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Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and communist martyr, was born in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, a white majority county in the state's eastern piedmont. One of fifteen children, Gray was born into a family with a strong radical tradition. His father, whose name and occupation are unknown, was the son of Alfred Gray, an African American state legislator in Perry County, Alabama, during Reconstruction who famously vowed to fight for the Constitution “until hell freezes over.” A critic of both white racism and the inadequacy of the Freedmen's Bureau, Alfred Gray recognized that his outspoken militancy came at a price. “I may go to hell,” he told an interracial gathering in Uniontown in 1868 my home is hell but the white man shall go there with me Kelley 39 Ralph Gray who was only one year old when Reconstruction ended in Alabama grew up hearing stories of his grandfather s radicalism But ...


Harvey Klehr

Communist Party leader, was born near Marion, Alabama, on a tenant farm worked by his parents, whose names are unknown. His father died when Perry was a small child, and he was raised by his uncle, Stokes King, and an aunt. He attended a rural school sporadically, receiving about fifteen months of formal education. By the time he was ten, he was working in the cotton fields. He moved on to a sawmill and then a pipe foundry before deciding to leave the South when he was eighteen.

Perry embarked on the life of an itinerant worker, traveling around the United States in search of work. He reached California in 1920 and used it as his base for the next twelve years Most winters he worked at a cottonseed oil mill in Los Angeles In the summers he went on the road as a harvest hand following ...