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A Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle

A Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle: The Life of Harry Haywood

Harry Haywood
EDITED BY GWENDOLYN MIDLO HALL
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsdg5
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  • Book Info
    A Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle
    Book Description:

    Mustering out of the U.S. army in 1919, Harry Haywood found himself in the middle of one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history—a battle that lasted the rest of his life. This book is Haywood’s eloquent account of coming of age as a black man in twentieth-century America and of his political awakening in the Communist Party.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8031-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    Gwendolyn Midlo Hall

    These stories from the autobiography of Harry Haywood can give you confidence that you can help make a better world. His life and his battles for African American freedom and for justice for the poor and disempowered throughout the world need to be better known. This beautifully written book is a remarkable document of his times. That said, I chose to edit to this condensed version of his original seven-hundred-page book to make it easier to read and easier for a new generation to understand his life, what he achieved for humanity, and the example he set. I cut much...

  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxv-2)
  5. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 3-6)

    On July 28, 1919, I literally stepped into a battle that was to last the rest of my life. Exactly three months after mustering out of the army, I found myself in the midst of one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history. It was certainly a most dramatic return to the realities of American democracy.

    It came to me then that I had been fighting the wrong war. The Germans weren’t the enemy—the enemy was right here at home. These ideas had been developing ever since I landed home in April, and a lot of other Black...

  6. 1 A CHILD OF SLAVES
    (pp. 7-32)

    I was born in South Omaha, Nebraska, on February 4, 1898—the youngest of the three children of Harriet and Haywood Hall. Otto, my older brother, was born in May 1891, and Eppa, my sister, in December 1896.

    The 1890s had been a decade of far-reaching structural change in the economic and political life of the United States. These were fateful years in which the pattern of twentieth-century subjugation of Blacks was set. A young U.S. imperialism was ready in 1898 to shoulder its share of the “white man’s burden” and take its “manifest destiny” beyond the Pacific Coast and...

  7. 2 A BLACK REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR I
    (pp. 33-47)

    Despite my bitter encounter with racism in school, I liked Minneapolis. I was impressed by the beauty of this city, with its many lakes and surrounding pine forests. The racial climate in 1913 was not as bad as my early experience in school would indicate, either. Blacks seemed to get along well, especially with the Scandinavian nationalities, who constituted the most numerous ethnic grouping in the city.

    Upon quitting school, I became a part of the small Black community and completely identified with it. I found friends among Black boys and girls of my age group; attended parties, dances, and...

  8. 3 ON TO FRANCE
    (pp. 48-70)

    We sailed for France in early April 1918, on the old USSWashington, a passenger liner converted into a troop ship. I have crossed the Atlantic many times since, but I can truthfully say that I have never experienced rougher seas. Our three ships sailed out of Newport News without escort. Of course, we were worried; there were rumors of German submarines. Our anxiety was relieved when in mid-ocean we picked up two escort vessels, one of which was the battle cruiserCovington. When we reached the war zone, about three days out of Brest, France, a dozen destroyers took...

  9. 4 SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
    (pp. 71-102)

    Back home in Chicago, I was soon working again as a waiter on the Michigan Central Railroad. As I have already mentioned, the first day of the bloody Chicago Race Riot ( July 28, 1919) came while I was working on the Wolverine run up through Michigan. When I arrived home from work that afternoon, the whole family greeted me emotionally. We were all there except for Otto. The disagreements I had had with my father in the past were forgotten. Both my mother and my sister were weeping. Everyone was keyed up and had been worrying about my safety...

  10. 5 AN ORGANIZATION OF REVOLUTIONARIES
    (pp. 103-120)

    Otto was pleased when I first told him of my desire to join the party in the summer of 1922. He said that he had known I had been ready to join for some time, but he suggested I should wait a while before joining. When I asked why, he told me about an unpleasant situation that had arisen in the party’s Southside branch.

    Most of the few Black members were concentrated in this English-speaking branch, but it seemed that a number of recent Black recruits had dropped out. They resented the paternalistic attitude displayed toward them by some of...

  11. 6 A STUDENT IN MOSCOW
    (pp. 121-137)

    Otto’s delegation of Black students to the Soviet Union caused quite a stir in the States. The FBI kept an eye on their activities, and in the late summer of 1925, their departure was sensationalized in theNew York Times.¹ The article attributed a statement to Lovett Fort-Whiteman to the effect that he had sent ten Blacks to the Soviet Union to study bolshevism and prepare for careers in the Communist “diplomatic service.” The article concluded with a statement calling for action against such “subversive activity.”

    At the time, we all felt that any Black applying for a passport would...

