“A forthright stand”: Communists in the struggle for Black lives

BY:Tony Pecinovsky| August 10, 2020
“A forthright stand”: Communists in the struggle for Black lives


“The people who are afraid to raise their voices and take a forthright stand in the fight for civil rights are only creating a quicker opportunity to have their own heads chopped off.”
—W. Alphaeus Hunton, Daily Worker, October 6, 1949

These words were written 71 years ago by the African American scholar-activist W. Alphaeus Hunton. He was protesting the Smith Act indictments of the Communist Party, USA’s leadership, connecting this fight to the struggle for African American civil rights.

Though his writings are largely ignored today, among his contemporaries and friends—including W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson—Hunton was admired and loved, respected as a selfless intellectual and activist.

Hunton’s statement articulates a theme profound in its insight. He captured in succinct and precise language the need for unity in the struggle for civil rights. But he also alluded to the collective fate inflicted upon us all—Black, Native American, Asian, Latino, and white—if we fail to take a forthright stand in the struggle for Black lives.

Hunton, who joined the CPUSA in 1936, was a Howard University professor, leader of the National Negro Congress, and prolific writer. By 1943, he would—along with Robeson and Du Bois, among others—become a key leader of the Council on African Affairs, the domestic linchpin of the struggle against apartheid South Africa. With one eye on the domestic struggle for African American equality, and the other on the international aspects of Black liberation, Hunton’s insights are still significant today—for what they tell us about the CPUSA and the long struggle for Black lives. Indeed, Communists helped initiate the modern struggle for African American equality.

The CPUSA’s formative years

The Communist Party in its early years, like the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, initially viewed African American equality as simply an extension of the class struggle, devoid of special attributes or characteristics.

The earliest mention of what was then called the “Negro question” was in the Communist Party of America’s (CPA) founding program: “The racial oppression of the Negro is simply the expression of his economic bondage and oppression. . . . The Communist Party will carry on agitation among the Negro workers to unite them with all class-conscious workers.”

By 1921, this perspective had begun to change. The United Communist Party (UCP), founded after a merger of the Communist Labor Party (CLP) and the CPA, noted in its 1921 program and constitution that African Americans were “the most exploited people in America.” Our task, they added, was “to break down the barrier of race prejudice that separates and keeps apart the white and the Negro workers, and to bind them into a union of revolutionary forces for the overthrow of their common enemy.”

Shortly thereafter, this new emphasis, born of Lenin’s influence and approach to what is called the “national question,” began to take organizational form. Communists worked with numerous African American–led working-class organizations, including the African Blood Brotherhood and the American Labor Negro Congress, which sought to break down Jim Crow racism within AFL unions. Additionally, Black Communists such as Otto Huiswood, Cyril Briggs, and Lovett Fort-Whiteman, and those close to Communists such as Claude McKay, sought advice from the Communist International regarding the national/colonial question.

By 1925, special party schools had been established and literature was produced to improve the recruitment of African Americans; an organizer was sent into the Southern Black Belt; and a subcommittee of the CPUSA’s Central Executive Committee was created to oversee work in the Black community.

Communists also played a leading role in the Harlem Renaissance. Cotton Club dancer and CP organizer Howard “Stretch” John once remarked that “75 percent of Black cultural figures” during this time were either party members or “maintained regular meaningful contact” with the party. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, as William J. Maxwell argues in New Negro, Old Left: African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars, Johnson wasn’t wrong by much.

Langston Hughes, Louis Thompson, Paul Robeson, and Richard Wright were among the cohort of African American literary and cultural figures building alliances with Communists in the fight for equality. Many were not shy about being party members. McKay and Thompson, among others, helped shape the CPUSA’s approach.

The 1930s: Scottsboro and the Sharecroppers Union

Perhaps the most well-known campaign undertaken by the CPUSA and its allied organizations was the defense of the Scottsboro Nine.

In 1931, nine African American youth were unjustly accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama. After an all-white, all-male jury convicted and sentenced eight of the nine to death (the last defendant was given life in prison), the Communist-led International Labor Defense (ILD) stepped in with prominent lawyer William L. Patterson leading the defense.

