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Thu, 03.08.1951

Sojourners for Truth and Justice organized

Charlotta Bass speaking

*On this date (International Women’s Day) in 1951, we celebrate Sojourners for Truth and Justice.  Sojourners for Truth and Justice was a radical protest organization formed by African American women from 1951 to 1952. It was led by activists such as Louise Thompson Patterson, Shirley Graham Du Bois and Charlotta Bass.  

That year, a group of 14 African American women leaders issued "a call to Negro women to convene in Washington, D.C. for a Sojourn for Truth and Justice" to protest government attacks on sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor W. E. B. Du Bois.  In less than two weeks, more than 132 women from 14 states responded to the call. Invoking the tradition of radical black women like Sojourner Truthand Harriet Tubman, Sojourners for Truth and Justice mobilized "black women against Jim Crow and U.S. Cold War domestic and foreign policy". The only group on the Communist Left led by African American women, Sojourners for Truth and Justice's members included newspaper editor Charlotta Bass, Angie Dickerson, activist Dorothy Hunton, Louise Thompson Patterson, a young actress Beulah Richardson, and writer Eslanda Goode Robeson.  

In addition to their defense of prominent Black Left intellectuals and activists, Sojourners for Truth and Justice organized to free Rosa Lee Ingram, the widowed mother of 12 who was sentenced to death for shooting a white man who had attempted to rape her. They also organized in support of W. Alpheaus Hunton, executive director of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and editor of the CAA's publication, New Africa, who had been imprisoned for his affiliations with the Communist Left. and Paul Robeson whose passport had been confiscated by the Justice Department in 1950. 

Sojourners for Truth and Justice existed for a year and helped to articulate a Black Left Feminism that, in historian Erik S. Duffie's words, "paid special attention to the intersectionality, systemic nature of African-American women’s oppression and understood their struggle for dignity and freedom in global terms." In the repressive climate of the Cold War, Sojourners for Truth and Justice envisioned a political movement that understood race, gender, and class as being central to struggles for equality and justice, in biographer Carole Boyce Davies' words, "extending far beyond the narrow gendered formulations that appeared later in the mainstream feminist movement.  

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