"Filling the Gap": Intergenerational Black Radicalism and the Popular Front Ideals of Freedomways Magazine's Early Years, (1961-1965)

Article excerpt

In 1965, two years after Paul Robeson returned to the United States from a five-year sojourn abroad induced by vicious red-baiting, Freedomways' managing editor Esther Cooper Jackson and associate editor Jack O'Dell helped organize a tribute for him at the Hotel Americana near Times Square in New York City. (2) Among the 2500 people who filled the hotel's Albert Hall that night was a diverse group of New York's black public figures, notably actors, musicians, artists, writers and intellectuals. Harlem's famous theatrical couple, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, were the M.C.s for the evening. They had been closely involved with Freedomways for much of its existence, generously donating their time and money and hosting numerous other events and fundraisers for the magazine; Dee would later become an editor. (3) At the tribute, Dee and Davis introduced high profile speakers such as writers James Baldwin (4) and John Oliver Killens, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) National Chair John Lewis, and Marxist historian Herbert Aptheker. (5) Progressive white folk singer Pete Seeger also gave a performance. The event's 171 sponsors were a "Who's Who" of famous black New Yorkers and included the likes of actress Diana Sands, musicians John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor, and comedian Dick Gregory. (6) Others, like John Lewis, were intensely involved in the day-to-day tasks of civil rights movement organizing. International sponsors also sent greetings to the Salute, including Jawaharlal Nehru of India, African American exiles in Ghana like Shirley Graham Du Bois and Alphaeus Hunton, and the artists and directors of the Moscow Art Theatre. (7)

In short, the Freedomways tribute to Robeson included an extraordinary mixture of high profile liberal and leftist personalities given the Cold War context and the supposedly marginalized position of the guest of honour. (8) It was precisely this heterogeneity, articulated in the pages of the magazine, and featured at public events like the tribute to Robeson, that would demonstrate how prominent radical continuities could mirror the black Popular Front of previous decades and persist into this period of the African American freedom struggle.

The emergence of Freedomways in the early 1960s complicates the arguments of many historians who overlook continuities in emphasizing change in the struggle for black liberation in the mid-twentieth Century. Much civil rights literature correctly extends the chronology of the movement back to include the industrial unionism, New Deal activism, and anticolonialism of the 1930s and 1940s with the dominant narrative of anti-racist protest during the 1950s and 1960s. However, this literature does not examine the continuities between the two eras, instead stressing their qualitative differences. Thus, many writers lament the decline of African American left and labour-oriented internationalism in the face of McCarthyist intimidation during the late 1940s and 1950s. (9) Others suggest that an internationalist civil rights anti-racism survived the 1950s but was primarily pro-American--pragmatically following the Cold War liberal consensus of anti-communism and anti-leftism, but nonetheless advancing the cause of racial justice in the United States. (10) There is a growing body of literature, which shows that radical politics survived from an earlier era and stayed the course through the repressive red baiting of the 1950s to significantly influence the tactics, strategies, and culture of the freedom struggle that emerged from that decade. (11) But unlike much of this literature, which stresses the diffuse intellectual, literary, and strategic continuities of these radical politics, (12) a case study of Freedomways provides concrete evidence that not only the ideas, but the activists and activism of earlier decades survived the McCarthyism of the 1950s to have a definite impact on the civil rights movement and black political discourse of the early-mid 1960s.

These figures carried with them the consensual and non-sectarian organizing strategies of Popular Front anti-racism that had been developed in formations like the Council on African Affairs (CAA), the National Negro Congress (NNC), the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) and the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, engaging in constructive dialogues with the militant integrationist and non-violent practitioners of the civil rights mainstream of the late 1950s and 1960s. In effect, the magazine's early years demonstrated the truly intergenerational and protracted nature of the struggle for racial justice and equality in the U.S. through the available channels of what Nikhil Pal Singh calls the black "counter public sphere"--a counter-hegemonic space that fostered the independent dialogues taking place between many significant black intellectuals, activists and public figures. (13)

As such, Freedomways' celebration of Paul Robeson in the mid-1960s and the magazine's remembrance of his eminent colleague, W.E.B. Du Bois--"the two giants of the century" as Esther Cooper Jackson called them in a recent interview (14)--can be seen as part of a continuum of activities led by African Americans over several decades that were oriented towards forming effective, internationalist anti-racist coalitions. In the vanguard of these coalitions was a committed holdover generation of older guard left-wing activists who had been involved with the Popular Front movements of the 1930s and 1940s, aptly analyzed by Penny Von Eschen in her study of black anticolonialism and epitomized by the activities of Robeson and Du Bois' left-leaning Council on African Affairs (CAA). (15) While commonly associated with the sectarianism of the Communist Party, the Popular Front politics from this earlier era also helped an associated front of liberals and leftists (especially cultural workers and intellectuals) to organize together in progressive community coalitions, unions, and government-sponsored public work projects. (16) A number of these people emerged from such experiences to be confronted during the early Cold War with severely repressive McCarthyist red-baiting, regardless of whether they were in the Communist Party of the United States (CP) or not. They maintained a radical anticolonial consciousness throughout this time that made civil rights struggle about more than simply legislative reform. To them, it was always about addressing what Martin Luther King, Jr. would later identify as the troika of injustice: poverty, racism, and militarism. (17)

Thus to many black radicals who lived through the anticolonial culture of the Popular Front coalitions, the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, the first World Conference of Black Writers and Artists, at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1956, and the Cuban revolution of 1959 had as much importance as the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 when public school segregation in the United States was overturned. As Peniel Joseph puts it, the late 1950s and 1960s featured "an emerging Third World solidarity that challenged white supremacy at the global level ... and exported race and class consciousness through back channels unimpeded by the Cold War's ideological restrictions." (18)

Indeed, Freedomways came out of a decade that saw a flourishing of activities in these back channels. Author Richard Wright, while living abroad, wrote about the relevance of anticolonialism to the struggles of black Americans, while many people such as Shirley Graham Du Bois and Alphaeus Hunton were inspired by the emergence of independent nations like Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana and Patrice Lumumba's Congo and moved to Africa. (19) Publications such as Presence Africaine and Robert Williams's Crusader re-injected international black political discourse with a renewed commitment to pan-Africanism, while in the U.S (and especially in New York), nationalist publications like the Nation of Islam's Muhammad Speaks, Umbra, On Guard, and Dan Watts's The Liberator existed alongside Freedomways to continue the broadly-based black radicalism that Paul Robeson had been espousing for decades with the CAA and the short-lived Freedom newspaper of the early 1950s. (20) As such, Freedomways became part of a vibrant literary scene that networked frequently with anticolonial liberation struggles in Africa (and throughout Asia and Latin America) and that prefigured the Black Arts and Black Power nationalism most evident by the mid-late 1960s and 1970s.

The magazine also acted as an early advocate of the anti-Vietnam war movement and provided a forum for invoking the Popular Front ideals of an earlier generation of activists in the civil rights struggles of the early 1960s. The magazine emulated the advocacy work done by W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Freedomways' founding editor, Alphaeus Hunton in the 1940s CAA, while many of its other founders and early editors, such as Esther Cooper Jackson, Augusta Strong, and Jack O'Dell drew their inspiration from their experiences in the counter-hegemonic formations of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s like the SNYC, the NNC, and the anti-racist locals of the CIO. By making substantial connections between the racialized economic realities of colonial rule in Africa (and much of the Third World) and racialized poverty in the United States, the magazine continued the work of this older generation of left-wing anti-racist activists.

In this article, I will chart the magazine's growing influence as an organ of the black Left during the early 1960s and demonstrate how it became a significant forum for the expression of strategic thinking associated with the black freedom struggle of the 20th Century--particularly the articulation of an intergenerational dialogue crucial to a nuanced understanding of this long struggle. Prominent younger activists and writers in their twenties and thirties involved with the Civil Rights movement as well as the nascent Black Arts Movement had material that appeared in the publication alongside salient strategy pieces by older and less prominent figures such as Jack O'Dell, Robert Browne, John Henrik Clarke, and Ernest Kaiser, who by the early 1960s were in or approaching their 40s and 50s. In addition, a multi-generational group of African Americans living abroad in Africa and elsewhere, including the elderly Shirley Graham and middle-aged Alphaeus Hunton, as well as younger figures such as Jean Carey Bond, frequently helped solicit and write material for the magazine. They helped build and advocate for international anticolonial networks of solidarity that were in many ways a deliberate continuation of those networks sustained by activists in the CAA of the 1940s and 1950s. Finally, in sponsoring numerous high profile community and cultural fundraising events in tribute to the "two giants," the magazine tapped into a broad intergenerational public sphere of support for independent black initiative that sustained it financially and provided a printed medium for these radical Popular Front politics and their continuing influence in the post-World War II Civil Rights movement.


