Today marks the 54th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Known best for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the March was the project of union leader and civil rights pioneer A. Philip Randolph and his protege Bayard Rustin. As the world faces a crisis from a belligerent North Korea, it is worthwhile to remember what the March on Washington director — one of America’s greatest moral leaders — said about this very same issue when it first reared its head in 1950.
This account of a long-forgotten speech — by a man who challenged America to live up to its principals — is an inspiring reminder of America’s greatness, its role in the world, and the need for unity in times of crisis:
Randolph Urges All-Out Support of U. S. Forces
New Journal and Guide , July 29, 1950 , pg. 12
New York — At an open rally in Harlem at 125th street and Seventh avenue Friday night, A. Philip Randolph, called upon the colored people of Harlem and the country to give the United States and United Nations [support] in the conflict in Korea.
Mr. Randolph is international president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and cochairman of the Committee Against Jim-Crow in Military Service and Training.
He urged Negroes to “join with the free people of the world regardless of race, color, religion or national origin or ancestry to halt and stop dead in its tracks the ruthless march of the Russian empire of totalitarian Communism toward world conquest and domination.”
He continued, “while our boys, Negro and white, Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant, are fighting and dying to establish a beachhead in Korea for liberty and peace, let no man or woman of America fall to so vile and low an estate as to lend his support to the sordid and unmoral business of propaganda guerrilla warfare here at home, from which our Russian Communist enemies may reap benefit and advantage.
“The wanton and brazen invasion of the peaceful country of South Korea by the armed forces of Communist North Korea, puppet of Soviet Russia, renders the status of all smaller nationalities in South Asia and countries such as Haiti, Liberia and Ethiopia and Israel, dangerously insecure.”
“Without the intervention of the United States in Korea with force, the only language the Kremlin can understand, sanctioned by the U. N. and some fifty nations, to drive the Communist North Korean Army back behind the 38th Parallel, this surprise attack upon Korea would break the spirit of the democratic forces of the world and make the free world an easy prey to emboldened and arrogant Russian Communist tyranny, and destroy all hope and opportunity for the peoples of color to become truly free.”
Mr. Randolph added: “and while Negroes must march shoulder to shoulder with their white brothers and sisters to help save society from the blight and affliction of Czaristic Russian Communism, we must not cease one moment with an uncompromising struggle for civil rights and complete equality. We must not relent in our fight for civil rights, because it is right. It is just. Our fight for civil rights is a great service Negroes can render our country, for every concession of civil rights to Negroes, is the most powerful propaganda political weapon the United States has to retrieve our losses and win the cold war on the psychological front.”