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Richard B.

Moore, an African Blood Brother on Scottsboro
“The conclusion seems inescapable that so long as racist oppression persists, so long will the more militant Afro-Americans turn to radical parties seeking a solution to the oppressive conditions to which they are subjected” Richard B. Moore, “Afro-Americans and Radical Politics”

Khary Pestaina Florida International University Teaching For American History

My research examines Richard B. Moore’s role in the Communist party’s defense of the Scottsboro Boys. It demonstrates Moore’s commitment to African Blood Brotherhood(ABB) ideals, critical to his participation and activism during the trial, rather than a Communist idealism more regularly attributed to him and the case.

The Scottsboro trial is usually presented as the Communist Party USA’s cause célèbre’ during the 30s, but my presentation shows an ABB directive and ambition which expressed an acute energy, mobilized to produce the release of the 9 defendants.
The scope of my research begins pre-1920s, exploring Moore’s developing ideas about socialism, his clandestine participation in the African Blood Brotherhood, and then his vital role in the absorption of that group into the Communist Party USA. It highlights Moore’s integral role during the Scottsboro trial and political organizing in Harlem around the case.


Richard B. Moore, reportedly an early American communist who worked closely on the Scottsboro trial, is instead a prominent member of the African Blood Brotherhood, an indigenous and vital Harlem organization whose critical influence is mistakenly overlooked.

INTRODUCTION Richard B. Moore’s core ideals:
• Militancy • Progressive Nationalism • Pan-Africanism African Blood Brotherhood as an independent, influential Black Radical Organization: • Agent vehicle of African Revolution • Critical analyses of Marxian socialism Moore’s common legacy: • Moore’s critics- Harold Cruse, W.E.B Du Bois, John Pepper, Marcus Garvey • Moore’s supporters- John Henrik Clarke, Cyril Briggs, W.A. Domingo, Claude McKay, Arturo Schomburg

Immigrant Moore’s July 4th Arrival: • West Indian literacy vs. Black/White American literacy • West Indian skills vs. Black/White American literacy Moore’s First Experiences with Racism• Struggles in finding employment equitable to education level • Loss of job Moore’s Loss of religious belief• YMCA rebuke • Bias and discrimination within the Church

NADIR: • Lynchings • Great Migration • Great Retreat • Jim Crow Hubert H. Harrison’s Critical Influence: • The “Black Socrates” according John G. Jackson • Rogers, J.A. World’s Great Men of Color Vol.2. • Harrison, Hubert H. The Negro and the Nation. • Harrison, Hubert H. When Africa Awakes. • Perry, Jeffrey B. Hubert Harrison: the Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918. Harlem Soapbox tradition: • Moore, Richard B. “Africa Conscious Harlem”, from Freedomways, Summer 1963 • Moore, Richard B. “Afro-Americans and Radical Politics”, from WCBS –TV broadcast, Black Heritage Series, March 19, 1969. Manuscript • Moore, Richard B. “The Critics and Opponents of Marcus Garvey” in Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa: Edited, and with an Introduction and commentaries, by John Henrik Clarke With the assistance of Amy Jacques Garvey. Black Classic Press (Baltimore, 2011) Moore & ABB’s Increasing Militancy: • ABB goes public • ABB recruits an army • The Crusader


Successful Bolshevik Russian Revolution • Revolutionary success by Russian Bolsheviks • Lenin’s theses on the Colonial Question African Blood Brotherhood(ABB) in Russia 1922 • Critical Influence on development of official Comintern policy towards African Americans • Claude McKay’s key Role in creating alliance Synthesis of ABB goals • Goals and Aims of the ABB • ABB goes public to recruit • ABB vs. UNIA on the streets of Harlem


Rationalization for Joining Communist Party • Comintern “United Front” policy • Militant Potential • Internationalist Agenda of ABB Communists pass Moore’s Test • League Against Imperialism • Rejection at Du Bois’ 4th Pan African Congress • Harlem Tenants League adopted as model for recruiting African Americans into Communist Party • Yokinen Trial where American communists reject “White Chauvinism”


1928 Self-Determination Thesis- Pros & Cons • Harry Haywood, ABB member & WW I veteran educated in Moscow • “Nation within a Nation” thesis Moore as Black Communist Leader • American Negro Labor Congress • League of Struggle for Negro Rights • National Negro Congress • Clandestine ABB (Underground) • International Labor Defense Struggle against White Chauvinism • John Pepper, comunist theorist, attacks Moore’s communist credentials • Consistent chauvinism & colorism within party • “Bukharin’s Speech,” Daily Worker, Sept.5 1928, • Moore responds to Pepper’s criticism Yokinen Trial • Significance of CPUSA commitment to rooting out Chauvinism

Background of Scottsboro Case• 9 Negro youths arrested for fight • 2 White women accuse “boys” of rape • Boys, ages 13 to 20, all given death penalty Significance of International Labor Defense (ILD)• Commitment to defending radicals in USA • Experience on Mooney, Sacco-Vanzetti cases • William Patterson’s significance Annual Analysis of Moore’s Role on Scottsboro• Early Years • Mid Thirties • Late thirties/early forties


Communists consolidate Scottsboro gains• African Americans recruited into Communist Party • Communist view Scottsboro as bulwark for work in American south NAACP Threat • NAACP attempts to hijack case from ILD • Walter White raises money on behalf of “Boys” but refuses to give to communists • Samuel Leibowitz’s anti-communist views Minimization of Moore/Arrival of James Ford• James Ford installs doctrinaire Communism on independent minded Harlem base • Moore & Briggs question Ford’s leadership & agenda • Moore & Briggs relegated and demoted Moore Soldiers On• Leads Scottsboro Mothers & Ruby Bates to White House to meet with President Roosevelt • 4 Cross-country tours in promotion of Scottsboro Boy’s case

Shift in Communist Policies• Critical shifts within Comintern policy affected Moore’s influence within the party • Browder’s negative influence Moore back in the mix• Organizes movement for Caribbean Independence • Recovers and publicizes Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography after 40 years of censorship • Establishes Book Store in Harlem Moore kicked out• Kicked out of party for being too “nationalist” • Refuses re-entry to party • Re-establishes an independent, autonomous black radical critique in the US

Moore reading…

• Richard B. Moore Papers, from the Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library • International Labor Defense Record Group, from the Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library • Crusader News Service, from the Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library • Marxists Internet Archive, • In Motion: African American Migration Experience, online exhibit of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. c=1 • NAACP archive- A Century in the Fight for Freedom, 1909-2009 in Library of Congress, mmer.aspx