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Metropolitan Region President Lester Crockett’s message


Greetings Sisters and Brothers,

I am hopeful that our members have started off the year productively and are excited and looking forward to participating in our upcoming events and activities as we celebrate and commemorate Black History Month.

During the next few weeks, we will elevate the historic, cultural and transformative moments of African American history. We’ll also take some time to reflect and explore everything from the wretched days of slavery through the Civil Rights movement and even our first Black U.S. President.

It is also a time when we celebrate the many achievements of African American labor leaders Indeed, in the labor movement, there have been many. One name in particular stands out as one of the greatest leaders in labor history, A. Philip Randolph. I have reproduced a few details about this remarkable trailblazer below.

Philip Randolph was a labor leader and social activist. During World War I, Randolph tried to unionize African American shipyard workers and elevator operators, and co-launched a magazine designed to encourage demand for higher wages.

He later founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which by 1937 would become the first official African American labor union. In the 1940s, Randolph’s abilities as an organizer had grown to such lengths that he became the driving force in ending racial discrimination in government defense factories and desegregating the armed forces, both done via presidential decree. Becoming involved in additional civil rights work, he was a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

The son of a Methodist minister, Randolph moved to the Harlem district of New York City in 1911. He attended City College at night and, with Chandler Owen, founded (1912) an employment agency, attempting, through it, to organize black workers. In 1917, following the entry of the United States in World War I, the two men founded a magazine, The Messenger (after 1929, Black Worker), that called for more positions in the war industry and the armed forces for blacks. After the war, Randolph lectured at New York’s Rand School of Social Science and ran unsuccessfully for offices on the Socialist Party ticket.

In 1925, as founding president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Randolph began organizing that group of black workers and, at a time when half the affiliates of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) barred blacks from membership, took his union into the AFL. Despite opposition, he built the first successful black trade union; the brotherhood won its first major contract with the Pullman Company in 1937.

The following year, Randolph removed his union from the AFL in protest against its failure to fight discrimination in its ranks and took the brotherhood into the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He then returned to the question of black employment in the federal government and in industries with federal contracts. He warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that he would lead thousands of blacks in a protest march on Washington, D.C.; Roosevelt, on June 25, 1941, issued Executive Order 8802, barring discrimination in defense industries and federal bureaus and creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee. After World War II, Randolph founded the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation, resulting in the issue by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948, of Executive Order 9981, banning segregation in the armed forces.

“I don’t ever remember a single day of hopelessness. I knew from the history of the labor movement, especially of the black people, that it was an undertaking of great trial. That, live or die, I had to stick with it, and we had to win.”

~ A.Philip Randolph