DAVID OST: Hello, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon. It's afternoon in the East Coast of the United States, where most of the panelists, I think, are, but not everyone. I know some people are in California. Many are in Europe. So good afternoon, good evening, good morning.
We're about to begin the panel right now. It takes a moment for people-- someone you recommended to get there online, this would be a good moment to contact them. So if there's any-- you can take a moment here to just to figure out how to get on, get your friends online, and all that.
So anyway, I hope many of you were at the panel yesterday. I thought it was a great beginning, really fascinating discussion. And hopefully we'll have-- not hopefully, I'm certain we will have the same kinds of-- once here, I've read the papers and they're quite interesting, fascinating. It continues along with what we did yesterday. So OK, slowly, let me first introduce myself. I didn't say who I am. My name is David Oast. I'm a professor--
Oh, boy. Uh-oh, how do I-- OK, sorry about that. OK, so let me introduce myself. David Ost, I'm a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Upstate New York, this year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. My own work is on politics, left wing politics in Eastern Europe, historically, and mostly contemporarily. I've written a number of books, articles about the solidarity movement, about protest politics in Eastern Europe, communism, post communism, and have written some stuff about Jews in post-war Poland as well. We won't be talking about that so much, but I'll say words about that soon.
Today's panel, as you know, is titled "Fraternal Society with Emmas-- Mutual Aid, Insurance, Acculturation, Civil Rights, and Feminism." I will say more about the panel and introduce the speakers in just a moment. First, let me begin with a thank-you to our sponsors here, most especially the Cornell and Syracuse Jewish Studies programs, and the Central New York Humanities Corridor, Cornell Center for Social Sciences, and the Kheel's Center's Catherwood Center, and the Society for the Humanities.
Many academic departments and programs have also played a part in supporting us, Cornell departments of History, Anthropology, Near Eastern Studies in Government, as well as the American Studies program. Co-sponsors include Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, New York University, the Tamiment Library, and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, also at the New York University Archive.
So this is, as you know, a webinar series, where we are exploring the IWO and the JPFO materials, the IWO, the International Workers Order, the JPFO, Jewish People's Fraternal Order. These are Jewish, Yiddishist, multi-ethnic fraternal orders that were supportive of the Soviet Union. And most of the materials about them in the Cornell Archive at Catherwood were, in effect, confiscated by New York State and given to Cornell in 1961. And there's a whole host of material about that.
Elissa will post a bit to provide you links for the archival material. And as you probably noticed in the program tomorrow, there is also a special panel on the archive. I think that's tomorrow, but a special panel to get people familiarized with there. There's a lot of international material there. And I know there's some listeners here from Poland.
And I just might say that there's a lot of interesting archival material up on these websites about Poland that may be of interest, a lot of contact between these American left organizations and Polish Jews still in Poland after World War II, very prominent names like Adolf Berman or Hersh Smolar, some of their correspondence with them. And as in all archives, there's some fascinating material about monument building and about funds and what is needed for. And there's also blasé or other prosaic, mundane material, like you need to pay us the bill you owe us.
Anyway, so a fascinating archive, all of this is available online, available to anyone free at any time. And again, Alyssa will say more about that. And there will be a special panel on that.
The panelist question and answers will be at the end, after all the panelists speak. Attendees can post questions, though, at any time during this. So feel free while a presentation is going on to post your question. And we'll be getting to questions afterwards.
I will introduce Elissa Sampson, and she will make a little statement. And then I will come back and introduce the panel and we'll start the material right away. So Elissa Sampson, who is our heroic organizer of this conference, she is an urban geographer who studies how we actively use the past to create new spaces of migration, memory, and heritage. She's a visiting scholar at Cornell's Jewish Studies program, where she teaches courses on Jewish Studies, including about New York's Lower East Side.
A Cornell Digital Humanities Award funded her recent effort on digitizing a section, a large section, of the confiscated archives of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant left housed at the Cornell Guild Center. And of course, those archives of which today's panelists have made use and talked about in their papers, that they will-- all of these archives, again, she'll say a bit about that. So Alyssa, let me give it to you for a moment.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Thank you very much, David. I wanted to talk a little bit about why we're doing a webinar series and what's coming up and what's special. So those of you who were there yesterday know that I introduced two Yiddish terms. One is "sitzfleisch," the ability to sit still-- which we believe, in the Zoom world, maxes out about two hours. And [YIDDISH], which is [INAUDIBLE], which has become a neologism which is quite popular today, for good reason.
So we wanted to do these two-hour sessions. And we basically are parsing them over a week and a half. And so the next session, after today's, is actually an archive session. So those of you who are interested in libraries and archives and how to do research, original research, whether you are scholars or activists or anybody else from the general public, we are going to show you. Really, we're going to do a tour, a backdoor tour of how these archives and libraries work, and what you can ask for in the middle of a pandemic.
After that, we're going to have a panel, which we're calling the Internationale. Oh, and I can see that there are people who noticed that [YIDDISH] is certainly not only a verb that's grabbing currency, but has future potential in terms of broadening its use here. The Internationale is basically a panel that's been looking at the founding, in some ways, the founding moments of a left wing Jewish movement and how, whether we're in Poland or the [INAUDIBLE] settlement or Buenos Aires or in Toronto or in New York City or in Los Angeles, you can-- or Mexico, for that matter-- you can learn about that movement and what it had in common in terms of both its origins and its diasporic impact and its politics and what happened to it in the wake of World War II.
Thursday's panel-- and I should also mention that all these panels start from 3:00 to 5:00-- will be on [NON-ENGLISH] or cultural work. And it's on creativity and repression. And that will be a fascinating panel, in part because we have some very funny people who understand that, when you channel the Jewish left in the '30s and '40s, you could have not only some fun, but you can also bring new meaning, and not just pathos, to it. So that panel gets a strong recommendation for people who are interested in the arts, whether it's poetry or the graphic arts or anything else, or theater, for that matter, and puppeteering.
And then on Monday the 14th, our closing session is also on the arts, but its the art of resistance and children's art, whether it's in Camp Kinderland or seen elsewhere. And the linke or the left's various publications and activities. And the first hour will feature Ben Katchor. Some of you may know him as an artist and an author or as a professor. And we'll also have-- the second hour will be devoted to memories and recollections from people who were actually involved with the Jewish People's Fraternal Order. So thank you very much, and back now to David.
DAVID OST: OK, Thanks. So we're about to begin now. And I will introduce each speaker right before they talk. Each speaker will have about 12 to, maximum, 15 minutes speaking. That way, we'll still have a good, healthy time for discussion. They have agreed that I will speak, and intervene, and tell them they have a couple of minutes left. So that will just be normal that I'll do that. And so we will proceed in the order that is listed in the program. Again, the title is "A Fraternal Society with Emmas-- Mutual Aid, Insurance, Acculturation, Civil Rights, & Feminism."
Our first talk today is by Jonathan Karp. His paper is titled "Jews as Historians of the Black American Experience." Jonathan Karp is associate professor of Judaic studies and history at Binghamton University at SUNY in-- SUNY, New York. From 2010 to 2013, he was the executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society.
He's the author of a book, from 2008, by Cambridge Press, called The Politics of Jewish Commerce-- Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe. He's co-edited five volumes on a wide variety of topics, most recently The Cambridge History of Judaism in the Early Modern Period, published in 2017, co-edited with Adam Sutcliff, also World War I and the Jews, and edited collection from 2017, with Marsha Rozenblit. And his forthcoming monograph, of which it sounds like today's talk is a part, this is tentatively titled Chosen Surrogates-- a Class Cultural Analysis of Black-Jewish Relations. Jonathan, the floor is yours.
JONATHAN KARP: Thank you, David. I hope everyone can hear me. And I want to thank Elissa Sampson and the organizers for inviting me. It's a pleasure to be here. It's a fascinating topic. My paper will be very broad, won't concentrate on the IWO, but will refer to left-wing and Communist Party involvement in historiography of African-Americans.
If we look at any list of the major historians of the Black American experience, we might be struck by a commonality among many of those who are not themselves African-Americans-- Eric Foner, Herbert Aptheker, Lawrence Levine, Ira Berlin, Stanley Elkins, Leon Litvack, August Meyer, Harvard Stikoff, Gilbert Osofsky, Nancy Weiss-- all of Jewish origin. That's by no means a complete list. And it doesn't even include anthropologists, sociologists, ethnographers, let alone jazz and Black music critics and historians.
Well, it certainly isn't difficult to identify cases of Jewish overrepresentation in the modern world. The topic runs the gamut from Jewish pioneers of psychoanalysis to Jews as owners of junk and salvage dealerships in the American Midwest of the early 20th century. And claims of overrepresentation can provide fodder for anti-Semites and lead to superficial analyses. Still, overrepresentation can provide a useful starting point for understanding aspects of Black-Jewish relations in the 20th century US. It can if explained not conspiratorially, but structurally.
My argument here, in a nutshell, is that one key is, to the-- to the groups' different-- one key to this relationship is the groups' different class-functional makeups. American Jews were immigrants, or their descendants, with a long old-world history as commercial middlemen, providing useful mercantile services on both a grand and petty level to non-Jews. Given the focus of this conference, I'm well aware of the proletarian character of many immigrant Jews. But I would argue that despite its importance, Jewish proletarianization was both superficial and short-term.
African-Americans, on the other hand, though certainly stratified in terms of educational and economic levels, had an internal class composition that, to an important degree, was leveled by discrimination so as to almost resemble a caste. So for instance, while Jewish businessmen could break out of their own ethnic communities, the Black bourgeoisie typically could not, certainly not to the same degree. Jews had one foot in the ghetto and another on Main Street. And this enabled a subset of Jews to act as economic, cultural, and at times, even political mediators or brokers for Blacks.
They could, but why should they? In short, because Black culture, in some of its forms, proved a saleable commodity, because the Black experience seemed the same, but different, and could therefore serve as a useful surrogate for their own, and because the black cause offered the promise of addressing problems not just of Blacks, but of Jews, among other Americans. It was, needless to say, an ambiguous relationship-- mutual but hierarchical, benevolent but exploitative, intimate but separate.
My own studies of the Jewish mediation of Black culture focus on popular music and the music business as a principal case study. In the case of Black music entrepreneurship, the Jews who were involved approached the field with a range of motives. A number were liberals and leftists, ideologically committed to promoting Black culture, while still more were simply businessmen who gravitated to brokering black music because of their location in adjacent fields such as liquor and cigarette distribution, which made them aware of an underexploited market. The large presence of Jews in the business of rhythm and blues mustn't blind us to the fact that there were many-- hundreds-- of Black-owned labels operating in cities across America in the post-war decades.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of these were short-lived shoestring operations that barely left a paper trail, but nonetheless exerted a vital influence on the development of Black popular music. And of course, the related point is that, on the whole, Jewish-owned companies benefited from as well as competed with the small Black businesses that functioned as something akin to a farm team in professional baseball, identifying and nurturing talents that Jewish companies could, with greater resources, cultivate and market.
Despite the face value contrast between Black music entrepreneurship and Black historical scholarship, there are similarities between the Jewish roles in both cases. Indeed, we find the same mediating function at work in the domain of Black historiography. As with the case of music, in no sense did Jewish historians create the field. African-Americans were professionalized in the early 20th century through the work of two major figures, W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson, both Harvard PhDs who established academic journals, Black professional scholarly associations, and indeed, the infrastructure of the future field of Black studies.
