Benjamin J. Davis Jr.

American lawyer and politician, New York city councilman
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Benjamin Jefferson "Ben" Davis Jr. (September 8, 1903 – August 22, 1964), was an African-American lawyer and communist who was elected to the city council of New York City, representing Harlem, in 1943.



"Why I am a Communist" (1947)


As published in Phylon: The Clark Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture in a special issue titled "Communism and the American Negro," vol. 8, no. 2.

  • In fact, the drive against the Communists is aimed, above all, against the labor movement.
  • Whether one agrees with the Communist Party or not, one must at least know the truth about it. One must not permit his ideas to be shaped by the hysteria which now passes as a "crusade against Communism." ... For example, the canard that every Communist has his pockets lined with "Moscow gold." If that were true, one could be sure that there would scarcely be any room in our party for workers. The capitalists, to whom gold is god of the universe, would crowd them out.
  • As a Negro American, I want to be free. I want equal opportunities, equal rights; I want to be accorded the same dignity as a human being and the same status as a citizen as any other American. This is my constitutional right. I want first-class, unconditional citizenship. I want it, and am entitled to it, now.
  • I became a member of the Party in January, 1933, in the heat of battle. At the time, I was serving as defense attorney for Angelo Herndon in Atlanta, Georgia, where Herndon, an eighteen-year-old Negro youth, had been framed on a charge of inciting to insurrection. ... Of what was Herndon "guilty"? He had led a demonstration of unemployed Negro and white workers to City Hall, had been found with a couple of Communist pamphlets in his possession, and possessed a firm and inspiringly defiant advocacy of the freedom of Negroes and of the liberation of the white masses from exploitation. The "dangerous" policy he then espoused as a Communist, was the unity of the Negroes in the South with the impoverished white workers and poor farmers.

Quotes about Ben Davis

  • Who is loyal to America and its democratic traditions? James Byrnes: governor of South Carolina, who equates the role of the NAACP and KKK, correctly assailed by Thurgood Marshall as "fascist McCarthyism rampant with racism"? Or Ben Davis - whose eloquent voice against Jim Crow scathes Byrnes and all the racists even from behind prison bars? Yes, To Believe In Negro Freedom Means To Be Radical!
    • Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment: Autobiographical Reflections, Essays, and Poems
  • Demands Ben Davis fought for, bans on biased textbooks and the lifting of bans on such books as authored by Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Howard Fast and other outstanding writers; whose writings are feared. Davis urged restoration of progressive teachers to their posts and the exclusion of biased white supremacist and anti-Semitic instructors in our schools;
    • Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment: Autobiographical Reflections, Essays, and Poems
  • There is this... that must be admired about DuBois, Robeson, Ben Davis and others. They are not taking it lying down. Ben Davis is in prison... Robeson has sacrificed... DuBois has fought without let up for over half a century and at 85 be is determined as ever. Some day when truth gets a hearing, America, regardless of colour, we will honour them.
    • J. A. Rogers, attributed in Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment: Autobiographical Reflections, Essays, and Poems
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