  12. 7 SELF-DETERMINATION: THE FIGHT FOR A CORRECT LINE
    (pp. 138-159)

    Toward the end of 1927, N. Nasanov returned to the Soviet Union after a sojourn in the United States as the representative of the Young Communist International. I had known him briefly in the States before my departure for Russia. Nasanov was one of a group of YCI workers who had been sent on missions to several countries. He had considerable experience with respect to the national and colonial question and was considered an expert on these matters.

    Nasanov’s observations had convinced him that U.S. Blacks were essentially an oppressed nation whose struggle for equality would ultimately take an autonomous...

  13. 8 RETURN TO THE HOME FRONT: WHITE CHAUVINISM UNDER FIRE
    (pp. 160-176)

    I arrived in New York in early November 1930. After four and a half years in the Soviet Union, everything seemed quite strange. While passing through customs, I lit up a cigarette. A cop snarled at me out of the corner of his mouth, “No smoking here, fella.” I was so startled by his rude tone that the cigarette dropped from my lips.

    Out in the street I caught a taxi to the national office of the party, which was then located on East 125th Street in Harlem. I looked at the people along the way. Despair seemed written on...

  14. 9 REUNION IN MOSCOW
    (pp. 177-188)

    I returned to New York from the miners’ strike in September 1931. Shortly thereafter, I was co-opted to the Central Committee with the privilege of sitting in on meetings of the Politburo. B. D. Amis, the former head of the Negro Department, was sent to Ohio, and I was named to fill his position. In my new job, a large part of my time was devoted to the Scottsboro campaign, which was a major effort of the party in the Black liberation struggle.

    It is difficult to fully assess the tremendous impact Scottsboro had on the party’s political development in...

  15. 10 SHARECROPPERS WITH GUNS: ORGANIZING THE BLACK BELT
    (pp. 189-210)

    In the spring of 1933, Haywood Patterson of the Scottsboro Boys was declared guilty by a court in Decatur, Alabama. Following his conviction, a wave of indignation swept Black communities across the country. Mass protest rallies, demonstrations of all sorts, and parades culminated in the Free the Scottsboro Boys March on Washington on May 7–9, 1933.

    The right danger took concrete form when the ILD leadership allowed themselves to be suckered into an agreement with the NAACP leadership. These leaders made overtures to the ILD, offering to help raise funds for the mounting legal defense expenses and particularly for...

  16. 11 CHICAGO: AGAINST WAR AND FASCISM
    (pp. 211-227)

    Back in New York, I began to take stock of myself as a party leader. I had risen rapidly in the party hierarchy during the four years since my return from the Soviet Union. I was now a member of the Politburo and head of the National Negro Department. Despite the importance of my post, I was dissatisfied with my own personal development. True, I was regarded as a promising young theoretician. But I felt a lack of experience in direct mass work.

    Although the general orientation of the Negro Commission was toward promoting mass activities in the field of...

  17. 12 THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR: A CALL TO ARMS
    (pp. 228-247)

    Why did I go to Spain?

    For me, as a Communist, Spain was the next logical step. Franco’s rebellion in mid-1936 sparked a civil war that became a focal point of the worldwide struggle to halt fascism and prevent World War II. The generals’ rebellion against the Spanish people’s front government was backed by Hitler and Mussolini, who poured in troops, tanks, planes, and supplies in an attempt to topple the progressive Republican government.

    The Spanish Civil War was a part of the worldwide drive for fascism. Spain had become the next item on their agenda, after north China and...

  18. 13 WORLD WAR II AND THE MERCHANT MARINES
    (pp. 248-270)

    In October 1939, a few weeks after the fascist conquest of Poland, I found myself in the Veterans’ Hospital at Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx. I had suffered a serious heart attack. My condition was found to be service connected, the result of the endocarditis I had suffered while in the army during the First World War. This time the diagnosis was valvular heart disease. I was awarded full compensation, one hundred dollars per month, by the Veterans Administration. After three months’ recuperation, I was released from the hospital and advised to take a long rest. Thinking that I might...

  19. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 271-284)

    By the late fifties, those of us who had defended the revolutionary position on Black liberation had been driven from the CP—either expelled or forced to resign. The party’s leaders insisted that Blacks were well on the way to being assimilated into the old reliable American “melting pot.”

    But the melting pot suddenly exploded in their faces. In the sixties, the Black revolt surged up from the Deep South and quickly spread its fury across the entire country. Advancing wave upon wave—with sit-ins, freedom marches, wildcat strikes, and, finally, hundreds of spontaneous insurrections—the Black masses announced to...

  20. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 285-286)
  21. NOTES
    (pp. 287-300)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 301-325)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)