Civil Rights or True Justice?
I was treated to a great lecture last night at the University of Montana (every once in a while they surprise the hell out of me) by Prof.Eric Arnesan of the U of Illinois Chicago. As the last in the Martin Luther King Series, Prof. Arnesan talked of the life and legacy of A.Phillip Randolph, one of the most important Black leaders to be wiped from the popular narrative by capitalisms relentless effort at historical revisionism. While much scholarly work has been done on the black labor movement, the average citizen or college grad recognizes a little "I have A Dream", a little W.E .DuBoise and maybe some Thurgood Marshall. Garvey,Afro- wearing black power militants and Malcolm X complete the scary section.
Randolph was a rare figure of courage and intelligence who could articulate a broader vision for black society, rooted in a deeper analysis, a great Wobbly, socialist and staunch anti-communist.He realized true liberation would only come about through a combined working class struggle of blacks and whites, a proposition as true today as it was when he spoke to Harlem crowds in 1917. Randolph was instrumental in organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, fighting the railroad companies as well as rascist unions, and led successful movements to end discrimination in the US military. He stood by Dr.King and Bayard Rustin at the March on Washington and no doubt had a profound influence in radicalizing Kings own politics.
Prof. Arnesans books include Black Protest and the Great migration ,Brotherhood of Color, and Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality. He is currently working on a biography of Randolph which I eagerly await. Raised the dirt poor son of an AME minister, his was a moral life based on ethical considerations and truly embodied the promise of America.