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Working with a group of Jewish labor leaders, A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owens organized the National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes in the summer of 1918. Their motto was "Unite and Fight" and their goal was to integrate black workers into the labor movement.

In 1919 the group helped organize the National Brotherhood of Workers, the largest body of black workers at the time. "The combination of black and white workers will be a powerful lesson to the capitalists of the solidarity of labor," the new union noted. "It will show that labor, black and white, is
conscious of its interests and power. This will serve to convert a class of worker, which has been used by the capitalist class to defeat organized labor, into an ardent, class-conscious, intelligent, militant group."

Although critics blamed the National Association for spreading "Bolshevik" propaganda that, they alleged, aroused the Negro "discontent" that led to riots in 1919, Randolph answered them in no uncertain terms. "The unrest grows out of the unjust conditions in this alleged land of the free and home of the brave. They are the true bolshevik propaganda," he wrote.

"Negroes are disfranchised. They don't like that. . . . Negroes are lynched—one every four days. . . . Negroes are in peonage and on convict farms in the South. This is a violation of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. . . . Negroes are Jim-Crowed and made to ride like cattle on the Government controlled railroads of the United States. This is unjust and undemocratic. It creates discontent. . . . They are the true bolshevik propaganda. Without the conditions the agitator could not exist."

Read the 1918 announcement of the National Association (scroll down)


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