A. Philip Randolph – Quotes, Facts, and March on Washington D.C.

Born on April 15, 1889, Asa Philip Randolph was an American labor leader, social activist, and socialist legislator.

Randolph attempted to unite African American shipyard employees and elevator controllers, as well as co-founded a journal to increase wage demands during World War I. Later, he established the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters which became the first official African American labor organization in 1937.

By the 1940s Randolph’s ability as an organizer had increased to such an extent that he became the main force in halting racial discrimination in government defense industries and desegregating the armed services, both of which were accomplished through presidential proclamation. He was also a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, which prepared the path for the Civil Rights Act to be passed the next year.


He was born in Crescent City, Florida on April 15th,  1889. Among his siblings, he was the second child of his father James Randolph, a Methodist Minister.

His father and mother Elizabeth, both were ardent champions of African American rights and universal human rights. Randolph realized from his father that a person’s character and attitude were more vital than their skin color. His mother instilled in him the value of study and, if necessary, physical defense against anyone who would seek to harm him or his family.

Randolph vividly recalls his mother sitting on their front porch with a loaded handgun over her lap, while his father tucked a revolver under his coat and walked off to stop a mob from killing a man at the nearby county jail.

Randolph’s family relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1891, where Randolph would spend most of his adolescence and ultimately enrolled in the Cookman Institute, one of the country’s first institutes of higher education for Black people.

Randolph migrated to New York City in 1911, motivated by the teachings of famous Black thinker W.E.B. Du Bois. He stayed in Harlem, where he acquired work on an apartment building’s switchboard and registered in classes at City College of New York. Randolph’s commitment to the socialist movement landed him a job with the Brotherhood of Labor, a Black labor organization.

In 1914, he got married to Lucille Green, who was a young widow and a graduate of Howard University. She used to manage a beauty salon in the same apartment where he worked.


In 1915, Randolph met Chandler Owen, a prominent socialist activist and law graduate, and they became close friends. The next year, both of them joined the Socialist Party and eventually began producing a magazine Hotel Messenger (later renamed the Messenger) to propagate their socialist ideals and recruit similar African Americans to the campaign.

In 1918, both (Randolph and Owen) were imprisoned for sedition for publicly criticizing Woodrow Wilson’s democratic presidency and its activities during World War I.

Marcus Garvey was a firm advocate of Randolph (UNIA). By 1920, however, he and other powerful Black leaders in Harlem had begun to publicly attack Garvey, assisting in the launch of a federal probe that ultimately led to Garvey’s expulsion.


Randolph was asked to appear to a team of porters from a Chicago-based company “Pullman Palace Car Corporation” in the summer of 1925.

The company employed mostly African American men to assist white passengers aboard its luxury railroad sleeper carriages.

The Pullman porters were often paid significantly less than white laborers and exposed to terrible working terms and conditions. After witnessing this, Randolph agreed to lead the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BCSP), the nation’s first Black labor union. 

The BSCP became the American Federation of Labor’s first Black union to be awarded a charter (AFL) under Randolph’s leadership. The previous Railway Labor Act was revised by Congress in 1934 to notably address workers in sleeping cars, making it illegal for Pullman to terminate members of the BSCP.

The proposed law made it possible for Randolph and the BSCP to negotiate a collective agreement and sign a deal with Pullman that registered the union, lowered porters’ monthly work hours, and increased earnings.

In 1957 he became one of the organization’s first two Black vice presidents.


In the meantime, Randolph had acquired a nationwide network as an active campaigner for racial justice, in parallel to laborers’ rights. He called for a massive protest march in Washington, D.C., to persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to stop prejudice in the nation’s defense sectors in 1941.

Randolph postponed the scheduled march when Roosevelt reacted by signing Executive Order 8802, which expanded war sectors to Black workers during World War II and established the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).

Randolph’s activism also aided President Harry Truman in convincing Congress to approve the Universal Military Service and Training Act in 1948, which desegregated the U.S. Military forces.

Randolph arranged numerous additional notable rallies and processions in Washington, D.C. in the late 1950s, along with the Pilgrimage of Prayer (1957) and two youth protests protesting the slow pace of racial integration in the South. He helped establish the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) in 1959, to combat racism among labor unions.

Randolph worked with prominent activist Bayard Rustin to plan the massive August 28th March on Washington in 1963. Nearly 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial steps to hear civil rights activists speak, including Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” address. Randolph told the gathering that they were seeing the beginning of a new conflict, “not only for the Negro, but for all Americans who hunger for freedom and a better life.”

After the march, Randolph, and King were among a small group of civil rights activists that met with President John F. Kennedy. Randolph informed Kennedy when they were discussing the prospective Congressional push required to promote the civil rights law, “It’s going to be a crusade then. And I think that nobody can lead this crusade but you, Mr. President.”


The March on Washington contributed to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the first substantial act of civil rights legislation since Emancipation. In the same year, Lyndon B. Johnson bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Randolph for his efforts. Shortly after, he co-founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute with his protege Bayard Rustin. The organization was dedicated to researching the roots of poverty.

In 1965, at a White House meeting, he suggested a poverty-reduction initiative called “Freedom Budget for All Americans”.

Rustin took over the newly formed A. Philip Randolph Institute in 1965, which overtook the NALC as the major vehicle for furthering Randolph’s labor and civil rights aims.


Randolph decided to resign as president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1968 due to a heart problem and excessive blood pressure. He also stepped down from public life. He relocated from Harlem to New York City’s Chelsea area after being attacked by three men.