Indeed, Freedomways' founders picked up what remained of the black Left of previous decades. As Esther Cooper Jackson indicated in a recent interview, those activists who helped conceive Freedomways magazine in New York during the early 1960s--namely Augusta and Edward Strong, and Louis and Dorothy Burnham--"were a group of friends" who had all been key actors in the Southern Negro Youth Congress's wide-ranging struggles for social justice in the 1930s and 1940s. (21) From these experiences in the Southern States, they carried with them the intent of recreating similar Popular Front organizations through their activism in New York during the 1950s and 1960s, such as Paul Robeson's short-lived Freedom paper. Historian Lawrence Lamphere suggests Freedom was basically "an attempt by a small group of black activists, most of them Communists, to provide Robeson with a base in Harlem and a means of reaching his public." (22) Unfortunately, the paper "hit right at the heart of the McCarthy era [1951-55]" and, unlike Monthly Review, lasted only five years because of terminal financial difficulties and anti-communist FBI harassment. (23) From their SNYC experience, the founders of Freedomways felt that coalition-building was the most effective way to organize against racism and for progressive change in American society.

Essentially, the founders of Freedomways had been involved in social movements that "crested in the 1940s" and that were "sparked by the alchemy of laborites, civil rights activists, progressive New Dealers, and black and white radicals, some of whom were associated with the Communist Party." (24) They managed to survive the repression of the Cold War in the late 1940s and early 1950s and carried forth the radical and progressive ideals of these movements--what Robert Korstad called "civil rights unionism" and what Martha Biondi called the "[b]lack Popular Front"--into the best known period for civil rights activism, namely the 1950s and 1960s. (25)

According to Esther Cooper Jackson, Ed Strong and Louis Burnham had thought of the original idea for Freedomways during the mid-50s as a continuation of Freedom newspaper and the Freedom Fund that backed it financially. (26) With the approach of the 1960s, when the height of McCarthyist repression was over and black struggles in America were again taking centre stage in the southern states, Burnham and Strong wanted there to be a similar publication to Freedom paper which could be, as Jackson explained, a "political magazine and also a cultural magazine ... which would provide some guidance to civil rights during that period in history." (27) Because of their organizational experiences together in SNYC (they had co-edited SNYC's newspaper Cavalcade), Burnham wanted Jackson to take a managing role with the new magazine. Unfortunately, Burnham suffered a massive heart attack and died in 1960, never to see his dream become a reality. Nonetheless, the idea behind Freedomways did not die, since Jackson and those who remained from SNYC were together in New York City and part of a progressive community of activists, artists, and intellectuals that helped to see Burnham's idea to fruition. Like the "group of friends" who formed Freedomways, this vibrant community had been active for many decades and was equally inclined to organize broad coalitions of people against American racism. As Patricia Sullivan has argued, the activities of the Popular Front era created hope for a wide generation of activists who became imbued with a spirit of radical thought that they felt would transform the world into a better place for everyone regardless of the colour of their skin or the class they were born into. (28)

It was these kinds of perspectives fostered during the Popular Front era that also helped bring southern black organizers such as Freedomways' Esther Cooper Jackson to New York after the demise of SNYC. Despite the fact that many blacks who came to Northern cities in the Great Migration found that desegregation did not put an end to racism, Esther Cooper Jackson felt that New York City was still "the home of the literary world" and one of the most tolerable places for political radicals to be in the U.S. during the Cold War. (29) "I tell you it was important to have [Freedomways] published in New York. It was significant and strategically beneficial to be here, because of all the contacts we could make with young writers and artists. And the whole history of culture in the Harlem community going back through the Harlem Renaissance, it was important to be here." (30) New York City became an ideal venue for the former SNYC activists to continue their Popular Front radicalism and relate it to the growing militancy of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

The founders of Freedomways made many connections with the elder figures of the Harlem cultural and literary scene, who in turn provided them with opportunities to continue their radical oppositional politics in the vibrant intergenerational literary community of late 1950s and 1960s New York. The famed Harlem-based poet, Langston Hughes (whose leftist affinities have been downplayed by scholars) frequently gave readings at SNYC-sponsored events in Virginia and Alabama during the 1940s, while W.E.B. Du Bois lent his support to the organization and spoke at one of its conventions in 1946. (31) During the 1940s and 1950s, New York became home to Du Bois and his wife Shirley Graham, who moved increasingly to the Left over the course of these decades. For a time, they were active in New York's radical community, befriending and mentoring some of the younger generation of activists--notably Esther Cooper Jackson and the SNYC cadre involved with the forming of Freedomways. (32) As a result of her involvement with key Harlem literary figures like Du Bois and Hughes through SNYC, Jackson was able to seamlessly immerse herself in the activities of organizations like John Oliver Killens's Harlem Writers Guild during the 1950s. Through these contacts, she befriended prominent writers such as Lorraine Hansberry, Margaret Burroughs, John Henrik Clarke, Ernest Kaiser, and Julien Mayfield while learning from older writers like Sterling Brown, Louise Thompson, William Patterson, and Zora Neale Hurston. Despite the omnipresence of McCarthyism in 1950s America, New York City was still a major haven for black political radicalism because it was home to such a broad and intergenerational literary and cultural scene.

A variety of figures and organizations in New York also indicated that the activities of WWII-era radicals were continuing well into the post-war 1950s and 1960s. Robert Williams, the renegade Monroe, North Carolina NAACP leader, who was suspended from his organization in 1959 for advocating armed black self-defence to lynching, spent considerable time meeting and raising funds for his efforts with a wide range of Harlem figures. Such figures included nationalists Malcolm X, (33) as well as writers Julien Mayfield and John Henrik Clarke (who would each go on to write for Freedomways). (34) Martha Biondi and Penny Von Eschen have both shown that organizations like the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) and Robeson and Du Bois' anticolonial CAA still operated in New York until 1955-6 despite severe internal conflicts and government repression. (35) Moreover, Biondi even suggests that the "Communist Left continued to play a significant role [there] in racial justice struggles well into the 1950s." (36)

A figure who supports Biondi's claim was former CP member and merchant marine radical Jack O'Dell--who later headed fundraising in the New York office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became a key writer and editor for Freedomways in the mid-1960s. O'Dell first went to New York in the late 1950s to join in the struggle for public housing, after which he helped James Jackson, along with eminent civil rights and union activist A. Philip Randolph and former CP member (and lifelong pacifist and civil rights intellectual) Bayard Rustin, organize a March on Washington for Integrated Schools in 1959 that brought 25,000 people to the capital. This was an impressive cast of leftists, especially since this event occurred deep into the Cold War, long after all "reds" had supposedly been purged from American progressive movements.

Freedomways' founders were very much a part of this generation of black leftists from the 1930s and 1940s who never ceased their activity even during the height of the Cold War. While their activities in the Southern states may have been circumscribed, the group of friends who formed the magazine depended on a close knit network of people throughout New York whom they knew from this earlier period. As such, the former SNYC activists were able to enter into the Harlem radical milieu of the 1950s and 1960s and gain valuable support when they finally decided to create the magazine in 1961. Esther Cooper Jackson describes this experience:

    After Louis died we were all in such shock that nothing happened for
    a while. Then Jim [James] Jackson, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Dr. Du
    Bois, John Oliver Killens, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Lorraine Hansberry
    and some of us got together. Well we're going to try it out, because
    this was Louis Burnham's dream. I agreed to work for a year to try
    to raise funds to find an office, and Dr. Du Bois advising us from
    his experience with The Crisis, Phylon and from all of his books and
    so forth. He advised us not to get the first issue out until we had
    enough money in the bank for at least a year or two. (37)

As Jackson's narrative indicates, Freedomways' inauguration was greatly informed by the intergenerational dialogue between activists--with elder figures such as the DuBois's, Burnham's, and John Oliver Killens interacting closely with younger figures such as the Jackson's, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis, as well as Lorraine Hansberry, and Esther Cooper. Such a dialogue can be viewed as part of a crucial point of continuity between periods of African American struggle.


