Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters it’s Affect on the Labor and Civil Rights Movement
Stephen D. Burston
HRMG 5000 Managing Human Resources
Prof. Mary P. Campbell
8 October 2013
The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was a labor union organized by African American employees of the Pullman Company in August 1925 and led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster. This paper will discuss the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) founders, the issues that caused its fight for organization and recognition, the Pullman Company, the American Federation of Labor and the affect on the labor movement and the affect on the civil rights movement.
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Other officers were William H. Des Verney, vice-president and assistant organizer; Roy Lancaster, secretary-treasurer; and Ashley Totten, assistant organizer. Their motto or password was “solidarity,” which they called the key to freedom of the oppressed and exploited races and classes, and the group’s sign was a clinched left fist with arm extended downward, denoting that justice and freedom will come only through a fight.
Asa Phillip Randolph gave the union leadership and direction. “A. Phillip Randolph was born April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida, the second son of the Rev. James William Randolph, a tailor and minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Elizabeth Robinson Randolph, a skilled seamstress. In 1891 the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, which had a thriving, well-established African-American community.” (Pfeffer, 2000)
From his father, Randolph learned that color was less important than a person's character and conduct. From his mother, he learned the importance of education and of defending oneself physically against those who would seek to hurt one or one's family, if necessary. Randolph remembered vividly the night his mother sat in the front room of their house with a loaded shotgun across her lap, while his father tucked a pistol under his coat and went off to prevent a mob from lynching a man at the local county jail.
A. Phillip Randolph was a superior student. He attended the Cookman Institute in East Jacksonville, the only academic high school in Florida for African Americans. “A. Phillip Randolph excelled in literature, drama and public speaking; he also starred on the school's baseball team, sang solos with its choir and was valedictorian of the 1907 graduating class.” (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia)
After graduation, Randolph worked odd jobs and devoted his time to singing, acting and reading. Reading W. E. B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk convinced him that the fight for social equality was most important. Barred by discrimination from all but manual jobs in the South, Randolph moved to New York City in 1911, where he worked at odd jobs and took social sciences courses at City College.”(Pfeffer, 2000) In New York, Randolph became familiar with socialism and the ideologies espoused by the Industrial Workers of the World. He met Columbia University Law student Chandler Owen, and the two developed a synthesis of Marxist economics and the sociological ideas of Lester Frank Ward, arguing that people could only be free if not subject to economic deprivation. “At this point, Randolph developed what would become his distinctive form of civil rights activism, which emphasized the importance of collective action as a way for black people to gain legal and economic equality. To this end, he and Owen opened an employment office in Harlem to provide job training for southern migrants and encourage them to join trade unions.”(Pfeffer, 2000)
In 1917 Randolph and Chandler Owen founded the Messenger...