Trying to locate a museum exhibit or online resource that addressed the issues raised in the reading for this week proved difficult. Unfortunately, it seems as if the story of African American interest in Communism during the 1920s and 30s has not had the broad appeal of the Civil Rights movement, Black radicalism, or the era of Jim Crow. Seeing that the African American Communist experience was not being represented, I broadened my search. What I found was a wonderful project called Race and Place: An African American Community in the Jim Crow South: Charlottesville, VA.
The Race and Place website is a collaborative project between the Virginia Center for Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African and Afro-American Studies. The mission of the project is “to connect race with place by understanding what it was like to live, work, pray, learn, and play in the segregated South. We plan to develop manuscript collections and oral histories of African Americans in the segregation period, and construct the social, political, and economic history to understand race in the context of place.”
Through maps, oral histories, photographs, political materials, and newspapers, this site provides a detailed look at the political and social life of the African American community of Charlottesville, Virginia in the era of Jim Crow. One particularly informative section was a timeline comparing African American involvement in state vs. local politics. The timeline shows that while African Americans continued to lose ground in the state political system, they remained active on the local level, fighting for voting rights and participation in the Republican Party.
Another section providing useful information about the political activities of the African American community in Charlottesville is the newspapers section. Here, one finds “selected, transcribed articles from two major African-American owned newspapers–the Charlottesville Reflector and the Richmond Planet.” A quick search turned up several articles that addressed the issue of Communism, and it seems as if this particular community did not concern itself with the movement. One editorial from The Reflector in 1934 shows that even in this politically active town, the color of one’s skin led to disenfranchisement whether you were Republican, Democrat, or Communist. The story related in the article is about the cancellation of Richard B. Moore’s, a nationally known Communist, lecture at the University of Virginia. According the editor, the professor:
did not order the closing of all public buildings to the speaker because of what he may have said against Senator Carter Class or in favor of Karl Marx. No, because Communist speakers have been there before and have, in true Communist fashion, freely discussed all of the “untouchables”, from the existing dual wage scale in Virginia to jury pondering in Alabama, and they were made welcome.
Richard Moore is a Negro and consequently, he was barred for that reason.
Race and Place: An African American Community in the Jim Crow South: Charlottesville, VA. http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/afam/raceandplace/about_main.html
“What Would Jefferson Think?” The Reflector. May 26, 1934 http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/afam/raceandplace/news_main.html