February 7 ~ From Within Religious Journey of an African American Labor Leader

Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within." ~ A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph

Prolific labor and civil rights leader Asa Philip Randolph (18891979) was born on this day in Crescent City, Florida, the son of a minister. He grew up with a passion for Shakespeare and baseball.

A talented orator, he once said: "Nothing counts but pressure, pressure, more pressure, and still more pressure through broad organized aggressive mass action."

Randolph studied politics in New York City and in 1917 co-founded the Harlem magazine, The Messenger, which embraced the African American struggle for equality.

"Freedom is never given," he said. "It is won. Justice is never given, it is exacted."

In 1925, he organized the Brotherhood Of Sleeping Car Porters to unionize black workers. It took 12 years, but the united workers became the first black trade union to negotiate a contract in America.

"At the banquet table of nature there are no reserved seats," he said. "You get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold... And you can't take anything without organization."

Randolph was an inspirational leader who dedicated his life to tearing down racial barriers through organized protest and civil disobedience. He negotiated the end of segregation in federal workplace and in the military.

In 1963, he led the famous civil rights march in Washington, which featured the historical "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. The event gave birth to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess," he said.

Everything starts from within.