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  • "For full freedom of . . . colored women in Africa, Asia, and in these United States . . .":Black Women Radicals and the Practice of a Black Women's International
  • Erik S. McDuffie (bio)

Audley "queen mother" moore was ecstatic. Organizers of the All African Women's Conference, a militant anticolonial, Pan-African women's group, invited the seventy-three-year-old, New York City-based African American activist to address the gathering held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on July 26, 1972. Moore had attained an iconic stature as a revered, elder black nationalist amongst young black militants. This reputation was well earned. Moore was a life-long Garveyite and leading personality in the Harlem Communist Party (CPUSA) during the 1930s and 1940s. However, after the CPUSA endured internal storms and external buffeting after 1945, she departed and reinvented herself into a radical black nationalist who embraced all things "African." But she never abandoned Marxism. In the ensuing years, she adopted an idiosyncratic politics combining black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Ethiopianism, Third Worldism, Marxism, and feminism, with special concern for the rights and freedom of black women in the United States and across the African diaspora. She was the founder of the modern reparation movement and a progenitor of Black Power of the 1960s. She tutored Malcolm X and staunchly supported early Black Power leader Robert F. Williams. Internationally, she earned the respect of notable African heads of state. These included Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. Years before it became chic, Moore wore long African-print dresses, amulets, and necklaces. Given her tenacious support for black self-determination and wide international political networks, she stands as a major figure in twentieth-century black nationalism, Communism, and Pan-Africanism.1 [End Page 1]

A powerful speaker, Queen Mother Moore opened her address, "Africa for the Africans, At Home and Aboard," with a warm greeting to conference delegates. She declared: "I have the honor to convey sisterly greetings to you from thousands of your sisters in the United States of America who are conscious of their African heritage and are here with you in love and in spirit." Praising the African woman as the "mother of civilization," she lauded black women for their beauty, creativity, and brilliance. At the same time, she called attention to their sufferance under slavery, colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and global white supremacy. Emphasizing the importance of forging political coalitions between African-descended women across the diaspora, she stated that African American women stood in revolutionary solidarity with their "sisters in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, and all freedom fighters under the domination of the colonialists." Without question, her call for building transnational political solidarities between African-descended women worldwide cohered with the Pan-African, anticolonial, anticapitalist, and feminist objectives of the All African Women's Conference.2

Despite her international prominence in black nationalist, Pan-African, and communist organizations, the growing body of scholarship on "black internationalism" has largely erased the transnational political practice of black women radicals like Queen Mother Moore who pursued their work in the Communist Left and Black Left during the early- and mid-twentieth century.3 As the literary scholar Carole Boyce Davies observes: "Black women have become sisters outside of the black radical intellectual tradition."4 The erasure of black women radicals from narratives of black internationalism is curious given that several women had attained international reputations as leaders, community activists, and thinkers within the Black Left and CPUSA during the Old Left period, bookended by the Russian Revolution in 1917 and by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalinist atrocities in 1956.5 These women include Queen Mother Moore, Trinidad-born Communist Party leader Claudia Jones, bohemian world traveler Louise Thompson Patterson, civil rights activist Esther Cooper Jackson, and others.6

Decades ahead of their time, they forged Black Left feminism, a pathbreaking feminism that centers working-class women by combining black nationalist and American Communist Party (CPUSA) positions on race, gender, and class with black women radicals' own lived experiences. Black Left feminists formulated a theory of "triple oppression." Emphasizing the connections among racial, gender, and class oppression, the theory posited that the eradication of one form of...


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