As historian Tim Johnson notes, the CPUSA “put an international microscope on the lynching mentality and blatant racism prevalent in American society.” Domestically, Communists organized hundreds of thousands to protest the kangaroo-court racist conviction of the Nine. They organized speaking tours with the defendants’ mothers. They raised money for legal aid. They also reached out to the vast array of international contacts—through the world Communist movement—for support in publicizing the case.

Communists merged legal defense with mass political defense. They also merged the domestic fight for equality with internationalism, a hallmark of CPUSA activism throughout its 100-year history.

Additionally, Communists began organizing mostly Black southern sharecroppers. Sharecropping was another way for white landowners to tie the descendants of slaves to land. African Americans would plant and sow cotton, among other crops, and harvest it. Since they lived on the land they sowed, they were also forced to “share” the crop with the landowner in exchange for the use of the land. In addition, they were compelled to rent housing and purchase food from their landlord, who charged exorbitant prices, placing them in a permanent cycle of debt.

Communists challenged this racist pyramid scheme by organizing thousands into the Sharecroppers Union (SCU). Despite unprecedented political repression—SCU activists were murdered, assaulted, and jailed—by 1935 the group had grown to 12,000 dues-paying members. Several armed battles took place between the SCU and police, who were often also Klan members.

Ultimately, Communists saved the lives of the Scottsboro Nine, while the SCU forced a number of concessions from landowners, including the right to market and sell their own crops. Beyond the economic gains, the SCU and CPUSA also worked to break down Jim Crow segregation practices by organizing multi-racial meetings, rallies, and marches.

By 1937 the SCU would merge into the United Cannery Agricultural Packers and Allied Workers of America, a CIO union led by CPUSA member Donald Henderson.

The National Negro Congress and the Southern Negro Youth Congress

Born out of a 1935 Howard University meeting between prominent African American leaders, including the well-known communist James W. Ford and socialist A. Phillip Randolph, the National Negro Congress (NNC) reflected a “growing convergence of outlook between Communists and activist Black intellectuals.” At its founding convention in 1936, the NNC represented 551 organizations and over 3 million people.

According to Ford, the NNC “was conceived” as a “rallying center for the Negro people to fight off greater oppression.” It was an organizational center—a big tent—with the potential to align all “groupings among the Negro people” and their allies. According to African American party leader Claude Lightfoot, the CPUSA “threw all of its forces at the national and local levels” into building the NNC. Every Communist-led organization, from the Unemployed Councils to the International Labor Defense, helped build the NNC.

For example, Alphaeus Hunton chaired the Washington, D.C., chapter and the Labor Committee; another Black Communist, Doxey Wilkerson, chaired the Civic Affairs Committee. Hunton led the fight to “blast Jim Crow out of Washington,” by directly challenging police brutality and murder. “Washington sets the pattern of discrimination against the Negro people,” he wrote. Its laws “establish the nation’s unwritten laws by unofficial endorsement of, or passive indifference to practices of discrimination, segregation and brutal oppression.”

Hunton organized thousands to protest police brutality and murder in D.C. According to Erik S. Gellman in Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights, Hunton “played an essential behind-the-scenes role in the police brutality campaign.”

The NNC also helped build the multi-racial unions within the CIO. During this period, Black union membership increased from roughly 100,000 to 500,000. The NNC also helped found and build the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC), led by James E. Jackson, Esther Cooper, Edward Strong, and James Ashford. SNYC members went directly from their founding convention in Richmond, Virginia, in 1937 “to organizing local Black tobacco workers into a new union—the Tobacco Stemmers and Laborers Industrial Union,” a CIO affiliate of more than 5,000 mostly female tobacco stemmers. The union was led by CPUSA member Christopher Alston. After a three-day strike, employers conceded to union demands, invigorating other activists in the industrial union movement, which led to seven other factories signing new union contracts.

In 1947, the NNC would merge with the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), itself a merger of the ILD and the National Federation of Constitutional Liberties.

