A. Philip Randolph

April 15, 1889 — May 16, 1979

Key leader of the labor and civil rights movements

A. Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph is today one of the most recognizable leaders of the civil rights and labor movements. Born in Crescent City, Florida, in 1889, Randolph organized the first black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and was a chief organizer and speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. From 1960 to 1966 he was president of the Negro American Labor Council, which he founded; for his extraordinary contributions to civil rights he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.1

Randolph’s activism went hand in hand with a humanist lifestance. He and fellow black humanist Chandler Owen started The Messenger, a socialist journal critical of religion, in 1917; in it they wrote, “Prayer is not one of our remedies; it depends on what one is praying for. We consider prayer as nothing more than a fervent wish; consequently the merit and worth of a prayer depend upon what the fervent wish is.”2 He was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association in 1970 and was a signatory of the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II.

  1. “Asa Philip Randolph.” AFL-CIO online. http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/history/history/randolph.cfm

  2. Norm Allen Jr., “Humanism in Political Action,” in By These Hands: a Documentary History of African American Humanism, ed. Anthony B. Pinn (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 147–149.