Meet the Civil Rights Pioneer Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi – The ‘Most Dangerous Negro In America’

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Widely referred to as the “most dangerous Negro in America,” Asa Philip Randolph was an advocate of non-violent change in society. Here in this article, we are going to give an expository piece on the most dangerous Negro in America.

Many describe Asa Philip Randolph as the most influential black trade unionist in American history. He was deeply involved in militant journalism, organizing the black union and engaging in peaceful political protest. The most interesting aspect of Asa Philips Randolph achievement is that he did all of these without any form of violence. He employed a non-violent approach just like Gandhi who successfully mounted a campaign for his country’s (India) independence from Great Britain.

In one of the famous interviews granted by Randolph, he said, “I think that perhaps in my work I was distinguished more for my championing of the philosophy and principles of Gandhiism than I was, at times, for trade unionism”.

In modern times, Asa Randolph still receives praise for doing more to canvass for justice for the poor and other minorities across the world. Though he was condemned by some civil rights activists for his non-violence and patient approach to achieving his goals, Randolph certainly will have his name engraved in the history books for his achievement.

He gained the title of the most dangerous Negro in America for his ability to lead the people and effect change as confirmed by American historians and experts.

Brief Background of Asa Randolph

Born in Crescent City, Fla., on April 15, 1889, Asa Randolph was the son of a minister of the African Methodist-Episcopal Church in Florida and later attend Cookman Institute in Jacksonville (now Bethune-Cookman College) where he developed an interest in theatricals.

After mounting frustration and dissatisfaction with the system that limits jobs and other rights for black people living in Florida, he moved to New York in 1911 along with one of his friends.

Randolph began learning the art of public speaking and began developing interest in radical politics as he later established a controversial newspaper, The Messenger.

In 1917 when the paper was first published, the United States was already preparing for war. Leading black intellectuals like W. E. DuBois were rallying around and equally urging blacks to support the movement. However, Randolph and a few colleagues like Chandler Owen asked people to do otherwise. The newspaper attracted huge followership among blacks and middle-class workers in the United States and was in circulation from 1917 to 1928.

Owen (Randolph’s colleague) was drafted to serve six months in a training camp after being released. However, Randolph was never enlisted as the war ended at a time he should have reported for duty. This was after they were arrested and investigated by officials for their draft status.

Randolph established the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters on August 25, 1925, after agreeing to fight on their behalf. This then became the first African-American labor union with an international charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). It took Randolph and the union more than a decade of agitation before the latter won a collective bargaining agreement in 1937 and at the same time, African-American workers were finding it increasingly difficult to secure defense jobs.

In 1925, at the age of 36, Randolph was approached by some Harlem porters with complaints about many injustices meted out to them by Pullman Company whom they worked for then.

Randolph organized a protest march in Washington in 1941, with the firm belief that African-Americans could flourish in the United States if they put an end to discrimination and segregation. This had a massive bearing as it compelled the then president of the US, Franklin Roosevelt, to establish the Non-Bias Employment Practice Committee which was later claimed by Roosevelt. “There shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”

The League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation, which played a massive role in making then-President Harry Truman end segregation in the armed forces was also founded by Randolph.

Randolph’s initiative to improve the circumstances of black people is what many agree to be his biggest achievement. The move in 1963 saw Washington and other parts of America create freedom for jobs.

He faced a lot of pressure from the authorities to cancel the protest but will later progress with the help of other influential people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin. The march became a turning point in the civil rights movement as it had over 250,000 people in attendance in 1964.

Randolph may have transformed America that even in a statement issued by the White House upon his death, the president summarized the civil rights leader’s career as one who “helped sweep away longstanding barriers of discrimination and segregation in industry and labor unions, in our schools and armed services, in politics and government.” Equally adding “For each new generation of civil rights leaders, he was an inspiration and an example”.

Thus, all these achievements helped secure Randolph’s place in history as one of the most dangerous Negros in America.


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