Contributed by Glen Davis
With the upcoming United States presidential election, the role of Kamala Harris running for the Democrat political machine as their Vice-Presidential Candidate, has attracted much attention.
However, many years earlier, another Afro-American woman ran for this position. So, I’d like to share something of her role.
As both a Newspaper owner/editor and civil rights activist, she drew attention to the inequities of the much-vaunted American free enterprise system.
Not surprisingly she attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Even in 1967, aged 91, the FBI considered Charlotta Bass a person of interest.
The California Eagle was her best-known newspaper work. From 1912 until 1951, she helped oversee its publication. It was a popular source of information among Afro-Americans on America’s West Coast, with a circulation of over 60,000.
Charlotta and friends outside the headquarters of the California Eagle
The paper took a strong stand on racism, calling out the fact the ‘American Dream’ did not include a large swathe of the population. It highlighted issues affecting Afro-Americans. Such was the impact of the California Eagle, that in 1925 the Ku Klux Klan unsuccessfully sued the paper claiming libel.
As well as her work/influence with the printed word, Bass was active in the political arena.
From her time with the Pan-African Congress, when residing in Paris just after the end of World War 1, Bass regularly threw herself into campaigns and organisations that fought discrimination in areas including employment and housing.
As she moved away from her newspaper role, her life was about politics. For a time, she was active in the Republican Party She then sought a more appropriate vehicle for her political activism.
She was active in groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the Urban League, as well as the National Sojourner for Truth and justice Club, an organisation fighting to improve the rights of Afro-American women in the workplace.
Bess sought a seat in the US Congress and succeeded in 1950. In 1952 she was the first black woman candidate for the office of US vice president, representing the Progressive Party.
She campaigned for peace with the Soviet Union, ending the Korean War, and supported human rights, particularly the rights of women, and Afro-Americans.
Though Bass and the Progressive Party only received a small number of votes, their campaign, with its slogan “Win or lose, we win by raising the issues,” resonated with her supporters.
The young Charlotta Spears