African Americans and the Communist Party

BY:Communist Party USA| February 12, 2018
African Americans and the Communist Party

The webinar can be registered for here.

From its beginnings in the early years of the 20th century, the Communist Party USA was the only political movement emphasizing racial justice for African Americans, and many in the Black community reciprocated in their support for the Party.

While fighting for full equality throughout the country, communists fought segregation both North and South, championed full union rights for African Ameriicans and won wide recognition for supporting the Scottsboro defendants and Angelo Herdon. In the course of these struggles, leaders like James Ford, Benjamin J.Davis, Claudia Jones, William and Louise Patterson, James and Esther Jackson, Henry Winston, and scores of others emerged to help lead the party and the broader struggle for civil and economic rights with the goal of socialism.

McCarthyism affected but did not daunt the party’s social justice work. Communists saw the struggle for equality as central to social progress. During this period and after, figures like Richard Wright, WEB Du Bois, Shirley Graham, Claude Lightfoot and later Charlene Mitchell and Angela Davis maintained the party’s profile through the turbulent struggle of the civil rights and anti-war movements. While changed circumstances led to changed affiliations for figures like the Jacksons, Davis, and Mitchell, a shared Marxist outlook resulted in ongoing relations and work. These issues and personalities will be the subject of an upcoming Black History Month webinar led by Jarvis Tyner, a former executive vice chairman, and current member of the party’s National Committee.

Recognition of the relevance of Marxism for Black liberation, and of the absolute necessity of Black-white unity, continues through the present as the Party prepares to celebrate its 100th year. The leadership role of African Americans in the CPUSA is a major feature throughout its history. This presentation covers a few highlights of the rich history of Black leadership in the Communist Party USA.

Facilitator: Jarvis Tyner

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

8 PM eastern; 7 PM central; 5 PM pacific

Register NOW.

Image: WEB Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Claudia Jones

Image: Henry Winston, Angela Davis and Oliver Tambo.


    The Communist Party USA is a working class organization founded in 1919 in Chicago, IL.

    The Communist Party stands for the interests of the American working class and the American people. It stands for our interests in both the present and the future. Solidarity with workers of other countries is also part of our work. We work in coalition with the labor movement, the peace movement, the student movement, organizations fighting for equality and social justice, the environmental movement, immigrants rights groups and the health care for all campaign.

    But to win a better life for working families, we believe that we must go further. We believe that the American people can replace capitalism with a system that puts people before profit — socialism.

    We are rooted in our country's revolutionary history and its struggles for democracy. We call for "Bill of Rights" socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms.

Comments (7)

Christian Simonetti | May 10, 2018 at 6:31 PM

Angela Davis, Charlene Mitchell and other important African-American members of the CPUSA were driven from the CPUSA for advocating for reform and democracy within the party. How does that constitute “changed circumstances?”

    Joe Sims | May 11, 2018 at 12:10 PM

    Comrades Angela Davis and Charlene Mitchell were not driven from the party. They took a decision to leave after a very difficult factional struggle prompted in large part but not entirely by reactions to the crisis in USSR and Eastern Europe. It’s true that Davis and Mitchell campaigned for greater democracy and in hindsight more could and should have been done to meet those demands. But it’s also true that there were other issues at stake, including the role and nature of the party itself, including the relative balance between the class and democratic struggle and other issues. We concluded long ago that not everything they said was wrong and nor was everything that the majority did was right. The fracturing of the party however was not primarily along racial lines – although it did involve significant numbers of people of color on both sides, tragically. We have not forgotten the lessons from those days and are guided by them to this day. Speaking of which we currently enjoy good relations with both comrades Davis and Mitchell as both have spoken to. Let’s unite to defeat the Trump right!

Carl Davidson | February 15, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Had a conflict…Was the discussion recorded?

    Scott Hiley | February 16, 2018 at 1:45 PM

    If you registered for the class, you should receive a recording, even if you weren’t able to attend.

jules | February 14, 2018 at 3:59 AM

Certainly, appreciated the presentation tonighte by Jarvis Tyner….We owe so much to those who came before us.
So good to hear the recognition bestowed upon the brave Black C.P volunteers who went to Spain in 1938 fighting against Fascism.
Today The Abraham Lincoln Brigade is still fighting, by exposing the growing wave of horrid Fascism in Europe and here in America.
Check out the group known as ALBA

Nancy Droll | February 14, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Definitely send me the link to watch. I cannot attend in person. Thank you so much.

Carl Davidson | February 13, 2018 at 6:14 PM

Isn’t it time to give some recognition to Harry Hayword? Not a minor figure in certain periods.

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