NEW YORK – “There’s been a huge response by folks to the upcoming event celebrating Henry Winston’s 100th birthday,” said CPUSA Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner. “We expect a big turnout.” Henry Winston was the long-time national chairman of the Communist Party USA.
The Winston centennial will be held on February 19 at the Winston Unity Center in New York City.
“People are just delighted that Angela Davis is coming,” added Tyner. Angela Davis, along with Tyner, Charlene Mitchell and Vinnie Burrows, is a featured speaker at the event. Charlene Mitchell, at the time a CPUSA leader and also heading the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, was one of the principal organizers in the fight to free Angela Davis in the 1970s. Mitchell now heads the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
Davis was framed by then-governor of California Ronald Reagan and the FBI and charged with murder in a shootout during the trial of Johnathan Jackson, a young Black Pather leader.
A national and international campaign won her release and acquittal. Winston played a key role in the campaign.
“Tributes have been coming in from around the country, heaping praise on the man and his exemplary life,” said Gabe Falsetta, one of the event organizers. “Those who had the privilege of working with Henry Winston and learning from his broad understanding will be coming to celebrate his legacy.”
Henry Winston, originally from Mississippi, became active in the unemployed struggles of the 1930s and soon became a leader in the Young Communist League. He worked with William L Patterson and others to help free the Scottsboro defendants, displaying extraordinary political and organizational skills.
He soon become a national leader of the Communist Party and served for many years as its organizational secretary. In the 1950s he served eight years in prison under the Smith Act, during which time he lost his sight because of medical neglect.
A campaign to win his release was waged in the U.S. and abroad. Writer Richard Wright headed a French/American committee to free him.
After his release from prison, Winston went on to become the Communist Party national chairman where he worked side-by-side with its general secretary, Gus Hall, until Winston’s death in 1986.
“Winnie,” as he was called by friends and co-workers, wrote extensively on civil rights, labor and international issues, authoring two books, “Strategy for a Black Agenda,” and “Class, Race, and Black Liberation,” as well as several pamphlets.
He played a signal role in the movement to develop comprehensive mandatory sanctions against South Africa’s racist government and was well regarded by its liberation movement.
On learning of his death, African National Congress leader Alfred Nzo remarked, “We had come to regard Winston as one of our own.”
The celebration will take place from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at 235 W 23rd St in Manhattan. Tickets are $10.