A. Philip Randolph, Dean of Black Civil Rights Leaders

  • Lea E. Williams


Deriving power from a labor union base, A. Philip Randolph charted a leadership path different than the typical routes pursued by blacks— through the pulpit, classroom, and nonprofit agencies. He forced an end to discriminatory exclusion of blacks from the local AFL trade unions and thus expanded job opportunities. He also leveraged the clout of the union to secure for himself a leadership position in the fight for civil rights. At a mass meeting held on August 25, 1925, at the Imperial Lodge of Elks in Harlem, Asa Philip Randolph—a stentorian black propagandist, radical socialist, and political journalist—launched the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first all-black labor union. The Amsterdam News, an early supporter of the union, extravagantly hailed the rally of 500 as “the greatest labor mass meeting ever held of, for and by Negro working men.”1 At the peak of its power, between 1940 and 1950, the Brotherhood had 15,000 members, and its office at 217 West 125 th Street was considered “the political headquarters of black America.”2


Labor Movement Black Worker Craft Union National Urban League African American Worker 
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Copyright information

© Lea E. Williams 2009

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  • Lea E. Williams

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