Oral History of the American Left

The Tamiment Library at New York University established the Oral History of the American Left in 1976 in order to collect and preserve the memories of veteran activists. These interviews describe seven decades of Left politics from the 1910s through the 1970s. They document the full spectrum of left politics in the twentieth century, including socialism, Communism, anarchism, Trotskyism, and the New Left. There are interviews with both leaders and rank-and-file activists.  The following are a selection of interviewees that had a history in the Communist Party.

Vicky Amter was a Communist Party member who was active in New York City’s Lower East Side from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Jacob Aspitz was active in the Los Angeles Jewish Left.
Walter Barry was a member of the Trade Union Unity League and the United Electrical Workers District 4.
Bertha Bazell was a member of the CPUSA during the 1930s through the 1950s in Coney Island, New York and Fall River, Massachusetts.  

Abner Berry (1902-1987) was the editor of the Harlem edition of The Daily Worker from 1942 until the 1950s.  He was a Communist Party organizer in Harlem and one of the founding members of Black Workers for Justice.

Fred Blair (1906-2005) was chairman of the Communist Party of Wisconsin and an aspiring politician. Blair ran a bookshop in Milwaukee with his wife Mary called “Mary’s Bookshop,” which was considered by J. Edgar Hoover to be one of eight “major communist bookstores operating in the United States.”

Fannie Borun was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union and the Communist Party USA.
Judy Boudon was an immigrant from Panama and a member of both the American Labor Party and the Communist Party.
Ann Burlak-Timpson (1911-2002) was a labor and civil rights activist and the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants.  She joined the Young Communist League when she was 15 years old and spent many of her years involved in union organizing.  In 1956 she was arrested for charges under the Smith Act, but the case was later dropped.
Phillip Caplowitz was a Jewish Communist and union member during the 1920s and 1930s.
Wendell Carroll was a member of the American Youth for Democracy and the Independent Socialist League. 
Rose Chernin (1901-1995) was a Russian immigrant and a significant figure in progressive politics in the 1940s and 1950s.  She joined the Communist Party in 1932.  Chernin was arrested in 1951 by Federal authorities and convicted on charges of violating the Smith Act.  The INS attempted to have her deported, but when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Smith Act was unconstitutional, her sentence was overturned.

Alice Citron (1908-1988) was a New York City teacher, a member of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the Communist Party.

 

 

Nat Cohen was a member of the Communist Party and a volunteer during the Spanish Civil War.

Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989) was a social historian, editor, writer and literary critic.  In 1935, Cowley helped to establish the League of American Writers, which attempted to persuade the United States to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
Sam Darcy (1905-2005) was a Communist Party leader in both the CPUSA and the Communist Party International.  Darcy was known for his help in organizing New York City’s first unemployment march in 1930, and was celebrated for his role with the Communist Party in California in the 1934 San Francisco General Strike.  In 1934, he made an unsuccessful run for governor of California.  He left the CPUSA in 1945 due to differences with Earl Browder, the one-time head of the Communist Party.
Albina Delfino was an Italian immigrant woman, a member of the Needle Trades Industrial Union, and a Communist Party organizer in Providence, Boston, and Corona, New York during the 1930s and 1940s.

Eugene Dennis (1905-1961) was a Communist Party leader and labor organizer in the United States.  He was the general secretary of the CPUSA from 1945 until 1957, and the national chairman from 1959-1961.  Dennis was also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.  In 1949, he was sentenced under the Smith Act with 10 other Communist Party leaders for conspiring to overthrow the government.  He spent over three years in prison for this conviction.

James Dolsen (1885-1988) was a founding member of the CPUSA and a writer for The Daily Worker.  He attended Beloit College in Wisconsin and Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.  While in Chicago, Dolsen joined the Socialist Party in 1910.  In 1917, he became an Organizer for the National Organization of the Socialist Party, and went on to help form the Communist Labor Party of America, which was one of the predecessors of the CPUSA.   Dolsen remained a Party member until his death in 1988.

George Edwards (1918-2012) was a Communist Party organizer in the Kansas-Nebraska district during the 1930s and 1940s.

