Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was widely celebrated on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. But the leader of that march also had something to say on that historic occasion. Here is an excerpt from the speech delivered by A. Philip Randolph.
We’re gathered here for the longest demonstration in the history of this nation. Let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers. We are not a pressure group, we are not an organization or a group of organizations, we are not a mob. We are the advanced guard of a massive, moral revolution for jobs and freedom. This revolution reverberates throughout the land touching every city, every town, every village where black men are segregated, oppressed and exploited. But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not.
And we know that we have no future in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?
And so we have taken our struggle into the streets as the labor movement took its struggle into the streets, as Jesus Christ led the multitude through the streets of Judaea. The plain and simple fact is that until we went into the streets the federal government was indifferent to our demands.
A. Philip Randolph organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly black labor union. Randolph led an earlier March on Washington that convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an executive order banning discrimination in the defense industries during World War II. After the war Randolph pressured President Harry S Truman to issue an executive order, in 1948, ending segregation in the armed services.