This article critically examines the Sojourners for Truth and Justice, a short-lived black women's radical protest organization, and its human rights agenda during the early Cold War. The first and only group in the Communist Left led by African American women, the Sojourners formulated a black left feminism, a distinct politics that combined Communist Party positions on race, gender, and class with black nationalism and black radical women's own lived experiences that paid special attention to the intersectional, transnational nature of their oppression across the diaspora. The Sojourners attempted to mobilize black women against Jim Crow and U.S. Cold War domestic and foreign policy and to expose violations of African Americans' human rights before the United Nations. Sojourners' affiliations with the Communist Left coupled with their human rights agenda prompted cold warriors to view the group as subversive. In addition, the Communist Party's ambivalence toward the Sojourners contributed to the organization's demise by late 1952. Excavating the understudied group complicates the history of African American women's activism, black feminism, American communism, human rights, and the Cold War by revealing the ways in which a small group of black women radicals invented their own unique understandings of liberation and human rights during the McCarthy period. It also illustrates how the Red Scare silenced black women radicals at a crucial juncture in the emergent civil rights movement and kept them from the global political stage. The Sojourners, moreover, provide a lens for appreciating the continuities and the breaks in the postwar black freedom movement and in modern black feminism.
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Erik S. McDuffie; A “New Freedom Movement of Negro Women”: Sojourning for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights during the Early Cold War. Radical History Review 1 January 2008; 2008 (101): 81–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2007-039
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