1918 August 10

A. Philip Randolph Arrested for Anti-War Speech in Cleveland


The great civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph began his career as a Socialist and an impassioned opponent of American involvement in World War I. On this day, he was arrested for distributing copies of his magazine, The Messenger, and he faced possible prosecution for violating the Espionage Act, which was passed on June 15, 1917. (Randolph’s magazine is not to be confused with the later Nation of Islam newspaper of the same name.) The judge dropped the charges against him, commenting that he did not believe Randolph looked old enough to be an adult.

Randolph went on to found the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an all-African-American labor union that gave him a solid base of support for his important civil rights activities independent of white philanthropists (May 8, 1925).

He is famous for confronting three different presidents in the White House: over segregation in the new 1940 draft law (Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 27, 1940); over equal employment in defense industries (Franklin D. Roosevelt, June 18, 1941); the segregated military (Harry Truman, March 22, 1948; and in rejecting President John F. Kennedy’s attempt to get civil rights leader to cancel the planned 1963 March on Washington (John F. Kennedy, June 22, 1963). In each case, his strong stand was vindicated by history.

Read: Andrew Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (2007)

Learn About The Messenger: http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/messenger-1917-1928

Watch a video about Randolph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjxN2XjUo0U

Read an oral history interview with Randolph: http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/oral-histories/randolph-philip-a.html

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