LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The focus during Black History Month is usually on celebrating individuals. In this video, we celebrate the social movements and with them two individuals who were active in them, and are still active today.
Clara James, as a teenager, joined the NAACP. Born in Texas, she participated in the NAACP’s campaign to get the people of Austin to pay thier poll tax which would enable them to vote. Mrs. James joined the Communist Party in 1948, during the Henry Wallace presidential campaign. That campaign’s main goal was to get the Progressive Party on the Califonia ballot. James has been involved with many other struggles in California, including the fight for rent control, protests against racist violence like cross-burnings and encouraging community members to boycott banks and businesses that do not hire minorities.
Oneil Cannon joined the communist Party in the late 1940s. Born in Louisiana, after fighting in WWII, he moved to California. He found that in California there was no African American representation, which was just like the situation in Jim Crow Louisiana. He decided to join the party, which at that time was involved in the intergration of Farmers Bank, demanding they hire minorities for positions other than custodians.
Mr. Cannon has also been involved in guaranteeing African Americans are included in the union membership and leadership. He has also fought for education rights for minorities, which included helping to found South West College. Cannon says he always worked to make these struggles multi-racial and fought alongside Mexican Americans for equality. Cannon is the founder of Paul Robeson Society.