After the magazine's first seven years of publication, it had reached a per-issue paid circulation rate of over 5000--up 3000 from its original run in 1961. (38) Although this paled in comparison to white-owned and well-financed progressive publications like The Nation, Freedomways still had extensive local and national distribution in bookstores throughout the city of New York, as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. At this time, it also had international distribution centres in the West Indies and the Caribbean, Africa, Canada, Australia and England, as well as many contacts and subscribers throughout Asia and Latin America. (39) Moreover, distribution was especially good in Africa because of the magazine's many contacts there--from expatriated black Americans like Shirley Graham and Alphaeus Hunton, to African heads of state Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Tom Mboya, and Jomo Kenyatta, (40) to book shop owners, students, activists, and others living throughout the continent. These contacts did not always provide a consistent base, as CIA-backed coups brought new political elites to power, forcing many to leave their homelands and/or abandon their sojourn. Also, due to a consistent lack of financial resources, it was difficult to set up distribution in places like Nigeria, where the magazine was never able to locate a reliable distributor. (41)

Nonetheless, Freedomways was able to establish exchange relationships with other significant black radical publications covering anticolonial activities, notably Presence Africaine, headed by exiled Senegalese leaders Leopold Senghor and Aimee Cesaire. Presence Africaine was published in France and was "an extremely important journal committed to the ideas of radical Pan-Africanism." (42) The magazine's editors also communicated with other black periodicals in the U.S. including The Liberator, Muhammad Speaks, Umbra, Urbanite, The Negro Digest, and Black World, as well as Trotskyist and Communist publications such as The Militant, The Weekly World, and The Daily Worker. (43) In his efforts as associate editor at Freedomways, John Henrik Clarke often referred writers to the Chicago-based Negro Digest and Liberator when the magazine had too many submissions on a given topic or in instances when the other editors felt a given submission did not meet the editorial policy. Such referrals indicate the degree of support that existed between diverse movement publications during this era, particularly in and around New York.

Moreover, the literary and publishing activities surrounding the magazine gives further weight to James Smethurst's contention that Freedomways "was often more sympathetic to nationalism and certainly notions of African-American self-determination (under the rubric of "black liberation") than has sometimes been allowed." (44) Regular Freedomways writers included: Sylvester Leaks, who wrote regularly for Muhammad Speaks, and L.P. Beveridge and Elton Fax who were each editors at the left-nationalist Liberator. (45) Other people with nationalist sympathies who frequently contributed to Freedomways included Umbra's Tom Dent, Rolland Snellings, Lennox Raphael, and David Henderson, as well as other young radical writers such as John Henry Jones, On Guard's Calvin Hicks, jazz musician Max Roach, artists Tom Feelings and Brumsic Brandon, Jr. and Alice Walker, whose early short stories were featured prominently in the magazine. In the late 1960s, when literary nationalism really began to take hold, Freedomways published such figures as Larry Neal, Mari Evans, Haki Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Askia Toure. Contributing editor and poet/actor/teacher Jim Williams even helped found a Freedom School affiliated to Malcolm X's Organization of Afro-American Unity. (46)

A number of these people helped anticipate (and also took part in) the Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the late 1960s and 1970s. While BAM has been viewed as the intellectual adjunct of militant black nationalism, this movement was actually one of the most important literary movements of the 20th Century and a pre-cursor for post-colonial studies. Like Freedomways, it helped black Marxist and nationalist intellectuals cooperate through their writing during the Black Power era. (47) With the subsequent rise of Black Power political struggles by the mid-1960s, Freedomways did need to contend with both resurgent and new forms of black nationalism that frequently stood in opposition to the civil rights mainstream to which the editors were primarily allied--a subject that needs to be explored further, but that exceeds the scope of this article focused on the magazine's early years. Suffice it to say that the magazine's formative years (which were highlighted by the establishment of intergenerational writing networks and Popular Front-style public functions) foreshadowed its ability to be, as John Oliver Killens once characterized the late Lorraine Hansberry, "[b]lack nationalist with a socialist perspective." (48)

Freedomways not only picked up what remained of the black left during the early 1960s, but it also continued the anti-colonial internationalism of past black radical institutions. Like the Council on African Affairs had done, the magazine was forming its own broad network of people from inside and outside the U.S. who were involved in the burgeoning African and Third World liberation struggles of the mid-Twentieth Century--struggles that were also beginning to have an impact on another generation of newly active black Americans. (49) The establishment of these networks was apparent right from the magazine's first few issues, when it relied on the contacts of Du Bois, Graham, and Hunton to ganer such contributors as former Congolese foreign minister Antoine Gizenga, and Ghanaian president, Kwame Nkrumah, following Congo's CIA-orchestrated assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 1961. (50)

Alphaeus Hunton's relationship with the magazine, in particular, stands as an example of a radical figure who survived the Cold War period to contribute to black political discourse in the 1960s, while also bridging the political and cultural spheres of the Atlantic Ocean. Described by Penny Von Eschen as "one of the most neglected African American intellectuals" of the 1940s and 1950s, Hunton was an English professor at Howard University and editor of the CAA's New Africa before he moved to West Africa with his wife Dorothy in 1960 where he would later continue Du Bois' work on the Encyclopedia Africana project following the elder man's death in 1963. (51) The Huntons remained supporters of Freedomways throughout the 1960s, corresponding frequently with the editors, informing them of events taking place in Africa, and maintaining honorary status as mentors, enshrined by the persistence of Hunton's name in Freedomways' masthead until his death in 1970. While Alphaeus Hunton only published a few articles in the magazine, his symbolism as a figure of the anticolonial African American Left from the 1940s and 1950s remains a significant indication of how these radical politics were sustained with Freedomways. (52)

Beyond Shirley Graham and Alphaeus Hunton, who were in their 60s, there were two generations of younger black radicals who became well-acquainted with African independence struggles through the magazine's writing networks. The youngest was represented by Jean Carey Bond, who was then in her mid-20s. In 1965, she moved to Ghana for a year with her architect husband, Max Bond, to partake in nation-building efforts. As a member of the youngest generation of activists involved with Freedomways, Bond had become well-acquainted with the traditions of black struggle in New York, for she had been involved with the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s and had a familial history of activism (her uncle was the famous Harlem Communist and city councillor, Benjamin Davis). (53) Like Shirley Graham, Bond was invaluable for soliciting young Ghanaian writers for Freedomways, including poets Kajo Kyei and the American-born writer Hodee Edwards. (54) Freedomways editors Ernest Kaiser and John Henrik Clarke, who were in their 40s, also wrote about the treatment of Africa in American public discourse and the growing salience of pan-Africanism and anticolonialism to black Americans. (55) Clarke covered the demonstrations at the United Nations in New York in February, 1961 protesting the murder of Congo's Patrice Lumumba. At these demonstrations he suggested that, "Lumumba became Emmett Till," the Chicago teenager infamously murdered in Mississippi by white racists in 1955. With a long view of the African American struggle over many decades and generations, Clarke felt that the "plight of the Africans still fighting to throw off the yoke of colonialism and the plight of Afro-Americans, still waiting for a rich, strong and boastful nation to redeem the promise of freedom and citizenship became one and the same" at these demonstrations. (56) From the magazine's first issues, its intergenerational anticolonialism focused closely on the relationship between African Americans and Africa.

These kinds of perspectives appeared frequently in the magazine and further indicated how Freedomways was a source for a diversity of first-hand commentary from around the world about the liberation of Africa during the 1960s and its bearing on the struggles of African Americans. For instance, in the fall of 1962, the magazine ran a special issue on Africa that was compiled by John Henrik Clarke. The issue featured prominent independence leaders such as Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, who indicated links between colonial liberation and African American struggle in the U.S. by suggesting that Africans exact "pressures elsewhere in the world until people of African descent and all other human beings are completely free." (57) Sylvanus Olympio of Togo also suggested that the people of his country were "watching with keen interest the determination with which the people of African descent in America [were] struggling to live in dignity and on an equal status with their brothers and sisters of European descent." (58) Finally, correspondents covering African issues at the UN, like Charles Howard, Sr., wrote important articles for the magazine about the Western-influenced dimensions of Lumumba's assassination, the exploits of the CIA to secure the mineral rich region of Congo's Katanga province, and the centrality of South Africa to realizations of Pan-African freedom across the Atlantic. (59) With such first-hand commentary, the magazine could claim the ability to furnish accurate and voluminous information on Africa and much of its diaspora, continuing the important advocacy work done by the CAA in the 1940s and 1950s.

