Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xvi

The recent deaths of Eric Hobsbawm and Eugene Genovese remind us that few members of the first generation of eminent Marxist historians remain. Herbert Aptheker was a charter member of that generation. After reading his three-volume History of the American People, I was intrigued and went for the first time to hear him speak at a Marxist Scholars Conference at the University of Washington in the late...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

Research and writing are often solitary processes, but without the generous help and encouragement of dozens of people along the way this book would never have been possible. I am deeply indebted to the many people who shared their wisdom, scholarship, and insights in interviews in person, by phone, through letters and e-mails, or who opened their personal files to me along the way: Jesse Lemisch, Harris Wofford, John Hope Franklin,...

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1. An Immigrant Family’s New York

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pp. 1-8

For most of the twentieth century in the United States, especially during the seven decades after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, holding beliefs and advocating positions associated with the radical Left, and most assuredly acknowledging membership in the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), meant that politically and often socially one was unacceptable, outside agreed-upon standards...

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2. The Red Decade

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pp. 9-25

Aptheker’s move to the Morningside Heights campus in 1935 coincided with a qualitative shift in his scholarship and activism. At Seth Low, Aptheker easily mastered the required survey courses in world history, European history, and the history of ancient Greece and Rome. At the main Columbia campus he began to focus on the...

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3. “Double V”

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pp. 26-41

Even though publicly he held to the party position throughout the twenty-two-month period of the Nazi–Soviet Pact, Aptheker and other members of the party continued in private to press antifascist policies. This was particularly true in Aptheker’s case with regard to the inherent racist and anti- Semitic character of Nazism. In the...

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4. The Aptheker Thesis

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pp. 42-56

When Aptheker took up the intensive study of African American history in order to complete his master’s degree in 1936, few white historians were interested in the subject—“very few, if any, mainstream white historians read, cited, or reviewed African American scholarship”—and fewer still chose to work exclusively in the field. In fact, not until the 1970s did the greater part of white historians recognize African...

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5. Into the Fires

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pp. 57-67

The troop ship bringing Aptheker back from Europe landed in Hoboken, New Jersey, in August 1945. As he disembarked, he saw his older sister Minna on the dock in her Red Cross uniform greeting the victorious soldiers. After a warm reunion with her and a brief sojourn with Fay and Bettina at the apartment Fay had rented near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Aptheker had to leave again to complete his military...

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6. Prelude to McCarthyism

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pp. 68-81

American Communists entered the final year of the Second World War with high expectations, bolstered by the alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1944 General Secretary of the CPUSA Earl Browder misread what he thought was a signal from Stalin the previous year and dissolved the U.S. party, seduced by the political promise he found in the Teheran Declaration, the wartime agreement...

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7. The Time of the Toad

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pp. 82-93

With a determination bordering at times on recklessness Aptheker charged over the anticommunist barricades erected by domestic Cold War policy. He published polemical broadsides against U.S. foreign policy, racism, the McCarthy witch hunt, and what he viewed as a corrupted intellectual and academic establishment. He testified at inquisitorial hearings constituted to destroy the party as an organization...

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8. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?

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pp. 94-114

Fay found a silver lining in Herbert’s academic blacklisting: it held a dialectical opportunity for his polemical and activist work, she thought. Even though he regretted the loss of the opportunity to teach and supervise graduate students in a formal setting, Fay insisted that “he would not have accomplished what he [had] accomplished if he taught at any particular college. . . . He wouldn’t have written as much...

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9. De Facto Dissolution of the Party

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pp. 115-125

Alarmed by growing government repression during the late 1940s even prior to the Smith Act trials and either unable or unwilling to analyze its own policies, the CPUSA turned in on itself. The former party member Joseph Starobin pointed out this “strange paradox: in the name of defying the witchhunt against them, the American Communists complemented it by engaging in a witchhunt of their own. Beleaguered....

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10. Revelations and Disputations

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pp. 126-140

In January 1956 the party, considerably weakened, emerged from the underground. It had sent hundreds of local and regional leaders into hiding and now welcomed home its top leadership, whose release on parole signaled the end of self-imposed isolation. The party had endured repression, but its members, many of whom had never understood the need for an underground movement, were happy to return to working...

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11. Old Left and New

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pp. 141-154

Throughout 1958 and 1959, as the party prepared for its 17th National Convention, confrontations persisted among the leadership, but on a less spectacular level than in 1956–57. Although ill and primarily confined to his bed by a stroke in October 1957, Foster remained solidly in control of the party as “chairman emeritus, an honorary title with no real authority,” despite the fact that, as Foster’s biographer, James...

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12. The Dangerous Enemy in Our Midst

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pp. 155-167

By April 1962 the FBI had begun targeting Aptheker as part of its Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), started in 1956 and supposedly ended in 1971. J. Edgar Hoover had been hunting Reds since 1919, when he wrote a “legal brief ” while serving as a “Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. . . . My purpose,” he wrote in his frantic exposé Masters of Deceit is to fight “the enemy...

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13. Mission to Hanoi

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pp. 168-180

Caught up in the scheme to devise a COINTELPRO operation that would finally, definitively discredit Aptheker, the FBI failed to obtain advance notice of his attendance at the World Congress on Peace held in Helsinki on 10–15 July 1965. Nor did the FBI discover the travel plans Aptheker put into action as a result of a meeting he had at that conference with delegates from North Vietnam. Aptheker...

