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A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Cornelius L. Bynum

Publication Year: 2010

A. Philip Randolph's career as a trade unionist and civil rights activist fundamentally shaped the course of black protest in the mid-twentieth century. Standing alongside W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and others at the center of the cultural renaissance and political radicalism that shaped communities such as Harlem in the 1920s and into the 1930s, Randolph fashioned an understanding of social justice that reflected a deep awareness of how race complicated class concerns, especially among black laborers. Examining Randolph's work in lobbying for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatening to lead a march on Washington in 1941, and establishing the Fair Employment Practice Committee, Cornelius L. Bynum shows that Randolph's push for African American equality took place within a broader progressive program of industrial reform. Bynum interweaves biographical information with details on how Randolph gradually shifted his thinking about race and class, full citizenship rights, industrial organization, trade unionism, and civil rights protest throughout his activist career.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The New Black Studies Series


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Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

would have never completed this project without the assistance, guidance, and support of several different people. The dissertation that yielded this book was directed with great patience by Olivier Zunz, Commonwealth Professor of...

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pp. ix-xix

When nearly a quarter of a million people, black and white, gathered on the National Mall in late August 1963, they brought to life the signature moment of A. Philip Randolph’s long career. Having threatened such a demonstration in 1941 to protest employment...

Part 1. Building Black Identity at the Turn of the Century

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1. A. Philip Randolph, Racial Identity, and Family Relations: Tracing the Development of a Racial Self-Concept

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pp. 3-23

Asa Philip Randolph remembered everything about his childhood. He remembered that his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, was a racially divided city where African Americans still managed to thrive.1 He remembered that east of Florida Avenue was...

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2. Religious Faith and Black Empowerment: The AME Church and Randolph's Racial Identity and View of Social Justice

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pp. 24-44

As a child, Asa Randolph distinctly remembered being quite dismayed that not all African Americans were members of the AME Church, an institution revered in the Randolph household for its longstanding and firm opposition to racial oppression.1 Like...

Part 2. Contructing Class Consciousness in the Jazz Age

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3. Black Radicalism in Harlem: Randolph's Racial and Political Consciousness

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pp. 47-62

Just as he remembered the Jacksonville of his childhood, Asa had equally vivid recollections of Harlem in the 1910s and 1920s. Despite his parents’ strong misgivings about him leaving home, Asa moved to Harlem in 1911 and thus was on...

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4. Crossing the Color Line: Randolph's Transition from Race to Class Consciousness

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pp. 63-82

In some ways, campus life at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1912–13 directly complemented aspects of the radical environment that Randolph found in Harlem. While Hubert Harrison, W.A. Domingo, and other black radicals were turning...

Part 3. The Rise of the New Crowd Negroes

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5. A New Crowd, A New Negro: The Messenger and New Negro Ideology in the 1920s

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pp. 85-100

Harlem during World War I was a place of incredible energy. The community was growing rapidly as the mass migration of southern blacks continued apace; Marcus Garvey’s stirring message of race pride rang from street corners and convention halls...

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6. Black and White Unite: Randolph and the Divide between Class Theory and the Race Problem

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pp. 101-116

As with its discussions of New Negro race consciousness, the Messenger’s emphasis on the economic roots of racism and the importance of organized labor in the fight against discrimination connected its editorial perspective on class to Randolph’s previously expressed views on social justice. In addition to equal access...

Part 4. Blending Race and Class

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7. Ridin' the Rails: Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters' Struggle for Union Recognition

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pp. 119-135

When a group of Pullman porters approached A. Philip Randolph about helping them form a union in August 1925, he quickly envisioned the radical potential of such an enterprise. Randolph believed that not only could the nascent Brotherhood of Sleeping...

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8. Where Class Consciousness Falls Short: Randolph and the Brotherhood's Standing in the House of Labor

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pp. 136-156

After Pullman’s stalling tactics effectively undercut the Brotherhood’s appeal to the Mediation Board, Randolph and the porters devised a new strategy to compel Pullman to negotiate. In April 1928, the Brotherhood organized a strike vote among porters and...

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9. Marching Toward Fair Employment: Randolph, the Race/Class Connection, and the March on Washington Movement

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pp. 157-184

Even before the final resolution of the Brotherhood’s dispute with Pullman, Randolph had concluded that the race and class issues confronting black workers were inseparable. He realized that as industrialization continued to transform the...

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Epilogue: A. Philip Randolph's Reconciliation of Race and Class in African American Protest Politics

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pp. 185-200

In pushing the principle of equal job opportunity in establishing the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), Randolph brought together for the first time all of his core beliefs about improving the lives of African Americans. This initiative clearly...

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pp. 201-226


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pp. 227-236


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pp. 237-244

Further reading, About the Author, Publication Information

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p. 245

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090066
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035753

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The New Black Studies Series
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OCLC Number: 702844583
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Randolph, A. Philip (Asa Philip), 1889-1979.
  • Civil rights workers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Race relations.
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