Trinidad & Tobago-born black communist and political activist
Claudia Jones née Claudia Vera Cumberbatch (21 February 1915 – 24 December 1964), was a Trinidad and Tobago-born journalist and activist. As a child she migrated with her family to the US, where she became a political activist and black nationalist.
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- A developing consciousness on the woman question today, therefore, must not fail to recognize that the Negro question in the United States is prior to, and not equal to, the woman question; that only to the extent that we fight all chauvinist expressions and actions as regards the Negro people and fight for the full equality of the Negro people, can women as a whole advance their struggle for equal rights. For the progressive women's movement, the Negro woman, who combines in her status the worker, the Negro, and the woman, is the vital link to this heightened political consciousness.
- "An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman" (1949), in Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African-American Anthology (2009), p. 324
Statement (January 1953)Edit
Statement before being sentenced, US Courthouse, Foley Square, New York City. In Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment, ed. Carole Boyce Davies (Banbury, Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd), 2011, pp. 6-10.
- if what I say here serves even one whit to further dedicate growing millions of Americans to fight for peace and to repel the fascist drive on free speech and thought in our country, I shall consider my rising to speak worthwhile indeed.
- Will you measure as worth of one year’s sentence, my passionate adherence to the idea of fighting for full unequivocal equality for my people, the Negro people, which as a Communist I believe can only be achieved allied to the cause of the working class? A year for another vital Communist belief, that the bestial Korean War is an unjust war? Or my belief that peaceful coexistence of nations can be achieved and peace won if struggled for? Another year for my belief that only under socialism will exploitation of and by man be finally abolished and the great human and industrial resources of the nation be harnessed for the well-being of the people? Still another year’s sentence for my belief that the denial of the exercise of free speech and thought to Communists only precedes, as history confirms, the denial of the exercise of these rights to all Americans?
- I find now, as throughout this trial of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, that it is we, the defendants, who are morally free and conversely it is the prosecutors and the Court itself that stands naked before the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and the people of our country.
- It was the world-renowned Karl Marx, founder of the Marxist-Leninist science, for which application to American and world historical conditions, we were so fearfully convicted, who long ago predicted that “The time would come when the powers that would be would no longer live by the very laws they themselves have fashioned.”
- The thinking process, as your Honour well knows, is a process that defies jailing.
- racist ideas, so integral a part of the desperate drive by the men of Wall Street to war and fascism
- One thought pervaded me throughout this trial and pervades me still, and it is this: In the nine and one half months of this trial, millions of children have been born. I speak only of those who live. Will the future oft those children, including those of our defendants and even you Honour’s grandchildren, be made more secure by the jailing of 13 men and women Communists whose crimes are not criminal acts but advocacy of ideas? Is this not a tyrannical violation of the American dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
- I had early experience experiences which are shared by millions of native-born Negroes — the bitter indignity and humiliation of second-class citizenship, the special status which makes a mockery of our Government’s prated claims of a “free America” in a “free world” for 15 million Negro Americans.
- Marxism-Leninism — that philosophy that not only rejects racists ideas, but is the antithesis of them.
- One need only be a Negro in America to know that for the crime of being a Negro we are daily convicted by a Government which denies us elementary democratic rights, the right to vote, to hold office, to hold judgeships, to serve on juries, rights forcibly denied in the South and also in the North.
- I want to concur with Mr. Perry’s proposal to Mr. Lane that he recommend to the Department of Justice that they show more zeal, since they have not ever prosecuted a single anti-Semite or a Ku Kluxer in these United States with its total of 5,000 lynched Negro men, women and Children since the 1860s.
- one of the historical truths of all history is that the oppressed never revere their oppressors.
- And this, Honourable Judge, is exactly what is the purpose of all Smith Act trials, this one in particular. I share the faith of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Pettis Perry and all my c –defendants that America’s working people, Negro and white, will surely rise, not like sheep, but with vigilance towards their liberty, to assure that peace will win and that the decadent Smith Act, which contravenes the Bill of Rights, will be swept from the scene of history.
- It was the great Frederick Douglass, who had a price on his head, who said “Without struggle, there is no progress.” And echoing his words was the answer of the great abolitionist poet, James Russell Lowell: “The limits of tyranny is proscribed by the measure of our resistance to it”.
- If, out of this struggle, history assesses that I and my co-defendants have made some small contribution, I shall consider my role small indeed. The glorious exploits of anti-fascist heroes and heroines, honoured today in all lands for their contribution to social progress, will, just like the role of our prosecutors, also be measured by the people of the United States in that coming day.
Quotes about Claudia JonesEdit
- As Carole Boyce Davies has pointed out in her wonderful book on Claudia Jones, Left of Karl Marx, Claudia Jones was one of the leaders of the Negro Youth Congress (the American Negro Youth Congress and the Southern Youth Congress). And I mention Jones both because of her important work in the US and because she became a pivotal figure in the organizing of Caribbean communities here in Britain after she was arrested for the work she did in the US and eventually deported. How can we counteract the representation of historical agents as powerful individuals, powerful male individuals, in order to reveal the part played, for example, by Black women domestic workers in the Black freedom movement?
- Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle (2015)
- I will be strong to keep my mind and soul outside a prison,/Encouraged and inspired by ever loving memories of you.
- Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, last two lines of the poem "Farewell to Claudia"
- The Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Foley Square case on June 4, 1951. Just over two weeks later FBI agents in New York rounded up such "second string" leaders as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Pettis Perry, and Claudia Jones. After that we knew it couldn't be long before the arrests came in other places.
- Dorothy Ray Healey California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (1990)
- Whereas for Claudia Jones the structural position of black people-black women in particular-in the political economy placed them in the vanguard of the revolution, for Paul Robeson it was their culture that gave the black movement its special insight and character.
- Robin Kelley Freedom Dreams (2002)
- The other great tragedy, for the black freedom movement in particular, was the silencing of radical leadership. Robeson, Du Bois, and Claudia Jones were among the many victims of statesponsored anticommunist witch hunts.
- Robin Kelley Freedom Dreams (2002)
- The position of women has been debated in socialist and communist circles, but even there it is usually left as a question. And black women specifically? They have never been a primary subject of the American Left, always falling somewhere in the cracks between the Negro Question and the Woman Question. As we've seen, key interventions by the likes of Ida B. Wells or Claudia Jones attempted to disrupt color- and class-struggle-as-usual, but few leftists paid attention.
- Robin Kelley Freedom Dreams (2002)
- My feminism is the feminism of Claudia Jones, whose experiences of intense racism and working-class poverty led her to communism, who proposed Black self-determination as a guiding principle of communist organizing and was jailed for an anti-imperialist Women's Day speech. She criticized the left for failing to uproot male supremacy, and the elite feminists who ignored race and class and framed their struggles as a war between the sexes, and wrote that "the triply oppressed status of negro women is a barometer of the status of all women."
- Aurora Levins Morales Medicine Stories: Essays for Radicals (2019 edition)