The National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes was founded in 1918 by A. Philip Randolph—the great union organizer who would later form the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters—and writer Chandler Owens; it was promoted through their Harlem-based journal The Messenger, a political and literary publication of Socialist persuasion.
In March 1921, the Raleigh, NC Union Herald reported that the organization had “held a widely heralded meeting in New York City (attended by two or three hundred persons, according to one New York newspaper) at which the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was loudly decried by black and white. At this meeting it was charged by frothing speakers that the Ku Klux Klan is the enemy of organized labor, that it is being financed by wealthy northern-men who own large business interests in the South and who are contributing funds for the purpose of intimidating the negro and keeping his wages down.”
When The Messenger was accused of attempting to “arouse discontent among Negroes in the United States…by circulating bolshevik doctrines among them”—and made the target of a congressional investigation—the response was as follows:
First. With respect to the legislative committee’s investigation of our activities, we wish to say that all of our work is open to the public and we shall welcome the proposed investigation.
Secondly. The National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes was not formed to stimulate socialist activities among Negroes, but to promote unionism among Negroes, just as its name implies.
Third. It is true that an attempt is being made to arouse discontent among Negroes by circulating sound economic, political, and social doctrines among them. If that is what the Union League Club means by bolshevik doctrines, we plead guilty to the charge.