James E. Jackson (1914-2007) was an African-American communist and civil rights activist, best known for his role in founding and leading the Southern Negro Youth Congress (1937-1948). He became head of the Louisiana state organization of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) in 1946, and was a Party organizer in the automobile industry in Detroit from 1947 to 1950. He then moved to New York, becoming the Southern Director for the Communist Party. In 1951 he was indicted under the Smith Act (charged with advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government), and became a fugitive until 1955. He later served as the CPUSA’s Educational Director and International Affairs Secretary, retiring in 1991.
Esther Cooper Jackson (1917-) is an African-American civil rights activist and one of the founding editors of the magazine Freedomways, a significant political and cultural quarterly journal published from 1961 until 1985. Jackson attended segregated schools as a child. In 1938, she went on to study at Oberlin College and in 1940 earned a master’s degree from Fisk University. She joined the Communist Party in 1939. Jackson worked for the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) after graduate school. She met James E. Jackson in 1939, and the two eventually married a few years later. She moved to New York City in 1952, and less than a decade later became the managing editor of Freedomways.
Rob Hall (1906-1993) was an author, editor and publisher. During the Great Depression, he sought an alternative to capitalism, and joined the Communist Party. Hall edited one of the party’s student publications, The Student Review. After his graduation from Columbia University, Hall worked for The Daily Worker. Hall left the publication in 1956 after 11 years of employment due to his disagreements regarding the Stalin regime. In his later years, he focused his efforts on environmental preservation and became the editor of The Conservationist.
This interview was conducted on September 18th and 19th, 1987.
John Abt (1904-1991) was a prominent American lawyer and spent most of his career as the chief counsel to the Communist Party of the United States of America. He is known for joining Vito Marcantonio in defending the CPUSA on charges from the McCarran Act, and party members on charges stemming from the Smith Act. One of Abt’s greatest legal victories was the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 1965 which allowed individuals to invoke their constitutional privilege against self-incrimination by declining to register with the government that they were members of the Communist Party. Abt is said to have remained a member of the CP up until his death in 1991.