Marxists Internet Archive: History Archive: U.S. Black Liberation

Black Liberation
History Archive
1700s – Present

The struggle for Black Liberation in the US is the the second oldest anti-oppression struggle in the United States of America. Only the struggle of the indigenous native people’s is older. However, it was the kidnapping of millions of Black Africans to the early British Colonies in North American that started the defining dynamic that allowed for the early accumulation of capital through the institution of chattel slavery, both as an exploitive form of labor and in terms of the slave trade itself. Slavery, and that which flowed from it: the establishment of the color line in society; segregation and the struggles against it, and the role of the Black working class in the class struggle have all made the Black Question the question in terms of understanding capitalism and Imperialism in the United States to this day. Offered below are links that deal with all manner of this question mostly, though not exclusively, from a Marxist and Socialist perspective.

Prominent Activists and Organizations in Black Liberation

Claude McKay (1889-1948) James W. Ford (1893-1957)
Jamaican-born black American poet, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a prominent literary movement of the 1920s. In 1922, he traveled to Soviet Russia to participate in the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. A Communist, party organizer for the CPUSA in New York City. He was vice-presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA in 1932, 1936 and 1940. He was the first African American to run on a U.S. presidential ticket.
Harry Haywood (1898-1985) Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
He is best known as the main theorist of the African American National Question within the CPUSA. Specifically, he developed the theory that African Americans make up an oppressed nation in the Black Belt region of the South where they have the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to independence. Haywood led the CP's work in the African American national movement for some time, both as the Chair of the CP's Negro Commission and as the General Secretary of the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, where he was instrumental in organizing the Sharecroppers Union and the Scottsboro defense. He lived for four and half years in the Soviet Union where he helped to author the 1928 and 1930 Comintern Resolutions on the African American National Question. African-American Marxist and world-renowned singer and civil rights and anticolonialist fighter.
C. L. R. James (1901-1989) Henry Winston (1911-1986)
James was born in Trinadad and was won to the communist movement in the early 1930s. Joining the U.S. Socialist Workers Party he became a Party spokesperson not only anti-racist issues and Black Liberation generally but on the whole pantheon of Marxist theory from Political Economy to Philosophy. A Marxist civil rights activist, Winston was an advocate of civil rights for African Americans decades before the idea of racial equality emerged as a mainstream current of American political thought. He was left permanently blind as a result of being denied medical treatment by the US Government while he was imprisoned for his communist beliefs.
Claudia Jones (1915–1964) Malcolm X (1925-1965)
Trinidad and Tobago-born journalist and activist. As a child, she migrated to the United States, where she became a Communist political activist, feminist and Black nationalist. Due to the political persecution of Communists, she was deported in 1955 and subsequently lived in the United Kingdom. Upon arriving in the UK, she joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and founded Britain's first major Black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette. Revolutionary Black nationalist freedom fighter; Muslim Minister, formerly of the Nation of Islam, which he helped build from an organisation of hundreds to hundreds of thousands. Gave definition to the term Black Nationalism more than any other activist in the 1960s. Assassinated in 1965.
The Black Panther Party (1966-1979) Civil Rights Movement (under development)
The Black Panthers represented one of the first organized attempts in U.S. history to militantly struggle for racial and working class emancipation – a party which inherited the teachings from Malcolm X to Mao Tse-Tung, and set on their agenda the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines. Currently 3 speeches by Martin L. King, Jr., in MP3 format are available at this time. This section will cover the battle for civil rights in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Black Periodicals

The Crisis (1910-1922) The Messenger (1917-1928)
The Crisis was founded by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1910, as the house magazine of the fledgling NAACP. Written for educated African-American readers, the magazine reached a truly national audience within nine years, when its circulation peaked at about 100,000. The Crisis's stated mission, like that of the NAACP itself, was to pursue "the world-old dream of human brotherhood" by bearing witness to "the danger of race prejudice" and reporting on "the great problem of inter-racial relations," both at home and abroad. A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen founded The Messenger in 1917, after joining the Socialist Party of America. They wished to provide the African American community of the time with a radical left perspective and discussion forum. Their perspective differed from that of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, whom they saw as part of the older generation. Аfter 1920 Randolph and Owen began to back off from advancing socialism, and moved more toward union news and artistic commentary. By the time of the January 1924 issue, The Messenger had lost virtually all of its radical content, acquiring a liberal, reformist perspective, for the most part.
The Crusader (1918-1922)
The Crusader was one of the most prominent and important black communist publications that period. It was the work of Cyril Valentine Briggs. In 1919 it began to take on an anti-imperialist orientation, linking colonization and racial oppression to capitalism. In October 1919, The Crusader announced the formation of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), and commitment to the anti-racism of international Marxism and communism. In June 1921, The Crusader became the official journal of the ABB, presenting communism as the solution to racial and economic inequality.

