These are my notes from Greg Oppel’s presentation “A. Philip Randolph: Service Not Servitude” at the Oklahoma Council for History Education symposium at the University of Central Oklahoma (in Edmond) on 6 December 2008. MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS. I recorded this session on Ustream.

Greg Oppel presenting at Oklahoma Counci for History Education


Asa Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) was a prominent twentieth century African-American civil rights leader and founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which was a huge achievement for labor and especially for African-American labor organizing.

Greg is passionate about sharing presentations like this about people who may not be included now in “the canon” of history personalities but SHOULD be included
– A. Philip Randolph is one of the people who Greg puts in this category

Movie “10,000 Black Men Named George” (NetFlix link)

Unions were segregated in the Gilded Age
– Randolph

Many of these resources are from the museum for Randolph in his museum in Chicago

When I use PowerPoint, it means I am using a lot of images, maps, and working to engage my students with historical documents

Porters become like the house servants in the age of slavery
Pullman Porters were the luxury cars on trains
– interiors of these cars were very fancy
– in this time period, trains were the primary mode of transportation
– there is a Pullman car at our Oklahoma Science Museum now, check it out

Other train cars were not enclosed, so riders got filthy dirty riding them

“Third Class Carriage” book addresses this (author?)

Students today
– restaurant Jamils has professionally trained waiters

The motto of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was “Fight or Be Slaves”

Founding of the Union
– Pullman Porters organized and founded the Brotherhood in 1925
– BSCP was the very first African-American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation
– A. Philip Randolph was the determined, dedicated and articulate president of this union who fought to improve the working conditions and pay for the Pullman Porters

Other slogans: “On the job every second” and “Railroad work is vital to victory!”
– reference to World War II?

Cartoon referencing “The Modern Gulliver”
– “Uncle Toms and Stool Pidgeons”
– Randolph is in the upper left corner holding a sword, labeled “Union”

“If we must die let us die as free men not Jim Crow slaves”

Were doing document analysis of photos like this: (shows Randolph carrying a protest sign

Photo of A. Philip Randolph in a labor protest

The idea that there are classes and differences of opinions between classes is something that is foreign to many of our students

Question from the audience, to what degree can our students today relate to this history?
– discussion about black/African-American students resenting a white teacher talking about black figures from history, Bill Cosby and his dialog with the black community over the past five years

Audience member: You can compare Randolph to Cesar Chavez, and also tie in Indian issues

Randolph was brought in to advise the U.S. government as a labor leader

Labor March on Washington from 1941
– preceded famous 1963 march on Washington, which Randolph helped organize

Blacks couldn’t get FHA loans after WWII
– in some cases here in OKC, white people bought the land because blacks couldn’t

Photo of Randolph testifying before Congress in 1948 against segregation in the U.S. Army

Opening remarks for 1963 civil right’s march on Washington were by Randolph

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  1. […] Oppel and his presentation on December 6th at the Oklahoma Council for History Education symposium, “A. Philip Randolph: Service Not Servitude,” my wife and I watched the NetFlix movie “10,000 Black Men Named George” this […]

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