Painted Red: Black Americans and the Bolshevik Revolution

By Michael L Kent

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was arguably the most significant political event of the
Twentieth Century. How the Bolshevik Revolution impacted Black America, directly and indirectly is the focus of this work.

American Black soldiers returning from serving in the trenches of World War I arrived to
nation engulfed in race riots, political turmoil and increasing segregation. This was a “New Negro” who marched and fought back when assaulted. Fearing this “New Negro” as a potential revolutionary, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and his Assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, began the careful and illegal monitoring of all Black American media, believing, as Representative James Byrnes of South Carolina stated before Congress in 1919 this “New Negro” behavior was explained only by “Bolshevik” influence. While there were Black American Communist Party members, their numbers were relatively few.

The Communist Party directly impacted Black America through the International Labor
Defense, The Unemployed Council and in the formation of a Sharecroppers Union. It was in the great show trials of the Scottsboro Boys and Angelo Herndon that the plight of Black America was taken to the world stage, with devastating results for Black America as a whole. Any Black American advocating equal rights, an end to segregation or protesting lynching would secretly monitored, and discredited as a “Red” until after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972.



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