In 1947, A. Philip Randolph organized plans for yet another march on Washington to protest racial inequality in the armed forces. The intended march once again put political pressure on the government, and in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order eliminating segregation in the armed forces as a result of the pressure.

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In the 1950s, A. Philip Randolph was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. He was responsible for instructing other civil rights activists on how to engage in peaceful protests in order to combat racial discrimination. After the March on Washington in 1963, a number of the march’s organizers, including Randolph, met with President John F. Kennedy. Randolph was a primary organizer for the march. In recognition of his work, Randolph was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 and went on to found the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, DC in the same year. This institute’s primary mission is to do research on the causes and effects of poverty.


In 1968, when Randolph’s health began to fail, he stepped down from his position as president of the BSCP and retired from public life. On May 16, 1979, at the age of 90, A. Philip Randolph passed away as he was sleeping in his home in New York City.

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