Otto Huiswoud: First Black Member of American Communist Movement

1 Posted by - June 16, 2023 - LATEST POSTS, Racism

Born in Paramaribo, Suriname, in 1893, Otto Huiswoud would go on to become one of the most well known and renowned Communists of the 20th century. He is generally accepted as the first Black person involved in the mainstream communist movement in the United States.

In 1910, he disembarked a ship in New York, and immediately busied himself making a living at various hard manual labor jobs. He was exposed to socialist ideas from listening to various soapbox speakers in Union Square.

He enrolled at Cornell University as a student of agriculture, but eventually left to attend a Socialist Party school for young organizers and activists, after leading a walkout of black employees on his job on a pleasure boat. He made the acquaintance of several well-known activists and organizers through his attendance at the Socialist Party school and through other organizing efforts. He also joined the African Blood Brotherhood, a secret society dedicated to self-defense for African people in the United States. Huiswoud was an official delegate of the Workers’ Party of America to the 4th Comintern Conference held in Moscow in 1922, along with Claude McKay.

Upon returning to the United States, he continued his work, attending a conference regarding militant anti-racism efforts and fighting on behalf of the Workers’ Party and Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota. He became the highest-ranking black member of the Workers’ Party and was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the organization. He also served as the Director of the Negro Department of the Communist Party of the United States.

The professional revolutionary died in 1961 in Amsterdam, leaving behind a lifetime of work and service to the international working class.


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