Randolph, who had never been obsessed with materialistic possessions or land ownership, spent the next five years writing his biography until his health deteriorated and forced him to quit.

Randolph died in sleep on May 16, 1979, at the age of 90, in his residence in New York City. He was cremated at the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, D.C.


This list of specially compiled quotations from A Philip Randolph will truly inspire you.

  1. “Freedom is never given; it is won.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “At the banquet table of nature, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Power is the flower of organization.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Those who deplore our militants, who exhort patience in the name of a false peace, are in fact supporting segregation and exploitation. They would have social peace at the expense of social and racial justice. They are more concerned with easing racial tension than enforcing racial democracy.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “We want the full works of citizenship with no reservations. We will accept nothing less . . . This condition of freedom, equality, and democracy is not the gift of gods. It is the task of men, yes, men, brave men, honest men, determined men.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “In every truth, the beneficiaries of a system cannot be expected to destroy it.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Equality is the heart and essence of democracy, freedom, and justice, equality of opportunity in industry, in labor unions, schools and colleges, government, politics, and before the law. There must be no dual standards of justice, no dual rights, privileges, duties, or responsibilities of citizenship. No dual forms of freedom.”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1.  “Winning Democracy for the Negro is winning the war for Democracy”
    — A. Philip Randolph
  1. “Look for the enemies of Medicare, of higher minimum wages, of Social Security, of federal aid to education and there you will find the enemy of the Negro, the coalition of Dixiecrats and reactionary Republicans that seek to dominate the Congress.”
    — A. Philip Randolph


Here is a list of some interesting facts of Philip Randolph

  1. In 1911 Randolph relocated to New York City and enrolled at City College, which admitted Black students.
  2. He appeared in several plays and aspired to be a successful actor, but activism and politics appeared to be Randolph’s life’s passion.
  3. Randolph was exposed to Marxist ideology shortly after relocating to New York and then became a part of the Socialist Party of America.
  4. Randolph, like many other Socialists of the time, was staunchly anti-immigrant.
  5. He was elected as a president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925.
  6. During the 1940s and 1950s, Randolph collaborated with civil rights activist Bayard Rustin to fight inequality and achieve initial anti-segregation legislation, such as the Fair Employment Act of 1941, which prohibited discrimination in the defense sector.
  7. Randolph was a co-founder of the monthly publication Messenger. It was an anti-war and anti-lynching journal that first appeared in 1917.
  8. Even though Randolph never preached bloodshed, he was not a communist, thinking that using means to defend himself or someone else was acceptable.
  9. He admired Indian hero Mahatma Gandhi and thought that some of his techniques and ideas might be applied to the American civil rights struggle.
  10.  Randolph co-founded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in 1950 with other activists of the civil rights movement.
  11.  A few of Randolph’s civil rights struggle strategies featured mass voter rolls and urging Blacks to vote as a bloc, which was supported by civil rights activists and are still practiced today.
  12.  President Lyndon Baines Johnson bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on him in 1964.
  13.  Randolph took his last breath at the age of 90 on May 16th, 1979, in New York City.
  14.  Ceremonially, a plethora of libraries, roads, and institutions in Florida, New York, and a few other states have been named after Randolph.

Legacy of A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph’s legacy extends far beyond his lifetime, as he profoundly influenced subsequent civil rights leaders and movements. For future generations, his unshakable dedication to justice and equality served as an inspiration. Future leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin were affected by Randolph’s emphasis on collective action, organizing, and the influence of trade unions.

His strategic approach to civil rights activism, combining social justice and economic rights, laid the foundation for the intersectional struggles of later movements, including the Black Power and Black Lives Matter movements. The struggle for social justice and civil rights continues to be fueled by Randolph’s vision and leadership.

A. Philip Randolph significantly contributed to advancing racial and economic equality throughout his life. He advocated for African American workers’ rights and opposed discriminatory practices in the railroad business through his leadership in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. His successful advocacy efforts improved working conditions and wages for Black porters, setting an important precedent for labor rights in the African American community.

Additionally, Randolph’s advocacy for fair employment practices prompted the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee and the desegregation of the military during World War II. His fight against racial prejudice in the workplace and society paved the ground for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other later legislative victories.

A. Philip Randolph’s impact and contributions have been widely recognized and remembered. Throughout his life, he was greatly recognized, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. In addition, the A. Philip Randolph Institute was founded in 1965 in honor of his lifelong dedication to economic and civil justice. The institute never stops fighting for social justice, worker’s rights, and racial equality.

Randolph’s place in history was further cemented by organizing the momentous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The march, which brought together hundreds of thousands of people demanding racial and economic equality, remains one of the most significant moments in the civil rights movement. Randolph’s leadership during this significant event further solidified his reputation as a visionary leader and a civil rights advocate.


Why did A. Philip Randolph plan a march on Washington?

He planned a march to Washington, DC, to criticize racial segregation in military enterprises, calling for fair opportunities to defend labor, an anti-lynching statute, and the desegregation of the Armed Forces.

What did A. Philip Randolph do?

Philip Randolph played an important role in earning African Americans’ respect in labor groups.

Who was A. Philip Randolph?

Randolph was a communist and peacemaker, who created the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the very first prominent Black labor organization.


  1. https://aflcio.org/about/history/labor-history-people/asa-philip-randolph
  2. https://idswater.com/2019/06/19/why-did-philip-randolph-plan-a-march-on-washington-in-1941/#Why_did_Philip_Randolph_Plan_a_march_on_Washington_in_1941
  3. King to Randolph, 8 November 1958, in Papers 4:527–528.

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