Du Bois and Woodson raised a generation of students and disciples, not just in history, who, though largely ignored in mainstream American scholarship, would collectively create much of the groundwork for the study of the African-American experience. Yet the relatively greater access of Jews to white academic institutions and scholarly organs made them useful partners and mediators. Several of the most important Jewish influences on the early development of Black history were second-generation American Jews whose fathers had been immigrant small businessmen.
Although not a historian per se but an anthropologist, Melville Herskovits' influence on the field of Black history was deep and multifaceted. He famously argued, almost singularly at the time, for the survival, over centuries, of African religious, linguistic, musicological, and other cultural patterns of behavior despite violent dislocation, slavery, and concerted efforts at cultural erasure. Throughout his life, Herskovits remained fascinated by the processes of cultural assimilation and retention. As a boy, his family had moved through a series of small towns in Ohio, Texas, and western Pennsylvania, where his Jewish identity was defined by his family's celebration of both Jewish and Christian holidays. Herskovits was sufficiently drawn to his Jewish heritage that he initially set out to become a reform rabbi before abandoning that ambition in order to become an anthropologist.
Many Black intellectuals and scholars of Herskovits' generation, influenced by Depression-era efforts at creating class-based united front of White and Black workers tended to view Black culture as simply a variation of White working class culture. To the extent that Black culture displayed distinctive features, these were mere byproducts of discrimination that would fade through the amelioration of Jim Crow practices. As the Black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier put it, "The most conspicuous thing about the Negro is his lack of a culture. Owing to the method by which he was captured in Africa and subsequently enslaved in America, the Negro was practically stripped of his cultural heritage."
In an extended debate with Frazier, Herskovits forcefully made the case for retentions utilizing findings from his fieldwork in Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South to insist that Black folklore, speech patterns, spirituals, and blues music, culinary tastes, and other behaviors had evolved from African ones in ways that distinguish Blacks from all other American subgroups. While others, including Du Bois, Woodson, as well as Elaine Locke had made similar if more impressionistic and polemical claims, younger scholars like Frazier and Ralph Bunche vehemently rejected the case for African retentions. Indeed, it was not until the 1960s and '70s that Herskovits' case was taken up and documented by younger academic scholars, notably the outstanding Jewish historian Lawrence Levine and the Black nationalist historian Sterling Stucchi.
The second major Jewish figure in the early development of Black historiography was the Marxist scholar Herbert Aptheker-- 1915 to 2003. While Aptheker largely avoided the cultural questions that preoccupied Herskovits, neither his devotion to class analysis nor his unflinching representations of the horrors of slavery led him to adopt a view of it as a successfully deracinating institution, a la Frazier and others. On the contrary, of Aptheker's many contributions to the field, none was more important than his pioneering studies of slave rebellions in the first half of the 19th century, particularly Nat Hentoff's-- Nat Hentoff's-- Nat Turner's 1831 uprising in Virginia. Previous historiography had typically depicted these events from the perspective of horrified White Southerners as orgies of savage Negro barbarism. Aptheker, in contrast, revealed them as acts of heroic popular resistance.
Already a fellow traveler during his college years, Aptheker was influenced by the role of the Communist Party in 1930s Black life as facilitators of militant Black resistance in the Harlem rent strikes, as the boycotts of, often, Jewish-owned businesses that sold to Blacks but refused to hire them, and more famously, in the protests surrounding the Scottsboro Boys case. If resistance was the pattern in current Black life, Aptheker reasoned, then why should we assume, as Southern historians insisted, that rebellions like those of Turner were aberrations from the typically passive and contented existence of Negro slaves? In a series of articles, pamphlets, and monographs, he broadened this insight to reconceptualize the nature of slave resistance, which encompassed, he insisted, not only group and individual acts of violence, but such methods as work slowdowns and even cultural expressions of consciousness building in the form of spirituals and religious rituals.
It is important to emphasize that Aptheker, who, although due to his Communist Party membership and overt Marxism, never held a tenured position at an American university, was a skilled and indefatigable researcher who published the first documentary collections of Black history, influencing and inspiring later generations of scholars Black and White. There is no doubt that the involvement of many Jews in the American Communist Party in the central place that civil rights and the Black struggle in American-- played in American communism was crucial to attracting Jewish leftists to the study of Black history.
This was true not only for academic researchers like Aptheker and James Allen, a.k.a. Sol Auerbach, whom Paul Mischler mentioned yesterday, but also for a host of educators and popularizers-- Alice Citron, who I think Jennifer also will talk about in her presentation, a communist New York City school teacher who taught some of the first public school courses in Black history; Dorothy Sterling, who, amidst McCarthyite repression, penned a series of books on the Black past, many written for young adults, although marked by extensive original primary source research, including a number of pioneering studies on Black women's history; Milton--
DAVID OST: Two to three minutes now. Thank you.
JONATHAN KARP: OK-- Milton Meltzer, collaborator with Black poet Langston Hughes and children's book author on both Black and Jewish history, not to mention the novelist Howard Fast, whose 1944 Freedom Road, building on the work of Du Bois, was among the first positive representations of the era of Reconstruction.
All of these sought, in true popular front fashion, to make American history more inclusive and capacious by placing the Black experience at its very center. But without minimizing the communist influence, it would be a mistake to view it as overly causative. Although Aptheker couched his depiction of Black resistance in terms of class struggle, Jewish historical interest in slave uprisings did not require party affiliation. The Chicago-born Harvey Wish, the son of an immigrant small businessman ruined in the Depression, was likewise an early scholar of slave rebellions and a proponent of women's history. But he was no Marxist and often took Aptheker to task for his doctrinaire positions.
Similarly, the influential post-war historian of slavery Stanley Elkins, who famously compared the plantation regime to the Nazi concentration camp, was a liberal, but no leftist. The proliferation of Jewish historians of the Black experience in the 1960s was likewise fueled by a number of factors, a tradition of family activism-- Eric Foner-- first-time radicalization in the new left-- Mark Naison-- the shift of hopes from America's progressive transformation from the working class onto African-Americans-- Herbert Guttmann-- or the displacement of Jewish orthodox culture by a more American one-- Lawrence Levine.
In a period in which Jews had the option of assimilating as never before, Black history offered usable ethnic roots for those who did not wish to dissolve into the perceived blandness of White America, but could find little in their own Jewish identity to hold onto. In a sense, Blacks seemed, to these scholars, to be the quintessential Americans, more than any European immigrant group, or hyphenated Americans, or even WASPs. Their story was one of the apparent outsider revealed as the ultimate insider. Moving from slavery to freedom, they were the real American folk. I'm almost finished.
But not just such lofty ideals were at work. Market forces too were at play as claims mounted, during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, for the importance of Black history. As courses, programs, and eventually, departments of Black studies proliferated at American universities, with the number of Black PhDs unable to meet the demand, Jewish scholars were well-situated to fill the gap, and this despite mounting Black nationalist criticism of Whites and Jews for controlling their history. Indeed, the stakes could be high for Jews as well as Blacks.
In his memoir, the historian Mark Naison, the Jewish founder, in 1971, of the Afro-American Studies department at Fordham University, recalls the suicide of a talented young Jewish historian of slavery, Robert Starobin, who had denounced Julius Lester, who ironically later converted to Judaism. Quote, "According to mutual friends, the hostility of Black students at his school had contributed powerfully to his depression. Lester himself later confessed deep regret for having attacked Starobin harshly at a conference on slavery at Wayne State University.
As Lester wrote, "It was one of those situations that are unavoidable when Blacks and Whites come together in post-Black Power America, a situation in which people are not individuals, but historical actors playing out a drama whose beginnings are now so submerged that we will never find them. At Wayne State, my heart ached for Bob. I didn't know him. But I knew I had-- what I had to do, and I did so, employing every forensic skill which two generations of ministers in my family had bequeathed to me. I bowed to the demands of history that day and will loathe myself forever for having done so."
Given time limitations, I'll stop here. But were I to discuss the ensuing decades, I would emphasize that while Jews have continued to contribute disproportionately to Black studies, their role has become less conspicuous, both because Blacks' access to the Academy has broadened significantly, and because other non-Jewish Whites have also come to play a much larger role in documenting the Black experience. The best example is the study of capitalism and slavery, a somewhat neo-Marxist endeavor that, again, renders Black labor as the foundation of American and even all Western history, thus-- modern history, at least.
Thus the claim of some earlier Jewish scholars that Black history is the centerpiece of American history has now been adopted by many members of the Academy as a whole. Thank you. Back to David.
DAVID OST: Thank you, Jonathan. Thanks very much. OK. And if you have any questions for Jonathan or any of the other speakers, feel free to write them now on the Q&A that you will find on your Zoom link. And we'll have question and answers. And the panelists will discuss among themselves for a bit at the conclusion.
OK, our next paper is by Jennifer Young. The title of her paper is "The Emma Lazarus Division-- Communist Jewish Women's Activism." Jennifer Young is a writer, editor and children's book reviewer living in Northampton, Massachusetts. She's the former director of education at the YIVO Institute, has worked at the Tenement Museum and the New York Historical Society. She has an MEd specializing in teaching history-- specializing in teaching history in museums. And she's completed doctoral work in American Jewish history at NYU.
She is the author of the article "The Scorched Melting Pot-- the Jewish People's Fraternal Order and the Making of American Jewish Communism, 1930 to 1950," published in the volume titled A Vanished Ideology-- Essays on the Jewish Communist Movement. Her writing has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, Time.com, Atlas Obscura and Publisher's Weekly. And she's currently working on a book about radical housewives. Jennifer, the floor is yours.
JENNIFER YOUNG: Thank you so much. I'm going to do a PowerPoint here. So let me get it up. OK, hopefully everyone can see that.
DAVID OST: Yes.
JENNIFER YOUNG: Great. OK, so let me start. I have recently retitled this paper to be a little bit more specific to this very short presentation I'll give today. So it's entitled "The Emma Lazarus Clubs and the Fight for Black Women's Freedom."
So on a cold December morning in 1953, Jennie Truchman, a member of the Emma Lazarus Club, arrived at New York's Penn Station. She met with 21 other Black and White women, all traveling together to Atlanta, to petition the governor to release Rosa Lee Ingram, a Black woman accused of killing a White man and sentenced to life in prison. Truchman later recalled, "The thought that kept racing through my head was that, as a Jewish woman, I had a deep kinship with Mrs. Ingram. I had a responsibility to help her get free. The enmity-- the enemy of the Jew and the Negro is the same. But the Negro is far more intensely the object of that enmity."
Rosa Lee Ingram was the recently widowed mother of 12 who farmed an area in rural Georgia adjacent to a White sharecropper, John Stratford. He was a sharecropper, just like us, Ingram later recalled. That because he was White, he tried to boss us. Stratford verbally harassed Ingram, accusing her livestock of ruining his crops. He also allegedly sexually harassed her, becoming angry when Ingram would not go into the cotton shed.
When Stratford threatened Ingram with a rifle, Ingram grabbed his gun and struck him with it. As Stratford began to choke her, Ingram's 15-year-old son intervened and struck Stratford with his own rifle. He fell down, dead. Mrs. Ingram was charged with murder. And her four sons were charged with being accomplices to murder. The grand jury indicted them on January 22, 1948.
