1941 January 14

A. Philip Randolph Calls For a March on Washington


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph on this day proposed a march on Washington to demand equal employment opportunities for African-Americans in the defense industries. Full employment had returned to the U.S. as a result of the war in Europe. The idea of an African-American protest march in Washington, D.C., shocked and scared many Americans –and drew more African-American support than Randolph had imagined. Randolph called off the march after a dramatic confrontation with President Franklin Roosevelt in the White House on June 18, 1941, during which Roosevelt agreed to issue Executive Order 8802, prohibiting racial discrimination in government defense factories. The Order, which Roosevelt issued on June 25, 1941, also created the first Fair Employment Practices Committee in American history.

Seven years later, Randolph confronted President Harry Truman in the White House, on March 22, 1948, over racial discrimination in the armed services and helped pressure Truman to issue Executive Order 9981, desegregating the military on July 26, 1948.

In the first African-American march on Washington, 5,000 people conducted a silent march in front of the White House and the U.S. Senate building on June 22, 1922 to protest lynching and to call for a federal anti-lynching law.

Learn more about Randolph: Andrew Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (2007)

Watch a documentary on the Randolph’s proposed march: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrTd_bXsZVM

Learn more about marching on Washington: Lucy Barber, Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition (2002)

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

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