2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Cameron S.

A. Philip Randolph is one of history's most profound heroes and a man that I hold very close to my heart. He was a prolific organizer, speaker, and inspiration to the other great leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as an inspiration to me, and it is tragic that his life and legacy are often left unsung. 

Randolph's first great stride was in 1925 with his founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African-American led union in the country, and his successful lobby against the Pullman Company (the largest employer of black people at the time and the same infamous company Eugene V. Debs led railroad employees against in the Pullman Strike of 1894) for decent pay and bearable working conditions. He went on to gain the BSCP membership to the American Federation of Labor in 1937, and, even better, withdrew the following year because of continued discrimination by the AFL. 

After his great union victories, he turned his eye to the issue of race in America. He proposed and organized not one, but two marches on Washington. The first was scheduled to take place in 1941 to protest segregation in war industries and the armed forces, as well as to push an anti-lynching law, but was called off after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order addressing the first of these. Randolph was later able to pressure President Truman into remedying segregation in the military. The second march was, of course, the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 in which a quarter of a million people stormed the ground of the capital city to demand the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A. Philip Randolph is an inspiration to me because I, like him, want to become a mover of men. A figure that people can look to and rally behind. A champion of the people and a spokesperson for the downtrodden. His message on the economic and social transgressions against black people in America is what has really motivated me to rise up and strive to fix the issues that face us as a nation. Too often the overlap between our fall into plutocracy and the mistreatment of non-white citizens is ignored; Randolph knew this, I know this, and I feel an obligation not only to honor the legacy of a man who did so much for what he believed in, but to do as he did and tackle the issues that others will not and wage war for what I believe in.


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