In primary sources, unearthing the writings of African American Communists and the forgotten promise of radical politics
We Shall Be Free!
Black Communist Protests in Seven Voices
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Walter T. Howard
A groundbreaking contribution to scholarship of the African American Left, We Shall Be Free! gives voice to black Communists and recognizes the intellectual contributions found in their protest writings. Walter Howard provides a fascinating documentary history of seven diverse and historically significant black Communists—B. D. Amis, Harry Haywood, James W. Ford, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., Louise Thompson Patterson, William Patterson, and Claudia Jones—who attempted to foster a black culture of resistance to white racism within the workings of the Communist Party.
Howard draws on FBI files, Moscow documents, and the records of the U.S. Communist Party. He surveys these black Communists addressing a wide range of vital issues such as the Great Depression, World War II, genocide and the Cold War.
We Shall Be Free! presents an important section of the African American community whose thought has been minimized, discounted, or overlooked altogether by the historical profession in general.
"In Howard's book we see - over time - the evolution of the party's approach, its strategy and tactics, as it experimented with different organizational forms in its efforts to recruit African Americans and to build the black liberation and African American equality movements. This is probably one of the most important aspects of this collection of voices.... We Shall Be Free! is an important contribution to African American and Communist history."
"Howard’s important collection of writing by black Communists bridges two exciting developments in scholarship to which Howard has been a long-time contributor.... We Shall Be Free! is an invaluable contribution.... It helps lift the shadow, especially over figures like [Claudia] Jones, Louise Patterson, and B. D. Amis, without whom the complete story of the U.S. left and black twentieth century history cannot be told. Casting more light onto the archive of black communist voices is essential to this task."
Preface and Acknowledgments
Walter T. Howard (1951-2015) was Professor of American History at Bloomsburg University in northeastern Pennsylvania. He was the editor of B.D. Amis, African American Radical: A Short Anthology of His Writings and Speeches and the author of Lynchings: Extralegal Violence in Florida during the 1930s as well as Black Communists Speak on Scottsboro: A Documentary History.