Claudia Jones, born to a family of Black workers in Trinidad in 1915, is a woman who represents the most advanced thinking among the giants of Communist theory. Claudia Jones was a warrior for peace, justice and socialism arm in arm with her best friend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and stalwarts like Paul Robeson, his wife Eslanda Goode Robeson, Ben Davis and William Z. Foster. Claudia Jones was also an artist and poet who underlined the importance of culture and creativity to the cause of freedom. She made enormous contributions to the world of understanding of oppression, her views today adopted by most mainstream schools of feminism. Who was this woman who accomplished all of these things and more for racial, feminist and for workers struggles and was so beloved by many in her life?
In a biographical letter to William Z. Foster, Chairman of the Communist Party of the United States and a leader of the Little Steel Strike of 1919, she describes her early life:
“As a child of eight, I came to the United States from Port of Spain, Trinidad, British West Indies. My mother and father had come to this country two years earlier, in 1922, when their economic status (which were middle class land owners on my mother’s side and hotel owners on my father’s side) had been worsened as a result of the drop in the cocoa trade (on the world market) from the West Indies which had impoverished the West Indies and the entire Caribbean. Like thousands of West Indian immigrants, they hoped to find their fortunes in America where “gold was to be found on the streets,” and they dreamed of rearing their children in a “free America.”
“This dream was soon disabused. Together with my three sisters, our family suffered not only the impoverished lot of working class native families, and the multinational populace, but early learned the special scourge of indignity stemming from Jim Crow national oppression… “
Likewise in her stirring comments to the court in her trial under the red-baiting and racist Smith Act courtrooms, she addressed the judge:
“It was in an American junior high school where I first learned of the great traditions of popular liberty of American history, for which I then received the Theodore Roosevelt Award for good citizenship.
“That I have learned to interpret that history and to work to influence its change for the betterment of the people with the indispensable weapon of Marxist-Leninist ideas, that is the real crime against me.
“Of all other charges I am innocent.
“It was here on this soil (and not as Mr. Lane would depict to this Court, as a young child of eight years of age waving revolutionary slogans), that I early experienced experiences which are shared by millions of native-born Negroes — the bitter indignity and humiliation of second-class citizenship, the special status which makes a mockery of our Government’s prated claims of a ‘free America’ in a ‘free world’ for 15 million Negro Americans.
“It was out of my Jim Crow experiences as a young Negro woman, experiences likewise born of working-class poverty that led me in my search of why these things had to be that led me to join the Young Communist League and to choose at the age of 18 the philosophy of my life, the science of Marxism-Leninism — that philosophy that not only rejects racist ideas, but is the antithesis of them.” (13 Communists speak to the Court, New York, New Century Publishers, 1953)
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