Jarvis Tyner is the executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA and the chair of the party’s African American Equality Commission. He joined the CPUSA in the early sixties, just as the Civil Rights Movement was maturing.
As a young activist in the 60s, Tyner remembers the sit-ins at Woolworths, the desegregating of Little Rock High School and the bus boycotts.
It is within that context Tyner discusses some of the work the party did in Philadelphia, his home town. From the fight to desegregate barbershops, to the organizing of inter-racial community dances, to the challenging of segregation at American Band Stand, the party was there.
During a time when most histories ignore or marginalize the role of the Communist Party it is important to remember, as Tyner said, “The Party did stuff. They appealed to a worker like me, because they did stuff. We were there fighting for basic rights; the right to go to the barber shop, the right to go to inter-racial dances. In the context of the times – the early sixties – those were real struggles centered around democracy and equality for African Americans.”
Here is an excerpt of a recent interview with Tyner as part of the party’s ongoing celebration of African American History Month and the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the CPUSA.
For more on African American Equality
Watch the Convention Discussion Presentation
with Jarvis Tyner on cpusa.org.