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Fri, 04.05.1889

Chandler Owen, Writer, and Socialist born

Chandler Owen

*Chandler Owen was born on this date in 1889.  He was a Black writer, editor, and early member of the Socialist Party of America.  

Owen was born in Warrenton, North Carolina. He graduated from Virginia Union University in 1913. Later, while studying economics at Columbia University in 1916, he joined the Socialist Party of America. He began a lifelong friendship with A. Philip Randolph, and together they followed the lead of radical activist Hubert Harrison. They soon became known in Harlem as "Lenin" (Owen) and "Trotsky" (Randolph).

The two started a journal in 1917 called The Messenger, which published leading literary and political writers. Soon after, while Owen was running for the New York State Assembly, he and Randolph were jailed and mocked and treated cruelly for their Socialist affiliations.  Shortly thereafter, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and found himself quickly enlightened with socialistic views. He became managing editor of the Chicago Bee and continued to back Randolph in his efforts to unionize Pullman porters on the railroads.  Owen went on to establish his own public relations company.

He remained interested in politics and wrote many speeches for politicians such as Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson.  In a 1919 issue of The Messenger, he and Randolph wrote, "We don't thank God for anything...our Deity is the toiling masses of the world, and the things for which we thank are their achievement.”  In the 1920s, Owen became a Republican. He would run unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He worked in public relations for the remainder of his life and continued to write speeches.  

Suffering from terminal kidney disease, Owen wrote a last letter to Philip Randolph saying, "Our long friendship, never soiled, is nearing its close. I've been in pain. If you were not living, I would commit suicide today." Owen died soon after, on November 2, 1967.  

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