The trial was held on January 26, 1948. The next day, Mrs. Ingram and two of her adolescent sons were sentenced to death by electric chair. After an appeal, the Ingrams' sentences were reduced to life in prison. But authorities refused to take any further action on the case. Despite massive legal defense campaigns run by the NAACP and the communist-led Civil Rights Congress, it was Black women who kept Mrs. Ingram's plight alive in the public imagination. Yet little has been written about the rules that Jewish women played in supporting the case throughout the 1950s. This paper will present a brief overview of the role that the IWO and the Emma Lazarus Clubs played in the movement to free Rosa Lee Ingram.
The commitment of the Emma Lazarus Clubs to the Ingram case reflects a larger political outlook of the American Communist Party to fighting racism and to IWO's firm commitment to integration. But the leaders of the Emma Lazarus Clubs also drew their political opposition from Black feminist Marxist political theory, most notably from the work of Louise Thompson Patterson, the IWO's vice president, and from Black communist intellectual Claudia Jones. Thompson Patterson and Jones argued that Black women's sexual, economic, and gender exploitation must be placed at the heart of any serious critique of capitalism.
In 1936, Thompson Patterson published "Toward a Brighter Dawn," arguing that Black women were triply exploited as workers, as women, and as Negroes. As Erik McDuffie has noted, this is an early formulation of what Black scholar Kimberle Crenshaw would term "intersectionality," a very modern phrase. In 1949, Claudia Jones wrote "An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman," arguing that it was the chief responsibility of White women to take on the cause of freeing Mrs. Ingram and her family. "White women today must rise to challenge this lie and the whole system of Negro oppression," she wrote.
Throughout the 1940s and '50s, the Emma Lazaras Clubs amplified this message in their own campaign, such as creating educational materials that explained the concept of triple exploitation to Jewish women and their families. The longstanding personal, intellectual, and political relationships between these Jewish and Black women helped to further the cause of Black women's freedom movement and also helped to profoundly shape the activism of the Emma Lazarus Clubs.
June Gordon, who would become president of the Emma Lazarus Clubs, was born [INAUDIBLE] Croll in Odessa in 1901. June immigrated to Montreal with her family as a child. And after her father died, she was taken out of school to work in the garment industry at age 12. She participated in her first shop walkout the following year, and several years later, having been thoroughly radicalized, helped found the American-- sorry, the Canadian-- Communist Party.
After meeting her first husband, Carl Reeve, a highly ranked Communist Party member, the couple traveled to the Soviet Union. June began studying at KUTV, a Russian acronym for The Communist University for the Toilers of the East. It was here that June likely crossed paths with Maude White Katz, another KUTV student who would later become her close colleague in the fight to free Rosa Lee Ingram.
When June and Maude arrived in Moscow, they were both young, idealistic, and relatively inexperienced activists with very little formal education. But they returned to the United States several years later as confident, highly trained operatives who immediately immersed themselves in the brutal labor wars of the Depression. As her writings show, it was also at this time that June began to place Black women at the heart of her own critique of racial capitalism. Both June and Maude became active members of the Communist-led National Textile Workers Industrial Union, participated in major strikes and campaigns to raise wages, especially for Black women.
On October 16, 1930, Maude and June both took part in a citywide mass protest against evictions of the unemployed. Maude entered city hall alongside a small group of communist protesters, who demanded to participate in a public hearing on the 1931 budget. The New York Times described as a slim Black woman in a red dress leading a group of White men into the building. The budget hearing quickly turned into a melee, with Mayor Walker threatening to smash a protester in the face.
Maude was thrown screaming down a half flight of stairs. She managed to right herself and slipped inside and into the crowd, eluding the police as they used their batons to smash out windows in the rotunda of city hall, raining glass and blood on the protesters below.
Meanwhile, at 40th Street and 6th Avenue, an unemployment protest quickly turned into a riot. Women jabbed police forces with hatpins, causing them to plunge, panicked into the crowd. Hand-to-hand combat broke out between police and women protesters, who bit and scratched at the police. June--
--read copies of Daily Worker while being booked at the local precinct.
In the mid 1930s, after marrying Black journalist and communist Eugene Gordon and having a son, June joined the United Council of Working Class Housewives, which had been co-founded in 1923 by Clara Lemlich Shavelson, who we know of, and whose archives are very well-represented at Cornell as being the leader of the uprising of the 20,000 in 1909. But after marrying and having children, Clara discovered that women engaged in domestic labor within the private sphere were just as in need as being organized as women in industrial trades.
Alongside her colleague Rose Nelson, Clara extended the work of the United Council into neighborhoods across the city, including orchestrating a national boycott on the price of meat. Following the popular front mandate of the American Communist Party, in the summer of 1935, the United Council changed its name to the even more inclusive Progressive Women's Council. The success of the councils did not go unnoticed by the IWO, who had realized that women represented an untapped resource for organizing workers and their families.
In 1938, President Max Bedacht of the IWO gave a speech in which he acknowledged that fraternal life was not organized for women, who often could not leave home in the evenings to attend large meetings of social events-- go figure. In March 1939, the IWO announced that the Progressive Women's Council would now become an official section of the IWO, transferring their membership of almost 5,000 women to IWO lodges. Clara Shavelson and Rose Nelson became official IWO employees, with Clara as city women's committee secretary and Rose as women's director. June Gordon also became an official women's organizer for the IWO this time. Together, all three women would form the backbone of women's organizing within the IWO's Jewish women's section, which, in 1944, would become the Emma Lazarus division of the JPFO.
As a digitized Cornell archive amply demonstrates, Clara, Rose, and their colleagues wasted no time in setting up programs that spoke directly to women's concerns. In May 1941, when they launched a campaign against the high price of staple goods. In June, they launched a campaign against the rising cost of living. They called a mass meeting to support transit workers. They ran book clubs and conferences. And when the IWO launched their support for the Allied war effort, women concentrated their activities in sewing and knitting circles to raise money for troops and tanks.
In 1948, the IWO immediately got involved in the Ingram case, founding the Ingram Children's Education and Welfare Fund. Louise Thompson Patterson and June Gordon both served on the board of trustees. The fund raised enough money to send the two children to the IWO's Camp Ruchika for the summer. The Emma Lazarus Clubs launched a Mother's Day postcard campaign, working closely alongside the National Committee to Free the Ingram Family, which was led by Maude White Katz and also included Claudia Jones.
In 1950, when the IWO's solution began, Louise Thompson Patterson co-founded Sojourners for Truth and Justice. And June Gordon turned the Emma Lazarus division into the independent Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs. But the women continued to work together. In May 1952, the two groups held a unity lunch where they came together to launch a new campaign to free Rosa Lee Ingram. The two groups of women heralded the Alliance of Negro and Jewish Women for Equality, Security, and Peace. Jean Gordon presented the Sojourners with a check for $200 and made a pledge to provide $50 per month to the Ingram campaign.
In March 1954, the Emma Lazarus Clubs sent delegates to Washington, DC, alongside 20 other Black and White delegates, to demand the Justice Department act to free Rosa Lee Ingram. Government claimed that the cases statutes of limitations had run out and invoked states' rights. But the Free the Ingrams campaign and its supporters refused to give up. Thanks in large part due to the campaign to free Rosa Lee Ingram led by Black women, and in some part due to the support of the IWO and the Emma Lazarus Clubs, Rosa Lee Ingram and her sons were paroled in August 1959. And Mrs. Ingram moved to Atlanta, where she lived until her death in 1980.
The government's Cold War--
DAVID OST: About two to three minutes, please.
JENNIFER YOUNG: I've got one. The government's Cold War crackdown on the IWO and on all progressives, especially immigrants, had a profound impact on both the Black and Jewish women's progressive movements. In 1950, both Rose Nelson and Claudia Jones were arrested as foreign subversives under the McCarran Act. And they were interned together at Ellis Island for many weeks. Jones eventually was deported to London, while Nelson remained under surveillance by the Immigration Department for the rest of her life.
June Gordon was ordered deported from the United States in 1960. And she was still fighting this order when she died suddenly in 1967. But the Emma Lazarus Clubs, led by Rose Nelson, continued into the 1980s.
So I hope we have many comments and questions about the Emmas, and maybe some memories to share. And I'll be very happy to hear more. And if you could contact me, if you have other memories of the Emmas you want to share, this is my website. Thank you so much.
DAVID OST: Thank you, Jennifer. Great. So our next speaker is Robert Zecker. And he'll be giving a talk titled "A Fraternal Order 'Sentenced to Death'-- that part is in quotes-- the Legal Persecution of the International Workers Order, the IWO." Robert Zecker is a professor of history at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he teaches courses in race, immigration, social movements, and US history.
His research includes immigration-- articles and research on immigration-- radicalism, and the popular culture of left-wing immigrants. He's the author of many articles in journals, such as the Journal of American Ethnic History, and the author of four books, most recently A Road to Peace and Freedom-- the IWO and the Struggle for Economic Justice and Civil Rights from 1938 to 1954 with Temple Press. He also has a chapter spotlight on Jim Crow, "Radical Immigrant Papers Cover Race and Civil Rights," in a forthcoming book titled Immigration and Exile.
Before entering what he calls the academic racket, Bob was an ink-stained wretch, foisting journalism on an unsuspecting public in his native New Jersey. I'm a recent New Jersey resident, and I have not been subject to this. But I would look forward to at least hearing this talk. Bob, floor is yours.
ROBERT ZECKER: And thank you. And can people hear me? Have I unmute myself?
DAVID OST: Sounds good.
ROBERT ZECKER: Good. OK, marvelous. OK, thank you, David. We can talk about New Jersey journalism later. Well, as we all know, the International Workers Order championed all manner of progressive causes for 24 years on behalf of its 188,000 members. And other people are going to talk about a lot of the progressive causes that the IWO was involved in. We've touched on that already. But if a fraternal insurance society that cared about members' health lobbied to enact humane legislation, militantly campaigned for racial justice, and enriched the cultural life of its members seemed too good to be true, anti-communists thought so too. So today I want to talk about how, in the end-- and this is a quote-- "a fraternal order was sentenced to death by the government."
Even at the height of the popular front when, arguably-- and as we heard from Jonathan and Jennifer-- it seemed that the IWO was part of a broad community of working-class progressives-- even at the height of the popular front, the IWO was already in the anti-communist's crosshairs. In 1938, the Massachusetts Department of Insurance abruptly ordered the IWO to stop writing policies, conducting lodge meetings, or collecting dues or assessments in their state due to, quote, "communistic activities." General secretary Max Bedacht warned, quote, "Reaction threatens our order."
Well, fortunately, general secretary Josef Brodsky was able to convince a Massachusetts judge that none of the IWO's corporate funds had been used for political purposes, but that members voluntarily engaged in lobbying on issues germane to the broader social welfare purposes of the IWO. And a Massachusetts court, in 1938, ruled the IWO was in compliance with the business and actuarial requirements of Massachusetts and that the supposed political beliefs of officers were irrelevant under insurance law. This was an important victory, but unfortunately one that, 16 years later, would not prevail during a similar court hearing in New York State in a slightly more reactionary era. And we'll get to the 1951 through '54 legal brouhaha.
