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Resources to research the life and accomplishments of
A. Philip Randolph

All oppressed peoples must unite to fight oppression!

All workers must unite to fight exploitation! No oppressed group can win freedom alone!

No single group of workers can win the fight for job security alone!

Freedom is indivisible and the fight for freedom must be indivisible!

Black supremacy is as objectionable as white supremacy!

Black racism is as dangerous as white racism or anti-Semitism! …

Let us help keep the lamps of freedom burning in the land, through revolutionary racial protest and nonviolent, direct mass action, for if they go out they may not be relighted for a hundred years!

This can effectively be done by a nationwide, massive, monumental Emancipation March on Washington for Jobs. (1)

These words were written by A. Philip Randolph in May 1963, to bring attention to the planned 1963 March on Washington. Three months later, that march would become one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in American history, a march that today is remembered every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as the event during which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

As one of the featured speakers at the march, Randolph used his speech to highlight themes that were central to his labor and civil rights advocacy since the 1930s. He declared:

Fellow Americans, we are gathered here in the largest demonstration in the history of this nation. Let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers. We are not a pressure group. We are not an organization or a group of organizations. We are not a mob. We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. … But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro nor is it confined to civil rights, for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not and we know that we have no future in a society in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. (2)

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in many ways represented the final triumph in the long career of A. Philip Randolph in his fight for the rights of African Americans. Randolph had originally proposed a similar march in 1941 as part of his March on Washington Movement.

“A. Philip Randolph was arguably the most important black labor leader and civil rights activist in America during the mid-20th century,” historian Dr. Eric Arnesen noted in a recent essay about the value of using ProQuest resources in his research.

“Despite the failure to accomplish many of his specific goals,” Dr. Arnesen added, “Randolph had witnessed – indeed, he had contributed centrally to – nothing less than a revolution in labor and race relations in America.”

Dr. Arnesen is Vice Dean for Faculty and Administration at the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences at the George Washington University. His scholarly work focuses on issues of race, labor, politics, and civil rights. He’s authored several articles in these areas, as well the acclaimed book, Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality

Currently, Dr. Arnesen is writing a full-length political biography of Randolph. He called the documents in ProQuest’s History Vault “indispensable”: “The modules in The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century touch upon virtually every aspect of Randolph’s political life and on the many movements with which he worked,” Dr. Arnesen said.

“Randolph’s papers provide extensive coverage of his involvement in the [Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a predominantly African-American labor union] development, the rise and fall of the National Negro Congress, his challenges to the racial practices of organized labor, his leadership of the World War II-era March on Washington movement, his opposition to communism and colonialism, and the civil rights marches he organized – among many other things,” he elaborated.

“Having labored on Randolph’s biography for a number of years now, I can attest to the richness of the resources, their indispensability to my project, and their ease of use.”

The enhanced, digitized materials available in ProQuest History Vault are not only essential for advanced scholars like Dr. Arnesen, but they also provide beginning researchers the opportunity to explore rare primary source documents they would otherwise be unable to access.

“Students in history courses are often instructed to work with primary sources,” Dr. Arnesen explained. “In many cities and towns across the country, the primary materials necessary to write a research paper are simply not available or located nearby; in other cases, students’ busy schedules (and social lives) means that they lack the time to travel to archives close by or far away.”

Download Dr. Arnesen’s essay to learn more about how one researcher has used ProQuest resources to study the civil rights and labor career of A. Philip Randolph. Dr. Arnesen’s study of A. Philip Randolph is just one example of literally hundreds of research topics on the civil rights movement that can be explored via ProQuest resources.

In addition to the ProQuest resources highlighted in Dr. Arnesen’s essay, be sure to see the documentary coverage of A. Philip Randolph, in Black Studies in Video.


(1)   ProQuest History Vault, Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1, Papers of A. Philip Randolph, Folder: A. Philip Randolph, Speeches and Writings File, 1963, Folder ID: 001608-029-0272

(2)   ProQuest History Vault, NAACP Papers: Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files, Folder: March on Washington speeches and statements, including by A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Walter Reuther, Whitney M. Young Jr., John Lewis, Mathew Ahmann, Eugene Carson Blake, Joachim Prinz, and James Farmer, Folder ID: 001473-019-0854

05 Oct 2017

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