Aptheker transferring W. E. B. Du Bois papers to University of Massachusetts, 1973
|Died||March 17, 2003 87) (aged|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Occupation||Marxist historian, editor, activist|
|American Negro Slave Revolts, Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, History of the American People, The Correspondence of W. E. B. Du Bois, Anti-Racism in U.S. History|
|Political party||Communist Party USA, Peace and Freedom Party|
|Spouse(s)||Fay Aptheker (1942–1999)|
Herbert Aptheker (July 31, 1915 – March 17, 2003) was an American Marxist historian and political activist. He wrote more than 50 books, mostly in the fields of African-American history and general U.S. history, most notably, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), a classic in the field. He also compiled the 7-volume Documentary History of the Negro People (1951–1994). In addition, he compiled a wide variety of primary documents supporting study of African-American history. He was the literary executor for W. E. B. Du Bois.
From the 1940s, Aptheker was a prominent figure in U.S. scholarly discourse. David Horowitz described Aptheker as "the Communist Party’s most prominent Cold War intellectual".Aptheker was blacklisted in academia during the 1950s because of his Communist Party membership. He succeeded V. J. Jerome in 1955 as editor of Political Affairs , a communist theory magazine.
Herbert Aptheker was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest child of a wealthy Jewish family.
In 1931, when he was 16, he accompanied his father on a business trip to Alabama.There he learned first-hand about the oppression of African Americans under Jim Crow Laws in the South. The trip proved shocking and life-altering for Aptheker, who upon his return to Brooklyn began writing a column called "The Dark Side of The South" for his Erasmus Hall High School newspaper
Aptheker graduated from high school in the spring of 1933, during the Great Depression. Although admitted to Columbia University, he was unable to gain admission to the main campus of Columbia College, which had already filled a quota set for Jews by college president Nicholas Murray Butler.Instead, Aptheker was relegated to enrolling at Seth Low Junior College in Brooklyn Heights, a satellite school established by Butler as a de facto dumping ground for Jews and ethnic Italians admitted in excess of Butler's quotas.
During his time at Seth Low, Aptheker was first drawn into political activity, helping to organize anti-war rallies and speaking on behalf of the communist-backed National Student League (NSL) and the socialist-backed Student League for Industrial Democracy.He began reading the Communist Party's daily newspaper, The Daily Worker, at this time as well as the party's literary-artistic monthly, The New Masses, although he did not yet become a member of the party.
After two years at Seth Low, Aptheker was allowed to enroll at Columbia's main campus in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, but not with full status as a member of Columbia College. Instead, he was classified as a "university undergraduate", which placed him on track for a lesser Bachelor of Science degree rather than the higher-status Bachelor of Arts, which he received in 1936.At Columbia, Aptheker continued to engage in the anti-war movement, both through the NSL and the American League Against War and Fascism, a broader mass organization of the Communist Party during its Popular Front period.
Aptheker earned his Master's degree from Columbia in 1937 and a Ph.D. in 1943 from the same institution.In September 1939, he joined the Communist Party USA. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in sociology in 1945.
In 1942 Aptheker married Fay Philippa Aptheker (1905–1999), a first cousin who was also a native of Brooklyn. [ unreliable source ] Their daughter, Bettina, was born in 1944 at the U.S. Army Hospital in Fort Bragg, North Carolina during Aptheker's service in World War II.She was a union organizer and political activist. They were married for 62 years, until her death.
Aptheker participated in Operation Overlord, the invasion of northern France; by 1945 he had been promoted to the rank of Major in the artillery. He commanded the all-black 350th artillery unit.In December 1950, after failing to respond to the U.S. Army's letter of inquiry about his Communist political activity, he lost his commission after an honorable discharge.
Returning with his family to the South after the war, Aptheker became an educational worker for the Food and Tobacco Workers Union. Shortly afterward, he served as secretary of the "Abolish Peonage Committee," which had been established in 1940 by activists in New York and Chicago, with the support of the International Labor Defense (IDL), an arm of the Communist Party. "Peons" in the South, the vast majority of whom were African American, were typically rural sharecroppers who became tied to plantations by the debt they owed to the plantation owners, or to local merchants. This practice had effectively maintained African-American slavery after the Civil War in all but name.
Given repeated publicity about peonage abuses, in 1941 Attorney General Francis Biddle had directed all federal prosecutors to "actively investigate and try more peonage cases." On the verge of entering World War II, the US would make more effort to reduce rural peonage.
