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Article

Charles Orson Cook

one of the most prolific white scholars of African American history in the twentieth century. Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915 and was educated at Columbia University in the 1930s, where he took an undergraduate degree in geology and an MA and a PhD in history. His first important publication, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), was based on his doctoral dissertation and challenged the prevailing wisdom that slaves were largely passive victims of white masters. In part an outgrowth of Aptheker's master's thesis on Nat Turner, American Negro Slave Revolts immediately became a controversial work and has remained so since. He was befriended by the influential African American historian Carter G. Woodson and the legendary black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois, both of whom encouraged his interest in Negro history. Aptheker's other writings include a seven-volume Documentary History of the Negro People ...

Article

Emilio Jorge Rodríguez

was born Fabián Jesús Colón López, but he would use various pseudonyms, such as Miquis Tiquis and Pericles Espada throughout his career. Born on 20 January 1901 in Cayey, Puerto Rico; his father, Mauricio, was a baker and his mother, Paula, was a domestic worker. During his childhood while working in a tobacco factory near his home, he enjoyed reading literary works and absorbed the intellectual stimulation that the public readers in the tobacco shop offered workers throughout the day. After his family moved to San Juan, he attended school at the Escuela José Julián Acosta, where he directed the student paper ¡¡¡Adelante…!!! (1917) and ran the Manuel Fernández Juncos literary society. During this chapter of his life he began to write poetry. In 1917 he traveled to New York on the S.S. Carolina and settled in the home of his older brother Joaquín in Brooklyn Colón ...

Article

Bettina Aptheker

A renowned public intellectual, Angela Y. Davis has been internationally recognized as a leader in movements for peace, social justice, national liberation, and women’s equality. A scholar and prolific writer, Davis has published five books and scores of essays, commentaries, and reviews. Since the 1970s she has persevered in struggles to free political prisoners and to dismantle what she was the first to call the prison-industrial complex.

Angela Yvonne Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She was the oldest of four children. Her mother, Sally E. Davis, was a public-school teacher, and her father, B. Frank Davis although qualified to teach managed a service station in order to enhance the family s income Davis s parents were deeply involved in their church and community and committed to the struggle for civil rights When Davis was four years old her family moved out of the all black projects ...

Article

Brittney L. Yancy

activist, philosopher, Marxist, and professor. Angela Davis was born 26 January 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, in an area that was so frequently bombed by the Ku Klux Klan it was known as Dynamite Hill. Born to B. Frank Davis, a teacher and businessman, and Sally Davis, who was also a teacher, Angela Davis's political activism started in her early childhood, and by high school, she volunteered for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At the age of fifteen, Davis received a scholarship to finish school at the Elizabeth Irwin School in New York City. Davis's teacher introduced her to socialist ideas that would inform her political participation in the civil rights and Black Power movements. When Davis finished high school in 1961, she moved to Massachusetts to attend Brandeis University, where she graduated in 1965 with degrees in philosophy and French ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Angela Yvonne Davis was, in several ways, born into the heart of the struggle for civil rights. Her family lived in the middle-class section of Birmingham, Alabama, that came to be known as Dynamite Hill because so many Ku Klux Klan bombings occurred there. Davis attended segregated schools, where children were taught black history but at the same time were denied adequate school supplies and facilities. Her mother and grandmother encouraged Davis to fight for civil rights while she was still in elementary school. As a high school student, Davis helped organize interracial study groups that were broken up by the police.

When she was fifteen, Davis left Birmingham to attend the Elizabeth Irwin School in New York City. Teachers at the politically progressive school introduced Davis to Socialism, from which she gained ideas that informed her later activism. From 1961 to 1965 Davis attended Brandeis University ...

Article

Robert Fay

James W. Ford was born in Pratt City, Alabama, on December 22, 1893. In 1913 he entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated in 1920 after serving in the army during World War I (1914–1918). Ford then moved to Chicago, where he became a postal worker and joined the Chicago Postal Workers Union and the American Negro Labor Congress, both affiliates of the Communist Party USA.

Ford joined the Communist Party in 1926 and rose rapidly through its ranks. In 1928 he was a delegate to the party's executive committee meeting in Moscow. In 1931 he became vice president of the party's League of Struggle for Negro Rights. He was the first African American on a presidential ticket, running for vice president with William Z. Foster in 1932. They received 102,991 votes.

In 1933 Ford was selected to head the party s ...