Communists and Black lives during World War II

It has been argued—inaccurately—that Communists put aside the struggle during World War II. When asked by Negro Digest if Communists had “quit the fight for Negro rights,” James W. Ford was indignant. He noted, not only had Communists not “quit the fight,” but “for a long time were pretty much alone in it.” Why did Communists take on this fight, he asked? Because “they are opposed to oppression of any people; because they have always understood that labor in the white skin cannot be free, nor can democracy be secure, as long as the Negro people are enthralled; because they know that the disfranchisement of the Negro is one of the pillars of reaction in the country, directed against labor and against the people and every progressive current. American democracy could not be healthy if it rested upon the oppression of a tenth of the population.”

During the war, Communists fought for equality within and outside the armed forces. African American party leader Henry Winston, in the 1941 pamphlet Old Jim Crow Has Got to Go!, challenged the “ruling circles of this country” on military segregation. To him, the ruling class “fear[s] the prospect of intermingling ‘colored and white military personnel in the same regimental organization.’” They dubiously claimed desegregation would “be ‘destructive to morale,’ or ‘detrimental to preparations for national defense.’” Winston took this notion to task. Their real fear, he wrote, “is that such intermingling may spill the beans,” that is, build comradery between Black and white soldiers. The “possibility of such intimate contact may well result in recognition of their common destiny,” a destiny directed “against imperialist oppression in general.” Winston was not an armchair revolutionary critiquing U.S. military policy safely from afar. He, as well as an estimated 15,000 other Communists, served in the armed forces during the war.

Another Communist, Thelma Dale, focused her attention on reconversion from wartime to peacetime production. In a fall 1945 Political Affairs article, she noted, “Whether the 13,000,000 Negroes in America will be able to realize the fruits of victory, for which they too fought, is a challenge to all Americans.” This challenge, she continued, “summons the Communists especially to the full exercise of their duty as vanguard in the struggle for Negro rights.” To her, the “victory over fascist racism and aggression” has not yet been “translated into terms of freedom and equality for Negro Americans.” Instead, she added, “reaction is lighting a fire of race hatred in America against the Negro people,” a fire with the potential to “destroy many of the important gains made by the entire working class.” She was an early advocate for “seniority modification,” now known as affirmative action, designed to break down historic disparities in job opportunities and challenge racist membership practices within many AFL unions. Additionally, to her and other Communists, the struggle for African American jobs during reconversion was central to beating back the post-war right-wing shift in national politics toward the Red Scare and Cold War.

Communists, such as Hunton and George Meyers, president of the Maryland-D.C. CIO, also led the fight against the “flagrant . . . denial of jobs to Negroes in certain defense industries.” In particular, they “spearheaded the fight for ‘all-out defense of democracy’ in the defense industry—right here at home,” at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft plant in Baltimore. Meyers led the campaign to unionize and integrate the plant, which employed 37,000 workers. Hunton led the fight outside the plant, through the NNC, to break down racist hiring practices, ultimately leading to the hiring of 7,000 African American workers.

Of course, Communists grappled with the nuances of fighting for equality while doing their utmost to help win the war against fascism. For example, CPUSA leader Robert Minor argued that Communists should direct the struggle for equality “against those measures of brutality, of the Jim Crow system, that prevent their [African Americans’] participation in the war effort.” In essence, some Communists constrained their advocacy more narrowly and were often at odds with Black labor leaders, such as A. Philip Randolph, who called for a march on Washington during the height of the war—something Communists then opposed.

As Maurice Isserman argues, the fight for equality never took a back seat in CPUSA-led CIO unions during the war, such as the National Maritime Union, partly led by Black Communist Ferdinand Smith, as well as the Transit Workers Union (TWU), led by the Communist Mike Quill. The party even denounced a white wildcat strike in Philadelphia in 1944; the strike was initiated by white workers who objected to the hiring of eight Black driver-trainers. The Communist-led TWU stuck with the African American workers, and the racist wildcat strike was defeated. As the decade neared an end, Communists continued to fight for equality while also adding to our understanding of the “triple” oppression of African American women.

“Triple” oppression: Black women and the Communists

Just as early discussions of the “Negro question” expanded and enlarged the struggle for African American equality, Claudia Jones’ formulation of “triple” oppression expanded and enlarged our understanding of the intersection of gender, race, and class. According to Jones, Black working-class women were triply exploited and oppressed under capitalism—as women, as African Americans, and as workers.