Early Communist & Socialist Documents & Writers on Black Liberation

“Georgia Nigger” by John L. Spivak (1932)
A novel depicting the brutality of racist peonage labor and chain gangs, was serialized several newspapers, including the Daily Worker and the Des Moines Tribune. Soon after it appeared in 1932, an academic study called it “a second Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an indictment of peonage and convict-labor in Georgia, powerful enough to put to shame all the rhapsodists of the folk Negro's happy state.”

Trotskyist Documents & Writers on Black Liberation

Pioneer Press/SWP pamphlets on the Negro/Black/African-American struggle

Pamphlets by Albert Parker/George Breitman:

Defend the Negro Sailors 1940

The Negro March on Washington 1941

Roosevelt and the Negroes 1942

The Negro March on Washington — One Year Later 1942

Negros March on Washington 1943

The Struggle for Negro Equality 1943 (co-written with John Saunders)

The Negro in the Post-War World 1943

NAACP Appeals to the UN 1947

The Bomb-Murder of Harry T. Moore 1952

Negro ‘Progress’ — What the Facts Show 1952

When Anti-Negro Prejudice Began 1954

The Future of the Negro Struggle 1963

How A Minority Can Change Society 1964

Question of Alliances in Negro Freedom Struggle 1965

Marxism and the Negro Struggle 1965

In Defense of Black Power 1966

Introduction to Afro-American History by Malcolm X 1967

Myths About Malcolm X 1967


Pamphlets on the Negro/Black Question by other authors

Tampa — Tar and Terror 1935 by the Committee for Defense of Civil Rights in Tampa (not the SWP but by an organization among whose founders were members of the SWP)

A Practical Program to Kill Jim Crow 1945 by Charles Jackson

Vigilante Terror in Fontana The Tragic Story of O'Day H. Short and his Family 1946 by Myra Tanner Weiss

A Letter to American Negros 1948 by William B. Bohannan

My Name is Wesley Robert Wells 1951 by the San Francisco Civil Rights Committee (not the SWP but by an organization among whose founders were members of the SWP)

Racist Terror at Trumbull Park, Chicago 1954 by Howard Mayhew

Desegregation! Labor’s Stake in the Fight for Negro Equality 1955 by Jean Simon 1955

The Class-Struggle Road to Negro Equality 1957 by the SWP

Freedom Now! New Stage in the Struggle for Negro Emancipation 1963 by the SWP but drafted by George Breitman

Why Watts Exploded 1966 by Della Rossa, published by the Los Angeles Local of the SWP

The Black Uprising 1967 by Paul Boutelle, Derrick Morrison, George Novack

The Spartacist League on the Struggle for Black Liberation

Open Letter to the Black Panthers 1973

The Rise and Fall of the Black Panther Party 1993

What Strategy for Black Liberation: Trotskyism vs. Black Nationalism 1994

Black History and the Class Struggle

Black History and the Class Struggle [Series No. 1] 1983

On the Civil Rights Movement [Series No. 2] 1985

Massacre of Philly MOVE [Series No. 3] 1986

Black Soldiers in the Jim Crow Military [Series No. 4] 1987

Finish the Civil War! [Series No. 5] 1988

Touisant L’ouverture and the Hatian Revolution [Series No. 6] 1989

Black Soldiers Fight for Freedom. Review of Glory [Series No. 7] 1990

South African and Permanent Revolution [Series No. 8] 1991

L.A. Explodes [Series No. 9] 1992

Malcolm X [Series No. 10] 1993

Stop the Klan! For a Workers America [Series No. 11] 1994

South Africa Powder Keg [Series No. 12] 1995

Fight for Black Freedom, Fight for a Socialist Future! [Series No. 13] 1996

Capitalist Rulers Wage War on Blacks, Immigrants [Series No. 14] 1997

Free Mumia! [Series No. 15] 1998

South African Workers Battle Neo-Apartheid [Series No. 16] 2001

War On Terror Means War on Immigrants, Blacks, Labor [Series No. 17] 2003

Life in Black Panther Party [Series No. 18] 2003

New Orleans: Racist Atrocity [Series No. 19] 2006

From Mumia Abu-Jamal to Jenna Six: Capital Justice = Racist Repression [Series No. 20] 2007

Obama: CEO of Racist American Capitalist System [Series No. 21] 2011


Break with the Bourgeois Tri-Partate Alliance, Spartacist South Africa 2007

Post WWII Anti-Revisionist Documents & Writers on Black Liberation


Page last updated: 11 February 2024