The anticolonialism of Freedomways' first few issues also resonated in the Afro-American public sphere of the Cold War 1960s. For instance, the magazine's coverage of African liberation movements did not escape the attention of influential intellectuals J. Saunders Redding and J.A. Rogers, who in turn got coverage of the magazine into black newspapers like the Baltimore Afro-American and the Pittsburgh Courier. (60) With a nod to the persistence of Du Bois' significance in African American public discourse (and to Freedomways' important role in this discourse), Redding suggested that the "commentators, observers" and "thinkers" at the magazine, were as "sincere and unafraid and own-mind-knowing" as the elder scholar/activist Du Bois had "always been." An editorial in the Afro-American echoed Redding's praise, suggesting that "a quarterly review of the world-wide freedom movement among colored people has appeared on the newsstands ... The publication unquestionably can help fill a historical and cultural vacuum and merits the support of freedom lovers everywhere." J.A. Rogers, writing in the Pittsburgh Courier, indicated that Freedomways had come at the "right time," and like Redding, noted Du Bois' early involvement with the magazine and its significant coverage of African anticolonial struggles. (61) Penny Von Eschen contends that the rise of Cold War liberalism in the late 1940s and 1950s created a situation where the transnational black press could "no longer" editorially challenge U.S. imperialism. However, the fact that Freedomways was important to prominent black intellectuals and that this was advertised in major black newspapers gives some indication that left-leaning anticolonial views persisted in the mainstream channels of the black public sphere well into the 1960s. (62)

While the magazine prominently featured the struggles of Africa and its diaspora, it did not limit coverage of other movements that were against colonialism and had a close relationship to black liberation in the U.S. Freedomways featured John Henrik Clarke's experiences on a prominent African American delegation to Cuba with militant former Monroe, North Carolina NAACP leader, Robert Williams. On this trip, Clarke was interested in how the Cuban revolution had blended "people of diverse cultural backgrounds"--a reality he suggested was promised in the U.S., but whose promise "was never kept." (63) Echoing Clarke's internationalism, Esther Cooper Jackson spoke of Kath Walker, an aboriginal activist from Australia, whose poetry on the oppression of her people was first published in Freedomways in 1963. Of the magazine's diffuse coverage of anticolonial movements, Jackson suggested that it was something "unique" to Freedomways. "Wherever we had contacts, we hoped to bring ... readers the worldwide struggle of oppressed people. It was key to show that we're not alone," said Jackson. (64) Indeed, Freedomways made such internationalism an inextricable part of antiracist struggle in the U.S.

The magazine's efforts to link the struggles of African Americans to liberation movements elsewhere were best illustrated with its coverage of the Vietnam war under the Johnson administration during the mid-1960s. A 1965 staff editorial drafted by Jack O'Dell stated the magazine's anti-Vietnam war stance and connected the war to the racist oppression experienced by blacks and other subject peoples over the course of U.S. history. (65) "This is not the first racist war in which the American people have been dragged by their political leaders," he wrote. "This country ... is peculiarly shaped, in part, by its history of wars--against the Indian population, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba, Haiti and the Korean people." Also touching on the illegal U.S. military intervention in the Dominican Republic, the editorial suggested that the arrogance at play in the Southern states preventing blacks from voting and participating in government was the same one guiding U.S. wars overseas. "[T]his is the link that connects Selma and Saigon," it concluded: "The very day that 3,500 U.S. troops were landing in Vietnam, the Negro citizens of Selma, Alabama, were being beaten, tear-gassed, and smoke-bombed by Alabama State police for trying to march in peaceful protest against being denied the right to vote." (66) Though it was an early articulation of the important linkages between black struggles in the U.S. and imperialism in South East Asia, the magazine's position in 1965 was not an isolated one. In fact, it was very similar to SNCC's anti-Vietnam war statement from the same year, which was reprinted in Freedomways. This statement indicated that prominent civil rights leaders like James Forman and Robert Moses had also firmly opposed the war. (67) Clearly the anti-imperial perspectives of the magazine's editors--which had remained consistent from the Popular Front period--were now shared by prominent figures in the Southern movement.

In linking the anti-war and civil rights movements, however, the magazine was also consciously reinvigorating a debate that had at times lain dormant, but was sustained by radical figures like Du Bois, Robeson, and their proteges involved with Freedomways. The magazine was part of a long line of African American publications with national circulation like the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, Baltimore Afro-American, The Crisis, and Freedom, all of which closely monitored anticolonial developments in Africa and much of the 'Third World' with an emphasis on the need for radical change in the United States. (68) According to former editor Jack O'Dell, "Freedomways picked up the threads of that tradition because the Cold War had placed a damper, especially on being critical of U.S. foreign policy." The U.S. "had set out a set of assumptions--'America is the leader of the free world and so on'--and you weren't supposed to tamper with that," he said. "And we did, we tampered with it because we knew it wasn't true." (69)

O'Dell's perspective about the opposition to U.S. foreign policy that Freedomways sustained resonated in another important anti-Vietnam war article it published. The article was written in 1965 by Robert Browne, an accomplished black journalist who had spent considerable time in South East Asia during the late 1950s and early 1960s and possessed first-hand knowledge of Vietnamese politics. He gave a concise account of how the civil rights movement and the burgeoning anti-Vietnam war movement could find common "moral" ground. This was a trend he found especially noticeable on the "organizational circuit, where many of the groups which have been most vocal in their support of civil rights are the same ones which are most outspoken against the worst aspects of U.S. involvement in Vietnam." (70) Browne was acutely aware of the risks civil rights organizations took by coming out against the war, and suggested that they faced losing financial backing, being labelled 'unpatriotic,' causing dissension within a domestically focused civil rights movement, being smeared "Communist," and potentially dispersing vital resources and energy. Yet like the many activists who by the mid-1960s were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the lethargic and ineffective concessions the federal government had made to the freedom movement, Browne saw civil rights objectives extending beyond the de jure end of segregation. Part of this extension was his implicit argument that racism was institutionally omnipresent in the United States and that any real change had to come from a fundamental erasure of the white supremacist underpinnings of American democracy, both in terms of itsCold War imperialist foreign policy and its corresponding domestic apartheid that persisted under capitalist expansion.

By consistently making the connections between anticolonial opposition in the U.S. and abroad, Freedomways continued to foster its internationalist Popular Front ideals, enabling it to broaden its network of radical writers throughout the 1960s. Figures like C.L.R. James and Claudia Jones (who were both deported from the U.S. under the anticommunist McCarran Act), writers Lennox Raphael and Jose Malcioln, and poet Derek Walcott contributed to a special issue on the struggles of blacks in the Caribbean. (71) The magazine also solicited articles from popularly elected leftist leaders like Cheddi Jagan of Guyana and Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago. (72) Perhaps inspired by the issue, a letter was sent to the magazine from Jamaica, but addressed to the disbanded CAA. In reply, John Henrik Clarke suggested that Freedomways might be a suitable alternative, as it is "the major publication in this country dealing with African and Afro-American affairs." (73) In networking with African leaders, and covering anticolonial struggles around the world, by the mid-1960s Freedomways was still engaged in the same kind of radical advocacy and solidarity work that Robeson, Du Bois, and Alphaeus Hunton had been doing with the CAA. Moreover, the anticolonialism prevalent in the magazine also resonated with a younger generation of African American activists and intellectuals who now widely supported struggles in Cuba, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as they were similarly intent on liberation in the U.S.


