A Red Family
Junius, Gladys, and Barbara Scales
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Illinois Press
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Junius Scales was the son of one of the wealthiest families in North Carolina. He left privilege to live in a poor textile-mill village, and in 1939, on his nineteenth birthday, he joined the American Communist Party (CPUSA). One of the few publicly known Communists in the South, Junius organized textile workers, fought segregation, ...
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I am grateful for the help of Katherine Jones and Anne Kofke, who began this journey with me. At various times over the years, Robert Asher at the University of Connecticut and Barbara Resnik at Simon’s Rock College at Bard provided encouragement by making the unpublished manuscript available to their students. ...
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Off and on for close to eighteen years I was a Communist Party leader from the South. I came from a very distinguished southern family which had been in Virginia and then North Carolina since 1623. My paternal grandfather was a big slaveholder, and my father was born in 1870. ...
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I was born on September 23, 1923, on East Seventh Street in Brooklyn in a two-story house. I remember how my mother used to call across to the neighbor on the other side, “Mrs. Garfinkel, would you please throw over a loaf of bread?” They’d have conversations and pass supplies back and forth. ...
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Joining the Party was a big step. I’d been thinking about it and reading a great deal of stuff. I can remember talking to one of the leading student Party theoreticians; we had gotten to be pretty good friends, and I argued him up a wall. After I made all of my points, I said, “I don’t believe in just joining something. ...
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If anything, I think that one of the problems with us at that time was that we were too selfless. To think about yourself and your own needs was almost looked down upon. It was selfish. It was disloyal to think about yourself before you thought about what was good for everybody. ...
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As antimilitarist as I was—I was almost a pacifist—when Pearl Harbor came and I saw the advance of fascism, I immediately figured I would defend the bad against the worst. I discussed it with the Party and my wife, and I volunteered. I spent four years in the army, and my left-wing background followed me everywhere I went. ...
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One day, my friend Bobby said, “Come on, Gladys, let’s go up to Camp Unity for a weekend. Let’s see what it’s like.” He was looking for a girl, and I suppose I was looking for a boy. The second night we were there, this young man and woman came to our table. They didn’t say a word to each other, and I thought for sure they were married. ...
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Gladys and I were married in February 1950 and lived in Carrboro. My neighbors across the street and about two city blocks away had FBI agents living in their houses. There they’d be with binoculars watching everybody that came to the house. I used cabs a lot because I didn’t want to get too many people’s cars involved. ...
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If I thought the Carrboro house was a castle, the little three-and-a-half-room apartment that we had on Anderson Avenue in the Bronx was absolutely palatial. There was hot and cold running water and heat all the time. And we were together. Barbara was three now, and we had been separated from Junie for almost two and a half years. ...
Illustrations follow page 82
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I was arrested in November of ’54, and I guess I was in jail, first in Memphis, and then in Winston-Salem for a couple of months. They set a one-hundred-thousand-dollar bail, and it took between six weeks and two months to get that reduced. There’s always a very disturbed atmosphere in jail, and the penitentiary is a bit more relaxed. ...
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I’ve been raised in a different way, raised with different principles than most people in this country. And because of that—even before I knew what it was to speak out—for some reason I’ve always felt that I’ve had something to say to the people of the United States, that I know something they don’t know. ...
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When he was in the penitentiary I knew I would see him once a month, and I looked forward to those visits, and wrote as often as I was permitted. And he wrote to me. It was a time of walking around in your sleep, thinking, Is this ever going to end? Visiting him was very difficult, but he was just wonderful. ...
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For the first two weeks, my father was held at West Street, a federal detention area in New York, and I wasn’t allowed to see him. My mother saw him and would come back and tell us how she thought he was. It was much harder on her than it was on me, because I was ten and just couldn’t stop things from becoming an adventure. ...
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Gladys and Barbara used to come visit me in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. She was ten and eleven while I was there, and I’m not sure what kind of effect it had on her. It wasn’t until I went to jail that she even knew I was a Communist. ...
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My sister, through one of her friends close to the Justice Department, got advance news that Junie was going to be released. It seemed incredible. This was the time of the newspaper strike in New York City, so Kennedy didn’t get too much publicity. The official word came, and he was put on a bus, and we got him Christmas Eve. ...
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I was eleven years old when my father got out of jail. It was Christmas Eve, and he called up my mother from Lewisburg and said, “I’m coming home.” So I had to run outside and get him Christmas presents. I think I had to borrow money from my mother. I went down to the bus, and he was home. ...
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Shortly after I got out, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide address on TV about James Meredith, the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi, and all the riots and violence that were going on down there. President Kennedy started off the speech by saying he wanted to thank all those ...
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As for me, well, as so many people of my age seem to be withdrawing from life, I seem to be going in the opposite direction. I have this wild crazy drive that I simply can’t repress: I’m going to try to change something through my work. I try to do it through everybody I come in contact with in schools. ...
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All through high school I was always aware how I was going back, rediscovering my own experiences, and realizing how my own experiences were vastly different from those of most people. I never doubted their validity, never questioned them. When I got to college, and found myself in Canada, where people didn’t know from such things, I became almost bitter. ...
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This is a story that has always reminded me of my parents. It tells of a flood brought about by the gods to banish “monstrous mankind” from the earth. At the end of the flooding, as the waters recede around Mount Parnassus, Deucalion and Pyrrha moor their skiff: ...
A Historical Essay
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In the oral history you have just read, you got to know Junius Irving Scales, his wife Gladys, and their daughter Barbara as people with hopes and dreams, successes and struggles. The goal of this essay is to sketch out the larger American and southern context in which their lives unfolded and to which they contributed. ...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2009