Sojourners for Truth and Justice

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Sojourners for Truth and Justice was a radical civil rights organization led by African American women from 1951 to 1952.[1] It was led by activists such as Louise Thompson Patterson, Shirley Graham Du Bois and Charlotta Bass.

Louise Thompson Patterson in Berlin, 1960.

Origins[edit]

In 1951, a group of 14 African American women leaders issued "a call to Negro women to convene in Washington, D.C. for a Sojourn for Truth and Justice" to protest government attacks on sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor W. E. B. Du Bois.[2] In less than two weeks, more than 132 women from 14 states responded to the call.[2]

The Sojourners for Truth and Justice held their inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C. from September 29 - October 1, 1951.[3] The 1951 founding of the group was inspired by a 1950 poem written by Beah Richards, "A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood, of White Supremacy, of Peace."[4]

Portrait of Charlotta Bass, Providence. ca 1901-1910



Washington D.C.

Trans-national activism[edit]

Invoking the tradition of radical black women like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, Sojourners for Truth and Justice mobilized "black women against Jim Crow and U.S. Cold War domestic and foreign policy".[1] The only group on the Communist Left led by African-American women, Sojourners for Truth and Justice's members included newspaper editor Charlotta Bass, Angie Dickerson and Shirley Graham Du Bois, activist Dorothy Hunton, Louise Thompson Patterson, the young poet and actor Beulah Richardson, and writer Eslanda Goode Robeson.

Domestic activism[edit]

In addition to their defense of prominent Black Left intellectuals and activists such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Claudia Jones, Sojourners for Truth and Justice organized to free Rosa Lee Ingram, the widowed mother of 12 who was sentenced to death for shooting a white man who had attempted to rape her.[5] They also organized in support of W. Alpheaus Hunton, executive director of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and editor of the CAA's publication, New Africa, who had been imprisoned for his affiliations with the Communist Left.[6] and Paul Robeson whose passport had been confiscated by the Justice Department in 1950.[1]

Connections to USSR[edit]

Soviet Union coat of arms.

Sojourners for Truth and Justice provides us with deep insight on the impact that black Communist women had on leftist leading movements throughout the early 1950s.[7] "Erik S. McDuffie an Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)", mentions how the Sojourners for Truth and Justice garnered political ties towards the Communist party in Russia.

Legacy[edit]

Sojourners for Truth and Justice existed for a year and helped to articulate a Black Left Feminism that, in historian Erik S. Duffie's words, "paid special attention to the intersectional, systemic nature of African-American women’s oppression and understood their struggle for dignity and freedom in global terms."[1] In the repressive climate of the Cold War, Sojourners for Truth and Justice envisioned a political movement that understood race, gender, and class as being central to struggles for equality and justice, in biographer Carole Boyce Davies's words, "extending far beyond the narrow gendered formulations that appeared later in the mainstream feminist movement."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d McDuffie, Erik S. (2008). "A "New Freedom Movement of Negro Women": Sojourning for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights during the Early Cold War"". Radical History Review. 2008 (101): 82. doi:10.1215/01636545-2007-039.
  2. ^ a b c Davies, Carol Boyce (2008). Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. Duke University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0822390329. Retrieved 6 March 2015. sojourners for truth and justice.
  3. ^ Boyce Davies, Carole (2008). Encyclopedia of the African diaspora : origins, experiences, and culture. Boyce Davies, Carole. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 846. ISBN 978-1-85109-705-0. OCLC 300469076.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. ^ Boyce Davies, Carole (2008). Encyclopedia of the African diaspora : origins, experiences, and culture. Boyce Davies, Carole. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 846. ISBN 978-1-85109-705-0. OCLC 300469076.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ Martin, Charles (July 1985). "Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case". American Journal of Legal History. 29 (3): 251–268. doi:10.2307/844758. JSTOR 844758.
  6. ^ "William Alphaeus Hunton, Jr". Blackpast.org. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  7. ^ McDuffie, Erik S. (2011-06-27). Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-5050-7.