It was in the context of this renewed internationalism in African American popular discourse that Freedomways held its 1965 salute for Paul Robeson, as well as many other functions at prominent New York venues like Carnegie Hall, the Village Gate, and Harlem's Hotel Theresa. These gatherings, which doubled as fundraisers for the magazine, featured prominent musicians, entertainers, writers, intellectuals, and activists who were involved in a number of important organizations from the Association of Artists for Freedom, to prominent civil rights organizations like SNCC, CORE, and SCLC, to the NAACP and the Urban League. Also, the events often featured distinguished international representatives from Africa, the Caribbean, the Soviet Union, and India and effectively became demonstrations of significant public support for Freedomways magazine. (74)

With its large and notable list of attendees, the magazine's Robeson tribute was a case in point for the range of opinions articulated at these public gatherings. Take for instance the contending perspectives on the singer's political legacy. The Salute (or tribute) featured prominent businessmen such as Harlem's Hope Stevens, who spoke of the internationalist, anticolonial connections that Robeson consistently made through activism. Yet as a gesture to accommodating the prevalent Cold War liberal discourse within the civil rights movement, Stevens added that "[t]he songs that Paul used as the vehicles of protest and incitement ... have now become recognized as the spiritual weapons of struggle in America and have even been adopted by the President of the United States." (75) In contrast to Stevens, SNCC chair John Lewis spoke at the tribute of his organization's role as spiritual heir to Robeson because, like the singer, SNCC rejected "gradualism and moderation," called for "nationwide protests and massive organizing of ordinary people," had "met African leaders," and had "made enemies" of some of their liberal supporters. (76)

For Lewis, the freedom movement in the United States during the mid-1960s was facing a confrontation with the American state similar to what Robeson and many other radical leftists faced in the peace movements of the 1940s and 1950s when they had their passports revoked, were thrown in prison, and were expelled from unions for not going along with the Cold War liberal program. Where once union radicalism had been the target of Cold War liberals, democratic grassroots initiatives like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) now found themselves similarly circumscribed by liberal opposition. Indeed, internationalist activist organizations like SNCC took up where the CAA had left off, alienating many liberal supporters by making anti-Vietnam war statements and becoming increasingly militant in their stance against racist violence at home and overseas. (77) Despite the fact that the Freedomways tribute would be the ailing Robeson's last major public appearance, SNCC's support for him at the tribute indicated that the singer's Popular Front legacy continued with another generation of active thinkers as a radical critique of American liberal discourse in the 1960s.

Freedomways had sustained this critique in a similar way several months before the Robeson tribute. The 1965 winter issue was a memorial for W.E.B. Du Bois, for which the editors also held a benefit fundraiser for their magazine. In this issue, the editors not only enshrined Du Bois' image as a "godfather" whose intellectual and activist pursuits informed and inspired the magazine's inauguration in 1961, but they also connected Du Bois' struggles against white supremacy to the work many in the African diaspora did to radically reconstruct the colonial world. (78) The issue featured mostly left-wing contributors like Paul Robeson. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, Harlem poet Langston Hughes, exiled Caribbean communist C.L.R. James, progressive actress Ruby Dee, historian John Hope Franklin, and a message of congratulations for the magazine's first five years from Shirley Graham herself. Through this special issue, Freedomways tried to show that Du Bois' legacy was celebrated by a broad coalition of figures. Therefore the magazine included select messages from centrist NAACP head Roy Wilkins and moderate white intellectuals like Conor Cruise O'Brien. The Du Bois special issue would become one of Freedomways' most successful publications, selling over 15,000 copies. It was even re-printed as a book in 1970 with some revision and additional content. (79)

The issue's contributors spoke of Du Bois' aspirations--namely his single-minded commitment to fighting racial injustice in America and his unyielding connection to the international dimensions of the black freedom struggle--and their perspectives came mostly from the left of the political spectrum. The leftist tone of this issue was typified by Esther Cooper Jackson's husband (and CP-leader) James Jackson's article on Du Bois' belated commitment to the Communist Party at the age of 93 and how Du Bois' work fit into a legacy of Marxist internationalism. (80) Jackson recalled "conversations with Dr. Du Bois going back for better than two decades on questions of Marxist approaches to problems of race nationality" and that "the Du Bois logic was essentially the Marxian dialectical process of reasoning." Robeson spoke of his own involvement with Du Bois in the Council on African Affairs and then, after the war, at the Peace Information Centre in the late 1940s and early 1950s--endeavours that would attract severe government red-baiting and the revocation of both Du Bois' and Robeson's passports. (81) Carlton Goodlett, editor at the San Francisco-based Sun Reporter, along with Carl Bloice, publications director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs, wrote of Du Bois' commitment to the first Pan-African Congress held in 1900 through to his involvement with the Organization of African Unity in 1963 shortly before his death. (82) Community historian Richard Moore, a former Communist member of the radical African Blood Brotherhood during the 1920s and owner of the Frederick Douglass bookstore in Harlem, indicated the significance of Du Bois' Pan Africanism and his "concept of race," rooted in a "social heritage of slavery ... [that] binds together not simply the children of Africa, but extends through yellow Asia and into the South Seas." (83) An exceptional non-leftist in the issue was the aforementioned Wilkins, whose Cold War NAACP did not acknowledge connections between peace, colonial liberation, and radicalism in the struggles of blacks in the U.S. Nonetheless, Wilkins heralded Du Bois' anticolonial efforts in light of his founding role in the NAACP. He acknowledged Du Bois as a "crusader for human rights ... an early foe of colonialism, an uncompromising champion of African nationalism, and an ardent advocate of the spiritual unity of peoples of African descent the world over." (84) The anticolonialism that would provide the basis for Du Bois' anti-racism echoed in every one of the perspectives of the contributors to his memorial issue--a consensual legacy that the magazine helped facilitate by making the black Popular Front combination of liberals and leftists relevant to the political discourse of the 1960s.

Thus, through the celebratory efforts of Freedomways magazine, the Popular Front legacies of figures like Robeson and Du Bois were concretely sustained into the 1960s. Esther Cooper Jackson said that "they exerted great influence on the editorship and readership" of Freedomways magazine. In particular, Jackson recalled an interview she and fellow editor Jack O'Dell had conducted with Robeson in 1964, where Robeson had expressed his tremendous desire to partake in the organizing activities taking place within the freedom movement throughout the country. "It was like his life wasn't significant if he wasn't out with these young people ... demonstrating, getting arrested," said Jackson. But his spirit, she added, was still with the movement. (85) If the reception to the Du Bois and Robeson tributes that Freedomways organized in 1965 was any indication, their legacies resonated with many throughout the 1960s.


Like the SNCC activists who spoke of Paul Robeson's influence on them, other important civil rights leaders viewed the legacy of the "Two Giants" in a similar light. Such a view was particularly held by former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) staffer Jack O'Dell, who by 1963 had become a contributing editor for Freedomways after being redbaited out of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organization. (86) Even more than Du Bois and Robeson, O'Dell substantively bridged the gap between the Popular Front anti-racist movements of the 1930s and 1940s and the movements that emerged from the 1950s and 1960s because of his involvement as a Communist union organizer during the 1940s, and his later work as head of fundraising and southern voter registration in SCLC. His decision to join Freedomways was largely due to his prior association with Esther and James Jackson through SNYC, the CP, and Robeson's Freedom paper during the 1940s and 1950s. O'Dell would have a tremendous impact on the magazine, penning over sixty per cent of the staff editorials, writing twenty key strategy pieces over the twenty-five years of the magazine's existence, and playing a central role in soliciting material from activists for publication. (87) His work with Freedomways was especially significant because of his ongoing connections with the most prominent elements of the civil rights movement throughout the 1960s.

O'Dell's contribution to the Du Bois memorial issue is an excellent example of how Freedomways framed Du Bois' historical legacy to draw important generational links between past and present movement praxis and activity. O'Dell wrote about how he used Du Bois' masterwork, Black Reconstruction, while organizing voter registration drives in the South. He indicated how the study of the "first" Reconstruction period in America was crucial to developing an "adequate theory of social change to guide the practical activities of the Movement" in the "second" period because it was "deeply rooted in the scientific disciplines of economics, government, political behavior, as well as the science of organization." To O'Dell, Du Bois' path-breaking study of the period when numerous black officials were elected to public office provided an "indispensable weapon" and a "motivational tool for more effective practical work." O'Dell further recounted how, through staff training work with SCLC, he dispensed copies of Black Reconstruction to scores of young campus and adult community leaders and activists, "most of whom had never heard of W.E.B. Du Bois" but "who were eager to know more" after being introduced to the book. "If there is any frame of reference for the black community in the South to measure its progress by, it is the levels of political power achieved during Reconstruction" wrote O'Dell. "Qualitatively speaking, anything short of those levels amounts to 'tokenism.'" (88) As a figure who bridged the Popular Front era of the 1930s and 1940s with the militant integrationism of the 1960s, O'Dell's earlier acquaintance with Du Bois' work enabled him to see links between the scholarly and activist spheres that the eminent scholar made a career of joining, and the important historical analogies between past and present black struggle in the U.S. that these links helped to illustrate.