But anyway, already, in 1938, the IWO had seemingly dodged a bullet. Brodsky stressed that the order had to be careful however. Quote, "We must realize that we are attacked because we are the organization that we are. It becomes equally clear that we must learn to carry on in a manner least harmful to ourselves." And Brodsky, this communist lawyer, cautioned the IWO's other officers, our organization, like Caesar's wife, must be above all suspicion.
Well, the IWO soon faced an even graver assault. Martin Dies, the Texas conservative chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, launched an investigation, in January 1939, of the IWO-- in his eyes, "possibly one of the most effective and closely-knitted organizations among the communist front organization." There should be ominous music here. Support for communist candidates for office, participation in, quote, "left-wing strikes," and Max Bedach's Communist Party offices were offered as proof, by Dies, of the IWO's evil purposes.
Well, defenders of Americanism conveniently forgot about the Bill of Rights. HUAC's agents raided the IWO's Philadelphia headquarters, seizing financial records, medical files, as well as subversive material, such as a lantern slide lecture on the life of Abraham Lincoln. If the stakes weren't so high, we might enjoy the irony. Well, the IWO fought the raid, securing an injunction to return to its private property. And HUAC supporters countered, wanting to know, why didn't the IWO voluntarily turn over such material if they had nothing to hide?
Bedachs countered the IWO had, indeed, nothing to hide. We were nothing but a fraternal society dispersing more than $4 million in benefits. But Bedach countered, "We will never help you to persecute, to hound, and to blacklist innocent people by volunteering to turn over names to your committee. Well, again, the IWO got lucky. During the popular front, they prevailed against Dies and all of his works. And it may have been easy in 1939, 1940, for the IWO and its officials to think that they had indeed gained a seat at the New Deal table.
Vito Marcantonio-- and by the way, those who were here yesterday, I don't know what you all thought. But I loved actually hearing some of these officials who are my personal man crushes. And Vito Marcantonio spoke in that film yesterday. Vito Marcantonio, vice president of the IWO, made a speech at the national convention, the order national convention, in 1944. And in the transcript, it says, "interrupted by cheers and laughter." And he said, my friends, I am the only IWO member in Congress. But in a couple of years, we will outnumber the Theodore Bilbos and the John Rankins, these segregationist Mississippians. And I think people really believed it, right?
Neverthe-- anyway, so in 1940, '44, we seem like the IWO is part of this broader progressive-- if you want to call it-- popular front coalition or broad tent, right? Nevertheless, throughout World War II, the FBI, the Office of Special Services, the predecessor to the CIA, and local Red squads kept voluminous files on the IWO and its officers. Even a sitting Congressman, Marcantonio, was targeted by J. Edgar Hoover for detention in time of national emergency in 1944. So if the IWO and its members and officers thought they were on safe ground because they had defeated Dies, things were lurking in the background. Even while the IWO sponsored blood drives and care packages to aid the war effort through the Front Line Fighters Fund in '44, '45, conservatives were waiting in the wing.
Well, with the Cold War's onset, harassment was ratcheted up. In 1947, US Attorney General Tom Clark placed the IWO and its foreign language affiliates on his attorney general's list of subversive organizations. Now ostensibly, this only required government employees who were members of such organizations to take a loyalty oath. Nevertheless, the attorney general's list opened the door to all levers of government to begin attacks on members of organizations branded as political pariahs. Boards of education in New York and elsewhere barred the JPFO and other IWO societies from using public schools for their meetings.
Erie, Pennsylvania and Jacksonville, Florida both passed city ordinances prohibiting members of designated organizations from living in their cities. Although these ordinances were struck down in Jacksonville, a distraught IWO member tried to kill himself. So things are moving, right?
In other public agencies, the list was used as a pretext to harass the order. Government employees in the IWO, especially postal workers, were fired. Many had been union activists. And again, back to Jonathan's point, many of them involved in civil rights campaigns on behalf of Black postal workers. And the IWO now, if you are a member of it, right, you were fired even from delivering the mail.
An IWO member who delivered the mail in Hammond, Indiana was apologetic. He resigned from the IWO, wrote to headquarters in New York City, said, "I'm sorry, but I have to feed my family. I don't want you to think," he wrote, "that I have given up on my convictions or my beliefs. I have not." But in a sad commentary on the suppression of free thought, he ruefully added, quote, "One of these days, the hysteria will die down, and light will appear again." We're still waiting in 2020, Zecker says.
Now only a minority of the IWO's 188,000 members were communists. But now an organization with even a minority of party members was anathema. In June of 1948, the Polonia Society newspaper Glos Ludowy, "Voice of the People," reported rallies in 10 cities to defend the people's right of freedom of association, but also to protest the Treasury Department's withdrawal of the IWO's tax exempt status. This move came as a result of the attorney general's list. And like that action, no charge or no evidence of wrongdoing was ever presented. It was, you are subversive. You might be up to no good.
Now the IWO did demand a hearing from Attorney General Clark to show evidence, if there were any, for why they were designated subversive. But Clark denied any of his actions had substantively harmed IWO members. If the Immigration and Naturalization Service had begun deportation proceedings against foreign-born IWO members-- and they did-- or the Treasury stripped the IWO of its tax exempt status-- it did-- Clark claimed these actions were merely incidental, not a direct result of his list. An outraged IWO treasurer, Peter Shipka, wrote, quote, "An atomic chain reaction of an irresponsible smear" had led to these actions.
And the IWO started these defense campaigns for its foreign-born members. For example, the head of the Greek Hellenic American Brotherhood of the IWO, a man named Peter Harisiadis, was deported due to brief membership in the Communist Party. Even though he had come to the US at the age of nine, they said, you know, you're a radical. You got to go.
The IWO campaigned to save Harisiadis, distributing flyers picturing another undesirable alien, the Statue of Liberty. "Should Miss Liberty be deported?" the flyer asked, arguing, "if Peter Harisiadis is deported, the Statue of Liberty will be in the boat with him." Fearing his life would be in peril, Harisiadis-- and this is to, again, David, your point about radical movements in Poland and elsewhere-- Harisiadis said, don't send me back to the Greek military dictatorship, right? I'll be dead. He said, send me to communist Poland. He didn't speak a word of Polish. He went there. Another man, Boleslaw Gebert, who was the head of the Polonia Society of the IWO, self-deported to use today's phrase, went back to Poland before the US could deport him.
All right, so the attorney general's list, to draw a line under it, planted seeds of doubt on the IWO's legitimacy, opened the floodgate to all manner of political persecution on state, local, and federal level. Now in the end though-- and this is too weird. You can't make this up-- what killed the IWO was something as prosaic as state insurance law governing the conduct of mutual benefit societies. This is what did the IWO in.
In 1951, New York State deployed insurance department regulations and compliant courts to destroy the IWO. The insurance department took the actuarial term "hazard," which meant, an insurance law, your books are funny, you don't have enough money or assets to cover the insurance policies you write-- that's what a hazard always meant-- to now encompass, in 1951, a novel idea that the IWO was-- and the New York State said-- a moral and political hazard for advocating unpalatable ideas, even though its finances were impeccable. The IWO, for 21 years, since it was founded in 1930, has scrupulously followed auditing and other insurance law requirements of New York State.
And IWO officers-- like in that film yesterday, Peter Shipka said, we've got 146% solvency. We got more money in the bank than the state of New York requires us to have. And they pointed out that the auditors of New York State, for 21 years, had praised the IWO consistently for their finances.
DAVID OST: Bob, just a couple of minutes, please.
ROBERT ZECKER: Yeah, OK-- two minutes, yeah. A New York accountant, in the order, deposed that the IWO restricted its investments to municipal, state, and government bonds. Because as a group, they offered greater security. New York State now argued the political beliefs of IWO officers such as Saltzman, Reuben Saltzman, might constitute a moral and political hazard, and that they were too solvent, that they had too much money in the bank, and it might make its way to Moscow, again, never pointing to any evidence that this was ever done.
All right, the IWO then formed a Policyholders Protective Committee to fight the state diktat. But the liquidation order-- and this is, again, very almost Stalinist. This is what New York called it. We will liquidate this IWO and turn its money over to for-profit insurance companies. So the IWO tried to fight back with the Policyholders Protective Committee. But lodges now, by the New York State order, were restricted from using any of their money except to engage in their defense campaign.
They could not write any more insurance policies. They actually were ordered not to hold their annual convention. Because the state argued, oh, you'll start hiding evidence that you're communist. And that itself, by the way, was a violation of the New York State insurance laws that said you have to have an annual convention.
The IWO now could only meet for the purpose of defending the order. No other business could be transacted. And as a result, members began dropping away. They could not enroll any new members.
This order, this liquidation order, was appealed to a New York state Judge, Henry Clay Greenberg. And Greenberg, however, agreed with Tom Dewey's insurance department. The IWO was ordered liquidated, even though the court still acknowledged that the finances of the IWO were excellent and all insurance policy business of the IWO actuarially sound. In a Kafka-esque twist, the state again, like I said, said, you are too solvent. Some of your funds might make it to Moscow-- no proof ever offered. But the fact that some IWO officers were communists was regarded as a moral and political hazard.
The New York World-Telegram and Sun, a conservative newspaper, wrote an article about the court case. And I love the headline-- "Their books balanced, but politics were in the red." At this point, Greenberg declared, nevertheless, don't worry. We will protect policyholders' interests as you appeal my order. But he ordered that all of the IWO's papers, books, documents be turned over to the insurance department. The insurance department administrator zealously followed through on this decree, demanding the order deliver all books, works, papers, other papers, accounting reports, tax reports, documents, pamphlets, publications, accounts, files, and other records. And it's a list that goes on forever.
And in answer to this, the IWO's secretary in Detroit said, our records and books include nothing but a receipt book and a record of disbursements. IWO members might have looked at this pretty ironically. Here's a ostensible communist organization trying to defend its private property. Well, the attempt to take this to the US Supreme Court was, in April 1954, turned down. The liquidation order stood.
And as lawyers petitioned the US Supreme Court in vain, the Policyholders Protective Committee issued a pamphlet stating its case-- "a fraternal order sentenced to death." Indeed, by September 1954, the order was declared liquidated. Its assets were scattered to for-profit insurance corporations, its members stripped of their big family.
Now this is the last par-- this is the last paragraph. Not all members went so quietly. The Morgen Freiheit reprinted a letter from a man simply identified as GM who said, to the New York State insurance department, "Who gave you the right to tell me where I should belong? Do you imagine yourself riding high on Hitler's white horse, controlling my thoughts and thoughts of association? Do you really want to push yourself, with your storm trooper's claws, into my head in mind?"
And the Polish newspaper then published-- and it's almost like a in memoriam article in Glos Ludowy that said, "IWO helped blaze trail in fight for democracy." In spite of liquidation, I would argue this is the epitaph for this fraternal organization sentenced to death. I'm sorry if I went long. Here I am in Union Square.
DAVID OST: That's a great picture too. Anyway, yes, thank you. Thank you so much. I mean, it's really fascinating to see the way they used all possible mechanisms to destroy the ILO. It sounds similar, to me, to the way US has done to destroy some Islamic charities, right, finding all kinds of connections because they just want to destroy them. And they'll use this legalese.
