A. Philip Randolph
Randolph, A(sa) Philip (15 April 1889 - 16 May 1979)
Son of a Methodist minister and born in Crescent City, Florida, Randolph was influenced by Karl Marx and the Socialist Party’s vision of the nobility of the masses. In 1917 as editor of The Messenger, he called upon black men to refuse military service, leading President Woodrow Wilson to call him the most dangerous Negro in America. Although never a porter himself, Randolph became the formidable chief of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, won wage increases, won shorter hours, and in 1935 obtained the group’s admission to the American Federation of Labor.
In 1941 when Randolph announced that he would lead tens of thousands of his constituents in a protest march on the White House, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told him, “Questions like this have sociological implications. They can’t be gotten at with hammer and tongs. They can’t be settled with marches.” Randolph remained unswayed. “You can’t bring 100,000 Negroes to Washington. We can’t have that,” said Roosevelt. Randolph remained unswayed. So Roosevelt sighed, picked up a pen and signed an order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission, arguably the single most important decree since the 13th Amendment.
According to Norm Allen Jr., Randolph may have listed himself in Who’s Who as a Methodist, but he did so to avoid public criticism of his outlook of secularism and humanism. He also listed himself as a Mason. “We consider prayer as nothing but a fervent wish,” he declared while being the civil rights leader and founder of the railway porters union. Malcolm X, who once alleged that all leaders of black communities are muddled, added that he found Randolph “the least confused.” Randolph’s photo was once on the cover of the Black Muslim’s Muhammad Speaks (1963).
Randolph signed Humanist Manifesto II. In 1970, the American Humanist Association named Randolph Humanist of the Year.