O'Dell wrote many important articles for Freedomways in the mid-1960s that revealed the nuances of these continuities at important junctions when the civil rights movement was experiencing significant changes in its trajectory, either to militant separatism or to moderate accommodation of provisional civil rights concessions. Foreshadowing his efforts to explore the contemporary significance of Black Reconstruction and the need for black public power, O'Dell's two-part article for Freedomways was part of a series on the South in 1963 and 1964. He wrote these articles when the civil rights dimensions of black struggle were stalling due to the intransigence of the Democratic National Committee, the inertia of government response to widespread repression of voter mobilization in the South, and the concomitant tidal wave of white supremacist terror and reaction. In this article, he traced a racial absolutism and "totalitarian pattern of institutional development in the United States," from the implementation of slavery to the re-entrenchment of economic injustice and coded white privilege during the 1960s. (89)

O'Dell's perception of American racism shows that it was a fundamental precept of American "democracy," similar to the process of national inclusion and exclusion that Nikhil Pal Singh has recently noted. (90) Thus, according to O'Dell, while blacks and other people of colour endured the perpetually-changing vagaries of legal and extra-legal repression, discrimination, and violence, they were also in an advance guard position to promote substantive social change in the United States. In essence, through their experience with racism, marginalized groups could see through the exceptionalist rhetoric of American liberal discourse that frequently masked the ongoing, day-to-day racialized inequities they had to face. As O'Dell contended, the "harsh economic realities" still confronted by the black community after gaining civil rights legislation contributed decisively to an increasing militancy "bearing within it the seeds of a much needed reconstruction of American political life." (91) In this article, O'Dell also related an exchange he had with James Baldwin at the Freedomways-sponsored opening of his play, Blues for Mr. Charlie. O'Dell wanted to know Baldwin's perception of the play's broader impact. The writer's reply was in line with O'Dell's strategic assertions that Blues for Mr. Charlie could "alert the country to the fact that, in spite of all that has been done to us, we, who have been described so often, are now describing the country." (92) To O'Dell, this was precisely what Freedomways was doing, and why he felt compelled to contribute to the magazine. African Americans "were better informed than most Americans." "The question," he said, "was [how] to cultivate the written word, because the written word has longevity." (93)

When O'Dell joined Freedomways in 1963, he felt it "should strive to be the magazine that the movement turns to to express itself and to draw from expressions of others that are in it as a way of keeping the perspective." For him, "a whole range of the new generation of activists [were] represented" in special issues of the magazine on the South, while at the same time the magazine invoked the legacies of past activists like Du Bois and Robeson, filling, in effect, a continuity gap in conventional understandings of the civil rights movement. "[F]illing the gap was one of the major purposes of Freedomways, and creating a vehicle of articulation of what the current situation was about" by having younger activists from the civil rights mainstream write for the magazine. (94) O'Dell also indicated that "[t]he two decades preceding the founding of Freedomways in 1961 prepared the way for the popular uprising against racist practices to come. Those years of practical experience in activism also bore the seeds of the idea for such a journal." (95) Jean Carey Bond echoed O'Dell's assertion and suggested that "many of the people ... older than [her] ... who were involved with the National Negro Congress [of the 1930s and 1940s] or who were part of ... black progressive artistic circles ... really had a lot of contact with the young people, who then went on to become involved with the civil rights movement." (96) Representing a diversity of perspectives, from holdover Marxist integrationists, to accomplished entertainers and writers, to evolving black nationalists, a significant number of people brought their experiences from the Popular Front and early Cold War eras to bear on the militant integrationism of the 1960s.

The effort of "filling the gap" was especially evident in the magazine's earlier issues which served to challenge not only generational divisions, but also geographic divisions in the civil rights movement, frequently stated in the historical literature to have existed between activists in Northern and Southern states. (97) This was due in particular to the efforts of New York-based writers like Joanne Grant and Augusta Strong. Grant was also an associate editor of James Aronson's radical paper, The National Guardian, a paper that had survived the Cold War repression of the early 1950s. She frequently covered the non-violent student struggles of the early 1960s and suggested in 1962 that it was time to "speak of the heroes of the South" and that African Americans "are in debt" to the young people leading protests there. For her part, Strong was a Cold War survivor who had been with the magazine since its beginnings and had been active in Southern states with SNYC during the 1940s. She drew important connections between the "militant, politically-oriented youth movement among Negroes in the South" of the first SNYC and the militant integrationism of the SNCC and SCLC during the early 1960s. (98)

The magazine's solid base of Southern and Northern Cold War survivors was bolstered by support from a diffuse community of black literary figures, artists, and intelligentsia in New York who had been active in earlier decades, going as far back as the Harlem Renaissance period of the 1920s. Prolific intellectuals like poets Sterling Brown and Langston Hughes, historian Richard Moore, philosopher Eugene Holmes, and writers Louise Thompson Patterson, William Patterson, Loften Mitchell, Eugene Gordon, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sylvester Leaks all wrote for the magazine, while accomplished black artists like Tom Feelings, Charles White, Romare Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett all had their artwork reprinted by it. (99) By the mid-1960s, the magazine began to publish the material of younger writers (such as Umbra founder Tom Dent and Harlem Writers Guild member, Jean Carey Bond) more frequently--figures who anticipated and later contributed to the Black Arts Movement. Thus, in the spirit of earlier Popular Front attempts to build broad coalitions of people, the magazine's editors in large part drew on the support of a heterogeneous community of public figures who by the 1960s had reinvigorated the already vibrant Harlem radical tradition that dated back to the 1920s and 1930s.

The stated editorial mandate of the magazine also demanded an "open forum for the expression of ideas" on the black freedom struggle which, for many of the former Communists and black radicals at Freedomways, meant opening dialogues with as broad a cross-section of people as possible: including moderate integrationist elites, younger civil rights leaders, and progressive white leftists. This was accomplished by airing the views of moderate figures such as the Urban League's Whitney Young, the NAACP's Roy Wilkins, and, with an eye to the South, the Tuskegee Institute's Charles Gomillion. (100) The magazine also associated with a significant number of white leftists like Herbert Aptheker, Pete Seeger, and John L. Devine who, for the most part, did not shy away from supporting the trajectory of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. (101) Furthermore, the editors of the magazine featured important perspectives on integrationist militancy by prominent Brooklyn preacher Milton Galamison and SNCC communications director, Julian Bond. (102) Paralleling Jack O'Dell's efforts to convey the lessons of Du Bois' Black Reconstruction, Galamison suggested in a televised debate with Malcolm X published by Freedomways in 1963 that "[t]here is nothing in America which does not belong to me. There is no public office, however high; no employment opportunity, however interracial, which is not a part of my heritage as a citizen of these United States." Galamison offered a further admonition that "integration must work because nothing else can" and his further call for a "common front against bigotry" best illustrated how Popular Front ideals and militant integration coalesced in the editorial policy of Freedomways. Thus, throughout the 1960s, the magazine's editorial policy was clearly in line with the mainstream of the civil rights movement that sought to redress inequality in U.S. society through better access to employment, social programs, and public political power. At the same time, the magazine's editors went beyond the mainstream of the civil rights movement in advocating a more radical integrationism that took into account anticolonial struggles and sought an associated transformation of American society.

Freedomways had emerged in the early 1960s as a crucial bridge between several generations of black radicals. The magazine communicated and linked the anticolonial, internationalist, and antiracism experiences of old guard leftists with a younger generation of activists, organizers, and writers. In drawing direct inspiration from the political legacies of elderly figures like W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Shirley Graham, and Alphaeus Hunton, the middle-aged editors at Freedomways were able to emulate the broadly based Popular Front activities of organizations such as the CAA, NNC, and SNYC. Despite having suffered the persecution of anti-communist Cold War hysteria and FBI surveillance, in the 1960s, the magazine's main editors (Esther Cooper Jackson, Jack O'Dell, John Henrik Clarke, and Ernest Kaiser) occupied an experienced vanguard position that enabled them to facilitate the continuance of Popular Front activities through their written and editorial work with the magazine and the commemorative events they helped to foster. As such, Freedomways editors could assume an intermediary role between the Du Bois and Robeson generation and younger activists like John Lewis and Julian Bond of SNCC--in effect, creating a dialogue that reconciled the leftist ideals of past decades with the black freedom movement of the early 1960s. Freedomways also unequivocally connected the international dimensions of struggles against colonialism at home and abroad, which were a hallmark of the Popular Front activities of the 1930s and 1940s and became equally salient to numerous black radicals in the 1960s who, regardless of their political affiliation, supported anti-colonial struggles from Alabama, to South Africa, to Vietnam.

