Fighting for Identity : A. Philip Randolph's Search for Class-Consciousness in the Age of the Harlem Renaissance

Bynum, Cornelius Lyn, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Zunz, Olivier, Department of History, University of Virginia
Mccurdy, Charles, Department of History, University of Virginia
Handler, Richard, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines how A. Philip Randolph's firm determination to improve the lives of black workers in the years between World War I and World War II fundamentally shaped the core strategies and tactics of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In attempting to fashion an understanding of socialism relevant to the experiences of African Americans, Randolph devised a view of social justice that linked civil rights and social equality to economic opportunity. Randolph's view that civil rights without economic opportunity lack meaningful social substance foreshadowed Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 Poor Peoples' Campaign in every significant way. Randolph also formulated an understanding of the connection between issues of race and class in the interwar years that had lasting impact on civil rights politics. His insistence that black workers needed to heed both their special racial interests and general class concerns and his diligent effort to build working-class coalitions between blacks and whites set the stage for the partnership between labor and civil rights leaders. And, lastly, the conception of mass direct action and civil disobedience that drove Randolph's March on Washington Movement and Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Training and Service in the 1940s established basic protest strategies that a later generation of civil rights activists would use to combat the Jim Crow South.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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