Thursday, October 23, 2003
Heyyy..what’s up Kabiru?
We had a boy!!
WHAT??!! (smiling) You’ve got a lil hard head huh? How’s the new mom doing?
She’s fine, the doctor is letting us go home tomorrow.
That’s great. I know your chest is swelled up like no other…congratulations Big Poppa!!
Thanks…I’m still kinda floating.
You got that natural high huh? (smiling)
All the way!!
What’s his name?
No..ASA..after A. Phillip Randolph.
You DO know who A. Phillip Randolph IS...don’t you?
Uhhh….I think I forgot. You know I’m one of the slow Stanford bruhs….
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it brought about a significant change in the way American business was handled. Gone was the traditional slave master-slave relationship, replaced with an employer-employee relationship of free volition. This was concurrent with the burgeoning of the Industrial Revolution, when passenger railroad travel began to grow immensely in popularity. The Chicago based, Pullman Palace Car Company built, owned and operated most of the passenger trains during this era. The Pullman Porters were the employees that served and attended to the needs of all the passengers. Initially, the Pullman Company only hired black men for the job of porter. Their attentive and cheerful service was a renowned commodity that attracted repeat customers. By the 1920’s the black employees at Pullman was the largest category of black labor in the United States and Canada.
Asa Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City Florida in 1889. Born to a Methodist minister and a mother who’s parents were slaves, Randolph attended high school in Florida, then moved to New York and studied economics and philosophy at City College. He worked several jobs as an elevator operator, porter and as a waiter. In 1917 Randolph along with co-editor Chandler Owen founded a magazine called The Messenger, which campaigned for black civil rights.
This was only the beginning of the activist life for Randolph, as he repeatedly (but unsuccessfully) attempted to be elected to political office in the state of New York. He was involved in organizing black workers in laundries, clothes factories and cinemas. Randolph’s sincere determination and polished oratorical skills, led to his involvement with the Pullman Porters and being named president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). Randolph championed the improvement of working conditions and wage compensation for the BSCP, and this became the first successful black trade union.
In 1935 the BSCP became a part of the American Federation of Labor (joined in union with the white folks!). After enduring threats from the Pullman Company such as job loss and harassment, the BSCP forced the company to the bargaining table. After 12 years of battle, the BSCP was recognized as the official union of the Pullman Porters in 1937.
Randolph didn’t stop there, the remainder of his life he diligently struggled and fought for the cause of the working black American. In 1941, he convinced President Roosevelt to establish the Fair Employment Practice Committee, which led the way to obtaining equal opportunities for minority employment in government and in the defense industry.
In 1947 Randolph formed the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience in the Armed Forces. Because of this group, President Truman issued an executive order against discrimination in the military. This order allowed Blacks to be admitted to the Army and Navy Academies.
In 1963 Randolph was one of the key organizers of what became known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was at this March that the charismatic Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have A Dream speech. In 1964, Randolph’s lifetime of work was recognized with a Medal of Freedom, presented by President Lyndon Johnson. This medal is the country’s highest award for civilians.
Randolph passed away in 1979, a few weeks before his 90th birthday. The fruits of his labor have left a resonating influence on fair labor practices and employment opportunities in American society. Here is an excerpt from his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963:
We are not an organization or a group of organizations. We are not a mob. We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. The revolution reverberates throughout the land, touching every city, every town, every village where blacks are segregated, oppressed and exploited. But this civil rights demonstration is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights; for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. And we know that we have no future in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Those who deplore our militancy, 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 tensions than enforcing racial democracy.
The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is located in Chicago, Illinois. You can visit their website at A. Philip Randolph Museum It’s brothers like Mr. Randolph that have illuminated a path of diligent toil for all to follow. It’s this type of day to day grinding that would make the world a much better place, if everyone could be more like Asa.