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The Life and History of A. Philip Randolph Research Paper


The road to the achievement of civil rights by the African-Americans was not an easy one. Discrimination was a normal day to day phenomenon for them. They were not offered jobs, not allowed in the military, government and even academic institutions (McCarthy 1). The Americans made sure that the Africans living in the United States of America were segregated and tortured in a bid to show them that that was not where they belonged.

This therefore led to the rise of several campaigns to fight for the rights of the African Americans. The list of the political activists who campaigned for the rights of African- Americans is endless. Among them was Philip Randolph a black American who came to rise in the year 1917 (Brooks, L. et a, 399).

The life of Philip Randolph

Philip Randolph was born in the year 1889 in Florida and later passed in 1979 in the New York City. For the ninety years he lived, he had achieved what one would wish to achieve and especially his fight for his community. Being born of Christian parents who strongly supported the presence of equal rights for the African Americans he grew up with the zeal to fight for those rights.

Among the first steps he took to fight for African-American rights was the release of the messenger magazine which contained literature campaigning for their rights (Smith 1).

This made him get arrested in the company of his co-editor and charged with treason. It was after this that he gained more strength and motivation to fight for the civil rights of his fellow black Americans. He later founded many movements and institutions in a bid to fighting their civil rights. Randolph believed that no black American could get freedom rights without being empowered economically.

It was this reason that made him fight for the rights of black American workers so that they would get good ranks in the trade unions. To show the seriousness in his work, he led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) which was the first union to campaign for the African- American rights (Winston 1). He later on served as a leader of the American Federation of Labour as well as the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The Executive Orders

Randolph’s battle for the African-American rights did not end until he had overseen the signing of the executive order 8802. This order was also referred to as the Fair Employment Act which was to be signed by the president at that time Franklin Roosevelt. It was developed to forbid any form of discrimination that was taking place at that time in the United States as well as promoting equality between the whites and the blacks (Smith 2).

This order eliminated discrimination in the war organisations hence allowing the black Americans to work in such organisations. To authenticate this order, a commission was formed to investigate on the complaints that arose from the black Americans that worked in the government and companies of the United States of America.

Randolph can be complemented for the good job he specifically did by enforcing the signing of this order as it marked a new beginning in the success of the freedom campaign. Randolph together with other civil rights activists made reforms through the executive order 9981 which was meant to abolish segregation in the armed forces. This order was signed by the then president Harry Truman in the year 1948.

Other than the executive orders, Randolph together with his fellow civil rights activists and trade unionists organised conferences where they educated the blacks on their civil rights as well as pressing for any changes they wanted made on their behalf. An example was the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights formed in 1957 to campaign for the major laws on civil rights of the African-Americans. Philip Randolph also took part in the Workmen’s Circle where the theme was to end racial segregation in America.

As a matter of fact, Philip Randolph was a force to reckon with during that time. He was on person the radio and television stations would not end their bulletin without mentioning him. Randolph was always in the frontline when it came to addressing the nation on matters concerning civil rights. He however, put more emphasis on the development of freedom of the black Americans.

He wanted them to have voting rights in the country they lived in (Vox 1). This was to make sure that the black Americans vote for what best suited them without discrimination. He also campaigned for end in discrimination in the use of public amenities like roads, hospitals and libraries just to mention but a few.

The Massive March on Washington

Apart from the enforcement of the executive orders, Randolph conceptualized on the idea of conducting a march to protest on the censure of black Americans in the defence sector. Amid other activists such as Bayard Rustin who had also thought of conducting a march, Randolph planned on its conduction. This was to be one of the biggest political marches ever done as at that time. It involved a very large portion of the population being ferried to the stadium by huge buses and trains.

The most important part of this march was the many speeches given by prominent people addressing on the issue of civil rights (McCarthy 1). The activists reminded the government on the many unfulfilled promises on the achievement of the African-Americans freedom. Randolph only called off this march after the fulfilment of the executive order 8802 in the year 1942.

He did this because this order shunned the discrimination of the African-Americans in the military hence allowing them to work just like the whites. Even after this accomplishment, he gave a warning to the president of a subsequent protest by his fellow African-Americans if any instances of discrimination were felt again.

In addition to this, Randolph devised a pilgrimage to Washington to pray and further endorse the fight for civil rights of the African- Americans especially in the southern region. After the long road of hardships and tireless efforts, success beckoned and the black Americans got the freedom they had yearned for so many years. This was symbolised in the amendment of the Civil Rights Act of the year 1964 where both the white and black Americans were spectators of the speech I Have a Dream by the king.


The story of the life and times of Philip Randolph can be said to be a legacy. This is because even after his death, a documentary on civil rights was publicly aired in 1996(Brooks, L. et a, 399). His achievements were extraordinary and fro the hard work he had decided to do.

Though Randolph once said that his parents and especially his father were the source of his inspiration in his fight for civil rights, one can clearly conclude that his inner motives also played a big role in his success.

He also accorded his motivation and success to be from his wife Lucille who helped him a great deal through moral support during his endeavours.

The other trait that made him succeed was the stamina he had to face even the so called dignitaries in the government. Randolph was known for pressurising the government officials and especially the presidents of the United States of America during that era in a bid to obtain civil rights for the black Americans (Vox 1).

The establishments of these rights marked a great step in the development of the black Americans and the United States as a whole. Up to date the black Americans usually recognize Philip Randolph among other civil rights activists for the freedom they currently enjoy.

Works Cited

Brooks, L. et al., Civil Rights Litigation: Cases and Perspectives, 2nd ed. pp. 398-399. Carolina Academic Press, 2000.

McCarthy, D. (2006). . Web.

Smith, M. (2002). . Web.

Vox, L. (2010). . Web.

Winston, F. (2009). Asa Philip Randolf. Web.

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