I have been quite surprised by the absence, on any list I
subscribe to, of reference to the amazing 25 pages given in the
current issue of The Journal of American History, Vol. 87 No. 1,
to an old soldier, Communist Party member for half a century, and
eminent Black history scholar, Herbert Aptheker, white and
Jewish. He entered the army in World War II as a buck private and
left it as a major, not a desk title, but in the field artillery.
Most of the space on him is an interview of him by the
distinguished African-American professor, Robin D. G. Kelley.
Some passages are of major significance:
"Aptheker: OCS was in Fort Still, Oklahoma, and of course the
whole society was Jim Crow, but NOT the officers' candidate
schools. They were integrated. Any of the southern kids who
didn't like it were told to get out, and some did. We slept five
in a tent, black and white together. Quite remarkable."
"I put in for service with black troops. I was assigned to
black troops in Louisiana, the 350th Artillery. They educated
me....Sergeant Stewart, my communications officer, and I laid out
the line of march for the army ground force test, a
twenty-five-mile march, eight hours, full pack with rifle. We
marched as a unit through Pollock, Louisiana, which had a sign
'Nigger, stay out.' No black person in the town, day or night. We
marched right through that town, 110 armed men, and one white
maniac [himself] in charge. We started screaming: 'John Brown's
body lies a-moldering in the grave. But his soul goes marching
"I was known as a Communist; I wrote for New Masses while I
was in the service. Shortly before leaving for overseas, at Fort
Bragg, two things happened. One was we got notice that no Nazi or
Fascist could go oversease. A Communist could, if he wanted to. I
knew that one kid in our outfit was a Communist, so I told him,
you can stay home if you want to. He got very made at me, and he
did go over with us."
On another matter of very major historical importance: "It
[Dr. Du Bois' centenary, 1968] was a big affair in Carnegie Hall
at which Martin Luther King made his remarkable speech hailing Du
Bois as the prophet that he was. King did not move away from the
fact that Du Bois was a Communist: he said, Pablo Neruda's a
Communist, Sean O'Casey's a Communist. Du Bois is a Communist.
King all but joined the party himself. He didn't, but he was very
close. In that speech, he announced his commitment to the
Washington antipoverty movement. Shortly thereafter he was
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You may find of interest website www.BillMandel.net
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