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A Red Family

A Red Family: Junius, Gladys, and Barbara Scales

Mickey Friedman
with an Afterword by Barbara Scales
Historical Essay by Gail Williams O’Brien
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcqd8
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  • Book Info
    A Red Family
    Book Description:

    One of the few publicly known communists in the South, Junius Scales organized textile workers, fought segregation, and was the only American to be imprisoned under the membership clause of the Smith Act during the McCarthy years. This compact collective memoir, built on three interconnected oral histories and including a historical essay by Gail O'Brien, covers Scales's organizing activities and work against racism in the South, his progressive disillusionment with Party bureaucracy and dogmatic rigidity, his persecution and imprisonment, as well as his family's radicalism and response to FBI hounding and blacklisting._x000B__x000B_Through the distinct perspectives of Junius, his wife Gladys, and his daughter Barbara, this book deepens and personalizes the story of American radicalism. Conversational, intimate, and exceptionally accessible, A Red Family offers a unique look at the American communist experience from the inside out._x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09131-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE:
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Mickey Friedman
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. one Junius
    (pp. 1-12)

    Off and on for close to eighteen years I was a Communist Party leader from the South. I came from a very distinguished southern family which had been in Virginia and then North Carolina since 1623. My paternal grandfather was a big slaveholder, and my father was born in 1870. He became a lawyer, politician, and real-estate developer and was fabulously wealthy. By the time I was born in 1920, he was many times a millionaire, so I grew up pretty much in the lap of luxury. We lived in a thirty-six-room house on a lake on a marvelous wilderness...

  6. two Gladys
    (pp. 13-19)

    I was born on September 23, 1923, on East Seventh Street in Brooklyn in a two-story house. I remember how my mother used to call across to the neighbor on the other side, “Mrs. Garfinkel, would you please throw over a loaf of bread?” They’d have conversations and pass supplies back and forth. My grandfather lived with us there, too.

    My childhood really was very quiet, passive, and unhappy. I didn’t have many friends, and all I can recall about my sister and brother was that they teased me all the time. I had great big brown eyes and a...

  7. three Junius
    (pp. 20-35)

    Joining the Party was a big step. I’d been thinking about it and reading a great deal of stuff. I can remember talking to one of the leading student Party theoreticians; we had gotten to be pretty good friends, and I argued him up a wall. After I made all of my points, I said, “I don’t believe in just joining something. I think I’d rather go my own way. And that’s why I’m never going to join your party,” I finished.

    I thought about it more and more and said to myself, “Well, if you can’t go your own...

  8. four Gladys
    (pp. 36-40)

    If anything, I think that one of the problems with us at that time was that we were too selfless. To think about yourself and your own needs was almost looked down upon. It was selfish. It was disloyal to think about yourself before you thought about what was good for everybody. The young kids today have much more a feeling of themselves as individuals, and I think you have to start with that. You’ve got to know something about yourself before you can go anywhere.

    There was no looking into yourself, no trying to deal with your inner feelings....

  9. five Junius
    (pp. 41-57)

    As antimilitarist as I was—I was almost a pacifist—when Pearl Harbor came and I saw the advance of fascism, I immediately figured I would defend the bad against the worst. I discussed it with the Party and my wife, and I volunteered. I spent four years in the army, and my left-wing background followed me everywhere I went.

    It seemed like I was at war with the United States as well as the Nazis, because I was victimized from the second month of my enlistment until the end of the war. For the first eighteen months, I was...

  10. six Gladys
    (pp. 58-67)

    One day, my friend Bobby said, “Come on, Gladys, let’s go up to Camp Unity for a weekend. Let’s see what it’s like.” He was looking for a girl, and I suppose I was looking for a boy. The second night we were there, this young man and woman came to our table. They didn’t say a word to each other, and I thought for sure they were married. He was awfully cute. She got up and left, and it was obvious then that he had nothing to do with her. Bobby started talking to him. And we just sort...

  11. seven Junius
    (pp. 68-75)

    Gladys and I were married in February 1950 and lived in Carrboro. My neighbors across the street and about two city blocks away had FBI agents living in their houses. There they’d be with binoculars watching everybody that came to the house. I used cabs a lot because I didn’t want to get too many people’s cars involved. We’d drive off, and before the cab could get two blocks, there’d be three or four carloads of FBI agents behind it. We’d drive around like a funeral procession. Often the cab drivers were in on it with the FBI. But friends...

  12. eight Gladys
    (pp. 76-82)

    If I thought the Carrboro house was a castle, the little three-and-a-half-room apartment that we had on Anderson Avenue in the Bronx was absolutely palatial. There was hot and cold running water and heat all the time. And we were together. Barbara was three now, and we had been separated from Junie for almost two and a half years. Of course, we were still living underground and had to be very careful. We couldn’t see our friends and my family.

    Barbara and Grandma slept in the bedroom, and Junie and I had a pullout bed in the living room. And...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. nine Junius
    (pp. 83-91)

    I was arrested in November of’ 54, and I guess I was in jail, first in Memphis, and then in Winston-Salem for a couple of months. They set a one-hundred-thousand-dollar bail, and it took between six weeks and two months to get that reduced. There’s always a very disturbed atmosphere in jail, and the penitentiary is a bit more relaxed. A week in jail is like a month in the penitentiary. I managed to get out just in time for Christmas.

    The Smith Act, under which I was arrested, was passed in 1940, and it had two clauses. One was...

