Category Archives: A. Philip Randolph

The Other March on Washington

by Howard Brick & Christopher Phelps, published on August 18, 2015 at Jacobin 

As Nazism was challenged abroad, A. Philip Randolph led an uncompromising campaign for democracy at home.

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A. Philip Randolph. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Please be informed that I am ready to serve in any unit of the armed forces of my country which is not segregated by race,” wrote Winfred Lynn to his local draft board in 1942 after learning of his conscription into the United States Army.

The thirty-six-year-old landscape gardener from Jamaica, Queens, New York City, loathed Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan but vowed to go “to prison or to die, if necessary, rather than submit to the mockery of fighting for democracy in a Jim Crow army.”

Only when his lawyers concluded that his case against the Selective Service would be stronger were he in uniform did Lynn submit to conscription. He saw duty in the Pacific, made the rank of corporal, and watched his case reach the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it on January 2, 1945, dashing what one black newspaper, proclaiming Lynn the “Hero of World War II,” termed “the most important legal battle to challenge segregation in the armed forces.” Only the Second World War’s end in 1945 brought him an honorable discharge and the outcome he had sought for three long years: freedom.

Worrying that Lynn’s stance was too radical, even unpatriotic, the nation’s leading civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), had declined to support his case. His first attorney was his younger brother, Conrad Lynn, who had been expelled from the Communist Party in 1937 for supporting Trinidadian workers’ strikes, contrary to the Party’s conciliatory Popular Front line.

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Asa Philip Randolph: The often overlooked inspiration for the March on Washington

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UPI/file A. Philip Randolph stands next to President John Kennedy during a meeting that resulted from the March on Washington in 1963. With them were Martin Luther King Jr. (left), American Jewish Congress Rabbi Joachim Prinz (second from left) and labor leader Walter Reuther (right). The Washington march turned out to be a pivotal event in the struggle for civil rights.

As time passes, history often simplifies or even distorts events.

By Mark Woods  |  The Florida Times-Union  |  Sat, Aug 24, 2013

Christopher Columbus did sail the ocean blue, but he didn’t discover America. And although Paul Revere did go for a midnight ride, he wasn’t alone. Not that a couple of centuries later anyone remembers William Dawes or Samuel Prescott.

It has been 50 years since an estimated 250,000 people converged on the capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. With each passing year, the story of that day becomes the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his iconic speech.

If you have any doubts that this is what time has done with Aug. 28, 1963, look no further than what Time, the magazine, has done to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that day.

The magazine published a special “I Have a Dream” issue. The cover, with a photo of MLK Jr., says “Founding Father.” And inside there are a series of stories with the headlines: ONE MAN. ONE MARCH. ONE SPEECH. ONE DREAM.

Open the magazine and flip past some black-and-white photos of the scene on the mall to a color photo, a posed shot after the march, the Oval Office. President John F. Kennedy is standing in the middle of the men who led the march. King is in the front row, with several feet and two people between him and the president.

The caption says: “King and his lieutenants meet with Kennedy …”

The people in the photo would have chuckled at such a description — King and his lieutenants? — not because they didn’t admire King, but because there was one man who clearly had led them to this moment. One man whom they considered The Founding Father of the civil rights movement. One man who for more than two decades had been dreaming of such a march on Washington.

It wasn’t King. It was the 74-year-old man standing next to Kennedy.

Asa Philip Randolph.

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