Virginia Epstein (1885-?) was a member of the Socialist during the 1910s, and the Communist Party during the 1920s.  She was born in Dallas Texas and was a child of mixed Jewish-Episcopalian heritage.  She was active in local politics in Queens, New York.
Elmer Felhaber was a member of the Communist Party and was active in the American Midwest.
Joe Figueredo was a Portuguese-American, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and a member of the Communist Party.

Mary Gale was a political activist from New York, and a member of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.

Sender Garlin (1902-1999) was a member of the Socialist Party in the 1910s and a journalist for the Daily Worker.  He was a founding member of the American Newspaper Guild and the Associate Editor of New World Review.

Joseph Giganti was active in the Italian-American Left in Chicago, Illinois from the 1920s through the 1940s.  
Mollie Goldstein was an activist and a Communist Party member who was active in Brooklyn and the Bronx during the 1930s.
Nina Goldstein was a member of the Communist Party who was active in Brownsville and East Flatbush, Brooklyn during the 1920s and 1930s. 
Sarah Gudelman was a Lower East Side resident, a garment worker, and a member of the Communist Party.

Otis Hood was a Boston-area Communist Party member that ran for Governor under the Party’s ticket four times during the 1940s and 1950s.

Howard (Stretch) Johnson (1915-2000) was a member of the Communist Party of the United States and the N.A.A.C.P., a social activist and a tap dancer.  He joined the Young Communist League in Harlem, and became a party member shortly after.  He left the Communist Party in the 1950s after Khrushchev’s report on the Stalin regime.  In his later years, he became a printer for the New York Times, and went on to teach sociology at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Onni Kaartinen was a Finnish-American activist that was active from the 1930s through the 1970s.

Maude White Katz was a member of the Communist Party and the Needle Trades Industrial Union.

Rose Kryzak (1899-1999) was an activist for the rights of the elderly and a lifelong member of the Communist Party of the United States.  She was born in Russia prior to the Russian Revolution, and immigrated to the US in 1910. 

James Lustig was a labor activist and was active in the Hungarian-American Left during the 1920s through the 1940s.

Julius Margolin (1916-2009) was activist in the New York City labor movement.  He was involved in the National Maritime Union, the Food Workers Industrial Union and Local 52 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees. 

Tom McGrath was a student activist at the University of North Dakota and Louisiana State University.  He was active also in Los Angeles, California and the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan during the 1930s and 1940s.  He worked for the International Labor Defense. 

Ernest Rice McKinney (1886-1984) was an African-American radical, a Socialist and a member of the Communist Party.  During the 1930s, he was the Executive Secretary for the Unemployed Citizens’ League of Allegheny County.  He eventually became a Musteite during the 1930s and later a Shachtmanite during the 1940s.
John Mitchell was active in the Communist Party in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1940s and 1950s.

Audley Moore (1898-1997), also known as Queen Mother Moore, was an African-American civil rights activist, a black nationalist and a significant figure during the Civil Rights Movement.  Moore was the founder of both the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women and the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves.  Although she was born in Louisiana, she was active in Harlem after moving to New York.  She presented twice at the United Nations during the 1950s arguing against genocide and for reparations.

Anna Morgan (1894-1996) was a labor and civil rights activist and a member of the Communist Party of the United States.  During the Spanish Civil War, she helped to raise money to buy ambulances to help aid in the fight against fascism.  She was found in contempt for refusing to testify before the Ohio State Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952.  Her conviction was later overturned when it was found to be unconstitutional.

Gussie Moskowitz was a Hungarian-American, a member of the furriers’ union and involved with the Communist Party.

Steve Nelson (1903-1993) was a labor activist, a former Communist Party official, the Political Commissar in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and a Spanish Civil War veteran. Nelson was convicted under the Smith Act in the 1950s. He left the Communist Party in 1957 after Khrushchev’s report on the atrocities of the Stalin regime. In 1963, Nelson became the National Commander of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, an organization that was established during the Spanish Civil War to aid returning veterans and support the fight against fascism.

Esta Nette (1921-2008) was a member of the Young Pioneers, the Young Communist League and was involved in the Labor-Negro Vanguard Conference, which was a New Jersey group that emerged from the Communist Party.  She was considered to be a lifelong activist.
Demosthenes Nicas was a CIO organizer and a member of the Communist Party active in Ohio.