Article

The son of former slaves, Harry Haywood moved with his family from Nebraska to Minneapolis, which he left to fight in the 370th Infantry in France during World War I. Settling in Chicago, Illinois in the early 1920s, Haywood supported himself as a bootblack, busboy, and bellboy. He was recruited into the African Blood Brotherhood, a secret Black Nationalist organization, as well as into the Young Workers League, both associated with the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA).

Haywood was a leading proponent of Black Nationalism, self-determination, and the idea that American blacks are a colonized people who should organize themselves into a nation. From 1926 to 1930, Haywood studied in the Soviet Union, where he met several anticolonial revolutionaries, including Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh. On his return to the U.S. in 1931 he was chosen to head the Communist Party s Negro Department ...

Article

Larvester Gaither

major organizer and theoretician of the Communist International. Though Harry Haywood's parents, Harriet and Haywood Hall, were born into slavery, they had migrated to South Omaha, Nebraska, by the time he was born. When Harry was fifteen, his father, a meatpacker, was attacked by a white mob and the family was forced to leave Nebraska; they moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and eventually settled in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1917 Haywood entered the U.S. Army, and as a member of the Illinois 370th Infantry he set sail for France in April 1918. The year Haywood returned home to Chicago from the war, 1919, the city was engulfed in a bloody race riot. Such experiences radicalized Haywood, and after a brief stint with the African Blood Brotherhood he joined the Young Communist League in 1923.

He joined the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) in 1925 and moved ...

Article

As a youth, Hosea Hudson worked with his family on the Sharecropping land where they lived and was, therefore, unable to attend school. In 1917, he married and began sharecropping land separately from his family. After Boll Weevils destroyed his crops, Hudson moved with his new family to Atlanta in 1923. The next year he settled in Birmingham, Alabama where he began his career in iron molding.

Hudson soon engaged in informal attempts to better the treatment of African American workers. But it was not until 1931, when he joined the Communist Party of the U.S.A. (CPUSA), that Hudson became a public voice for worker's rights. Fired within a year from the Stockham Foundry, and forced to find work under pseudonyms, Hudson nonetheless continued to fight the Great Depression s devastating effects on African American workers During the 1930s Hudson strengthened his ties to the ...

Article

Norman O. Richmond

Black Panther known as one of the Soledad brothers and the author of a best-selling collection of letters written from prison. George Jackson was born in Chicago and spent his formative years in Southern California. He went to prison at age eighteen for a seventy-dollar robbery and spent a large part of the rest of his life behind bars. Jackson rose to be the leading prison intellectual of his time and during his incarceration became a member of the Black Panther Party. His two books, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970) and Blood in My Eye (1972), were international best sellers. The great Caribbean intellectual C. L. R. James (1901–1989) considered Jackson's letters to be “the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of Lenin” (Marable, p. 11).

Jackson wrote passionate letters ...

Article

George Lester Jackson grew up on the West Side of Chicago, the son of Lester Jackson, a postal worker, and Georgia Jackson. He was the second oldest of five children. Street-smart and rebellious, Jackson had several run-ins with the law for petty crimes by the time he was ten. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1956, where Jackson's troubles with the law continued, and included several arrests for robbery. Paroled in June 1960 after serving time for a gas station holdup, Jackson was arrested later that year for a gas station robbery that netted seventy-one dollars. Due to his previous convictions, he received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. He was nineteen, and remained in prison for the rest of his life.

While in prison, Jackson studied the writings of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and ...

Article

In recalling the events of her life, “Queen Mother” Moore stated its theme: “there wasn’t nothing to do but get into the struggle.” A powerful street speaker and adept political organizer, Moore was involved for almost a century in a host of crucial campaigns in support of Garveyism, the Harlem boycott and renters’ rights movements, the Republican and Communist parties, the Scottsboro defense, Pan-Africanism, and the reparations movement.

Born in New Iberia, Louisiana, Moore had experiences growing up in the South that profoundly influenced her political vision. Her parents’ lives had been shaped by white violence, and her own memories included lynchings, manhunts, and overt discrimination. Moore’s father, St. Cyr Moore, born as a result of his mother’s rape by a white man, ran a livery stable. Moore’s mother, Ella Henry was raised in a middle class French Creole household after her father was lynched by whites ...

Article

Born in rural Louisiana, Audley Moore and her family experienced the terror of racism in its most brutal form with the Lynching of her paternal grandfather. Her parents died when Moore was in the fourth grade, and by the time she was fifteen she had to raise and support herself and her two sisters by working as a hairdresser.

