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Faith of a mustard seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

So timely, this ‘righteousness= justice theme’ in Romans 3.

Many leaders ‘take’, ‘grab hold of’, ‘snatch’, ‘steal’ IDEAS and run away on a freight train that is in many cases, destined to run completely out of steam. To be sure, there is the possibility and the probability that a collision is destined— perhaps death and destruction for those who would follow a ‘false prophet’ in the direction of a borrowed idea. I have disturbance in my spirit in the numerous agendas attaching the “50 Anniversary of The March On Washington” and find the need to dissect the ideas away from THE VISION.

It occurs to me, that ‘A Vision’ has the kind of depth that ‘writes on the wall’ the ordered life events of the ‘Visioneer’. (OK. I know. No such word in the English Language. More impotence?) But, the ONE WHO IS THE VISION has a life long experience, ordered by God, clearly destined— the handwriting is on The Wall; for such a time as this! ‘The Visioneer’ of the 1963 March on Washington is Asa Philip Randolph.

Son of an African Methodist Episcopal Church pastor, A. Philip Randolph was born in 1889 in Crescent City, FL. Valedictorian of his 1907 Class at Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, his aptitude and adept(itude) came early.
Moving north to Harlem, he found a comrade in Chandler Owen, Columbia Law, and together they opened an employment agency ‘THE BROTHERHOOD OF LABOR’. By 1917 the two had well established their Magazine, ‘THE MESSENGER’ with Asa as Editor. He took the ‘Message’ of Blacks claiming their rights in Labor to the streets and could be heard from ‘soapboxes’ all over Harlem and beyond.

By 1925, a group of Pullman Porters received his message and asked for his hand. He organized them as THE BROTHERHOOD OF SLEEPING CAR PORTERS. It took 12 yrs, but in 1935 the American Federation of Labor (AFofL) reversed its previous position to grant an international charter. Now the first successful black trade union, in 1937 won the contract with the Pullman Company, breaking the resistance of a corporate giant.

The Original MARCH ON WASHINGTON was scheduled for July 1, 1941. The Organizations/Leaders of this march included: Walter White, NAACP; Lester Granger, National Urban League; Frank Crosswaith, Negro Labor Committee; J. Finley Wilson, Improved Benevolent Order of Elks of the World; and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, NYC. Randolph warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that he would lead thousands of blacks in a protest March on Washington. In his last minute failues to prevent the very thought of this, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, barring discrimination in defense industries and federal bureaus and creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee.

1948 Randolph again moved to fight discrimination. This time, it was against segregation and Jim Crow in the Army, Navy and Air Force. He had since WWI persuaded blacks not to fight and after WWII, founded the LEAGUE FOR NONVIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AGAINST MILITARY SEGREGATION, resulting in another President, Harry S Truman signing Executive Order 9981 commanding an end discrimination not only in the armed forces, but also in federal civil service jobs. When the AFL merged with the CIO in 1955, Randolph was made a vice president and member of the executive council. History records George Meany saying, “Who the hell appointed you as guardian of all the Negroes in America?” And, President Woodrow Wilson calling him “The most dangerous man in America.”

In 1963 he again organized a March on Washington for “Jobs and Freedom”. He took the podium for his speech saying: “We are not a pressure group; we are not an organization or a group of organizations; we are not a mob,” he declared in a booming but controlled voice. “We are the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. This revolution reverberates throughout the land, touching every village where black men are segregated, oppressed and exploited.”

Some have indeed “stolen” the ideas and “legacy” of THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON; but it is to the Agenda of the A PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE that FIRST PLACE must be given in this 50th Anniversary year.

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Email: mustardseedfaith@bellsouth.net

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