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Newstalgia Reference Room - Benjamin J. Davis Jr. - 1937

(Ben Davis Jr. Running on the Communist Party ticket - Progressive had a different connotation then.) [media id=12872] A name probably completely

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(Ben Davis Jr. Running on the Communist Party ticket - Progressive had a different connotation then.)

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A name probably completely forgotten in the mainstream annals of history. Ben Davis Jr. was a crusading attorney in the area of early Civil Rights. That he ran for office in the State of New York on the Communist Party ticket probably didn't help, or that he ran as the vice-Presidential candidate of The Communist Party of the U.S. in the 1936 and 1940 elections probably didn't help much either. But it does explain why early references to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. were attacked viciously as "communist inspired" and how any talk of Civil Rights was conveniently dismissed as something subversive since Civil and Equal Rights were platforms on which many Communist Party candidates ran. But Ben Davis did fight for Civil Rights and, as an attorney, defended many historic cases.

Here is an address he gave via NBC Radio (yes, the Fairness Doctrine was alive and well and demanding equal time) on October 22, 1937.

Ben Davis Jr.: “In that great historical document, the United States Constitution, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments abolish slavery. The provisions of these amendments gave to Negroes, under law their democratic rights. This was the logical outgrowth of the principles of liberty, equality and democracy which are the pillars of our great nation. Yet today, seventy-odd years afterward, one hundred ten years after the Legislature of New York State abolished slavery, the Negro people of our state are restricted to the lowest and most menial jobs. They are unfairly discriminated against in receiving relief. They are segregated and forced to pay exorbitant rents for the worst living quarters. The Negro people today are forced to risk their lives because of insufficient and inadequate facilities for hospitalization. It is no news that the Negro people face and are subjected to illegal entries and police insults in defiance of Constitutional guarantees prohibiting these acts.”

He was perhaps ahead of his time, or maybe he simply laid the groundwork.

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