Monday, February 1, 2016

February is African American History Month - Charlotta Bass

   I wanted to post a hero a day for African American History Month.  February, the shortest month, my birthday month, and the coldest month where I live, seems highly inappropriate as the month for Black History. We can credit Carter G. Woodson with the establishment of this important month. But of course I believe that every month should be African American History month.
Today I want to present CHARLOTTA BASS who was the first Black woman owner and editor of a newspaper in Los Angeles - The California Eagle - and also ran for VP with Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party.  The best collection of her papers is at the Southern California Library for Social Research. You can visit there and read her papers.  Or a wonderful digital collection of photos is housed at USC.
   My father was a speechwriter for the Progressive Party. He worked with the greats - WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson for starters. But he also accompanied Mrs. Bass around the country as she spoke at various locations for her election.  While the Progressive Party is given short shrift in the history books, they actually did well for a party with little money and functioning during the burgeoning anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s.  
   Charlotta Bass was a formidable foe against all that formed to keep African Americans down. She represented one who welcomed challenges and fought at every turn. Here's a photo that I love of her and Paul Robeson.
Imagine being in the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and economic equality at a time when your rights as a human being were not generally recognized by the majority.  
Here's a fair account of her history from PBS which mentions her fight against DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation - a heinous crime which we are still fighting against to this day.  USC in fact names its film school for DW Griffith and one of our local middle schools still has his name.       I quote from the PBS history:   "Bass' uncompromising stance against racial injustice resulted in her life being threatened on numerous occasions. She was branded a communist, and the FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that her paper was seditious. However, this never deterred her or her paper from seeking civil and political rights for African Americans and the disadvantaged.
Bass retired from the newspaper business in 1951. Her later years were devoted to politics. In 1952 she became the first African-American woman to run for national office as the Vice Presidential candidate on the Progressive Party ticket."
   There is so much more to be said about Charlotta Bass.  Meanwhile, I hope this snippet of history contributes to African American history month and to the knowledge of those in the struggle for civil rights.  Here are some links for more on this great history: 

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