By the way, one quick point-- you mentioned about the Greek guy going to Poland and not knowing a word of Polish. Actually, some tens of thousands of communist Greeks went to Poland after the communists were defeated in the Greek Civil War. So there was a localized but pretty strong Greek community in the Polish People's Republic as they called it. Anyway, we'll have more discussion, obviously, on this and all the other papers.
Our fourth speaker, and final speaker-- Caroline Luce. And she'll be presenting a paper titled "Americans All, Immigrants All-- the IWO Against Fascism." Caroline Luce is the associate director of the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. And she's the chief curator of the Mapping Jewish Los Angeles project. She received a PhD in history from UCLA with a focus on immigration, labor, and working-class culture in the American West and is working on a book now titled Yiddish in the Land of Sunshine-- Jewish Radicalism, Labor, and Culture in Los Angeles-- 1900 to 1950. Caroline, please.
CAROLINE LUCE: Hi, everybody. Stay with me here. Thanks for hanging in. So I'm going to share my screen. Give me just a second to do that and get this slide show started.
OK, so my work is particularly interested in questions of regionalism and how the legacies of settler colonialism shaped the Jewish experience in the borderlands of the Southwest. I examine both how Jews participated in, and benefited from, colonial systems of dispossession and dominance, affording them access to inclusion as White settlers, and also how they became subjects to the same, and the carceral and cultural practices that rendered them subversive racial others. I want to start by acknowledging, today, that we sit on unceded land-- in my case, the ancestral lands of the Tongva people-- and to thank them for their stewardship, and pay my respects to ancestors, elders, and relations past, present, and emerging.
What I'm going to do today is focus on the history of the IWO in Boyle Heights, a residential neighborhood east of the Los Angeles River that was once home to the highest concentration of Jews west of Chicago. Owed to segregationist zoning and land use practices, the neighborhood became just one of a handful of neighborhoods in LA where working people who were not considered to be, quote, "of the Caucasian race" could live in the early 20th century, home to thousands of Eastern European Jewish immigrants as well as equally large numbers of Mexican residents and significant Japanese, Turkish, Armenian, Russian, and African-American communities. So what I want to do today is to explore how Di Linke engaged with and located themselves within this multiracial context, and by doing so, forged a model of antifascist coalition building suited to the particular [INAUDIBLE] landscape of Southern California.
The origins of the IWO lie at the intersection of two orbits of ideological conflict in Los Angeles. The first of these orbits, of course, was in the Yiddish-speaking milieu and the debates between rechte and linke Jewish socialists, conflicts that, in LA, were complicated by the particular forms of racial capitalism that prevailed in the region. Colonization demanded a steady supply of mobile workers to fill the short-term needs of agricultural, mining, and railroad companies, creating a large pool of disenfranchised Mexican, Japanese, and Filipino migrant workers that local employers in Los Angeles took advantage of to maintain a racialized dual labor system in which a few white workers were given higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs, and so-called peons employed in lower-skilled, lower-paying jobs. This was sometimes referred to as the Mexican wage.
Whiteness afforded Jewish immigrants access to those higher-paying jobs. And they, in turn, absorbed the racial logic of the system. In the garment industry, for example, Jewish socialists, most of them custom tailors and clockmakers, overcame tremendous opposition to unionize, but neglected the machine operators in the growing sportswear sector of the industry, most of whom were young women of Mexican descent. To Di Linke, all these exclusions amounted to racist discrimination, evidence of the failures of Die Rechte to mobilize the entire working class. In 1923, after years of conflict, the linke broke away to form LA's first chapter of the Communist Party and established headquarters in this three-story building on Brooklyn Avenue called The Cooperative Center. The center had meeting rooms and offices, a large ballroom, and ground-level cooperative bakery and cafe, described in a 1927 cover story in The Freiheit as, quote, "A manifestation of the soul of the linke [INAUDIBLE] never before seen among Jewish workers."
In the late 1920s, however, di linke of The Cooperative Center faced many of the same charges they had once leveled against Die Rechte. This orbit of ideological conflict was part of a period of bitter factionalism and internecine struggles in CPUSA that I won't get into, but in LA, resulted in attacks on Di Linke by fellow communists, who charged that they were, quote, "petite bourgeois" who concerned themselves with certain small business establishments at the center rather than organizing the city's true proletarians for the class struggle.
Here too, the debate centered on questions of Jewish inclusion. In the eyes of fellow communists, Jews were part of the Anglo elite, their commitment to Yiddish seen as insular and exclusionary, a dangerous form of nationalism, and even of White chauvinism. This insurgent faction soon took control of CPLA and brought the center and its programs under the direct control of the district's central committee. So after its founding in 1930, the IWO became a refuge for Di Linke, one of the few arenas of communist activity where they could retain their autonomy and incorporate Yiddish into their activities and affairs.
Worth noting here is that while they face charges of chauvinism within CPLA, outside of the spaces of the party, Jewish communists were regarded as dangerous and subversive racial others and frequently subjected to both legal and extralegal violence. In 1932, for example, 50 members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on a meeting at the home of David and Lizzie Builder up here on the top left, burning a cross on their lawn, storming into the house, dragging the family outside, and brutally beating them, and then attempting to abduct their daughter and son-in-law before neighbors finally intervened. The Cooperative Center too became the target of violent and destructive raids, both by vigilantes and by police, the harassment so frequent that they filed and won a first of its kind federal injunction against the LAPD.
These incidents came in the context of increasing Red Squad terror across the city in the late 1920s and early 1930s as the LAPD, buoyed by the law and order rhetoric of Mayor John C. Porder, increased their surveillance and detention of radicals. Their crackdown included vicious violence and police brutality, including an attack on William Foster that I can talk about, potentially, afterwards, as well as vigorous enforcement of President Hoover's Repatriation Program, resulting in nearly a third of LA residents of Mexican descent, including American-born citizens, being relocated to Mexico between 1931 and 1934. Coming as it did between these and other incidents of violence, the Klan raid in Long Beach and the raids at the center registered quite differently for Jewish communists, which might explain why neither the victims themselves, nor Di Linke, nor the press regarded them as any evidence of specific threat that White supremacist violence posed to Jews in Southern California.
But that consensus quickly shifted as Hitler's ascendance to power in Germany inspired a spate of increasingly public displays of anti-Semitism in the city. Several pro-Nazi organizations emerged in LA, each blending Hitler's rhetoric with the mythos of the Western frontier to produce a particular form of American Nazism. As early as February 1933, anti-Semitic flyers began appearing at local work sites. And soon, Nazis wearing brown shirts began showing up at community events to harass those in attendance. Their activities escalated into physical assaults and swastikas burned in the Hollywood Hills in the months that followed.
As Shana Beth Bernstein and others have documented, prominent Jewish civic and business leaders acted quickly to mobilize a community-wide response, hosting their first mass meeting in March, after which they formed the Community Relations Council to conduct surveillance on local Nazi groups and report them to law enforcement. So too in Boyle Heights did the local arbitrierung and rechte unions quickly form a chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee to spearhead a boycott on German-made goods. But neither of these efforts included Di Linke, nor did CPLA move to quickly mobilize a response of its own, remaining relatively quiet about rising anti-Semitism at home and abroad.
Frustrated by these exclusions, Di Linke decided to form their own organization, calling a, quote, unquote, "United anti-Nazi conference" in Boyle Heights. As Abraham Maymudes-- who Jen knows-- a Polish-born furrier who was then secretary of the IWO and its Yiddish education programs in Los Angeles, argued at the first meeting, the UANC would be different from other anti-Nazi organizations. Because it would oppose not only anti-Semitism, but also, quote, "anti-alien sentiment broadly," specifically, new immigration restrictions proposed by Representative Martin Dies of Texas, legislation that, another IWO member in attendance charged, constituted Nazism in America.
In Di Linke's understanding, fascism was not a foreign threat brought to America by Nazi spies. Fascism was, as Carey McWilliams described in a pamphlet commissioned by the UANC, "already happening here." The UANC also differed from other local anti-Nazi organizations its focus on direct action. While other groups conducted covert surveillance of fascist groups, the UANC confronted them directly, disrupting their rallies, picketing in front of the German embassy, and holding counterprotests outside the headquarters of the German American Bund.
Nor did the UANC shy away from physical force. At the picket pictured here on the bottom right, protesters, quote, "pelted the doors with eggs and overripe vegetables, smashed windows with rocks, and brawled with a man exiting the building in a Nazi uniform," their protest so disruptive that Bund members fled under the protection of the police. Although The Times described this and other UANC events as riots, the physicality of these actions carried significance. By putting their bodies on the line in the fight against fascism, Jewish communists showed themselves to be undaunted by the police and fearless in the face of those who supported their annihilation.
Through this activism, the UANC consecrated a coalition of over 120 organizations that included a dozen branches of the IWO and the IWO Juniors, as well as the Young People's Socialist League, local unions, and [INAUDIBLE] organizations, Yiddish reading circles, and at least four neighborhood synagogues. They organized a series of interracial mass meetings against Nazism in partnership with the local NAACP and the Urban League. And despite repeated scolding and red baiting from their colleagues in New York, the local Jewish Labor Committee worked with the UANC to host mass meetings and raise money to provide aid to refugees.
The extent of the UANC's coalition suggests that the majority of Boyle Heightsniks came to accept its posture on the necessity of fighting all forms of, quote, "anti-alien sentiment" and of prioritizing interracial coalition building to combat fascism. While elsewhere, Die Rechte and Di Linke continued to wage fierce battles in the 1930s, in Los Angeles, the UANC became a point of consensus, bridging the divides between them as well as those between secular-minded radical Jews and their religiously observant neighbors, a consensus demonstrated at the UANC's largest rally of all, pictured here, a parade to honor the victims of Kristallnacht in November 1938, at which some 10,000 people marched down Brooklyn Avenue to defend, quote, "the life, liberty, and security of the Jewish people."
The UANC disbanded in 1939 after being declared a communist front by the state-level committee on un-American activities. But the Linke fight against fascism in Boyle Heights continued, transforming into support for the American war effort. The Emmas organized knitting circles and fundraisers to purchase supplies, often sending them directly to the Eastern Front through Asia, and along with the IWO, led massive war bonds drive, erecting a victory house at the corner of Brooklyn and Soto in the heart of the neighborhood. Through their efforts, they raised some $10 million between 1942 and 1944, prompting the US Army to name one of its B-17 bombers in their honor as the Spirit of Boyle Heights.
The IWO expanded in the same years, reaching a peak membership of 14 lodges with over 3,000 members when the JPFO was founded. The Yiddish cultural program at The Cooperative Center, buoyed by the support of Kalman Marmer and Haver Paver, who both arrived in LA in the 1930s and joined the teaching staff, expanded to include music, drama, publishing, and dance classes, and half a dozen Yiddish schools throughout the neighborhood. As captured in these photos, they actively embraced the IWO slogan "Immigrants all, Americans all," hosting annual celebrations at the center and festivals of friendship at the Soto Michigan JCC nearby.
I too have embraced the slogan as the title of my talk today, as I think it elegantly captures the balance of inclusion and otherness that Jewish communists forged to find their place in the particular ethno-racial landscape of the neighborhood. So I'm going to leave it there. But I just wanted to end by saying that, owed to the disavowals, and purges, and prosecutions that Robert has detailed, and I'm sure we'll talk about more, in the post-war years, the memory of the IWO and its fight against fascism in LA has been all but forgotten. And that is why collections like the one we are here to celebrate today-- much of the LA materials contributed by Abraham Maymudes, whose photographs have been featured throughout my presentation-- are so, so precious.
