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A Philip Randolph Square

A. Philip Randolph Square

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

"The idea of separatism is harkening to the past and it is undesirable even if it could be realized, because the progress of mankind has been based upon . . .social, intellectual and cultural contact." —A. Philip Randolph, 1969

This park is named for Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979), labor and civil rights leader. The site was acquired by the City in 1896. It formerly contained one of the many brownstone milestone markers, c. 1769, that denoted the distance of various sites from City Hall. The area was named Dewey Square by the Board of Aldermen in 1922 for Admiral George B. Dewey (1837-1917), a naval hero of the Spanish American War, for whom the promenade in Battery Park along New York Harbor is named. Dewey Square also provided the inspiration for and title of a 1947 song by saxophonist Charlie Parker, who lived in the area at the time.

The park was renamed for A. Philip Randolph in 1964 by the City Council, under a local law introduced by Council Member J. Raymond Jones and signed by Mayor John V. Lindsay. Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida on April 15, 1889. After graduating from the Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, Randolph continued his education at City College, which he began attending shortly after he moved to New York in 1911. In 1917, Randolph and Chandler Owen founded The Messenger, a radical monthly publication that urged black industrial workers to unionize. In 1925, the sleeping-car porters of the Pullman Railroad Company, drawn to Randolph's militant stance on labor and race issues, asked him to organize a union.

After ten years of negotiations, the managers of the Pullman Company met Randolph's demands. They granted $2 million in wage increases and officially recognized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first black union in the country.

Randolph successfully pressured President Roosevelt to issue the historic Executive Order 8802 on July 31, 1941 which banned discrimination in the defense industry and led to the establishment of the Fair Employment Practice Commission. In 1955, the veteran labor leader became the first black vice-president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). On August 28, 1963, Randolph and Bayard Rustin directed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1965, they founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute to strengthen ties between labor, political and civil rights organizations.

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