The African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption (ABB) was the brainchild of journalist Cyril Briggs. Founded in 1919 in New York City, the group was marked by its radical socialist bent, which came mainly from the experience of Black immigrants to the United States from the Caribbean. Thrust into the status of a locked out, locked down, beaten up racial minority in their new home, they began to organize among themselves and among African-Americans, as they aimed to impart a sense of class consciousness and militancy to these organizations and movements.
The key propaganda arm of the ABB was The Crusader newspaper, which had a broad readership of 30,000 people. In 1919, in the wake of the Red Summer of racial upheaval, mass lynchings, riots, and massacres, the paper called for self-defense for African-Americans. The ABB was the organization that organized this defense. It received much praise after the 1921 Tulsa Riot, as it had a chapter in Tulsa and received credit for the militant defense of the black community. Briggs forged links with other well-known Afro-Caribbean Communists, such as Claude McKay of Jamaica and Otto Huiswoud of the Dutch colony of Suriname.
Cyril Briggs and other ABB members came into conflict with the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Garvey, after he met with the Grand Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan; the much touted Black Star Line began to founder and eventually fail. After Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in 1922, The Crusader ceased production.
Eventually, the membership would drift into many left-wing organizations, such as the Workers’ Party of America, the American Negro Labor Congress and, most notably, the Communist Party of the United States. Many communists believed that the oppression of Black Americans was reducible to class oppression, but the ABB membership tended to have a more detailed and developed view of racial matters; McKay, especially, argued against class reductionism. The experience and theory developed in part by the ABB would paint the thinking of countless Afro-American revolutionaries in the decades to come.
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