Archives are, for the most part, colonial institutions, born of dispossession and extracted histories that are reified by the scholars who deploy them in their research. But the JPFO archive represents this amazing alternative, what Kelly Lytle Hernandez calls a rebel archive, that enables us to foreground histories of solidarities against those extractive systems and points us to new possibilities for multiracial coalition building in the future. So I'll leave it there. And thank you, everyone, for staying on the line.
DAVID OST: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Caroline, and everyone. So right now I will ask-- because we have a good length of time. We have 40 minutes left. So we can take just a couple of minutes each if each of the panelists would like to comment on something they heard the other panelists mentioned, if they'd like to ask a question of the other panelists. We can go in order of the presentations of John, Jennifer, Robert, and Caroline again.
I might throw in, quickly, one question I just had for Caroline when you speak again is I just wonder, you know, why should LA-- why was LA such a spearhead of white supremacy? But would any-- John, would you like to reflect on any of the presentations or ask a question?
JONATHAN KARP: Yeah, they were wonderful presentations. So thank you to all of my co-panelists. I was struck by a parallel between Robert's paper and Caroline's paper in terms of the efforts before the Cold War-- indeed, before World War II sometimes-- to suppress these groups. It seemed like, in the case of Caroline's group, that was successful, in the case of the IWO, took longer to really knock them down. But we tend to think of a kind of diametric turn after World War II and the beginnings of the Cold War. And the suppression really begins then.
But both of your papers show-- I know it wasn't the centerpiece of your papers. But both of them show a longer ongoing history that, in a way, maybe even stretches back to the Palmer Raids and the post-World War I period. So that was one question that I wondered if you felt like reflecting on-- no obligation. It wasn't the center of your presentation. But I thought it was an interesting thread throughline.
DAVID OST: OK, thanks. Jennifer, any comments or reflections?
JENNIFER YOUNG: Yeah, I mean, I could talk to Caroline all day about the IWO and the JPFO in Los Angeles, and about the Emmas there. And as you kind of mentioned, I did go interview a number of activists in California a few years ago. So I am very interested in comparing and contrasting the New York or East Coast experience with the West Coast. And also, it's worth pointing out that at least in the '70s, if not earlier, a lot of Emmas came from New York to California. So it really does show-- and this is really up there for a great research topic for someone-- that there's a distinct shift of power within the Emma Lazarus organization to California.
Of course, Clara Lemlich herself ends up in California. And actually, a lot of the women that Barbara Meyerhoff interviewed in her book Number Our Days were part of this Venice Beach Emmas group. So I mean, there's a lot going on there. But to you, from your research, have you seen that there's any kind of shift that happens with this influx of elderly Jewish communist women into California and if that changes anything? How late does your research go?
DAVID OST: OK, thanks. A couple other comments, and then we'll get to the questions and answers. And please feel free, audience members, to still write questions there. Bob?
ROBERT ZECKER: Yeah, I-- thanks. I-- this was to Jonathan, or an impression from Jonathan's talk, but also Jennifer as she was talking as well, the question of why there was such a solidarity between Jewish immigrants or second-generation and African-Americans. I wonder, is this because they are obviously marginalized if not also demonized by the same people? And perhaps this coalition breaks down not only because of anticommunism, but the whitening-- the Karen Broadkin Sacks idea-- of later Jewish, or Italian, or Polish Americans can enter the mainstream in a way that African-Americans can't.
There is even an IWO lodge in Levittown, which, of course, was racially segregated. You could be a Jew or an Italian and moved to Levittown and Long Island, but not Black. So I wonder if that plays a role by the 1950s as well.
DAVID OST: And Caoline?
CAROLINE LUCE: OK, I'm going to try to be brief. I do want to hit on some of the questions that have been directed towards me. And I want to start with Jonathan. Because there is absolutely this connection all the way back to 1919. I'm actually working on a piece right now about the Young Communist League. I'm sorry to see that Paul Mishler has dropped off. Because his work is hugely animating that project.
That is tracing this long history of Jewish racialization through the body of the Jewish communist, the figure or the specter, if you will, of the Jewish communist. And part of my argument there is really about White supremacy, and settler colonialism, and the connection of that in the West. There is this entrenchment of the logic and rationale of settler colonialism in Los Angeles that is part of its civic identity. Jews participate in the construction of that civic identity. They are part of displacement. They are part of real estate speculation. They are part of inventing this dream of Southern California.
But as historians like Genevieve Carpio, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Nayan Shah, Natalie Molina have shown, that settler instinct, the removal, the logic of Indian removal, confinement, discipline, and punishment runs through Southern California's history and the construction of race and place. And that's kind of what I'm trying to do in this piece is locate Jews within that process. Because on the one hand, they are give-- they are regarded as white settlers. They are among the founding fathers of the city. One of the first mayors is Jewish. And at the same time, the specter of the Jewish communist haunts the settlor landscape that's created.
So I start this with an incident in 1919 in which a bunch of Jewish Wobblies-- probably Bolsheviks. They're labeled as such-- are living in a house in Covina, which, any admirers of My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will know the name of that town. It's basically the Citrus Belt out in Riverside County. And they are all living in a house that the locals call "Russia house." And the sheriff gathers a posse of 400 townspeople, and in the middle of the day, rounds them up and "deports" them-- tellingly, deports them to Boyle Heights, which I think is this fascinating-- it comes after the Bisbee deportation, which any historians of radicalism in the West will know well.
But this idea that you're deporting them to Boyle Heights is so telling to me, that that racial and spatial association has already been made. But as you say, it absolutely carries forward through the 1920s and '30s. As I'm trying to articulate in the essay, a lot of it is directed at young people, like young Jewish bodies. All of the press is fascinated by their haircuts and the fact that the women wear pants. There's this one article about a woman testifying in a trial where they're obsessed with her hands, right? Because they're like, Jews don't work. Their hands aren't calloused. Therefore this person is not an authentic worker.
And when you get to the '30s, you see that kind of settler imaginary layered on top of Nazi imagery. So I'm just going to very quickly share a quote. This is from a pamphlet by Ingram-- I forget what his first name is-- who's the founder--
DAVID OST: I think we're going to go to general questions of everyone. I'm sure you'll have a chance to speak more than once again. But show us--
CAROLINE LUCE: OK, yeah. I'll just finish. The quote is "Never-- Jews never go on ahead as the pioneers and trailblazers. They come on behind, much as do camp followers and toll takers, always as gleaners at the harvest, never the planters," right? So you can see this connection between Nazi anti-Semitism around Jewish communists and this sort of settler logic about trailblazers and pioneers. And I'll stop talking there. Yeah, OK, sorry.
DAVID OST: OK, great. We still have a half hour, full half hour, for discussion. I'm going to hand it over to Elissa, who's been looking at some of the questions. Again, feel free. You're welcome to ask more questions. Elissa also just posted, if you haven't answered the question-- if we haven't done it, you can also send us a note at the notes she listed. So Elissa?
ELISSA SAMPSON: So briefly, I'm going to start with logistics questions. We have been asked the time start for the panel on the 14th with Ben Katcher on the art of resistance. That is 3:00 PM. And at 4:00 PM, we are going to have a memories and reflections session, in which people who have been involved with the JPFO will be speaking. And if that is of interest to you because you have been one of those people, please find us. I've put up, in the chat, the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having said that, I'd like, now, to segue to the next series of logistics questions, which have to do with the nature of the sessions and making them accessible. The sessions, as you note, are recorded. To be able to be accessible, they need to have captioning, closed captioning, for ADA accessibility. And we have requested that will happen. At the point that happens, we plan on placing them publicly. So that is different than asking for a copy of somebody's presentation or paper. But in effect, there will be a recording that will be available. We can't tell you how fast the closed captioning will take place.
Having finished the logistics, hopefully, on to Jewish-Black relations. So Jonathan, there are a number of questions that are relevant to you, and perhaps to others as well. So for instance, what was Paul Robeson's role? Are we reifying categories when we say terms like "Black" and "White?" And what does that do? What work does that do? Should we be thinking in different ways about those categories in terms of historians today? And thank you for your interest in these questions.
DAVID OST: Jonathan, go ahead.
JONATHAN KARP: Thank you. Paul Robeson was a huge force. We saw him yesterday. He was an icon in the-- on the Jewish left. I wrote a lengthy article about Paul Robeson's recording of Yiddish and Hebrew music. And he was-- I mean, I use this term affectionately. I know some people think it's derogatory or negative. He was a philo-Semite of a certain kind. And he really believed in multi-ethnic solidarity.
He was a kind of proto-supporter of a kind of multiculturalism as he performed it in his concerts, where he would perform music from around the world. He could sing in dozen-- in a dozen languages or more credibly, including Yiddish and Hebrew. And he symbolized, I think, for many leftist Jews, a kind of almost preternatural ideal of Black power, Black force, Black artistry, Black masculinity, Black sexuality, a whole range of associations. You'd have to really pick it apart. So it would be hard to overstate, I think, the importance of Paul Robeson as an individual who attached himself to many causes in a very devoted way and suffered deeply for it on the one hand, and as an image on the other hand.
And then quickly, to the other question, which is a complicated question about binaries and Black-White-- and it goes a little bit to Robert's question-- I'll just state, entirely for me-- because I don't think my position is one that widely held. But I'll-- so I'll restate it again. I'm trying to get away from the Black-White binary, because I'm looking at class. I'm looking at Jews as constituting a middle man class in a sense, and as brokers. And I think that that is a neglected component that is essential to understanding why Black-Jewish relations were different from Black relations with other European immigrant ethnic groups.
Because Jews were never peasants, unlike those other groups. And they didn't compete for the same working-class jobs for long. So the Black-Jewish relationship was an interlocking, complementary, class relationship in which both could perform services for the other. It had built-in tensions because of that hierarchy. But it also had a degree of collaboration which was not possible to the same extent in the other cases. So I'll leave it at that, because other people need to talk.
ELISSA SAMPSON: And it's an open-ended question. It's not one that resolves itself.
JONATHAN KARP: That's for sure.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Jennifer, if I may, would you like to talk a little bit-- before we talk about the Emma Lazarus League, talk a little bit-- about Peekskill and Robeson? Because people were asking about that. And if somebody would like to discuss the Foner family, there were also questions about the Foners.
JENNIFER YOUNG: OK, so the Peekskill concert, which I've written about, happened in-- well, there was two concerts, August, September 1949. And it really plays into what Caroline was talking about in terms of homegrown anti-Semitic and very homegrown Klan groups, the White supremacist groups, who took an opportunity of Robeson announcing that he would give this concert, which he'd actually done already a few years in a row. But he'd made some comments that people considered to be anti-American earlier in the summer. And so there was a bit of a buzz in the newspaper. And then it became much more of a local conflagration that people got upset that Robeson would be singing publicly in Peekskill.
And so he tried to perform at the first concert. It got completely shut down. It was blocked by protesters. He had to turn around and go home.
And then in the second concert, because the people involved-- so Pete Seeger, the Civil Rights Congress-- it was a benefit for the Civil Rights Congress. And Howard Fast was an organizer as well. They decided they wanted to try again. So they got the concert to go on to be clear. And the concert itself was successful. And Robeson sang all of his classic songs, some in Yiddish.
