A. Philip Randolph and the March on Washington

Florida native A. Philip Randolph helped initiate and direct the March on Washington in August 1963.

A. Philip Randolph, ca. 1940

A. Philip Randolph, ca. 1940

Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979), the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was born in Crescent City, Florida, and grew up in Jacksonville. The son of a Methodist minister, he attended the City College of New York and later published The Messenger, a radical black magazine. As a result of his efforts, the 1937 contract between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Pullman Company cut working hours, increased pay, and improved working conditions. Randolph was also a major factor in ending discrimination in defense plants and segregation in the U.S. military.

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C., 1950s. Membership included African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains.

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C., 1950s. Membership included African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains.

Fifty years ago this summer, Randolph helped initiate and direct the March on Washington – the largest civil rights demonstration in American history. Randolph first called for a demonstration at the U.S. Capitol in 1941 to protest employment discrimination. He played an instrumental role in the months leading up to the 1963 demonstration as the elder statesman of the “Big Six,” which included Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders from the largest civil rights organizations in the U.S. Randolph helped unite the various groups behind the common message of jobs and freedom.

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Learn more about the Civil Rights Movement in Florida.