A. Philip Randolph – Biography, Activism & March on Washington


A. Philip Randolph was a labor leader and civil rights activist who founded the nation’s first major Black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) in 1925. In the 1930s, his organizing efforts helped end both racial discrimination in defense industries and segregation in the U.S. armed forces. Randolph was also a principal organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, which paved the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.

Early Life and Move to Harlem

Asa Philip Randolph was born on April 15, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida, where his father was a preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He grew up in an intellectual household, and Randoph and his older brother both studied at the Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, a Methodist school founded during Reconstruction as Florida’s first all-Black institution of higher education.

Inspired by the writings of leading Black intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, Randolph moved to New York City in 1911. He settled in Harlem, where he found a job working on the switchboard in an apartment building and enrolled in courses at the City College of New York. Randolph’s devotion to the socialist cause led to a job working for the Brotherhood of Labor, an employment agency for Black workers. In 1914, he married Lucille Green, a young widow and Howard University graduate who owned a beauty salon in the building where he worked.


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