And then after the concert, the group-- the audience leaving found that the road was blocked by protesters who were hurling boulders into the cars of people trying to leave the venue. And it became a bloody clash. And protester-- the audience members fought back with the protesters. And many people were seriously injured. It took all night for them to get back to their homes, especially in New York City. And ultimately, of course-- after many various investigations, especially by the local Westchester authorities, of course-- there were almost no charges laid. And nothing came of it.
But for Jews in particular, it became a moment, an impact moment, of saying, oh, OK, so here we are in 1949. And not only are the Black people in our own communities, the ones that we have sworn to protect, under literal attack and in fear of death-- and there were crosses burning on the hillside, reportedly, all through the night during the second concert. So it was very clear that we have these enemies. And they are the new White supremacist fascists amongst us. And we have to think long and hard about what our response to this is going to be.
And that really comes through in the JPFO meeting minutes from this time period, that they have many long conversations about what is our responsibility to African-Americans? Is it reaching out more into African-American communities and doing work in those communities? Is it reaching out to non-fascist White groups and trying to do solidarity work there? Is it trying to fight directly with these fascist White supremacist groups? You know, they were formulating a lot of different responses.
And that was a really interesting and productive time for them. Of course, it got shut down fairly-- in fairly quick order by the other concerns, as Bob mentioned, about the organization safety as a whole. So it is a really, really interesting period in American Jewish and Jewish-Black relations. And there's a lot more to be written there. Of course, 10-minute archives has a lot of materials with regard to that.
ELISSA SAMPSON: And we should mention, of course, that 10 minutes is our co-sponsor here, as well as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which is interested in Union Square's history. So these--
DAVID OST: I might have mentioned it.
ELISSA SAMPSON: --hand in glove. Yes, David.
DAVID OST: Just because you asked about the Foners, you know, as-- I mean, I have a personal relationship. My mother, who I think is listening to this, was very good friends with all of the Foners, especially Henry Foner, who's the head of the Fur and Leather Furrier Workers Union. And that was one of the unions that was very, very left-wing. Of course, there's Mo Foners 1199. But there was a whole slew of various trade unions led by-- led by several of the Foners, who actually began their-- began their political career singing songs, left-wing songs, in the Catskills.
They were like a music group too, and a kind of poetry, and kind of like a talking poets, a Jewish talking poets, in the late 1940s, you know, and developed a lot of contacts that way. Then, of course, there's the historians, Eric Foner, of course. And so yes, it's certainly a family. We're all--
JONATHAN KARP: Philip Foner also.
DAVID OST: --Philip, Phillip Foner, yeah right, the-- who did all the mammoth books on labor history, on Black American history.
ELISSA SAMPSON: And then we have Nancy, right? I mean, the Foners go on and on. So I'm going to put a plug in here for the Foner family. Those who are interested in them, and those who might find them controversial based on some of the Q&A, that one of the best sources to find out about the Foners is the Catherwood Library. Because they have the Furriers Union records, right? So people were interested in Ben Gold. Or people who were interested in the Foners, please come to the archive session tomorrow, and see some of those records.
ROBERT ZECKER: The Foners too-- it's funny you say about the folk singers-- they were performing at a place called Via Buena Vista, which was run by the Cervantes Society. But it was explicitly an interracial Catskill camp. They said, if you're Black, if you're White, if you're Jewish, Hispanic, come up there. And in one of their archives-- or pamphlets-- they promise that there will be entertainment by them. I'll just say too, they are also some of the first people giving courses on what, today, is taken as a given in the US survey, that Black people, that reconstruction was not the era of Negro misrule. The course is given by the Foners, and Aptheker, and others at the Jefferson School close to Union Square.
My only personal Foner story is I took a course and then a seminar with Eric as an undergrad. But that's pretty tangential.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Now I think I see Caroline's hand being physically raised. One can raise one's hand in Zoom as well, and it's a little different. And then I'd like to go back to Jennifer, because there are loads of questions about those Emmas. Caroline?
CAROLINE LUCE: Yeah, I just wanted to address a couple questions that came up in the chat that I really, really love. And I actually think it's a way of connecting to Jonathan's comment. One of the ways to move beyond this Black-White binary is to talk about Jews' relationships with other racial and ethnic minority populations. Part of why I think study in Los Angeles is important is because it really illuminates those other connections. And we have wonderful questions here from Aurora and Alaina in the chat that I just really wanted to quickly talk about.
One of the communities that actually there was the most collaboration, it's-- particularly in the 1920s-- was the Japanese community in LA. There's this really funny memo where the CP sends a bunch of pamphlets in, like, Hungarian and German. And the LA office is like, we can't use this. We need Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. And the New York office writes back, like, oh, uh-- and the Japanese community was really actively involved.
I recommend Karl Yoneda's autobiography. There's also a new book coming out about his wife, Elaine Black, which gets me to Aurora's questions about intermarriage. I have these two families that I'm particularly interested in in my work. One is Elaine Black's marriage to Karl Yoneda. Karl was actually interned. He actually volunteers to help build the internment camp that he and his family then live in. Because the CP line at the time, in Japan and the United States, was pro the attack on the Japanese, was pro declaring war against the Japanese, because they were anti-imperial, and was basically acquiescence to internment.
They did not put up a big fuss. It's kind of one of those tragedies about the party line that they just sort of accepted it. And Karl Yoneda has some thoughts. I think Robert's got his hand up. Robert, just one more comment.
The other story is Ralph Cuaron and his wife, Sylvia. Ralph is Mexican-American. Sylvia-- they're both born in Boyle Heights. They meet in high school. And they end up having this house. As I'm sure you can imagine, The Cooperative Center gets sold in the late 1940s as all these attacks come down. And their house, Ralph and Sylvia's house, on the East side becomes sort of a stand-in where they actually help to foment a lot of the Communist part of the Chicano civil rights struggle that comes in the post-war era. So I just wanted to thank Aurora and Alaina for those wonderful questions and acknowledge them there. And I'll stop talking now.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Bob, you have the mic.
ROBERT ZECKER: I wanted to jump in. But--
ELISSA SAMPSON: Thank you, Caroline.
ROBERT ZECKER: --you're absolutely right about the CP and Japanese internment if we're talking about the organization of the CP. But there were individual IWO lodges in Oakland who denounced it and said, we have Japanese-American members in our lodges. And this is wrong. And there were Detroit-- and it's in Glos Ludowy on the poll, the English language page, where they say there is no room for racism. If we're fighting Hitler and Japanese fascism, what we're doing is wrong.
So I think-- and the broader thing-- and I know we know it-- is we always have to distinguish what institutions said and resolved was the position, even the CP. And members themselves were much more, sometimes, righteous. So I just wanted to throw that in. Because that-- and John Pittman, by the way, also has an editorial in the Pacific World In '42 or '43 denouncing the internment of Japanese-Americans. So it wasn't-- and you're right in the aggregate, but yeah.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Jennifer, believe it or not, the Emmas are infinitely fascinating to our audience and to-- as well as to all the panelists. So would you like to speak to some of those questions? They go anywhere from why were the Emmas basically so independent? What happened with-- when the IWO fell apart? Were they active in Florida? Were they active in Canada? What was their impact? There's tons of questions about them. So feel free to address any that make sense to you.
JENNIFER YOUNG: OK, why were the Emmas so independent? I think, as I outlined very briefly in my paper, you know, they had always been an independent organization. And really, they were only a part of the JPFO for a handful of years. So they had a lot of internal coherence. And they had this group of women that had been working together very effectively for decades. And so in that sense, they-- it was easy for them to see what was going on with regards to the struggles to keep the IWO going. And it made sense for them, at that point, to step away, just like-- and I know Hershel Hartman just wrote this-- just like the-- that Isha Goldberg did with the school system.
So there was an opportunity, not least because these people had money in the bank. But they also had this huge constituencies. And by the way, none of those names were ever written down. They specifically say, we never had a membership list. So a lot of this is actually in the heads of the people who were the leaders. They know who everyone is. There's no master list, precisely because they knew that government was watching them and always had been.
So they had-- they had-- the resources that they had were both financial and were about the relationships between these women. And they didn't want that to be jeopardized by the IWO situation. So they were-- they easily broke away in a sense, sadly, I'm sure, just as Louise Thompson Patterson did to form Sojourners for Truth and Justice. And so they realized that they still had an opportunity to work together and to do all this good work with the community that they'd been establishing the roots for for so many years. And they just didn't want that to go to waste. And so it was very easy for them to continue as they did as the Emma Lazarus Federation really until the mid 1980s.
And again, if there's people out there who were in the Emmas or whose parents, mothers were in the Emmas, please write to me. And visit my website, jenniferyoungwriter.com. And email me. And tell me your stories.
As for Florida, oh, so much going on in Florida. Florida-- New York, Los Angeles, Florida, those were the main sites. And as there is this-- as Deborah Dash Moore writes To the Golden Cities, right, there's this really important migration, internally, of Jews to Los Angeles and to Florida. And the Florida Emmas were very active. I have-- I've looked at some of their papers that are in the National Emma papers, which are at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.
But LA is easier to access in terms of the stories there, because so many of those materials have been digitized. And maybe Caroline can speak a little bit to that. The Florida materials, as far as I know, haven't. I think that there's a lot out there. So I can't speak to too many specific stories about what was going on in Florida. But I do know that they were working very hard on integration, particularly at a time that that was really politically unpopular. And again, they fought local Jewish organizations over being excluded from local campaigns due to being communist.
And in general, I think-- everything that my research has shown is that there's Emmas and there's IWO people wherever you look. So in terms of what Caroline was just talking about, Luisa Moreno was a really important LA activist until she was deported. And she was, I believe, married to an IWO guy. And so they did a lot of solidarity work together with the Latinx community and the IWO there.
And then, yeah, I mean, there's a whole other conversation to be had about intermarriages. I mean, there's really-- that's a huge project that we should all work out together. Because of course, June Gordon marries Gene Gordon. And they-- so they have a-- they're raising a mixed race family. And they have to go through all of this stuff with finding apartments that will take them and things like that.
Maude White marries Arthur Katz, who's a member of the New York Communist Party. He's a white Jew. Claudia Jones marries Abraham Skolnick, who's also a white communist Jew. So there is just a lot going on there that needs to be unpacked a lot more. Again, if you have other question specifically that I can answer--
ELISSA SAMPSON: I think somebody wanted to find out about Toronto's connections to the Emmas.
JENNIFER YOUNG: So I know less about that. I would love that to be a future research project to get involved in, because I am a Canadian. And I care very much about the Canadian Jewish left. And I like the fact that this-- that June Gordon has all these crossovers between Canada and the US. She was very involved in the Montreal Labor College before she left in the '20s to go to New York.
I don't-- as far as I'm aware-- and Esta Rider could correct me-- I don't think that there was a women's Jewish communist movement in Canada the same way that there was in the US. And I don't know the reasons for that. It's a really good question. And I think that the Canadian Jewish left just demolished so differently, because they were facing different obstacles. I mean, they faced obstacles with the government for being communist, but not in the same way. And they didn't go through this whole disillusion and deportation tragedy that the Americans did. And so they just had different avenues to do their activist work. And as far as-- I haven't seen any reference to Canada in the Emmas papers anywhere, which is a really interesting question.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Jennifer, if you'll permit me, Montreal is not Toronto, leaving weather aside, right? And Montreal's garment trade in the '20s has Quebecois and Jewish women organizing on the left. And it's a different history than what you see in Toronto. It is not an Emma history, but it's certainly one that is relevant to the topic at hand.
