Sold – The Correspondence of George Padmore, Father of African Independence

With the original call for the Pan-African Congress of 1945, as well as correspondence on the future of black people worldwide.

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Courage, brothers!” W.E.B. DuBois said. “All across the skies sit signs of promise. The Slav is rising in his might, the yellow millions are tasting liberty, the black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer, with ballot in his hand, is voting open the gates of opportunity.”

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Sold – The Correspondence of George Padmore, Father of African Independence

With the original call for the Pan-African Congress of 1945, as well as correspondence on the future of black people worldwide.

Courage, brothers!” W.E.B. DuBois said. “All across the skies sit signs of promise. The Slav is rising in his might, the yellow millions are tasting liberty, the black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer, with ballot in his hand, is voting open the gates of opportunity.”

This was the vision, articulated in 1906, for a better future for blacks of all nations. Liberty would sweep the planet and touch the “descendants of Africa.” In 1919, DuBois helped to organize one of the first Pan-African Conferences, uniting black leaders globally and transforming their local conflicts and issues into a transnational movement of race, morality and freedom. The NAACP was founded in 1909 and he became the editor of its influential publication, Crisis Magazine.

The Communist Party of the 1920’s and 1930’s saw in the oppression of blacks the chance to exploit race and use racial conflict in America to its advantage. For Comintern leaders, the “negro” of the Great Depression was a natural partner against capitalist governments.

George Padmore

Born Malcolm Nurse in Trinidad in 1924, Padmore emigrated to the United States to study medicine but shifted to law. In 1927 he joined the Communist party and in 1929 was summoned to Moscow, where he became the head

of the Negro Bureau of the Red International Labor Unions. Padmore went on to become editor of The Negro Worker and was at the forefront of Soviet efforts to influence western black communities. He and Dubois shared the goal of Pan African unity but not a vision of the means to achieve it. Where Dubois had criticized Booker T. Washington for his close relationships and reliance on white liberals, Padmore was a symbol that black intellectuals and white liberals were uniting worldwide on behalf of Communism.

In 1934, the political winds shifted dramatically. At a time when the Soviets were aligning themselves with Great Britain and France against the Germans, Padmore was active in campaigns of agitation in colonial Africa. Gradually, he became convinced that by siding with colonial Britain and France the Comintern was putting its white agenda ahead of Black movements in Africa and elsewhere. He condemned the Communists. In the March of that year, the Comintern closed The Negro Worker, and he left amid rumors that he was expelled. The blood was bad.

This episode launched Padmore to international fame. His criticism of the Communist Party and ideas he put forth for a new direction for the Pan African movement gathered great attention on no fewer than 4 continents. He became the driving force in the movements to attain black rights and independence. In 1945, he organized the Fifth Pan-African Congress, the most important and influential ever held. This was the recognized beginning of the Civil Rights era. In attendance were many of the African freedom fighters and leaders who would go on to found nations. Dubois, at 77, would lead his last Congress. As Kwame Nkrumah, trained by Padmore and later ruler of Ghana, said, “You can imagine how he was acclaimed here. His name – more than anyone else’s – was a household name..There are only five million people in the Gold Coast, but ten years after… independence for the Gold Coast there were some 40 new African states…I have never heard of any revolutionary movement of such tremendous force and power. Much of which was owed to George Padmore.”

Henry Lee Moon

Moon straddled different periods of the Civil Rights movement. He worked closely with both Dubois and Martin Luther King. Educated at Howard, he would go on to work at the Tuskegee Institute, serve as race relations advisor to the federal government and finish his career as public relations director of the NAACP and Dubois’ successor as editor of its publication, Crisis Magazine. The NAACP’s library and archives bear his name. In 1934, he was the editor of The New York Amsterdam News. As such, he was a key figure for Padmore and the Communist Party appealing to the black masses of the Great Depression.

The Collection

Following his expulsion, the Communist Party and Padmore began a heated public exchange that constituted the definitive battle ground for the hearts and minds of oppressed blacks over the nature of the black rights movements. By the time of his expulsion (1934), Padmore had come to accept Dubois’ feeling that blacks could only advance by relying on each other. By contrast, the Communist Party argued that white workers and black workers were natural allies in a labor-based movement, and used American black leaders in Harlem to rebut the criticisms of Padmore. Between July and October, the two sides wrote dueling letters to Moon for publication in The Amsterdam News. When the dust had cleared, Padmore’s views had gained the most supporters and he had successfully used his relationship with Moon to build a bridge between his work in Europe and Africa and the resources of the American black movement.

