Juneteenth celebration to honor Crescent City native A. Phillip Randolph
Before Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and Crescent City native A. Phillip Randolph championed equitable labor rights starting in 1912, when as a waiter on a coastal steamship in New York City, he organized a rally against poor living conditions.
On Saturday, Randolph’s legacy will be honored during the fifth annual Juneteenth festivities, event organizer Angel Duke said.
Duke organized the first Juneteenth celebration in Crescent City in 2012 after moving back to her hometown.
Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Duke said her first year, the celebration honored 13 senior citizens in the community. Each year, others who have made a difference in Crescent City were recognized.
For the fifth anniversary, Duke said, it was time to recognize Randolph’s accomplishments.
“When we decided to honor (Randolph), the idea took off like wildfire,” Duke said.
In 1925, Randolph founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and in 1937 gained membership to the American Federation of Labor, making the brotherhood the first black union in the United States.
After World War II he organized a group to protest segregation in the military, and in 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order banning racial segregation in the armed forces.
In 1955, he became vice president of the AFL-CIO, and in 1963, he was present for King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Randolph founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a nonprofit organization with a mission statement to fight for racial equality and, social and economic justice.
Phyllis Hancock, president of the state chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, will be the keynote speaker for the event, and a Putnam County branch of the institute will be dedicated, Duke said.
Duke said as a child growing up in Crescent City, all she thought of was leaving the small, quiet town to see the world, but she said she is happy to have returned home.
“I came back to everything I ran away from,” Duke said. “The community is coming together to make Putnam County a better place to live in.”
Duke said Randolph believed in racial equality and opportunity for all Americans and sees the Juneteenth celebration as a working model for that goal.
“I hope to continue to use our event as a catalyst to link our diverse culture,” Duke said.
Festivities begin at 2 p.m. June 18 at the Union Baptist AME Church at 200 Cedar St. with speakers, an exhibit featuring Randolph, youth performances and an award ceremony.
The celebration will then move to Eva Lyon Park on Summit Street until 7 p.m. for gospel and jazz music, arts and crafts, and Southern and Caribbean foods.
For information contact, Angel Duke at 678-906-9770, Pastor Willie Williams at 904-568-5056 or Sherry Dupree at 352-281-2286.