  15. ten Barbara
    (pp. 92-105)

    I’ve been raised in a different way, raised with different principles than most people in this country. And because of that—even before I knew what it was to speak out—for some reason I’ve always felt that I’ve had something to say to the people of the United States, that I know something they don’t know. I’ve been in contact with people who live by principles which enable them to survive, I think, in a much healthier, more productive, and much more gratifying way than most people of their background.

    And I’ve always wanted to know what really happened,...

  16. eleven Gladys
    (pp. 106-109)

    The penitentiary years have a different quality. Of course, it was painful, but there was nothing as painful as that initial hearing, knowing that it was all over and that there was no more hope.

    When he was in the penitentiary I knew I would see him once a month, and I looked forward to those visits, and wrote as often as I was permitted. And he wrote to me. It was a time of walking around in your sleep, thinking, Is this ever going to end? Visiting him was very difficult, but he was just wonderful.

    He knew how...

  17. twelve Barbara
    (pp. 110-113)

    We all had our jobs to do, to make up for the loss of a member of the family. Something unjust was being done to him, and we had to compensate for it, and, almost in service to Daddy, we tried to get along and not fight.

    For the first two weeks, my father was held at West Street, a federal detention area in New York, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. My mother saw him and would come back and tell us how she thought he was. It was much harder on her than it was on me,...

  18. thirteen Junius
    (pp. 114-117)

    Gladys and Barbara used to come visit me in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. She was ten and eleven while I was there, and I’m not sure what kind of effect it had on her. It wasn’t until I went to jail that she even knew I was a Communist.

    The people in the neighborhood were very nice to her. And at Public School 125 she won the citizenship award. All my friends were wonderful, and every month somebody would drive them all the way to Lewisburg and back. They were wonderfully protective.

    I had an indefatigable committee that raised money and...

  19. fourteen Gladys
    (pp. 118-118)

    My sister, through one of her friends close to the Justice Department, got advance news that Junie was going to be released. It seemed incredible. This was the time of the newspaper strike in New York City, so Kennedy didn’t get too much publicity. The official word came, and he was put on a bus, and we got him Christmas Eve. Junie’s step-grandmother was with us for the holidays, our friends came over, and though I was still in rough shape with the pneumonia, that was quite a time. That was a happy Christmas.

    I know because of the involvement...

  20. fifteen Barbara
    (pp. 119-121)

    I was eleven years old when my father got out of jail. It was Christmas Eve, and he called up my mother from Lewisburg and said, “I’m coming home.” So I had to run outside and get him Christmas presents. I think I had to borrow money from my mother. I went down to the bus, and he was home. I remember being very happy, and everybody else was there, too, and everybody was happy and hugging and kissing. We went home and had a big Christmas and then disappeared for a while.

    Then, for a long time, I had...

  21. sixteen Junius
    (pp. 122-127)

    Shortly after I got out, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide address on TV about James Meredith, the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi, and all the riots and violence that were going on down there. President Kennedy started off the speech by saying he wanted to thank all those who had fought for so many years to break down segregation in the schools, and he went on and on, and it sounded to me like he was singling out our North Carolina Communist Party. I can’t quote the speech accurately, but I think he said the nation...

  22. seventeen Gladys
    (pp. 128-131)

    At this time in our lives, it seems like I’m the one who’s the activist, and whether Barbara will move in that direction remains to be seen. I don’t know.

    As for me, well, as so many people of my age seem to be withdrawing from life, I seem to be going in the opposite direction. I have this wild crazy drive that I simply can’t repress: I’m going to try to change something through my work. I try to do it through everybody I come in contact with in schools. That’s why I’m teaching this course at Bank Street,...

  23. eighteen Barbara
    (pp. 132-140)

    All through high school I was always aware how I was going back, rediscovering my own experiences, and realizing how my own experiences were vastly different from those of most people. I never doubted their validity, never questioned them. When I got to college, and found myself in Canada, where people didn’t know from such things, I became almost bitter.

    I wanted a vacation. I wanted a vacation from political people, from the United States, from the Vietnam War, from the construction workers who attacked the protestors, and from the student Left. It didn’t make any sense to me. It...

  24. AFTERWORD:
    (pp. 141-158)
    Barbara Scales

    There is a flood story in the Greco-Roman tradition, a story told by Ovid in his magnificent work of the ongoing making and transformation of the universe,Metamorphoses.

    This is a story that has always reminded me of my parents. It tells of a flood brought about by the gods to banish “monstrous mankind” from the earth. At the end of the flooding, as the waters recede around Mount Parnassus, Deucalion and Pyrrha moor their skiff:

    There lived no better nor more upright man,

    No wife more reverential than his own.¹

    When the waters recede, revealing a desolate and barren...

  25. A HISTORICAL ESSAY:
    (pp. 159-178)
    Gail Williams O’Brien

    In the oral history you have just read, you got to know Junius Irving Scales, his wife Gladys, and their daughter Barbara as people with hopes and dreams, successes and struggles. The goal of this essay is to sketch out the larger American and southern context in which their lives unfolded and to which they contributed.

    Junius Scales was born on March 19, 1920, and he cemented his relationship with the American Communist Party (CPUSA) in the summer of 1939 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Located in the northern North Carolina piedmont, Greensboro considered itself a progressive city, and in some...

  26. NOTES
    (pp. 179-182)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-186)