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.
Marge Frantz (1922-2015) was a teacher, feminist and activist. Her father, Joe Gelder, joined the Communist Party during the Great Depression as a way to organize for labor rights in the South. She became a member of the Young Communist League when she was 13 years old. She married Laurent Frantz in 1941, who was a lawyer and a member of the Communist Party. She later went on to meet her life partner, Eleanor Engstrand, during her work for UC Berkeley’s Institute of Industrial Relations. She left the CP in 1956, but was an active member up until that point.
This interview was conducted on February 6th, 1987.
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.
Nannie Washburn (1900-) was a civil rights activist, an advocate for internationalism and a Communist Party member who was born into a sharecropper’s family in Georgia. She spent her childhood working in the textile industry starting at the age of eight. She joined the Communist Party in the 1930s during the Great Depression. She spent the majority of her life fighting for equal rights for African-Americans, claiming that “I won’t be free until all of us are free.”
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.