After his courageous struggle to organize the BSCP, A. Philip Randolph emerged as one of the most respected figures in black America, and invested that prestige in building a mass action civil rights movement.
He organized the March on Washington Movement (MOWM), based on the Ghandian principle of nonviolent direct mass action. The MOWM won its first major victory in June 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order banning discrimination in the federal government and the defense industry, after Randolph had threatened to lead a march into the nation’s capital. The achievement catapulted Randolph into being known as “the towering civil rights figure of the period.” In 1948, Randolph secured another historic Executive Order from President Harry Truman to ban racial segregation in the armed forces.
In the 1950s and 1960s, both Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr. employed the organizing gifts of Bayard Rustin, Randolph’s greatest protege, culminating in the massive 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Conceived by Randolph, the march was the largest demonstration to date for racial and economic equality.
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