Reframing Randolph

Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph

320 pages

2 halftones

January, 2015

ISBN: 9780814785942



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Andrew Kersten is Dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho.

All books by Andrew E. Kersten

Clarence Lang is Associate Professor of African & African American Studies, and American Studies, at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75.

All books by Clarence Lang

At one time, Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a household name. As president of the all-black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), he was an embodiment of America’s multifaceted radical tradition, a leading spokesman for Black America, and a potent symbol of trade unionism and civil rights agitation for nearly half a century. But with the dissolution of the BSCP in the 1970s, the assaults waged against organized labor in the 1980s, and the overall silencing of labor history in U.S. popular discourse, he has been largely forgotten among large segments of the general public before whom he once loomed so large. Historians, however, have not only continued to focus on Randolph himself, but his role (either direct, or via his legacy) in a wide range of social, political, cultural, and even religious milieu and movements.
The authors of Reframing Randolph have taken Randolph’s dusty portrait down from the wall to reexamine and reframe it, allowing scholars to regard him in new, and often competing, lights. This collection of essays gathers, for the very first time, many genres of perspectives on Randolph. Featuring both established and emergent intellectual voices, this project seeks to avoid both hagiography and blanket condemnation alike. The contributors represent the diverse ways that historians have approached the importance of his long and complex career in the main political, social, and cultural currents of twentieth-century African American specifically, and twentieth-century U.S. history overall. The central goal of Reframing Randolph is to achieve a combination of synthetic and critical reappraisal.


  • "The essays in this important collection . . . probe the breadth and depth of Randolph's social, economic, and political beliefs and leadership commitments during his path breaking —yet often contentious—career. . . . The collection not only reinterprets Randolph and reframes his place in history, thus complicating our understanding of Randolph in his time, but suggests ways his legacy speaks to struggles for economic and social justice in our time."

    —Beth T. Bates, Wayne State University

  • "Reframing Randolph is a terrific examination of one of the twentieth century’s most important social and political figures. Along with a stellar list of contributors, Kersten and Lang provide an unmatched assessment of Randolph’s social and political activism and labor organizing that uncovers important new insights and exposes critical nuances of his thought and character."

    —Cornelius L. Bynum, author of A. Philip Randolph and the Struggle for Civil Rights

  • “The volume succeeds admirably, building a series of partially overlapping portraits from different perspectives but also through lenses of varied focal length.”

    Journal of American History