Friday, February 24, 2017



Thelma Dale Perkins

   Continuing my favorite month (my birthday month) I want to share a bit about the lives of two unknowns, Charlotta Bass and Thelma Dale Perkins.  In particular, the latter was a quiet presence in the history of the struggle for civil rights and women's rights and more.  I want to state at the beginning that I know about both of them because my father worked with them, and I believe they shared mutual respect.  I know he held them both in high regard.

   Charlotta Bass  - perhaps the best photo of her is this one:

   She was the first African American woman to own a newspaper in Los Angeles. She ran for Vice President on the Progressive Party ticket.  She was courageous, outspoken, and so much more.  My father wrote speeches for her and accompanied her around the United States as she stumped for office.   Charlotta Bass 1874 - 1969 published The California Eagle from 1912 to 1951.  "She and her husband Joseph Bass, who had served as editor of the Topeka Plain Dealer and the Montana Plain Dealer used The Eagle to push for reforms. They combatted such issues as the derogatory images rampant in D.W. Griffith's film, Birth of A Nation; Los Angeles' discriminatory hiring practices; the Klu Klux Klan; police brutality; and restrictive housing covenants.  

"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.

"She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12,1969."

Charlotta Bass conducts a meeting in Pasadena, CA.

   Thelma Dale Perkins - luckily I devoted an entire blog to her last year: 
I met Thelma Dale Perkins a few times when she came to visit my parents in Los Angeles. Such a gracious and lovely person, I knew there was something special about her besides just her friendship with my parents. My plan was to try to visit her in North Carolina where she had retired but I never made it. She died in 2014 and I feared I would never learn her true history. I knew snippets - that she was a friend of WEB DuBois; that she was a feminist activist in New York City. But not much more.
Here is one site that talks about her "civic engagement" - and I am indebted to them for writing this although it gives an entirely one-sided picture of this dynamic and energetic fighter for the rights of African Americans, especially women.

   "Thelma Perkins was born Thelma Dale on October 23, 1915, in the Historic Anacostia district of Washington, D.C. The youngest of four children, Thelma is directly related to the most prominent African American families in the Nation’s capital during the Reconstruction era. Her uncle, Dr.
Frederick Patterson served as President and President Emeritus of the Tuskegee Institute for more than fifty years. He was also awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1987.
   "Education was very important in Thelma’s family and her parents encouraged her studies. She attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, a college-prep high school for African American students. In 1932, like her grandfather before her, Thelma entered Howard University where she studied teaching and social work. After graduating in 1936 she stayed at Howard to conduct graduate work in Sociology under prominent sociologist Dr. E. Franklin Frasier, concentrating on the living conditions of African American families in Washington, D.C.
   "Inspired by her father’s example, Thelma began taking active roles in volunteer and civic organizations while she was in college. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, one of the first African American sororities in the United States. Thelma was also involved in the Liberal Club, a vocal campus group that advocated for the integration of African Americans. Integration continued to be an important cause for Thelma and in the 1940s she accepted the position of acting Secretary of the National Negro Congress. During that time, Thelma assisted with early civil rights activities and formed lifelong friendships with such luminaries as Paul Robeson and Dr. W.E.B. DuBois." 

   For more information, please read my blog linked above, about this fighter for her people, and especially the female members.  My hope is that with further research and spreading the word on social media, Thelma Dale Perkins and Charlotta Bass will not remain confined to the dustbins of history.

Charlotta Bass - 

Bass, Charlotta. Forty Years: Memoirs from the Pages of A Newspaper: 1960. (Unpublished Manuscript Available at Southern California Research Library and Schomburg)  

Jeter, James Phillip, Ph.D. Rough Flying: The California Eagle - (1879-1965) (AJHA Convention Paper)

Streitmatter, Rodger. Raising Her Voice: African American Women Journalists Who Changed History. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994.

Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War by Dayo F. Gore - 
A pdf of her history -
Excerpt from a book - De-Centering Cold War History: Local and Global Change edited by Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, Fabio Lanza. Chapter 3. 

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