Warm Southern Breeze

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Posts Tagged ‘Charlotta Bass’

Who Was The First Black Female VP Candidate?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, August 13, 2020

Charlotta Bass (right) Progressive Party VP candidate, and Progressive Party Presidential candidate Vincent Hallinan, 1952

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Kudos to Kamala Harris on being selected by former Vice President Joe Biden to be his, and the Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential candidate. Truly, it’s a momentous moment in time.

But Senator Harris isn’t the first Black woman to have ever been a Vice Presidential pick.

Los Angeles newspaper owner and political activist Charlotta Bass (1874-1969) was.

She began her career as a conservative Republican, but by the 1940s, however, she had made a singificant political transition.

And in 1948 she supported Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace in his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency.

Four years later, she was nominated to be the Vice Presidential nominee on the Progressive Party ticket.

She was the first African American woman to carry a political party’s nomination for the second highest office in the land.

Her acceptance speech to be the Progressive Party’s VP candidate was given at the Chicago convention of the Progressive Party on Sunday, March 30, 1952, and appears below.


I stand before you with great pride.

This is a historic moment in American political life.

Historic for myself, for my people, for all women.

For the first time in the history of this nation a political party has chosen a Negro woman for the second highest office in the land.

It is a great honor to be chosen as a pioneer. And a great responsibility. But I am strengthened by thousands on thousands of pioneers who stand by my side and look over my shoulder—those who have led the fight for freedom—those who led the fight for women’s rights—those who have been in the front line fighting for peace and justice and equality everywhere. How they must rejoice in this great understanding which here joins the cause of peace and freedom.

These pioneers, the living and the dead, men and women, black and white, give me strength and a new sense of dedication.

I shall tell you how I come to stand here. I am a Negro woman. My people came before the Mayflower. I am more concerned with what is happening to my people in my country than in pouring out money to rebuild a decadent Europe for a new war. We have lived through two wars and seen their promises turn to bitter ashes. Two Negroes were the first Americans to be decorated for bravery in France in World War I, that war that was fought to make the world safe for democracy. But when it ended, we discovered we were making Africa safe for exploitation by the very European powers whose freedom and soil we had defended. And that war was barely over when a Negro soldier, returning to his home in Georgia, was lynched almost before he could take off his uniform. That war was scarcely over before my people were stoned and shot and beaten in a dozen northern cities. The guns were hardly silenced before a reign of terror was unloosed against every minority that fought for a better life.

And then we fought another war. You know Dorie Miller, the spud peeler who came out of his galley to fight while white officers slept at Pearl Harbor. And I think of Robert Brooks, another “first Negro”, and of my own nephew. We fought a war to end fascism whose germ is German race superiority and the oppression of other peoples. A Negro soldier returned from that war—he was not even allowed to take off his uniform before he was lynched for daring to exercise his constitutional right to vote in a Democratic primary.

Yes, we fought to end Hitlerism. But less than 7 years after the end of that war, I find men who lead my government paying out my money and your money to support the rebirth of Hitlerism in Germany to make it a willing partner in another war. We thought to destroy Hitlerism—but its germ took root right here. I look about me, at my own people—at all colored peoples all over the world. I see the men who lead my government supporting oppression of the colored peoples of the earth who today reach out for the independence this nation achieved in 1776.

Yes, it is my government that supports the segregation by violence practiced by a Malan in South Africa, sends guns to maintain a bloody French rule in Indo-China, gives money to help the Dutch repress Indonesia, props up Churchill’s rule in the Middle East and over the colored peoples of Africa and Malaya. This week Churchill’s general in Malaya terrorized a whole village for refusing to act as spies for the British, charging these Malyan and Chinese villagers who enjoyed no rights and no privileges—and I quote him literally—“for failing to shoulder the responsibility of citizenship.” But neither the Malayan people—nor the African people who demonstrate on April 6—will take this terror lying down. They are fighting back.

Shall my people support a new war to create new oppressions? We want peace and we shall have freedom. We support the movement for freedom of all peoples everywhere—in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East, and above all, here in our own country. And we will not be silenced by the rope, the gun, the lynch mob or the lynch judge. We will not be stopped by the reign of terror let loose against all who speak for peace and freedom and share of the world’s goods, a reign of terror the like of which this nation has never seen.

Postcard with a photograph of a young Charlotta Bass, c.1901-1910. The photograph may have been taken in Providence, Rhode Island, where Bass (then Charlotta Spears) lived with an older brother and worked at the Providence Watchman, an African-American newspaper. From the Charlotta Bass / California Eagle Photograph Collection, 1880-1986, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, CA.

For 40 years I have been a working editor and publisher of the oldest Negro newspaper in the least. During those 40 years I stood Read the rest of this entry »

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