A Philip Randolph was a leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement, the American labor movement, and socialist political parties.
Randolph’s first experience with labor organization came in 1917, when he organized a union of elevator operators in New York City.
In 1919 he became president of the National Brotherhood of Workers of America, a union which organized African-American shipyard and dock workers in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The union dissolved in 1921, under pressure from the American Federation of Labor.
His greatest success came with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who elected him President in 1925. This was the first serious effort to form a labor institution for employees of the Pullman Company, which was a major employer of African Americans. Under Randolph’s direction, the BSCP managed to enroll 51 percent of porters within a year to which Pullman responded with violence and firings. After years of bitter struggle the Pullman Company finally began to negotiate with the Brotherhood in 1935 and agreed to a contract with them in 1937. Employees gained pay increases, a shorter work week, and overtime pay.
In 1963, Randolph was the head of the March on Washington, which was organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream “speech.
Randolph had a significant impact on the Civil Right Movement from the 1930s onward. The Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama was directed by E.D Nixon who had been a member of the BSCP and was influenced by Randolph’s methods of nonviolent confrontation. Nationwide, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s used tactics pioneered by Randolph, such as encouraging African Americans to vote as a bloc, mass voter registration, and training activists for nonviolent direct action.