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Mustering out of the U.S. army in 1919, Harry Haywood stepped into a battle that was to last the rest of his life. Within months, he found himself in the middle of one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history and realized that he’d been fighting the wrong war—the real enemy was right here at home. This book is Haywood’s eloquent account of coming of age as a black man in twentieth-century America and of his political awakening in the Communist Party.
For all its cultural and historical interest, Harry Haywood’s story is also noteworthy for its considerable narrative drama. The son of parents born into slavery, Haywood tells how he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, found his first job as a shoeshine boy in Minneapolis, then went on to work as a waiter on trains and in restaurants in Chicago. After fighting in France during the war, he studied how to make revolutions in Moscow during the 1920s, led the Communist Party’s move into the Deep South in 1931, helped to organize the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, worked with the Sharecroppers’ Union, supported protests in Chicago against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, fought with the International Brigades in Spain, served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and continued to fight for the right of self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the United States until his death in 1985.
This new edition of his classic autobiography, Black Bolshevik, introduces American readers to the little-known story of a brilliant thinker, writer, and activist whose life encapsulates the struggle for freedom against all odds of the New Negro generation that came of age during and after World War I.
Harry Haywood (1898–1985) was a worker-intellectual. After studying at the Lenin School in Moscow and strongly backed by the Third Communist International (the Comintern), he returned to the United States in 1930 to lead the Negro work of the Communist Party of the United States, initiating the fight to save the Scottsboro Boys and supporting the Sharecroppers Union, the Unemployed Councils, and interracial industrial trade union movements. He helped develop and apply the theory that Blacks are an internal colony in the United States, a suppressed nation with the right of self-determination. Among his best-known publications are Negro Liberation (1948) and the pamphlet For a Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question (1957).
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall is professor of history at Michigan State University and professor emerita of history at Rutgers University. She is the widow of Harry Haywood.