1942 December 30

A. Philip Randolph Announces Plan for Civil Disobediance for Civil Rights


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph on this day announced plans for civil disobedience in support of civil rights. The daring part of his announcement was that the U.S. was in the middle of World War II and civil disobedience, depending on the action, could possibly disrupt the war effort.

Randolph had scored a major victory in 1941 when he announced a plan for a march of Washington in July in support of equal employment opportunity for African Americans in defense industries. The idea of a march terrified the Roosevelt administration, which tried to talk him out of it. President Roosevelt finally invited him to the White House for a personal meeting on June 18, 1941 to talk him into cancelling the march. Roosevelt finally conceded and agreed to issue an executive order if Randolph would cancel the march, which he did. FDR then issued Executive Order 8802 guaranteeing equal employment opportunity.

Nothing came of Randolph’s plan for civil disobedience in 1941. His organization, the March on Washington Movement (MOWM) had difficulty organizing major events. Most African American leaders criticized the idea of civil disobedience at the time. (But it became one of the rallying cries of the civil rights movement in the 1960s).

In 1948, when President Truman planned to create a peacetime military draft, Randolph told him he would advise young African Americans not to register for the draft — a form of civil disobedience. Randolph’s plan was one of the factors that led President Truman to issue an exective order on July 26, 1948 desegregating the U.S military.

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