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Sandra Opdycke

labor leader and Communist Party official, was born James William Foursche in Pratt City, Alabama, the son of Lyman Foursche, a steelworker, and Nancy Reynolds, a domestic. Not long after his birth the family began to use a new surname when a white policeman questioning his father insisted that “Foursche” was too difficult to spell and changed the name to Ford. The most traumatic experience of Ford's boyhood was the lynching of his grandfather, a Georgia railroad worker. Ford started work at thirteen, joining his father at the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, where he worked as a water boy, mechanic's helper, and then steam-hammer operator. Nevertheless, he managed to complete high school.

Entering Fisk University at the age of twenty, Ford excelled in his studies and in athletics, but when America entered World War I in 1917 he withdrew from college to serve in ...

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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 ...

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Brynley A. Lloyd-Bollard

union leader and Communist Party organizer, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, the first of two sons of Thomas Hudson and Laura Camella Smith, sharecroppers. After three years of a stormy marriage, Laura left Thomas and took their two children a few miles west to Oglethorpe County to live with her parents George and Julia Smith, her sister Georgia Mae, and her brother Ned.

Life in a poor sharecropping family in the Georgian Black Belt was difficult and several terrifying episodes left Hudson traumatized at an early age Not least of these occurred when a lynch mob of men on horseback came to Hudson s home one night and demanded the surrender of Uncle Ned who accused by one of the men of talking about his sister was being framed by a white employer who owed Ned money Luckily Hudson s grandmother was able to ...

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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 ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

American Communist Party activist, was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, the son of Rudolf Francis Huiswoud, a freed slave and tailor, and his wife, Jacqueline Hendrietta (Bernhard). After apprenticing as a printer and cabinet maker, Huiswould decided to seek a career at sea. Originally intending to travel to the Netherlands in pursuit of that goal, he instead disembarked in New York, entering the U.S. illegally in 1910 aged 17.

During the First World War Huiswoud joined the Harlem Socialist Party (SP) along with other “New Negro” radicals including Grace Campbell, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, Chandler Owen, A. Philip Randolph, and Richard B. Moore In general the American SP ignored the oppression of black people at worst supporting segregation and at best arguing that blacks were subject only to class and not race oppression However the Harlem branch uniquely among Socialists attempted to develop a Socialist program ...

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

Charles Rosenberg

forged a militant commitment to black liberation within a lifelong allegiance to the international socialist movement. In a 1980 interview, the only source of information on his childhood, Kilpatrick said he had been born in Colorado in 1898 to a Native American father (possibly of partly African descent) and a mother who had been enslaved in Kentucky. Information from his Ohio death certificate shows his birth around 1905. Kilpatrick consistently used the birth date of 28 February 1904 for travel by ship to and from Europe in the 1930s. The family moved to Cleveland when he was about six years old, where his father got work for McKerrigan McKinley Steel, which became part of Republic Steel. His father was a socialist and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which young Admiral joined in his teenage years.

He absorbed from his father and other black IWW ...

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

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

civil rights, peace, and social justice organizer, and writer, was born Hunter Pitts O'Dell on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. Jack's parents were George Edwin O'Dell and Emily (Pitts) O'Dell. His father was a hotel and restaurant worker in Detroit who later owned a restaurant in Miami, Florida. His mother had studied music at Howard University and became an adult education teacher, a classical and jazz pianist, and an organist for Bethel AME Church in Detroit. His grandfather, John H. O'Dell, was a janitor in the Detroit Public Library system and a member of the Nacirema Club, which was a club for prominent African American Detroiters. Jack O'Dell later took his grandfather's signature, “J.H. O'Dell” as his nom de plume when he became a writer.

Raised by his paternal grandparents O Dell grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the sit down ...