And Bob and Caroline, and Jennifer, to your point about how insurgent CP, and IWO, and JPFO circles, there are a variety of marriage arrangements that might be seen as unconventional in their day, I would recommend going back to Manhattan. Which, the IWO was, and JPFO were, headquartered at 85th Avenue, and thinking about Jews and Italians, particularly in East Harlem, where we had Vito Marcantonio in a film yesterday that Bob mentioned.
There's a book called Rossi a Manhattan, Reds Manhattan, about Italians and Jews there by Eric Salerno, which is a wonderful book. So we have a wealth of material. There is no lack of material. There is a lack of digitization and people coming together around it.
So may this-- to Caroline's point, may this be the first of many discussions that are fruitful about the importance of this material, and about archives, and how to use them in ways that are both productive, and perhaps for some of that earlier history, and taking them on.
ROBERT ZECKER: Elissa, this might be a moment-- there was a question in the chat about, did the IWO get involved in anticolonialism, or did they speak on that? And the simple answer is yes. But this is-- the East Harlem is a milieu where Marcantonio advocated Puerto Rican independence, solidarity with Cuba under the military dictatorships in the '30s and '40s. And he was joined in that by the Jewish and Italian community. He won by a landslide until he finally lost in 1950. So that's a perfect example.
The Cervantes Society, of course, had a lot to say on Latin America under the IWO. But other-- even the White ethnic groups were strong on this. Stanley Novak in Detroit had a Polish language radio program. And in 1942, he's saying to Poles in Chicago, the Atlantic Charter is a good thing. But we want to know, is Churchill going to implement the Atlantic Charter for the people of India and the people of Africa? And Novak himself was in the IWO.
So they were strong on this. And in '45 and '46, the IWO, at their national convention, has resolutions on the need for independence for the colonized people under British or French rule. So yes, the short answer is yes, and a bit more detail on that question.
DAVID OST: If I can just say one or two things and a couple of questions I want to bring in, first of all, I-- some people have posted some links to videos of the Foners. As far as I know, there doesn't seem to be a way to copy all of this. So you can go there now and make your own copy, or click on the link if you want to before the session ends.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Yes.
DAVID OST: But you know, to bring up a couple of questions from the chat, one was about the relationship of the IWO, JFPO to further left Jewish organizations. Whether Trotskyists, anarchists, they were flirting around with the communist movement. And of course, until '53, that's largely a Stalinist movement. And you know, so were they as hostile to the anarchists and the Trotskyists as the Stalinists were? And another question-- what did these people-- because you talked about these organizations pretty much ending with McCarthyism. What did-- are there some notable contributions of these people later in the '60s, or '70s, or ongoing? That can be to anyone.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Jonathan Karp, would you be comfortable in trying for the first pass at that?
JONATHAN KARP: No, I don't have anything to say about that, sorry.
ELISSA SAMPSON: I could go for a very fast one.
ROBERT ZECKER: Oh, I could too. But you go, Elissa.
ELISSA SAMPSON: All right, you go, and we'll go back. All of these organizations, in theory, don't talk to each other. And in actual reality, families are broken by them. And families know, as well as neighbors know, all about the range of options. Of course, that range is going to be different in 1910 than in 1950, right, to say nothing of 1940s. Sometimes there's cooperation. But most of the time, there really isn't
It's not even cooperatition, except during the war. And that's very specific, as we discussed yesterday. So the IWO is a Yiddish speaking organization that is born like Athena, the goddess, full-blown, from the arbitrierung when they split off in 1930, The Workmen's Circle. So that is not a good relationship. Because they spent 10 years arguing about it. And that is-- now, that doesn't mean that they don't go into coalition with the arbitrierung on certain things. Of course it depends on where and what the topic is.
But know that in terms of the origins, they're not going to be good. In terms of Stalinism and Trotskyites, that's not going to be a great one. In terms of anarchists, all of us are very aware-- like if you're in 1910 or before the Palmer Raids, there are lots of connections. And after that, it becomes really dicey. And the Goldman's memoirs testify to that.
So it's complicated terrain. But people do cross from group to group. And families certainly get divided by this. I think I see three hands up there right now. Who would like to go first?
ROBERT ZECKER: Well, just briefly, yeah, the-- you're right, at various moments, it's like Trotskyists are the enemy, or the socialists are the enemy. Beyond belief, in Chicago, several members of an IWO lodge are kicked out for being Trotskyists. And they complain and say, in our charter, they say there's no political criterion to join the IWO. And Sam Hammersmark says, well, you've expelled yourself, and comes up with some other violation of Article 59, you know?
But then in '53, the IWO defends a member of the Socialist Workers' Party from Newark who is being kicked out of public housing for violating the Gwinn Amendment, which says you cannot be a tenant in public housing if you're a member of a subversive group. And the IWO is facing eviction-- some members-- in Brooklyn. And they defend this guy in Newark as well, because suddenly, they see common cause, and yes, during World War II, common cause among socialists-- Trotskyists not so much. Because they don't really get on board with Stalin's war either. But anyway.
ELISSA SAMPSON: Now I think I see Caroline. Yes.
CAROLINE LUCE: I just-- I don't know if anyone noticed. There's an Easter egg in that photo of the UANC action I showed before that actually includes a fourth international sign in it, which is a telltale sign that the UANC included Trotskyists as well. I do think what you're saying about that being sort of epiphenomenal and around certain causes, that may be the case. But it's actually something I'm trying to underscore that makes LA unique is that there was this collaboration and this movement between parties and categories that seems, in my impression, to have been much more fluid.
I think part of that is about numbers. There just weren't enough people to sustain these kind of battle lines in the way that there might have been in New York. I think that also has to do with what Jennifer alluded to before, which is these waves of arrivals of folks who just showed up in town in LA, imbibing that sort of pioneer, settler colonialist myth about being able to start their own thing, looked around, didn't see a group that was doing exactly what they wanted to do, and would start their own faction, or branch, or new party, or what have you.
So the rivalries are not as strong, because everybody, quote, unquote, was "new to town." and what you see instead is kind of these orbits of activity that sort of bounce off each other and coincide in really interesting ways. There just isn't that inherited personal rivalries and bitterness. I will say they all hated Dubinski. So he might have been an exception.
But that's part of, actually, what I'm trying to figure out is sort of why aren't there these-- why aren't they at each other's throats? And I think a lot of it is LA's sprawl. It's a huge place. So Jen was alluding to this post-war community in Venice Beach. That's a semiautonomous kind of island on the land. I haven't been to the beach, thanks to these lockdowns, in a year and a half, right? So you can live in LA and never go anywhere near the ocean, despite what the advertisements may say.
So part of that is space. And part of that is just numbers. There just isn't the same kind-- you know, we're talking about a few thousand people here rather than a few million people here. So this moment in the '30s, to me, is-- really stands out. I mean, the Jewish Labor Committee is writing them these furious letters, like, what are you doing? You are not allowed to be working with communists. And they basically write back, we have no choice, dude. We can't do this unless we involve them. Like, we will lose. We won't exist as an organization. So I think it's pragmatic and just owed to the fact that there wasn't this years' worth of bitterness that they were all carrying around.
ELISSA SAMPSON: I'm going to put in one last plug here for Catherwood. Jewish Labor Committee-- JLC's files, you got them there. And they're fascinating in terms of dealing with this issue as well as issues in terms of Europe. Jennifer-- Jennifer, do you have your hand up or not? I can't tell.
JENNIFER YOUNG: I wanted to answer Ian Roxboro Smith's question about the long civil rights movement. With regard to anti-imperialism the Emmas were very involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement and really took that in a lot of different places in terms of anti-imperialism, in terms of support for women of color all around the world, and in terms of ending nuclear arms when that became an issue a little bit later. What I find particularly interesting is that they also got really involved in the Angela Davis campaign in the '70s. And that's because the secretary of the Angela Davis Legal Defense Campaign was Louise Thompson Patterson.
So there was already this longstanding connection between her and the Emmas. And so the Emmas immediately get on board and issue press releases, memos, and everything, saying we support Angela Davis. And we understand the deep structural racist reasons why her-- you know, her arrest and her persecution. And they even-- there's some evidence that they actually were supportive of the Black Panthers in Los Angeles. So they were doing that kind of work as elderly women that you would not necessarily expect of elderly Jewish immigrant women in the 1970s and 1980s.
And that actually includes a lot of solidarity work with Mexican farmworkers. They literally invited them into their homes. Mexican farmworkers who lived all the way down in Southern California would come into Los Angeles for meetings and strikes. And the Emmas would literally invite them into their homes. Even though the Emmas, at that point, were extremely poor, poorer than they'd ever been almost, and relying on Social Security, they would invite these men and women and families into their homes and host them in Los Angeles [INAUDIBLE].
ROBERT ZECKER: Ian-- hi, Ian-- a friend of mine. Also, yes, in Detroit, there are people into the mid 1970s holding anti-Vietnam, and peace, and civil rights festivals annually at a building that was the IWO lodge headquarters in the 1930s in Detroit. And some of the same people involved in the IWO then get involved as anti-Vietnam draft counselors. We're going to have some oral histories. And a woman who was in the IWO in their teens in Newark told me, in the '60s, she relocated to California, but was a draft-- anti-Vietnam draft counselor and stuff.
And others who got involved almost immediately, they were ordered, by the way, by the state of New York, you are prohibited from not only staying in the IWO, which we're liquidating, you can't meet. They tell them, you cannot join with your former comrades in a new organization. And most of them say, yeah, right, and almost immediately found new groups. So yeah, there is a long genealogy of activism of former IWO members.
DAVID OST: OK, so we're a few minutes over. I think we should formally conclude. Let me make a note again. Several people have asked whether it's possible to save the chat. As far as I know, it's not-- it's not possible. So maybe-- I'm not formally opening or closing the Zoom site. Maybe we could leave that for just a couple of minutes. And people want to look at the chat, read some of the things there.
JONATHAN KARP: Think you can-- sorry to interrupt you, David. But you can select it on your screen and copy it. You can Command-S or Command-C. Depends on if you have a Mac or a PC. And you can then paste it onto a document. So you should be able to save it right now before it disappears.
DAVID OST: For some reason, I can't do that on my computer. But if-- I don't know why. I thought I could.
JONATHAN KARP: Maybe I can do it if it works. And I'll send it to Elissa. And she can send it around.
DAVID OST: Yeah, OK, why don't you if you can save that. And then we'll have that, and if people want to see that, make it available. Anyway, let me just say, thank you for, again, a second panel in a row that I thought was quite scintillating and really exciting. And tomorrow we will have the panel, also starting again at 3:00 PM, that is a look into the archives, virtual tour of the archives and library, and also some presentations on the Canadian Jewish communists, on the American Proletpen writers, and African-Americans during Scottsboro trial, about Jewish left organization in Argentina, the Internationale.
And again, we'll have panels on Thursday as well as-- as well as the following next Tuesday. So thank you very much to everyone. Thank you to all our attendees. And so long. See you tomorrow.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.