- NAME: A. Philip Randolph
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: April 15, 1889
- DEATH DATE: May 16, 1979
- EDUCATION: City College of New York, Cookman Institute (now Bethune-Cookman University)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Crescent City, Florida
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Asa Philip Randolph
- AKA: A. Philip Randolph
Best Known For
A. Philip Randolph was a labor leader and social activist who fought for the rights of African-American laborers, including better wages and working conditions.
Political Activism in Harlem (2:14)
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, speaks about the pioneering role labor leader and activist A. Philip Randolph played in the American Civil Rights movement.
Opened in 1913, the Hotel Theresa was considered the "Waldorf Astoria of Harlem" welcoming famous African-Americans, such as Joe Louis and Lena Horne, who were turned away from "whites only" hotels.
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, discusses famous figures who contributed to the history of political activism in Harlem.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
But Randolph battled on, and in 1937, won membership in the AFL, making the BSCP the first African-American union in the United States. Randolph withdrew the union from the AFL the following year, however, in protest of ongoing discrimination within the organization, and then turned his attention toward the federal government.
During the 1940s, Randolph twice used mass protest as a means of influencing the policies of the federal government. Following the United States' entrance into World War II, he organized the March on Washington to protest discrimination in the war industry workforce. Randolph called off the march after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order that banned racial discrimination on government defense factories and established the first Fair Employment Practices Committee.
After World War II, Randolph again took on the federal government by organizing the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation. That group's actions eventually led President Harry S. Truman to issue a 1948 executive order banning racial segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
During the 1950s, Randolph served as a principal member of various labor boards, but also began to devote his time to civil rights work. In 1957, he organized a prayer pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to civil rights issues in the South, and began organizing the first Youth March for Integrated Schools. In 1963, Randolph was a principal organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which he would speak to a crowd of nearly 250,000 supporters. He shared the podium that day with Martin Luther King Jr., who would deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the event. Randolph and King were among the handful of civil rights leaders to meet with President John F. Kennedy after the march.
The following year, for these and other civil rights efforts, Randolph was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Soon after, he founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an organization aimed at studying the causes of poverty. In 1966, at a White House conference, he proposed a poverty-elimination program called the "Freedom Budget."
Suffering from a heart condition and high blood pressure, Randolph resigned from his more than 40-year tenure as president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1968. He also retired from public life. He then moved from Harlem to New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, and spent the next few years writing his autobiography until his health worsened, forcing him to stop.
A. Philip Randolph died in bed at his New York City home on May 16, 1979, at age 90. He was cremated, and his ashes were interred at the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, D.C.
© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
Visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a leading research institute for the history and culture of people of African descent.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
Explore our curated collections of African-American figures, including:
Flip through these photos of some of Black History's most important, controversial and inspiring figures. Check out our African-American Firsts - Athletes, Black Comedians, Million-Dollar Ideas, African-American Biopics, African-American Expats, or explore all of our Black History photos.
Celebrate the historical icons of America's black community through this interactive journey.
- Apollo Theater Interactive Tour
- Apollo Theater Timeline
- Path to Equality
- Who Am I Game
- Harlem Renaissance