By fostering networks between generations of writers living in Africa, its diaspora, and elsewhere in the world, Freedomways helped contribute to the survival of a radical left-leaning anticolonialism and anti-racism within the black public sphere as sit-ins in Greensboro, fire-hoses in Birmingham, and Marches on Washington for civil rights dominated the national headlines of the early 1960s. Most conclusively, the magazine's emergence in New York served to illustrate concrete continuities (in terms of people and their decades of activism) that linked the major eras of 20th Century black struggle in the U.S., and how these influences helped shape the left-wing of the post-war black liberation movement of the early 1960s.

(1) Ian Rocksborough-Smith is a historian and writer from Vancover, Canada. He holds an MA from Simon Fraser University.

(2) Esther Cooper Jackson and Constance Pohl eds., Freedomways Reader: Prophets in Their Own Country, (Boulder: Westview, 2001), xxix.

(3) Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, (New York: William Morrow, 1998), 476; John Henrik Clarke to Ossie Davis, 4 June 1965, Box 30, Folder 23, John Henrik Clarke Papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Archives and Rare Books Division, New York (hereafter cited as John Henrik Clarke Papers).

(4) Along with Dee, James Baldwin would also become a contributing editor to the magazine during the mid-1970s.

(5) James Smethurst writes that Herbert Aptheker had a "hostile relationship" to Freedomways. However, a closer look at Aptheker's involvement with the magazine shows that he remained on good enough terms to attend the magazine's fundraisers (such as the Salute to Paul Robeson) and to have the occasional letter published by the editors. Indeed, it was certainly important for the magazine to establish itself as a black magazine run by black editors, but Aptheker's ambivalent relationship to the magazine seems hardly more than anecdotal. James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement. 21, 125.

(6) Freedomways Associates, Freedomways Salute to Paul Robeson--New York City, Thursday, April 22, 1965, brochure, (New York: Freedomways Associates, 1965).

(7) Freedomways Associates, "Salute to Robeson," Freedomways 5, no. 3 (1965): 363-364.

(8) Martin B. Duberman, Paul Robeson: A Biography, (New York: Knopf, 1988); Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), 259.

(9) Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 273-275; Robert Korstad and Nelson Lichtenstein, "Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement," Journal of American History 75 (December 1988): 801; Adam Fairclough, Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995), xii; Jeff Woods, Black Struggle Red Scare: Segregation and Anti-Communism in the South, 1948-1968, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004).

(10) Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 369; Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000), 27-28; Helen Laville and Scott Lucas, "The American Way: Edith Sampson, the NAACP, and African American Identity in the Cold War," Diplomatic History 20, no. 4, (Fall 1996): 567; Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Carol Anderson, Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 2.

(11) Charles Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 79-94; Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 6; Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, (London: Zed Press, 1983), 317; Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country : Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy, (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2004); Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); James Smethurst, "Poetry and Sympathy: New York, the Left, and the Rise of Black Arts," in Left of the Color Line : Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States, Bill V. Mullen and James Smethurst, eds., (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 259-278; James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

(12) Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism; Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country; Charles Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom; Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight; Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie.

(13) Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country, 65-69. Singh has borrowed the term "counter-public sphere" from Nancy Fraser's theory describing a space of withdrawal for subordinated social groups to, as she writes, "invent and circulate counter discourses"; cf. Nancy Fraser, "Re-Thinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy," Social Text 25, no. 26 (1990): 56-80.

(14) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview by Ian Rocksborough-Smith, Brooklyn, NY, May 28, 2004.

(15) The CAA was a crucial organization of the 1940s and 1950s whose publication, New Africa, linked with liberation movements on that continent and advocated for colonial independence with the concurrent goal of defeating segregation in the U.S. Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 13.

(16) Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century, (New York: Verso, 1996), xviii-xix. In his use of the term "Popular Front," Denning also wants to reclaim it from its rigid association with Communist Party sectarianism.

(17) Martin Luther King, Jr., "A Time to Break Silence," Freedomways 7, no. 2 (1967): 105.

(18) Peniel E. Joseph, "Dashikis and Democracy," 183.

(19) Kevin Gaines, "African American Expatriates in Ghana and the Black Radical Tradition," Souls 1 (Fall 1999): 64-71.

(20) Peniel Joseph, "Dashikis and Democracy," 186-187.

(21) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview; C. Alvin Hughes, "'We Demand our Rights': The Southern Negro Youth Congress, 1937-1949," Phylon 48, no. 1 (First Quarter 1987): 39.

SNYC's activities from the late 1930s to the late 1940s were truly wide-ranging and included providing support for striking tobacco workers, running community theatre projects, publishing a newspaper (Cavalcade), and organizing Right-to-Vote Campaigns in Virginia and Alabama.

(22) Lawrence Lamphere, "Paul Robeson, Freedom Newspaper, and the Black Press," (PhD dissertation, Boston College, May 2003), 125.

(23) Ibid. 125.

(24) Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, "The Long Civil Rights Movement and Political Uses of the Past," The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005): 1245.

(25) Robert Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 1; Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 6.

(26) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview. According to Esther Cooper Jackson, Freedomways emerged from the same intellectual and cultural milieu that Freedom paper had, but got its name from a case study of a black community in Kent, Virginia. See Hylan Lewis. Blackways of Kent: Field Studies in the Modern Culture of the South, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955).

(27) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(28) Patricia Sullivan, Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

(29) Between 1910 and the end of WWII, it is estimated that nearly 2 million black Americans migrated from the southern states to northern cities like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. See Pete Daniel, "Going Among Strangers: Southern Reactions to World War II," Journal of American History 77 (Fall 1990): 69-95.

(30) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(31) James Smethurst, "'Don't Say Goodbye to the Porkpie Hat': Langston Hughes, the Left, and the Black Arts Movement," Callaloo 25, 4 (2002): 1225; W.E.B. Du Bois, "Behold the Land" (speech, SNYC legislature, Columbia, North Carolina, October 20, 1946), Freedomways 4, no. 1 (1964): 8-15; Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(32) Gerald Horne, Black and Red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 1944-1963, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986); Gerald Horne, Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois, (New York: New York University Press, 2000).

(33) Throughout most of the 1960s, the magazine displayed an affinity for the "mainstream," non-violent wing of the freedom movement, and avoided widespread interaction with and coverage of black nationalist figures such as Malcolm X--whose internationalism increasingly paralleled that of the editors, but whose militant separatism did not sit well with their civil rights allies. As such, the leftists at the magazine had more of an interest in broader movements like SCLC and later in the 1970s, People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), that backed popular electoral and progressive social policy initiatives, women's liberation, poor people's campaigns, and non-violent peace marches. Associate editor, Jack O'Dell said in an interview that he "had great respect for Malcolm X," but felt Malcolm "had been poorly trained" by the Nation of Islam into "not cooperating with the civil rights movement," opposing integration and multiracial cooperation and favoring entrepreneurial separatism over the attainment of radical changes in public policy. To O'Dell, and to most of the editors with Freedomways, political integration was more than simply de jure desegregation and cultural acquiescence to "white institutions." It constituted a radical program, rooted firmly in the mainstream politics of black America.

(34) Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 204.

(35) Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight, 267; Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 141.

(36) Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight, 6.

(37) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(38) Freedomways Associates, "Statement of Ownership," Freedomways 8, no. 1 (1968): 368.

(39) "Bookstore list," (1963/4), Box 30, Folder 21, John Henrik Clarke Papers.

(40) Kwame Nkrumah, "Africa's Liberation and Unity," Freedomways 2, no. 4 (1962): 421; Jomo Kenyatta, "Message," Freedomways 2, no. 4 (1962): 358; Sylvanus Olympio, "Message from--President of the Republic of Togo," Freedomways 2, no. 4 (1962): 359; see also Kevin Gaines, "African American Expatriates in Ghana and the Black Radical Tradition," 64-71.

