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A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was the most important civil rights leader to emerge from the labor movement. Throughout his long career, he consistently kept the interests of black workers at the forefront of the racial agenda. Whereas W. E. B. Du Bois argued that the problem of the twentieth century was “the color line,” Randolph concluded that it was the question of the “common man.”

The postwar reaction limited the possibilities of working-class organization, but after a few false starts, Randolph in 1925 became general organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Following a long struggle, the porters, an overwhelmingly black group, won an election and then a contract with the railroads in 1937.

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