National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Crescent City, Florida
Civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph waged a lifelong battle for the economic empowerment of African Americans. In 1925 he accepted the challenge of organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters-the first black labor union chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Continuing his advocacy for African American workers, Randolph called for a march on Washington in 1941 to protest the exclusion of blacks from defense industry jobs. He cancelled that march only after President Franklin Roosevelt signed an order mandating an end to discriminatory practices by government contractors. Following World War II, Randolph led the effort to desegregate the nation's armed forces and waged a civil disobedience campaign against the draft until President Harry Truman ordered an end to segregation in the military in 1948. Randolph crowned his career in 1963 by helping to organize the celebrated March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.