Similarly, southern states had run convict leasing programs, hiring out convicts to industries and taking the fees as revenue. Several southern states had banned convict leasing to industries in the early 20th century: Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and Florida by 1923.
Aptheker's master's thesis, a study of Nat Turner's slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831, laid the groundwork for his future work on the history of American slave revolts. Aptheker revealed Turner's heroism, demonstrating how his rebellion was rooted in resistance to the exploitative conditions of the Southern slave system. His Negro Slave Revolts in the United States 1526–1860 (1939), includes a table of documented slave revolts by year and state. His doctoral dissertation, American Negro Slave Revolts, was published in 1943. Doing research in Southern libraries and archives, he uncovered 250 similar episodes.
Aptheker set forth historiographical arguments, challenging some conservative histories, most notably the perspective in the writings of Georgia-born historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, who was considered part of the Dunning School at Columbia University. Historians of this group had been critical of Reconstruction and argued that slavery was no worse than urban labor conditions. Phillips had characterized enslaved African Americans as childlike, inferior, and uncivilized; he argued that slavery was a benign institution; and defended the preservation of the Southern plantation system. Such works had been common in the field before Aptheker's scholarship.
Aptheker long emphasized W. E. B. Du Bois' social science scholarship and lifelong struggle for African Americans to achieve equality. In his work as a historian, he compiled a documentary history of African Americans in the United States, a monumental collection which he started publishing in 1951. It eventually resulted in seven volumes of primary documents, a tremendous resource for African-American studies.
During the 1950s and the period of McCarthyism, Aptheker was blacklisted in academia because of his membership in the Communist Party. He was unable to obtain an appointment as a university lecturer for a decade. Aptheker served on the National Committee of the CPUSA from 1957 to 1991. For several years in the 1960s and 1970s, he was executive director of the American Institute For Marxist Studies. In 1966, he ran in the U.S. House of Representatives election in New York's 12th Congressional District for the Peace and Freedom Party; he received 3,562 votes. Given his work on African-American documents and history, Aptheker was chosen by W. E. B. Du Bois to be his literary executor.
A strong opponent of the Vietnam War, Aptheker lectured on the subject on college campuses nationwide. From 1969 to 1973, Aptheker taught a full-year course annually in Afro-American History at Bryn Mawr College. Aptheker died at age 87 on March 17, 2003, in Mountain View, California. His wife had died in 1999.
Bettina Aptheker is a professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In her 2006 memoir, Intimate Politics, she claimed that she was sexually abused by her father from the age of 3 to 13. Her memories of the events began to arise in 1999, after her mother's death and when she was working on a memoir. She sought counseling for her dissociation and recovered memory.She also wrote that she and her father reconciled before his death in 2003.
Her assertion caused great controversy among historians and activists. Some raised questions about her credibility; others questioned the Old Left's desire to bury the news, and still others wondered at how to look at Aptheker's work in view of this information.
In her memoir, Bettina Aptheker wrote more at length about her father's work on African-American history. She thought that he celebrated black resistance in part "to compensate for his deep shame about the way, he believed, the Jews had acted during the Holocaust."
The controversy about her claims about her father continued for months, with many essays and letters published on the History News Network hosted by George Mason University. In November 2007, the historian Christopher Phelps published an overview of the issues. He also wrote that he had interviewed Kate Miller, who had been present during Bettina Aptheker's 1999 conversation with her father about the abuse, and confirmed her account.
A slave rebellion is an armed uprising by slaves. Slave rebellions have occurred in nearly all societies that practice slavery or have practiced slavery in the past. A desire for freedom and the dream of successful rebellion are often the greatest objects of song, art, and culture amongst the enslaved population. Many of the events, however, are often violently opposed and suppressed by slaveholders.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community, and after completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Comer Vann Woodward was a Pulitzer-prize winning American historian focusing primarily on the American South and race relations. He was long a supporter of the approach of Charles A. Beard, stressing the influence of unseen economic motivations in politics. Stylistically, he was a master of irony and counterpoint. Woodward was on the left end of the history profession in the 1930s. By the 1950s he was a leading liberal and supporter of civil rights. His demonstration that racial segregation was a late-19th-century invention rather than some sort of eternal standard made his The Strange Career of Jim Crow into "the historical Bible of the civil rights movement", said Martin Luther King Jr. After attacks on him by the New Left in the late 1960s, he moved to the right politically.
