[Marxism] Anne Braden
walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 6 14:05:02 MST 2006
From: charlene.mitchell at att.net
To: ncc at lists.cc-ds.org (Committees)
Sent: Mon, 06 Mar 2006 15:30:45 +0000
Subject: [NCC] (no subject)
I have just learned that Anne Braden died early this morning, Monday March,
Anne was a very small woman in size but a heroic giant in the civil rights
movement. Much will be written and spoken about this courageous leader who
during her more than fifty years was truly a model in the fight against
racism. There will be an obituary on Portside as soon as it is available.
Personally, Anne was a good friend with whom I often consulted. I loved her
and will miss her.
We will keep you informed about arrangements for a memorial and where to
Excerpts from an Interview with Anne Braden
Joining the Other America
I, in various looking around for things to do, I had become involved
somewhat, by meetings I had gone to and things the Civil Rights Congress was
doing. One of the things they were doing was fighting the many, many cases
of terror in the south in that period. Things that were aimed at African
American veterans coming back from World War II wanting to exercise some of
the freedom they thought they had fought for. There were some bad things
happened. Also a number of, what came to be called "legal lynchings." The
old fashioned kind of lynching was on the decline, although that did happen
too. But courtrooms were lynching people. One of them was a man named Willie
McGee in Mississippi who had been framed, many of us were convinced and I
still am, on a charge of raping a white woman, which was the worst thing you
could be charged with.
There was a movement of white women in the thirties called Southern Women
Against Lynching or something. Because this kind of oppression--more than
oppression, it was killing of black men. The excuse for it was to protect so
called "white womanhood." The whole myth of white womanhood and the part
that it played in the south at that time. So these white women--this was
long before my day; I don't think I ever really met any of them, but I read
about them later and began to identify with that tradition--were white women
who said, "Thank you just the same, we'll protect ourselves. We're tired of
being used as an excuse to kill black men." I mean, that was the message.
They were getting ready to electrocute Willie McGee in Mississippi. The
Civil Rights Congress had been carrying on a campaign. It became a national
campaign. They were getting delegations of white women to go to Mississippi
to try to talk to white women in Mississippi to get them to speak out
against what was this great injustice, as a lot of us saw it.
And I went to a meeting and heard one of these women talk who had been on
this delegation. I'd never done anything. I was really not dry behind the
ears. Had just gotten into things, never done anything like this before in
my life and I decided I wanted to go. So I signed up to go. And I went down
to Mississippi on the last delegation on the Willie McGee case on a weekend.
He was executed the following Monday, we were not successful in stopping
that. Our mission was to.not to, it was too late to talk to other white
women in the state. We were to see the governor that day. Jackson was a
garrison state that day. There were state police. There were rumors that
African Americans were coming in from all over the countryside to protest
that day. There had been a lot of organization there around this case.
People were coming. People who had come down from Memphis, blacks and some
whites from Memphis.
So there were all these police in the street and we were headed for the
capital and they stopped us, wanting to know where we were going. I said,
"We're going to see the governor." "Oh no, nobody is seeing the governor of
Mississippi today!" We tried to explain that we were there on an important
mission. So they took us into what they called "protective custody." Took us
to jail. And we spent the day in jail. It was the first time I'd ever been
They were mumbling about all these outsiders coming into Mississippi and we
didn't understand about Mississippi and, you know, just muttering like
people will do in a situation like that. Anyhow, I couldn't stand it any
longer and I said, "Well I don't really think I'm an outsider." I said, "I
was a child in Jackson. First thing I remember is being in Jackson,
Mississippi and Columbus. I grew up in Alabama." And I said, "But I lived in
Mississippi for a number of years and I'm ashamed of this state today."
He got absolutely furious. It's the whole traitor thing. He was so furious
and he said, "And you're in here, and you're a southerner, and you're on
this thing!?" And he turned around like he was going to hit me, but he
didn't because this other cop stopped him. So he didn't. But all of a sudden
that was a very revealing moment to me. Because all of my life police had
been on my side. I didn't think of it that way but I didn't bother about
police and they didn't bother you, you know, in the world where I grew up.
Except maybe if you were speeding they might stop you, and if you talked to
them real nice they wouldn't give you a ticket. All of a sudden I realized
that I was on the other side. He had said, "You're not a real southern
woman." And I said, "No, I guess I'm not your kind of southern woman."
Very early in that stage I had this letter from a man that I bet you most of
you have not heard of, possibly, named William L. Patterson. He was an
African American, fighter. He headed, at that time, a thing called the Civil
Rights Congress. But he wrote this letter. Number one, and this isn't the
main point, but he told me that I didn't need to be going around talking at
the black churches. That I ought to be talking at the white churches. That's
the first time I heard that message. And I've been preaching that ever
But then he said, "You know, you do have a choice. You don't have to be a
part of the world of the lynchers. You can join the other America." He said,
"There is another America." And I'm paraphrasing a little bit, he said,
"It's always been here. Ever since the first slave ship arrived, and before.
The people who struggled against slavery, the people who rebeled against
slavery. The white people who supported them. The people who all through
Reconstruction struggled." He came on down through history of the people who
have struggled against injustice. The other America.
Sometimes people will say just what you need to hear at that point. I was
very young. And that's what I needed to hear. And that's what I felt like I
Anne Braden subversive southerner
Catherine Fosl, Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for
Racial Justice in the Cold War South (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002),
418 pages, $35.00 hardcover, $19.95 paperback.
Anne Braden wrote a long article for Monthly Review (July-August 1965) on
"The Southern Freedom Movement in Perspective." In that perceptive piece,
she introduced a national audience to the history of Southern organizing,
explained how white supremacy's system of divide and rule created a police
state in the South, and analyzed the era's promising struggles by black and
white Southerners to overturn Jim Crow. In conclusion, she wondered whether
the movement would now also take up fundamental economic questions
concerning capitalism and socialism as a part of its larger goals. She
raised these issues not as a criticism, but as a question: "Is it possible
that the moral fire of the freedom movement can yet be merged with a clear
vision of a new social order for the nation?" It was typical of Anne Braden:
a positive, humanist voice, posing searching questions that other people
often feared to ask. Although a veteran socialist and a key actor in the
movement, she did not presume to have answers for other people. She worked
and thought and wrote in a critical yet democratic fashion, urging others to
come to their own conclusions.
While she nurtured internal dialogue and debate within the Southern
movement, she also provided powerful humanist propaganda to bring down the
Jim Crow system. In her book, The Wall Between (1958), published by Monthly
Review Press, in pamphlets like "HUAC: Bulwark of Segregation" (1963), and
in the many stories she wrote for the monthly newspaper she edited, The
Southern Patriot, she pinpointed the atrocities of white supremacy while
giving hope that ordinary people could end them through determined education
and organizing. She found ways to get the mass media to cover movement
stories while creating a movement media as well, one that conveyed personal
examples of how racism damaged human rights and that demonstrated why blacks
and whites had an equal stake in removing this cancer from American society.
She came to understand and articulate as well as anyone in her time that, as
she told the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1975, the
fight against racism is "the key to a new society."
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