Starting in the beginning of the 20th Century, Communist leaders sought to establish an African American Communist controlled Republic in the American South. The plot failed, but their efforts ultimately led to the success of the civil rights movement.
Unbeknownst to most Black men and women today, Communist ideals were already a major part of Black thought before Moscow’s direct intervention. In 1919 the African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption (ABB) was a radical U.S. Black liberation organization established in 1919 in New York City by journalist Cyril Briggs.
Some speculate that this organization is the real origins of the Blood Gang.
The group’s red banners and socialist orientation caught the attention of the fledgling American communist movement and soon evolved into a propaganda arm of the Communist Party of America.
In the early 1920s, Pan-Africanist and Marcus Garvey contemporary George Padmore joined the Communist Party and quickly rose in its ranks.
As head of the Negro Bureau of the Communist Trade Union International, Padmore organized an elaborate network of thousands of anti-colonial militants throughout the Caribbean and Africa during the Great Depression.
In 1931, Padmore wrote The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers, which championed the cause of Black labor throughout the world – a message that aligned with Communist philosophy.
Building An African American Republic
With help from men like Cyril Briggs, Marcus Garvey, and George Padmore, Communist leaders began to develop a stable base of African American support.
Thus, a resolution was passed in Moscow that called for the creation of a “Negro republic” among America’s southern states. Together, Black Americans and Communists would occupy the United States, reconstituting the new Black republic as a Soviet sister state.
The Communist strategy for African Americans focused on three issues: high Black unemployment, basic civil rights, and America’s injustice towards Black men and women.
To highlight their case and America’s hypocrisy, the Communist Party made the Scottsboro Incident of 1931 international news. In the case, nine Black teenage boys were convicted of raping a white woman in Alabama.
The case included a frame up, an all-white jury, rushed trials, an attempted lynching, and a total miscarriage of justice. (Douglas O. Linder, “Without Fear or Favor: Judge James Edwin Horton and the Trial of the ‘Scottsville Boys’ “, Vol. 68 UMKC Law Review 549, 550)
Black workers responded with outrage and enthusiastically closed ranks with the Communist Party. Within months, the Party had 700 dues paying members in the South, and began to influence other auxiliary organizations like the International Labor Defense, the Sharecroppers Union, and the Southern Negro Youth Congress.
All told, the Communist Party touched the lives of over 20,000 Black Southerners.
In July 1930 the Southern Worker, a Communist underground paper was created to agitate and mobilize African-Americans to separate from the rest of America, while also promoting civil rights and justice from within the American system.
Federal authorities were not happy; pressure was brought down to bear on anyone caught reading the Southern Worker, attending Communist rallies, or promoting Marxist ideas. Black informants (as usual) were also used to penetrate local Communist chapters and pass information on to authorities.
Evolution Into the Civil Rights Movement
Despite government efforts, the African American Communist Party continued to grow and eventually took on a life of its own. Black Organizations continued to promote the ideals of true equality, civil rights, and separation from racist, capitalist American imperialism.
SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael is quoted as saying “Capitalism is a stupid system, a backward system” and embraced the creation of a separate Communist state.
Its also worth mentioning that two of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s SCLC leaders had also been members of the Communist Party – Stanley Levison and Jack O’Dell.
Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party espoused socialist and Communist doctrines, and used the same tools that Russian and Chinese Communists used to promote their cause.
Art was an important means of propaganda, and images like those created by artist Emory Douglas became visual representations of African socialist and communist thought.
Malcolm X was also heavily influenced by Communist ideas. When interviewed for The National Guardian in 1964, he was asked by a British reporter whether he would accept communist support :
“…It’s like being in a wolf’s den. The wolf sees someone on the outside who is interested in freeing me from the den. The wolf doesn’t like that person on the outside. But I don’t care who opens the door and lets me out.”
In an interview with The Young Socialist, Malcolm said:
“it is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood out of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.”
Indeed, Communism and Socialism have always been aligned with indigenous values.
Since the late 19th Century, countries like Angola, Benin,Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Mozambique also participated in the Communist experiment, and mighty Russia or China would have never unified or achieved success without the collective principles of Communism.
Unlike capitalist corporatocracy, where democracy is purchased by and for the interests of large corporations and banks, Communism stresses the common ownership of resources and a classless society.
Questions for Critical Thinking
How do the principles of communism differ from those of democracy?
Why did America fight so hard to prevent the spread of communism?
Is America a true democracy?
What would have been the result had the plot to create an African American republic succeeded?
Would the world’s first African American republic have fared better than other African republics like Liberia of Haiti?
Can there ever be the possibility of an African American republic? Is one even needed?
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