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Through the history the U.S., African American had been promised many of times in wars, that if they served, freedom and rights would be granted to the black man. Before World War I, this very promise was promised, and after it would be broken, again. This result lead to large numbers of black American aligning themselves with radical ideologies. This new group of black people, with new ways of thinking, would be the result of years of oppression. One example of the oppression could be explained by the 1896 Supreme Court Case Plessy v. Ferguson.
Segregation would fuel a lot of the African Americans passions. Blacks would be confronted by forces of white supremacy, with groups like the KKK.1
Black people were looking for places of escape. The communist government in Russia caught the eye of many black people. One famous black person by the name of Cyril Briggs thought very highly of the new foreign ideology. Brigg was the leader of an African American Brotherhood, that wanted to arm black men for self-defense and called for unity with poor whites to overthrow capitalism in the U.S. In 1924 Briggs would lead his follower to join the U.S. Communist Party.
This would be the start of something greater for blacks. Many other would also turn the U.S. Communist Party as allies for support and other means, like ideas and inspiration. One of the most important blacks that would join the U.S. Communist Party was Harry Haywood. He was the lead mind, at a Comintern conference2, to propose that blacks living in the sixty biggest counties in the United States, had the right to secede from the United States.
These radical ideas were the core ideas for the communist party in reaching southern blacks in the early 1930s before the war would start. During the great depression of the 1930s black people would become more fawn to the Communist Party. The slogan used, “Black and white unite and fight!” Communist took up great depression issues for blacks like self-determination in the south and resistance to lynchings and other forms of oppression.
According to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the event that would solidify black support to the Communist party was the Scottsboro Case of 1932.3 The party, in face of obvious racial injustice, provided lawyers and legal assistance for the nine young Blacks men in that case.
These oppression in the 1930s would politicize African American who would later serve in Spain. For James Yates, unity between blacks and white became a reality during a march in Chicago, where unemployed workers, both black and white, walked alongside each other.
African Americans also thought of Italian imperialism as a threat. In 1935, Mussolini would invade Ethiopia, seeking a new empire in Africa. More activism would rise back in the United States from this event. The “Hands off Ethiopia” campaign grew attractions in New York and Chicago. Men like W.E.B Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and A. Philip Randolph linked this invasion to the, in Randolph words, “The terrible repression of Black people in the United States”.
This would be the cause of fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Blacks linked different foreign oppressions, to the oppressions they were facing in the United States. They saw them as the same.