Remembering Angelo Herndon

Original source: First Amendment Center

Imagine, for example, the bravery of a young black man who traveled to the South to enlist members for the Communist Party in the early 1930s. The Chicago Defender called him a “young Communist martyr.”

At age 19, Angelo Herndon moved from Kentucky to Atlanta in 1932 to help recruit for the Communist Party. He was charged under a Reconstruction-era state law prohibiting attempts to incite an insurrection. Herndon had helped organize a hunger-relief protest that consisted of 600 whites and 400 blacks. State officials said he had distributed Communist Party leaflets and had helped organize meetings to increase party membership.

Officials arrested and beat Herndon as he went to his post office box to retrieve his mail. In jail, Herndon suffered immensely. In his autobiography, Let Me Live (1937), he wrote: “For three months, I rotted in the degenerate atmosphere of the jail. There were times when I was afraid for my sanity.”

In January 1933, the state of Georgia sought the death penalty against Herndon. The prosecutors played on the jury’s fears of Communists. They said that the defendant would “lead a red army into this country and destroy our civilization.” Herndon countered that the capitalists used “racial prejudice as a means of exploiting workmen — white and black.” Later that month, a Fulton County Superior Court jury sentenced him to 18-20 years in prison.

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  • Democracy under capitalism's Jim Crow following slavery produced the kind of repression,persecution and prosecution under the slave laws like that which Angelo Herndon was prosecuted.
    The working class,and its Communists heroes like Benjamin Jefferson Davis Jr.,Harvard attorney and later Communist Councilman from Harlem,produced a new kind of democracy in the state of New York,which shall not soon be forgotten.
    The historical materialist perspective,combined with a firm grasp of law,energized and convicted,atty. Davis to successfully defend Angelo Herndon,rescuing him from a legal lynching,Davis going on to serve Harlem citizenry(taking Adam Clayton Powell's council seat,as he ran for Congress)expanding democracy to register many more voters,fight segregation in housing and employment,police brutality, racism and war,promoting racial and national equality and trade union protections for all U.S. citizens. Angelo Herndon was not acquitted until 1937,by the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Two on his works are : Let Me Live and You Cannot Kill the Working Class. They help form an important part of the documented history of African Americans in the U. S.
    Benjamin Davis,William L. Patterson and Henry Winston helped to make this positive,fighting,human rights and civil rights history promoted by the CPUSA(along with the struggle to free the Scottsboro Nine).
    These not only clarified and justified the appearance or manifestation of the Communists in the United States of America,but gave new life,or a "New Birth" of freedom to American civilization,civil rights and African American liberation.

    Posted by peaceapplause, 03/28/2011 1:53pm (7 years ago)

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