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14. “Let My Name Forever be Enrolled among the Traitors”

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pp. 181-194

Propelled by the overwhelmingly positive reception he, Lynd, and Hayden received from the audience at the Manhattan Institute and sensing that there was broad public support at the beginning of 1966 for an anti–Vietnam War movement, Aptheker resumed his campus speaking schedule, accepting as many engagements as he could fit into his schedule. In February alone he spoke in New York, Baltimore...

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15. Aptheker and Du Bois

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pp. 195-209

W. E. B. Du Bois died in his sleep the night of 28 August 1963 in Ghana. In Washington, D.C., wrote David Levering Lewis in his exhaustive biography W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963, “250,000 of his countrymen and women began assembling along the great reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial” for the March on Washington. 1 Later that day the....

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16. Publishing Du Bois

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pp. 210-226

While Aptheker was embroiled in the long process of finding a publisher for the Du Bois papers and a permanent repository for Du Bois’s thousands of documents, his thirty-year-long blacklisting in academia came to an end. In the spring of 1969, a month after receiving a Heritage Award from the Association for the Study of Negro...

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17. Yale Historians and the Challenge to Academic Freedom

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pp. 227-244

For four months in the fall of 1975 the Church Committee of the U.S. Senate held a series of hearings devoted to the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations as part of broader hearings into the outlawry of American intelligence agencies since the late 1940s. The FBI identified five threats to the United States against which it had conducted COINTELPRO...

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18. The American Institute for Marxist Studies

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pp. 245-258

By the early 1960s Aptheker’s once-athletic build, his full chest and slim waist, had filled out, “making for a straight line, shoulders to thighs.” His distinctive thick, black-rimmed glasses, which he sometimes used as a prop to emphasize a point, were set off by his crew-cut hair, which formerly had been “very short, curly, almost black” but...

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19. Conflict and Compromise

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pp. 259-270

Unlike Dorothy Healey, who publicly challenged the prerogatives Gus Hall claimed as general secretary of the party, Aptheker for far too long found enough areas of agreement with Hall that he was able to suppress his disagreements with him under the concepts of democratic centralism and party unity. In April 1967 the Brooklyn real estate broker Harry Herman Kaplan bequeathed more than a million dollars...

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20. Black Power and the Freeing of Angela Davis

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pp. 271-283

In its literature the CPUSA portrayed itself throughout the 1960s and 1970s as being ready and willing to cooperate with other leftist organizations to create a unity of purpose. “We seek to make diversity most fruitful and unity most effective. . . . One compelling reason for Left unity is to maximize Left strength by the most effective fusion...

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21. An Assault on Honor

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pp. 284-296

The party leaders could not yet have read George Jackson’s arguments in Blood in My Eye at the time of his murder, but their reaction to his rhetoric can be inferred from remarks made in reference to Huey Newton at a meeting of the Political Committee in mid-May 1971. “Newton’s views are an endorsement of Mao in new garb,” the minutes...

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22. Party Control

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pp. 297-310

“The Communist Party wanted control of the American Institute for Marxist Studies [AIMS],” recalled Robert Cohen, the chairman of AIMS throughout its twenty-five-year existence.¹ “He [Herbert] had to fight to keep it broad,” Fay said in an interview. “The Party wanted to take it over.” “Yes,” Aptheker chimed in during the same interview. “Who is Cohen?” the leaders asked. “They [the party leaders...

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23. Renewal and Endings

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pp. 311-322

In early November 1977 the thirty-fifth anniversary of the publication of American Negro Slave Revolts approached. Aptheker raised the idea among his younger colleagues, who were now moving into positions of leadership in the professional historical organizations, that the American Historical Association (AHA) or the Organization of American Historians (OAH) might want to take notice of his book. “A thought...

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24. Rebellion in a Haunted House

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pp. 323-334

The crisis that ripped the party apart in 1991 didn’t erupt into open conflict until the late eighties, yet dissatisfaction with the organization’s focus, decision making, structure, and leadership had been brewing just beneath the surface for two decades. Membership steadily dwindled: by 1991 the party had fewer than three thousand members...

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25. Comrades of a Different Sort

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pp. 335-347

Hall understood what the signers of the initiative did not: that to maintain his power and position of leadership he would purge as many members of the party as was necessary. By the time Aptheker and the two hundred or so other dissidents met across the street from the convention in Room 211, that process was well under way. Aptheker recalled that he “was shocked to find myself designated a ‘non-voting...

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26. Now It’s Your Turn

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pp. 348-356

As he often did in his published books, Herbert wrote an acknowledgment to Fay in Anti-Racism in U.S. History: “Fay P. Aptheker again read every word, raised important questions, and gently corrected errors. This has been true for over fifty years,” he wrote. “The passage of time has intensified the indebtedness.”¹ Fay was ten years older than Herbert and more politically sophisticated, and he credited...

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Afterword

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pp. 357-364

I first met Gary Murrell at my parents’ home when he began extensive interviews with my father for a proposed biography. My mother had recently died, and my father was in a terrible way, swamped with grief and clearly unable to fully fend for himself in their San Jose home. I think working with Gary was important to him, providing purpose...

Notes

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pp. 365-420

Index

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pp. 421-445

Back Cover

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pp. 446-446