Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 22:53:50 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: !*Black Freedom Fighters Remembered
From: "Walter Lippmann" <email@example.com>
Louise Patterson dies at 97
People's Weekly World, 7 September 1999
NEW YORK - Louise Patterson, who worked side by side with Paul Robeson, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, her husband William L. Patterson and other great leaders during a lifetime of struggle for African American equality and socialism died in New York Aug. 27. She was 97.
At a gala birthday party for her in New York in 1980, Frank Chapman, then the Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said, "She has seen the trials and tribulations of our century not as an observer but as a participant."
She was born Louise Thompson in Chicago in 1902 but her family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in her childhood. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1923 with a degree in economics, among the first African-American women to graduate there.
Her future husband, William L. Patterson, a leader of the Communist Party USA, wrote in his autobiography, "The Man Who Cried Genocide," that he first met Louise at an NAACP meeting in the Oakland Auditorium in 1919. They were both students at the time. After graduating, she taught school in Arkansas and later found a teaching assignment at Hampton Institute in Virginia.
She was a delegate to the World Conference Against Racism and Anti-Semitism in Paris in 1930, as was her husband.
She had moved to New York, joining in the "Harlem Renaissance" with her apartment serving as the gathering spot for a group she called "The Vanguard."
They held discussions of Marxism and organized theater and dance performances and concerts. Among the participants were Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, for both of whom she served as a literary secretary. She also became friends with Adam Clayton Powell later elected to Congress, and Benjamin Davis, later to serve as the first "Communist Councilman from Harlem."
Her talents as an organizer and public speaker drew her into the battle in 1932 to save the Scottsboro Nine, African American youths framed up on rape charges in Alabama. She worked as an organizer of the mass movement which succeeded in blocking their execution.
When William L. Patterson took up an assignment in Chicago, Louise went there on vacation and they were married and settled in the city. Paul Robeson was a guest at the wedding.
She was elected Illinois State President of the International Workers Order (IWO), a fraternal organization that worked in defense of workers' rights.
She served with the IWO for 15 years, delivering fiery speeches to large street rallies in Chicago and New York against the rising menace of Hitler fascism. During those years, she made trips to the Soviet Union and to Spain to help build solidarity with the Spanish Republic in its civil war against Franco fascism. She also served with Robeson and Du Bois in the leadership of the Council of African Affairs.
Her husband, who served many years on the Political Bureau of the CPUSA writes warmly of Louise Patterson's abilities as an organizer. He was struggling in Chicago to set up the Abraham Lincoln School, a "broad, nonpartisan school for workers, writers, and their sympathizers," aimed at the thousands of Black workers who had migrated to Chicago from the south.
Louise had met the Black singer-actress Lena Horne. Patterson urged his wife to ask Horne to perform at a fundraiser for the school. "She came back jubilant. Lena had agreed to appear...we engaged the Chicago Opera House for the affair," Patterson wrote.
Paul Robeson introduced Lena Horne to a capacity crowd. The school opened and operated for three years.
After World War II, she worked with the Civil Rights Congress headed by her husband and was a signer of the massively documented "We Charge Genocide" petition accusing the U.S. government of crimes of genocide against the African American people. Robeson delivered the petition to the United Nations in New York and William L. Patterson delivered it to the U.N. then meeting in Paris in 1951.
She helped organize the 1949 Peekskill concerts for Paul Robeson attacked by fascist-like goons. She also organized Robeson's nationwide concert tour of Black communities after he was blacklisted.
In 1970, she served as chair of the New York Committee to Free Angela Davis.
After the victory in freeing Davis from frame-up charges, she continued to work with the National Alliance until her retirement. She is survived by her daughter, Dr. Mary Louise Patterson, two grandchildren and a great grandson.
A memorial is planned in New York, the time and place to be announced.