Her family's suffering and the racism she faced pushed Moore to political activism. In New Orleans she joined Marcus Garvey's militant Universal Negro Improvement Association, inspired by Garvey's Black Nationalism and pride in blacks' African heritage. Part of the great migration from rural South to urban North, Moore and her sisters moved to Harlem in the 1920s. Moore became a prominent organizer for the Communist Party particularly in defense of the Scottsboro Boys eight young men in Alabama who were wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to death ...

Article

John H. McClendon

community and labor organizer, socialist, and communist. Richard Benjamin Moore, a native of Barbados, was born to Richard Henry Moore, a preacher and building contractor, and Josephine Thorn Moore. Unfortunately Richard's mother died when he was only three years old. As a result his father was the most important person in Richard's upbringing. The elder Moore was responsible for introducing his son to the importance of gaining an education, having a religious outlook on life, and striving to maintain an ethic of hard work. Although he remained a diligent worker throughout his life, Moore later gave up religion for the philosophy of Marxist dialectical materialism.

With Moore's arrival in the United States in 1909 he faced the need to find employment and was also gripped by the burning desire to continue his education Finding employment and gaining an education were hurdles he had clearly ...

Article

Richard Moore became a political activist when he immigrated to New York in 1901. He joined the Socialist Party in 1918 and also became a member of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), a secret organization with ties both to Black Nationalism and the Communist Party U.S.A.

In 1921 Moore left the Socialist Party because of its indifference to African American concerns and soon after joined the Workers Party, the Harlem branch of the Communist Party. In 1925 he was elected to the executive board and council of directors of the American Negro Labor Congress (ANLC), a national organization of black radicals, and became a contributing editor to the ANLC's the Negro Champion. In 1931 Moore became vice president of the International Labor Defense (ILD), which was formed to resolve legal problems caused by labor disputes and racism. Moore and the ILD became well known for defending the Scottsboro ...

Article

Robin D. Kelley

Thompson brought to the Communist Party an unusually sophisticated understanding of the complexities of race and gender oppression—a unique perspective for an organization that emphasized class exploitation above all else. Born in Chicago, but raised in several predominantly white, often racist communities in the West, she eventually settled with her family in Oakland, California, in 1919. She earned a degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1923, but racism limited her career opportunities. She chose to go back to the Midwest and work toward a graduate degree at the University of Chicago, but she abandoned the idea soon thereafter. Giving up school, as well as a lucrative position at a black-owned Chicago firm, Thompson headed south to accept a teaching job in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1925 and a year later accepted a faculty position at Hampton Institute in Virginia Because of her ...

Article

Orion A. Teal

civil rights activist, lawyer, and Communist Party official. William L. Patterson was born in San Francisco, California, on 27 August 1891; the record of his birth was lost in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and his New York Times obituary gives his birthday as 29 August 1890. At an early age he moved across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland, where he spent much of his young life. After graduating from high school at age twenty, Patterson attended the University of California, Berkeley, for several years with the intention of becoming a mining engineer. He eventually graduated from the Hastings College of Law at the University of California in 1919. During this time he had become involved in antiwar activism and became interested in socialism.

After an aborted attempt to relocate to Liberia Patterson moved to New York where he worked for a black law ...

Article

Jalane Schmidt

Born and raised in the San Francisco area, William L. Patterson attended local public schools and later abandoned studies in engineering at the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a J.D. at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. At Hastings Patterson began a lifelong involvement in political issues, protesting racism and arguing against African American participation in the “white man's” World War I. Earning his law degree in 1919, Patterson moved to New York City and established a legal practice in Harlem with two colleagues. His years in New York coincided with the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and Patterson developed relationships with Paul Robeson, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other prominent African American activists. He began to work increasingly with left-wing causes, and was active in the ultimately fruitless campaign to free Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti immigrant Italian anarchists ...

Article

In 1944, Doxey Alphonso Wilkerson published an essay in the anthology What the Negro Wants, drawing parallels between the struggle for African American civil rights and the Allied struggle in World War II. In addition to teaching at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. and Yeshiva ...

Article

Eric R. Jackson

community organizer, civil rights leader, Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) leader, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. His father, Joseph Winston, was a sawmill laborer and a steelworker, his mother, Lucille, was a domestic worker. After World War I ended, the Winston family moved from Hattiesburg to Kansas City, Missouri in hope of finding a better life. However, that was not the case. Because of the family's continuous economic hardships, young Henry had to drop out of high school to find a job.

While looking for employment Winston was drawn into and participated in several political campaigns and community activities sponsored by the local CPUSA chapter in Kansas City, which had been fighting for the full employment of African Americans in the city for many years as well as supporting the national and international organization's effort to free the “Scottsboro Boys The Scottsboro ...