In her groundbreaking article “An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!,” Jones lifted up Black women’s contributions to the struggles for democracy, peace, civil rights, and economic security. She said that the “growth of militancy among Negro women has profound meaning” for both Black liberation and for peace. However, to fully appreciate this struggle—and move it to another, higher stage—we must “overcome the gross neglect of the special problems of Negro women.”

To Jones, this wasn’t simply altruism, it was also tactical. “The capitalists know,” she added, “far better than many progressives seem to know, that once Negro women undertake action, the militancy of the whole Negro people, and thus of the anti-imperialist coalition, is greatly enhanced,” a sentiment soon to come to fruition with the birth of the Black women Communist-led Sojourners for Truth and Justice.

She continued: “Viewed in this light it is not accidental that the American bourgeoisie has intensified its oppression, not only of the Negro people in general, but of Negro women in particular. Nothing so exposes the drive to fascization [sic] in the nation as the callous attitude which the bourgeoisie displays and cultivates toward Negro women.”

Jones’ dialectical understanding of “triple” oppression had a significant influence on the struggle for equality during the 1950s, the 1960s, and beyond.

Mid-century civil rights: The CRC, CAA, and STJ

It has been argued—again, inaccurately—that Communists became a marginal political force post-1956. Unfortunately, for “orthodox” historians, this oft-repeated claim simply does not square with the historical record.

It is accurate to say that the CPUSA was, indeed, weakened during the McCarthy era. The impact of the Smith and McCarran Acts, and the Red Scare generally, cannot and should not be underestimated. Nor can the party’s own damaging internal security measures, factionalism, and sectarianism, along with the Khrushchev revelations, be ignored. However, the claim that Communists became a marginal political force does not hold up to scrutiny.

It was during the height of—and in defiance of—the Red Scare that Communists embarked on one of their most ambitious endeavors to date: the publishing and dissemination of the historic Civil Rights Congress document We Charge Genocide: The Crime of the Government against the Negro People. The document, simultaneously released at UN headquarters in New York and Paris by Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson, respectively, not only embarrassed the U.S. internationally but also bolstered African American civil rights domestically. It invited “the international community to intervene forcefully in what had been seen traditionally as an internal U.S. affair,” as historian Gerald Horne notes.

Coupled with the CRC’s domestic fight against racist oppression, Jim Crow, and lynch law, was the Communist-led Council on African Affairs (CAA). Where the CRC fought for civil liberties and equality at home, the CAA fought to eliminate apartheid in South Africa. Led by Hunton, Robeson, and Du Bois, among others, the CAA was considered “the vanguard organization in the U.S. campaigning against colonialism.” It provided the connective tissue between African Americans fighting for equality and Africans fighting for liberation. According to Hunton, the CAA “stood alone as the one organization . . . devoting full-time attention to the problems and struggles of the people of Africa.” The CAA published numerous newsletters, such as New Africa and Spotlight on Africa, which were banned in South Africa, Kenya, and Belgian Congo. Like the CRC, the CAA was eventually placed on the U.S. Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations and forced to dissolve. Dr. Du Bois himself, at 83 years old, was handcuffed and jailed for refusing to register as a foreign principal, partly due to his work in the CAA.

These attacks notwithstanding, the CAA’s impact and legacy were embraced by civil rights organizations in the 1960s. As Horne notes, even those organizations connected to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “did not have the international ties of the CRC, nor the global reach of the CAA, which amounted to a net loss for African Americans and their allies.”

Sojourners for Truth and Justice (STJ) was another Communist-led initiative. STJ was a radical Black women’s human rights organization founded and led by prominent Communists such as Shirley Graham Du Bois, Esther Cooper Jackson, Claudia Jones, Lorraine Hansberry, Louise Thompson Patterson, and Beulah Richardson, among others. They advocated for a Black left feminism and intersectional politics that challenged post-war American racism, U.S. Cold War foreign policy, and anti-communism. Though short lived, STJ highlighted the ways in which Black mothers, wives, and sisters experienced violence, racism, and oppression within the U.S.