(41) John Henrik Clarke to E.B. Darlyngton Chuks, Box 30, Folder 29, February 3, 1966, John Henrik Clarke Papers; Jack O'Dell, interview; Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(42) Peniel E. Joseph, "Dashikis and Democracy," 183; Jack O'Dell, interview.

(43) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(44) James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement, 125.

(45) According to Peniel Joseph, Muhammad Speaks was founded by Malcolm X and was "read religiously by a variety of students, activists, and intellectuals" who appreciated the paper's broad international and anticolonial perspective. Dan Watts's Liberator also provided space for many black nationalist writers and political activists including cultural critic Harold Cruse, Harlem activist Bill Epton and journalist William Worthy--all of whom contributed to black radical discourse in the late 1960s. Peniel Joseph, "Dashikis and Democracy," 186-187.

(46) Jack O'Dell, interview by Ian Rocksbourough-Smith, Vancover, B.C., May 11, 2004.

(47) Tom Dent, "Umbra Days," Black American Literature Forum 14, no. 3 (Autumn 1980): 105-108; Freedomways 6, no. 1 (1966): 37; Freedomways 4, no. 2 (1964): 280-281; James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); James Smethurst, "Poetry and Sympathy: New York, the Left, and the Rise of Black Arts," in Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States, Bill V. Mullen and James Smethurst, eds., (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 260; James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement.

(48) James Smethurst, "Poetry and Sympathy," 267-268.

(49) Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 16.

(50) Antoine Gizenga, "Declaration of the Government of the Congo," Freedomways 1, no. 2 (1961): 170; Kwame Nkrumah, "Address to the United Nations," Freedomways 1, no. 1 (1961): 45-72; Ceza Nabaraoui, "African Women Seek Independence and Peace," Freedomways 1, no. 1 (1961): 102-106; Freedomways Associates, "Among our contributors," Freedomways 1, no. 3 (1961): 228.

(51) Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 57, 184.

(52) Dorothy Hunton to John Henrik Clarke, December 17, 1963, Box 30, Folder 21, John Henrik Clarke Papers.

(53) Jean Carey Bond, interview by Ian Rocksborough-Smith, tape recording, New York, NY, May 28, 2004.

(54) John Henrik Clarke to Kajo Kyei, August 10, 1965, Box 30, Folder 23, John Henrik Clarke Papers; John Henrik Clarke to Kajo Kyei, June 2, 1965, Box 30, Folder 23, John Henrik Clarke Papers.

(55) Ernest Kaiser, "United States Relations With Africa," Freedomways 1, no. 3 (1961): 308-319; John Henrik Clarke, "The New Afro-American Nationalism," Freedomways 1, no. 3 (1961): 285-295.

(56) John Henrik Clarke, "The New Afro-American Nationalism," 285.

(57) Jomo Kenyatta, "Message," 358.

(58) Sylvanus Olympio, "Message from--President of the Republic of Togo," 360.

(59) Charles P. Howard, Sr. "Katanga and the Congo Betrayal," Freedomways 2, no. 3 (1962): 136-148; Charles P. Howard, Sr. "How the Press Defames Africa," Freedomways 2, no. 4 (1962): 361-370; Charles P. Howard, Sr. "The Last Phase of the African Revolution," Freedomways 3, no. 2 (1963): 183.

(60) Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 120.

(61) Freedomways Associates, "Readers Welcome Freedomways," Freedomways 1, no. 3 (1961): 224, 226-227.

(62) Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 120.

(63) John Henrik Clarke, "Journey to the Sierra Maestra," Freedomways 1, no. 1 (1961): 33; Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country, 186.

(64) Kath Walker, "A Song of Hope," Freedomways 3, no. 1 (1963): 93; Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(65) Esther Cooper Jackson and Constance Pohl eds, Freedomways Reader, xxvii, 152; Jack O'Dell, interview. O'Dell's editorial was also one of the first anti-Vietnam war pieces in a black publication.

(66) [Jack O'Dell], "The War in Vietnam," Freedomways 5, no. 2 (1965): 230.

(67) Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, "SNCC Statement on Vietnam, January 6, 1966," Freedomways 6, no. 1 (1966): 6-8; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle, 183.

(68) Penny Von Eschen, Race Against Empire, 259.

(69) Jack O'Dell, interview.

(70) Robert Browne, "The Freedom Movement and the War in Vietnam," Freedomways 5, no. 4 (1965): 472.

(71) Freedomways 4, no. 3, (1964): 293-455.

(72) Cheddi Jagan, "The USA and South America," Freedomways 8, no. 4 (1968): 24-40; Eric Williams, "Trinidad and Tobago: International Perspectives," Freedomways 4, no. 3, (1964): 331-340.

(73) John Henrik Clarke to Trevor Bogle, December 17, 1964, Box 30, Folder 21, John Henrik Clarke Papers.

(74) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(75) Hope Stevens, "Paul Robeson--Democracy's Most Powerful Voice" (speech, Salute to Paul Robeson, New York, NY, April 22, 1965), Freedomways 5, no.3 (1965): 366-367.

(76) John Lewis, "Paul Robeson--Inspirer of Youth," (speech, Salute to Paul Robeson, New York, NY, April 22, 1965), Freedomways 5, no. 3 (1965): 370.

(77) Charles M. Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom, 340; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle, 183.

(78) Quoted in Gerald Horne, Race Woman, 222-223; Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965).

Du Bois contributed several articles to Freedomways in its inaugural year and his writing appeared frequently and posthumously in later issues and in a tribute anthology.

(79) See John Henrik Clarke, Esther Cooper Jackson, Ernest Kaiser, and Jack O'Dell eds., Black Titan W.E.B. Du Bois: An Anthology by the Editors of Freedomways, (Boston: Freedomways Associates, 1970); Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(80) James Jackson, "James E. Jackson," Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 21.

(81) Paul Robeson, "Paul Robeson," Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 37,39.

(82) Carlton B. Goodlett and Carl Bloice, "W.E.B. Du Bois--Apostle of World Peace," in Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 188-194.

(83) Richard B. Moore, "Du Bois and Pan Africa," Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 168.

(84) Roy Wilkins, "Roy Wilkins," Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 10; Clayborne Carson, In Struggle, 220.

(85) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(86) Diane McWhorter, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama--The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, (New York: Touchstone, 2002) 62, 469; David J. Garrow, "The FBI and Martin Luther King," The Atlantic Monthly, (July/August 2002): 80-88; Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years--1954-1963, (New York: Touchstone, 1988), 837.

O'Dell continued to work clandestinely with SCLC for several years after officially leaving the organization.

(87) Jack O'Dell, interview.

(88) Jack O'Dell, "Du Bois and the Social Evolution of the Black South," Freedomways 5, no. 1 (1965): 164.

(89) Jack O'Dell, "Foundations of Racism in American Life, Part III," Freedomways 4, no. 4 (1964): 514.

(90) Nikhil Pal Singh, Black is a Country, 36-37.

(91) Jack O'Dell, "Foundations of Racism in American Life," 514.

(92) Ibid., 535.

(93) Jack O'Dell, interview.

(94) Ibid.

(95) Jack O'Dell, "Origins of Freedomways," in Esther Cooper Jackson and Constance Pohl eds., Freedomways Reader, 1.

(96) Jean Carey Bond, interview.

(97) Charles Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom, 385.

(98) Joanne Grant, "The Time is Always Now," Freedomways 2, no. 2, (1962): 150-155; Joanne Grant, "The Negro Movement--New Heights," Freedomways 3, no. 2 (1963): 163-168; Augusta Strong, "Southern Youths Proud Heritage," Freedomways 4, no. 1, (1964): 35-51; Gerald Horne, Race Woman, 161.

(99) Esther Cooper Jackson, interview.

(100) Freedomways Associates, "It's a Journal," Freedomways 1, no. 1, (1961): 9; Whitney M. Young, Jr. "What Price Prejudice?" Freedomways 2, no. 3 (1962): 237-242; Charles G. Gomillian, "The Tuskegee Voting Story," Freedomways 2, no. 3 (1962): 231-236.

(101) John Devine was a long-time trade unionist from Philadelphia who became Freedomways' only white editor in 1963 when he took the place of arts editor, Margaret Burroughs, after her move to Chicago.

(102) Milton Galamison, "Integration Must Work," Freedomways 3, no. 2 (1963): 215; Horace Julian Bond, "Non-Violence: An Interpretation," Freedomways 3, no. 2 (1963): 159-163

Ian Rocksborough-Smith (1)


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