The end of World War II provided Padmore with a vision that the time to act had arrived. He set out to organize the Fifth Pan African Congress – the largest yet. He knew Dubois’ participation would be crucial to his success, and having no relationship with DuBois himself, he turned to Moon once again. Though Padmore organized the event and was doing the work, it was Moon who asked Dubois to chair the Congress and who reported to Dubois the election of the African representatives who would be there. Attending this landmark conference were Jomo Kenyatta (founder of Kenya), Kwame Nkrumah (founder of Ghana), Hastings Banda (founder of Malawi), Eric Williams (founder of Trinidad and Tobago), O. Awolowo and S.L. Akintola (first premiers of western Nigeria), Wallace Johnson (leader in Sierra Leone), Peter Abrahams of South Africa’s African National Congress, poet Ralph Armattoe of Togo, and West Indian Noble laureate Arthur Lewis.

This is Moon’s archive of Padmore’s correspondence relating to the great split between Padmore and the Communist Party, and it consists of the original typescripts, many signed, and several letters (all to Moon)

debating Communism and the Pan African movement. Also included is Padmore’s urgent telegram that Padmore sent to Moon announcing his calling of the Fifth Pan-African Congress and urging him to publicize it in America, as well as Moon’s retained copy of his letter to Dubois urging him on behalf of the Pan African leaders of Europe and Africa to participate, a call that was heeded by Dubois.

The collection consists of 19 letters, telegrams and typescripts. Outside this group, only a handful of Padmore letters are known to exist and none are in private hands. Here are a few very brief excerpts; additional texts are available for review.

Padmore relates the nature of the black independence movement: “Don’t be afraid. The future is ours.”

TLS signed by Padmore, France, to Moon. “I plan to return to the State and render what service I can at the crossroads; old leaders are leaving us, young ones must take their place. We need to close ranks and march forward despite all difficulties and obstacles….”

ALS Signed by Padmore, August 25, 1934; Paris, France; to Moon. “You will be surprised to know how these little “Red Uncle Toms” are trying to clean up the mess of the Moscow bureaucracy….Don’t be afraid. The future is ours. We will soon be on the war path again without these bastards this time.”

Attacking the Communist Party: “Although we are still in chains we can…do a little thinking for ourselves.”

Typescript signed by Padmore, to the Chairman of the American Communist Party Earl Browder, July 9, 1934. “Negroes are not grown up children, as many whites still think. Although we are still in chains we can nevertheless do a little thinking for ourselves…All this talk about “championing” and “defending” the Negro race is a bluff…The Negroes of America, of Africa, of Liberia, of the West Indies, of the world, will be my judges. They will know who are the liars…”

Padmore’s retained and signed resignation letter to the Comintern

Typescript signed by Padmore with autograph annotations, to the Secretary of the American Communist Party, “Why I left the Communist International,” August 25, 1934, and his retained copy of his letter sent February 3, 1934. “The only alternative left to me, if I want to maintain my revolutionary self-respect, and the confidence of the Negro peoples, is to give in my resignation. I must frankly say that I feel that the Negroes have been thrown to the wolves…we should rather strengthen our anti-imperialist work on all fronts…”

The 5th Pan-African Congress

In April 1945, Padmore wrote Moon concerning the calling of a Pan-African Congress. “Here is the text of my cable to the Courier. The idea of a Pan-African Congress is not quite original…Mrs. Garvey has been in communication with DuBois and others. What is significant is that the idea now has the endorsement of the delegates who intend to sell it to their organizations on their return home. Stress that point.”

Padmore included a Western Union telegram (his personal copy) which announces the Congress and names its officials. “Exclusive story [stop] a provisional committee for purpose convening a panafrican congress draw up charter coloured peoples to present peace conference been agreed by colonial delegates to world trade union conference representatives all coloured peoples organizations Great Britain [stop] during the weekend labour delegates ex-Africa west Indian british Guiana traveled manchesterwards where delegates held preliminary conferences with executive members international African service bureau…”

Moon urges Dubois to chair the conference: “All of them look to you for leadership…”

April 9, 1945, Moon’s retained copy of a memorandum to W.E.B. Dubois, who had initially opposed calling a congress. “Colored people in Britain express a great deal of interest in proposals for a Pan-African Congress. All of them look to you for leadership in calling and guiding such a Congress…” After receiving this letter, Du Bois wrote to Padmore that he was “in complete sympathy” with his plans and that he had “changed my mind as to the time of the Congress as well.” During the next six months the two men worked closely in coordinating the landmark Congress.

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