Communists didn’t just initiate and lead these organizations, they were also deeply involved in local civil rights battles, boycotts, and equal employment fights. For example, CP leader Hershel Walker helped found the St. Louis chapter of the National Negro Labor Council and worked with prominent trade union leaders such as William Sentner of the United Electrical workers. Other Communists, such as Lee Lorch, helped desegregate America’s public schools.

Communists in the 1960s: Fighting for Black lives in mass movements and party formations

Throughout the 1960s, Communists continued to champion the Black freedom movement—in the streets, workplaces, and campuses. Many Communists worked with and within mass civil rights organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party (BPP), while also building left-led formations such as the W. E. B. Du Bois Clubs.

For example, young Communist Debbie Bell attended SNCC’s founding convention and quickly became a leader in the organization. By 1963 she was working full-time for SNCC in Atlanta, where she would regularly dine with the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy. Cassie Davis (Lopez) also worked for SNCC, as did other young Communists. Later in the decade, after the founding of the Black Panther Party, Communists such as William L. Patterson provided legal and political advice to that organization. BPP meetings were often held at CPUSA members’ houses. Additionally, Communists Charlene Mitchell, Angela Davis, and Herbert Aptheker helped organize the Black Panther Party–sponsored National Conference for a United Front Against Fascism, attended by 4,000 people.

Additionally, Communists played an important role in the anti–Vietnam War peace movement through broad formations such as the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (informally known as New Mobe) and Student Mobe, often pointing out the endemic racism in the military draft. Communists also helped lead the defense of the Fort Hood Three, the first G.I.s who refused to deploy to Vietnam, and sparked the genesis of the G.I. anti-war movement. That two of the three were Communists served to illustrate a broad tactical approach to ending the war, a war that disproportionately affected people of color.

Communists did not just join with other groups, though. They also took their own initiatives—contrary to the dominant narrative. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Communists initiated student groups such as Advance and the Progressive Youth Organizing Committee, and later the W. E. B. Du Bois Clubs, and challenged racism within the predominantly white, middle-class student movement. In fact, Communists spoke with at least 100,000 youth and students on college and university campuses between 1961 and 1964, urging them to join the struggle for Black lives.

During this time, Communists such as Shirley Graham Du Bois and Esther Cooper Jackson also initiated, edited, and wrote for Freedomways, a quarterly journal of Black liberation that became an essential ideological tool for countless Black activists growing up during the 1960s civil rights era. It carried forward the Black radical tradition of Robeson’s Freedom newspaper. Other Black Communists, such as Richard Durham, became prominent radio personalities.

Additionally, in 1968 Communist Charlene Mitchell became the first African American woman to run for president of the United States. Mitchell specifically appealed to “my Black brothers and sisters to consider the alternative my party offers.” Mitchell and her vice presidential running mate Mike Zagarell went “everywhere, even the South . . . as symbols of the problems and the people in this country that the two major parties ignore—a Black woman representing the struggle against racism and for peace, and a draft-age man [Zagarell] representing the struggle of students and draft resisters.” In just a few short years Mitchell’s life would take another dramatic turn when her friend and comrade Angela Davis was arrested on trumped-up charges of murder, eventuating in a worldwide defense campaign, her acquittal, and the birth of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Communists, Black power

While Communists have never been advocates of armed revolution—as is often claimed by their detractors—they have consistently argued that the working class, especially racially and nationally oppressed peoples, have a right and a responsibility to defend themselves against racist violence. In light of the recent murder of George Floyd and the concomitant backlash against police brutality, spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement, Communist responses to demands for Black Power and self-defense in the late 1960s and early 1970s are relevant today.

To Communists unity is key, and the question of self-defense was just one side of a many-sided question, all which centers on a mass struggle for equality and against oppression and exploitation. In his Strategy for a Black Agenda, Party leader Henry Winston argued that while oppression “would first be unleashed against Black people, [it] would not end there.” Therefore, individual “militancy” wasn’t enough to stop racism and reaction. Winston continued, “armed self-defense” creates a “false choice diverting them [activists] from mass unity and struggle.” “It is clear that the people want to challenge the oppressor on the ground they choose, not on those chosen by their enemy. They want to engage the class enemy where he is most vulnerable . . . [in] the arena of mass struggle.” To Winston, the taking up of arms was a “defensive strategy,” an “idea of an elite few acting for the masses.” This concept excludes the people, primarily African Americans, “from their own liberation struggle.” Winston juxtaposed the “defensive strategy” of armed self-defense with the “offensive strategy” of mass movements offered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. The Montgomery bus boycott, the Poor People’s Campaign, and support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis are just a few examples. Additionally, Winston centered his analysis on the working class. “No fundamental change—or even a challenge to the monopolists—can occur without the working class,” he wrote. In short, to Winston, organizing and mobilizing a broad-based working-class movement, not armed self-defense, was key to Black liberation.