Clarence Norris (1913-1989) was known for being a defendant in a court case where nine African-American defendants were falsely accused of raping two white women in the south, known later as the “Scottsboro Boys” rape case.  Norris was sentenced to death three times, spent 15 years in prison and later became a fugitive when he violated his parole.  When he was 64 years old, the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board found him innocent of the rape charges.

Hugo Oehler (1903-1983) was the member of the Communist Party, an active trade unionist and the CP district organizer in Kansas.  Oehler later became a member of the Communist League of America, after controversy arose in relation to his demands that Trotskyists be permitted to rejoin the party.  He joined the Revolutionary Workers League and visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War as a reporter, where he was arrested for spying while trying to return home.  He later split with the Trotskyists after a disagreement over Marxism in 1934. 

Louise Patterson (1901-1999) was a political activist and participant in the Harlem Renaissance of the early twentieth century, as well as the black arts movement of the 1960s. He was born in Chicago and after teaching at Hampton Institute in Virginia, completed her education at the New School for Social Research in New York. In 1942, she married William Patterson, a lawyer and a prominent figure in the CPUSA. During the 1960s, she led the Free Angela Davis Committee in New York, as well as advocating for other civil liberties cases throughout her lifetime.

Pearl was a member of the Communist Party and involved in the needle trades union.  She was Panamanian/West Indian heritage and active in New York.
Elaine Perry was a member of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America and the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers.  She was active in New Jersey.

George Rawick (1929-1990) was a member of the Young Communist League, the Communist Party and involved in both the Henry Wallace movement during the 1940s and the Shachtmanite movement.  He was active in Brooklyn during his youth.  He eventually went on to teach at Washington University, Wayne State University, State University of New York and the University of Chicago.

 Paul Richards was a former member of the Communist Party.  He was active in California and Madison, Wisconsin during the late 1960s. 

Lester Rodney (1911-2009) was a sports writer for the Daily Worker, and a proponent for the desegregation of American baseball.  He helped Jackie Robinson break the color barrier by strongly advocating for him for almost a decade.  Rodney worked for the Daily Worker up until Khrushchev’s report on Stalin’s crimes, when after a disagreement with the publication, he decided to retire and seek new opportunities in California. 

I. A. Ronch was a member of the Communist Party and involved in the Jewish People’s Chorus during the 1950s. He was active in the Bronx and Los Angeles.
Sadie Rosenberg was a member of the International Workers Order, the Trade Union Unity League, and the Young Communist League in Brooklyn during the 1930s through the 1940s. 
Paul Rosencrantz was the member of the Communist Party and the National Maritime Union.  He was active in New York and Maine.

Annette Rubenstein (1910-2007) was an educator, a writer and a political activist.  She was a member of the Communist Party from the 1930s until the 1950s, as well as an active member and later Vice-Chairman of the New York chapter of the American Labor Party.  In her later years, she spent a lot of her time lecturing across the United States, Canada and Eastern Europe.

Tauhma Seid was a member of the Young Communist League and the Communist Party of the United States during the 1940s and 1950s.
Anne Shore was a member of the Communist Party, the Civil Rights Congress and the Progressive Party in Los Angeles during the 1940s and 1950s.

Jessie Taft Smith (1914-) was a New York City activist and organizer, and a member of the Communist Party USA.  She was a worker rights advocate and participated in garment strikes during her youth.

 

Sid Stein was the Communist Party Organization Secretary.

Hershel Walker (1909-1990) was an African-American civil rights leader and trade unionist in St. Louis, Missouri.  He joined the Young Communist League in 1930 and later became a lifelong member of the CPUSA.  Walker was an activist that fought against racial discrimination in the workplace.  He specifically protested against racist hiring policies that disenfranchised black workers at the Wagner Electric Company, among other corporations.  Walker was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to deliver petitions to save jobs at a Chrysler Plant.

Karl Yoneda (1906-1999) was a Japanese-American union organizer and activist.  He was a World War II veteran, and helped to found the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.  During the 1920s, he became involved with the Communist Party, and changed his name to Karl in honor of Karl Marx.  His family was incarcerated at a California concentration camp in 1942.  Even after his retirement in 1972, he continued his membership with the Communist Party.

Dora Z. was an activist that grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, Brooklyn and the Bronx. 
Southern Negro Youth Congress Forum