Joseph Jenkins Roberts was an African-American merchant who emigrated to Liberia in 1829, where he became a noted politician. Elected as the first (1848–1856) and seventh (1872–1876) President of Liberia after independence, he was the first man of African descent to govern the country, serving previously as governor from 1841 to 1848. Born free in Norfolk, Virginia, Roberts emigrated as a young man with his mother, siblings, wife, and child to the young West African colony. He opened a trading firm in Monrovia and later engaged in politics.
Walter Francis White was an African-American civil rights activist who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for almost a quarter of a century, 1929–1955, after joining the organization as an investigator in 1918. He directed a broad program of legal challenges to racial segregation and disfranchisement. He was also a journalist, novelist, and essayist. He graduated in 1916 from Atlanta University, a historically black college.
The Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois (editor), Oswald Garrison Villard, J. Max Barber, Charles Edward Russell, Kelly Miller, William Stanley Braithwaite, and Mary Dunlop Maclean. The Crisis has been in continuous print since 1910, and it is the oldest black oriented magazine in the world. Today, The Crisis is "a quarterly journal of civil rights, history, politics and culture and seeks to educate and challenge its readers about issues that continue to plague African Americans and other communities of color."
Shirley Graham Du Bois was an American author, playwright, composer, and activist for African-American and other causes. She won the Messner and the Anisfield-Wolf prizes for her works.
The Souls of Black Folk is a 1903 work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology and a cornerstone of African-American literature.
Bettina Fay Aptheker is an American political activist, radical feminist, professor and author. Aptheker was active in civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and has worked in developing feminist studies since the late 1970s.
The Star of Ethiopia is an American historical pageant written by leading New Negro intellectual, W. E. B. Du Bois in 1911. Outlining the history of African-Americans throughout time, pageants were held in high regard by Du Bois who felt that Pageants could be utilized best as a form of educational theatre, or as an instructional tool to not only teach African Americans the meaning of their history, but also enlighten whites as to "reveal the negro...as human." Despite his minimal experience in playwriting, Pageant Movement intellectual W.E.B DuBois composed and constructed for the stage The Star of Ethiopia to be presented as an American historical pageant.
Double consciousness is the internal conflict experienced by subordinated or colonized groups in an oppressive society. The term and the idea were first published in by W. E. B. Du Bois's autoethnographic work, The Souls of Black Folk in 1897, in which he described the African American experience of double consciousness, including his own.
Nat Turner's Rebellion was a rebellion of black slaves that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, led by Nat Turner. Fugitive enslaved people killed from 55 to 65 people, at least 51 being white. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.
Kathleen Rochard Simon, Viscountess Simon, DBE was a British slavery abolitionist. She was inspired to research slavery after living in Tennessee with her first husband, and she joined the abolitionist movement when she returned to London after his death. With her second husband, Sir John Simon, she campaigned against all forms of servitude. Travelling and speaking throughout her life, she was renowned for her commitment to ending slavery and racial discrimination, and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite is a National Historic Landmark in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, commemorating an important location in the life of African American intellectual and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963). The site contains foundational remnants of the home of Du Bois' grandfather, where Du Bois lived for the first five years of his life. Du Bois was given the house in 1928, and planned to renovate it, but was unable to do so. He sold it in 1954 and the house was torn down later that decade.
The Study of the Negro Problems, from The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, is an essay written by professor, sociologist, historian and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. It both challenges the question he poses in his The Souls of Black Folk (1903) of “How does it feel to be a problem?” and is reminiscent of the popular mindset of white people toward people of color at the time.
Gerald Horne is an American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs of America was a national youth organization sponsored by the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and launched at a national convention held in San Francisco in June 1964. The organization was active in the American student movement of the 1960s and maintained a prominent presence on a number of college campuses including Columbia University in New York City and the University of California in Berkeley. The organization was dissolved by decision of the CPUSA in February 1970 and succeeded by a new organization known as the Young Workers Liberation League.
The Negro in the South is a book written in 1907 by sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois and educator Booker T. Washington that describes the social history of African-American people in the southern United States. It is a compilation of the William Levi Bull Lectures on Christian Sociology from that year. Washington and Du Bois had recently co-contributed to the Washington-edited 1903 collection The Negro Problem.
The Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems was an annual conference held at Atlanta University, organized by W. E. B. Du Bois, and held every year from 1896 to 1914.
This article documents the history of the African-Americans in Philadelphia.