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Revisiting Civil Rights History with Digital Primary Sources: The Case of A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph was arguably the most important black labor leader and civil rights activist in America in the mid-20th century. His prominence rested on a six-decade activist career – and in 1948, his threatened non-violent campaign against a Jim Crow military prompted President Harry Truman to begin desegregating the armed forces. Randolph served as the “dean” of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was the force behind the 1963 March on Washington. Throughout, he insisted on linking racial and class issues in his analysis of African Americans’ plight, while cultivating a new and more confrontational political sensibility among African Americans. 

Writing Randolph’s biography and reconstructing his countless political crusades are tasks facilitated by multiple digital sources: the papers of A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, the NAACP, the Justice Department, and numerous other individuals, organizations, and government agencies now available in ProQuest’s databases. This talk will explore how digital primary sources from History Vault allowed historians to revisit Randolph’s life, and to reinterpret the broader history of the civil rights movement in the 20th century.

Presenter:

Eric Arnesen James R. Hoffa Teamsters Professor of Modern American Labor History Vice Dean for Faculty and Administration in GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Please feel free to forward this invitation to any colleague you feel will find this session to be of interest and would like to participate.



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