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Mon, 09.09.1901

Louise Thompson Patterson, Activist and Professor born

Louise Thompson Patterson

*Louise Alone Thompson Patterson was born on this date in 1901.  She was a Black social activist and college professor.   

From Chicago, Illinois, Patterson became a professor at Hampton Institute, a historically black college (HBCU) in Virginia by age twenty-two.  She worked there for five years before moving to Harlem, New York where she pursued social work, but eventually became a central figure in the literary movement. She had a short marriage to the writer Wallace Thurman, who she said was gay but refused to acknowledge it.  Though Thompson organized a number of protests and opened one of the premiere Harlem salons, she became best known for her close friendship with the author Langston Hughes.

Both admired the Soviet system of government and organized a group of twenty-two Harlem writers, artists, and intellectuals to create a film about discrimination in the United States for a Soviet film company. After the project fell through due to lack of funding, and pressures from U.S. business officials to pull away from future diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, Thompson and Hughes returned to the United States to create the Harlem Suitcase Theater.  They presented plays written by Hughes and other Black writers and featured all-Black casts.  

She later married William L. Patterson, a prominent member of the American Communist Party.  She joined her husband in protesting the anti-Communist policies of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. In the 1960s, she was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and for the remainder of her life, Patterson continued to be active in political and social issues.  Patterson died of natural causes on August 27, 1999, shortly before her ninety-eighth birthday, in New York City. 

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