1960 January 24

A. Philip Randolph Calls for Mass Movement; Sit-Ins Begin a Week Later

 

Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph delivered a speech in New York City on this day, calling for a mass movement for civil rights. The man must have had special mental powers, because the sit-in movement began a week later, on February 1, 1960. Although there was no direct connection between the speech and the sit-ins, Randolph clearly was sensitive to the new mood of African-Americans.

Randolph was famous for his confrontations with U.S. Presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 18 1941, when he demanded and won an executive order on equal employment opportunity in defense industries; Harry Truman on March 22, 1948, when he urged the president to desegregate the armed forces (which Truman did four months later); and John F. Kennedy on June 22, 1963, when he rejected Kennedy’s efforts to get civil rights leaders to call off their planned March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Randolph on this day: “We cannot permit the nation to seek a false social serenity by sacrificing the human rights and needs of millions of its citizens. We must make it clear that we will not permit such a false peace to exist but will create and conduct a wide variety of actions constantly, so that social calm will not prevail until our demands have been met. We must make it clear that if reaction can win by creating discord in the community, peace cannot be found by abandoning our rights to reaction because we shall not be quiet, polite, or content until justice is firmly in our hands. We must make it clear that democracy cannot be mutilated while we sit by passively, silently, and submissively.  To this end, I intend to call for marches on the political conventions of both major parties, Democratic and Republican. The Negro people must stand up before these conventions and say to the nation and the world, ‘We want to be free now.’”

Read Randolph’s Speech: http://www.crmvet.org/docs/apr60.htm

Watch A. Philip Randolph on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ7sa7x0h6w

Learn more: Paula Pfeffer, A Philip Randolph: Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement (1990)

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

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