Communists and Black lives in the 1970s and 1980s

The frame-up, trial, and worldwide defense of Angela Davis is so well known as to not warrant an analysis here. However, less well known is what came afterward—the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR). In a December 1972 report to the party’s leadership, Charlene Mitchell outlined her experience as executive director of the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, the largest national defense organization in U.S. history. Like the ILD and CRC before, she noted, the Committee learned that “legal and mass defense of political prisoners is an inseparable entity; that you cannot free a political prisoner in the courtroom alone, and you cannot, without a good, political legal defense in the courtroom, make a mass defense.” She encouraged her comrades to “discuss the role our party can play” in forming a national defense organization—the genesis of which would come from the roughly 200 local Free Angela Davis Committees.

In May 1973, Mitchell became the founding executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Like the ILD and CRC, the NAARPR defended Black people and others from racist and political repression. The defense of JoAnn Little, Frank Chapman, along with Rev. Ben Chavis, and the Wilmington Ten, are just a few examples.

Like the CAA before, Communists also continued to campaign against racist barbarity in apartheid South Africa. Also founded in 1973, the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with African Liberation (NAIMSAL) helped spearhead the domestic divestment movement against apartheid. African American Communist Henry Winston, who was considered “the moving force” behind the organization, noted at NAIMSAL’s founding convention that though “we fight on two different fronts,” we fight “against a common enemy . . . U.S. monopoly, U.S. imperialism.”

Shortly thereafter, Tony Monteiro, considered the “youthful head of the movement” to expel South Africa from the United Nations, was speaking at the UN’s Special Commission on Apartheid. Like the NAARPR, NAIMSAL chapters popped up across the country and invited leaders of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party to speak out against the barbarity of apartheid in South Africa, often in defiance of the State Department.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Communists also fought the wave of steel and auto plant closures, which predominantly affected African American workers. The Wisconsin Steel Save Our Jobs Committee, led by Black Communist Frank Lumpkin, is but one example of this ongoing work. Communists also helped found and lead local chapters of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and fought for more Black representation in union leadership bodies.

Communists and Black lives today

The above is just a brief overview of the many ways in which Communists fought for Black lives throughout the CPUSA’s 100 year history. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Communists continued to fight for Black lives, and helped found and lead the Black Radical Congress, for example.

Today Communists are active in the Black Lives Matter movement through their unions, churches, community, and student groups, and as elected officials. After the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, Communists organized a week-long Marxist summer camp in Florida with activists from across the country. After the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 Communists were part of the wave of protesters tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets and percussion grenades, and arrested. Since then—most recently in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders—Communists have been among the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, who are challenging police brutality and murder, and calling for the defunding and democratizing of the police.

Communists will continue to fight for Black lives. From the Harlem Renaissance to the defense of the Scottsboro Nine; from the National Negro Congress to the Southern Negro Youth Congress; from the Civil Rights Congress and the Council on African Affairs, to Sojourners for Truth and Justice; from Freedom to Freedomways, and a wide array of other Black newspapers and publications; from the W. E. B. Du Bois Clubs and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with African Liberation, for 100 years now Communists have taken a “forthright stand” for Black lives.

Image: National Negro Congress protest demanding integration of the Glenn L. Martin aircraft factory outside Baltimore. Photo: Washington Area Spark, Creative Commons (BY-NC 2.0).




    Tony Pecinovsky is the author of Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA, and author/editor of Faith in the Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA. He has written for the St. Louis Labor Tribune, Political Affairs, Shelterforce, AlterNet, Z-Magazine, People’s World, and the journal American Communist History, among other publications. He is the president of the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country. He lives and works in St. Louis, MO.

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