Black History Month:


We charge genocide;: The historic petition to the United Nations for relief
from a crime of the United States Government against the Negro people

by Civil Rights Congress (U.S.) 


Just over half a century ago, Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson, two
giants of the struggle for African-American equality, delivered to the
United Nations a petition titled, We Charge Genocide: The Crime of
Government Against the Negro People. 

Robeson was accompanied by signers of the petition Dec. 17, 1951, when he
presented the document to a UN official in New York. The same day,
Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), which had
drafted the petition, delivered copies to the UN delegates meeting in Paris.

Robeson and Patterson were attorneys and based their petition on the UN
Anti-genocide Convention. 

Out of the inhuman Black ghettos of American cities, the introduction began,
out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass
slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by
the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and




Among the signers were the eminent African-American historian and freedom
fighter Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, George Crockett Jr., later a distinguished judge
in Detroit who went on to serve many terms in the U.S. Congress, New York
City Communist councilman Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., Ferdinand Smith, Black
leader of the National Maritime Union, Dr. Oakley C. Johnson of Louisiana,
Aubrey Grossman, the labor and civil rights lawyer, and Claudia Jones, a
Communist leader in Harlem later deported under the witch-hunt
Walter-McCarran Act. Also signing were family members of the victims of
legal lynching: Rosalee McGee, mother of Willie McGee, framed up on rape
charges, and Josephine Grayson, whose husband, Francis Grayson, was one of
the Martinsville Seven, framed and executed on false rape charges in




Bio-sketch of William L. Patterson

Wm. Patterson Ben Davis 

William L. Patterson, the author of Ben Davis: Crusader for Negro Freedom &
Socialism, has achieved world-wide renown for his militant leadership in the
fight to preserve constitutional liberties and to win full civil rights for
all Americans--and for the Negro people in particular.

He was responsible for the production of the Petition, We Charge Genocide:
The Crime of Government Against the Negro People, and its presentation to
the United Nations in Paris in 1951. In the late twenties he was National
Executive Secretary of the International Labor Defense which played a
leading role in the defense of the nine innocent Scottsboro Boys. In the
fifties he occupied the same position in the Civil Rights Congress and led
many fierce civil rights battles.

He also led the international struggle to save the life of the martyred
Willie McGee of Mississippi and the Martinsville Seven of Virginia, all
charged falsely with rape by racists and framed by the highest courts. In
the thirties he organized the Marxist Abraham Lincoln School, in Chicago. He
was twice tried for contempt of Congress for his vigorous condemnation of
the racist policies of the government of the U.S.A.

He graduated from Hastings Law College of the University of California and
for a period practiced law in New York City. he (is )presently chairman of
the National Negro Commission of the Communist Party, U.S.A.




Louise Patterson dies at 97

In the People's Weekly World 

7 September 1999

NEW YORK - Louise Patterson, who worked side by side with Paul Robeson, Dr.
W.E.B. Du Bois, her husband William L. Patterson and other great leaders
during a lifetime of struggle for African American equality and socialism
died in New York Aug. 27. She was 97. 

At a gala birthday party for her in New York in 1980, Frank Chapman, then
the Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political
Repression said, "She has seen the trials and tribulations of our century
not as an observer but as a participant." 

She was born Louise Thompson in Chicago in 1902 but her family moved to the
San Francisco Bay Area in her childhood. She graduated from the University
of California at Berkeley in 1923 with a degree in economics, among the
first African-American women to graduate there. 

Her future husband, William L. Patterson, a leader of the Communist Party
USA, wrote in his autobiography, "The Man Who Cried Genocide," that he first
met Louise at an NAACP meeting in the Oakland Auditorium in 1919. They were
both students at the time. After graduating, she taught school in Arkansas
and later found a teaching assignment at Hampton Institute in Virginia. 

She was a delegate to the World Conference Against Racism and Anti-Semitism
in Paris in 1930, as was her husband. 

She had moved to New York, joining in the "Harlem Renaissance" with her
apartment serving as the gathering spot for a group she called "The

They held discussions of Marxism and organized theater and dance
performances and concerts. Among the participants were Langston Hughes and
Zora Neale Hurston, for both of whom she served as a literary secretary. She
also became friends with Adam Clayton Powell later elected to Congress, and
Benjamin Davis, later to serve as the first "Communist Councilman from

Her talents as an organizer and public speaker drew her into the battle in
1932 to save the Scottsboro Nine, African American youths framed up on rape
charges in Alabama. She worked as an organizer of the mass movement which
succeeded in blocking their execution. 

When William L. Patterson took up an assignment in Chicago, Louise went
there on vacation and they were married and settled in the city. Paul
Robeson was a guest at the wedding. 

She was elected Illinois State President of the International Workers Order
(IWO), a fraternal organization that worked in defense of workers' rights. 

She served with the IWO for 15 years, delivering fiery speeches to large
street rallies in Chicago and New York against the rising menace of Hitler
fascism. During those years, she made trips to the Soviet Union and to Spain
to help build solidarity with the Spanish Republic in its civil war against
Franco fascism. She also served with Robeson and Du Bois in the leadership
of the Council of African Affairs. 

Her husband, who served many years on the Political Bureau of the CPUSA
writes warmly of Louise Patterson's abilities as an organizer. He was
struggling in Chicago to set up the Abraham Lincoln School, a "broad,
nonpartisan school for workers, writers, and their sympathizers," aimed at
the thousands of Black workers who had migrated to Chicago from the south. 

Louise had met the Black singer-actress Lena Horne. Patterson urged his wife
to ask Horne to perform at a fundraiser for the school. "She came back
jubilant. Lena had agreed to appear...we engaged the Chicago Opera House for
the affair," Patterson wrote. 

Paul Robeson introduced Lena Horne to a capacity crowd. The school opened
and operated for three years. 

After World War II, she worked with the Civil Rights Congress headed by her
husband and was a signer of the massively documented "We Charge Genocide"
petition accusing the U.S. government of crimes of genocide against the
African American people. Robeson delivered the petition to the United
Nations in New York and William L. Patterson delivered it to the U.N. then
meeting in Paris in 1951. 

She helped organize the 1949 Peekskill concerts for Paul Robeson attacked by
fascist-like goons. She also organized Robeson's nationwide concert tour of
Black communities after he was blacklisted. 

In 1970, she served as chair of the New York Committee to Free Angela Davis.

After the victory in freeing Davis from frame-up charges, she continued to
work with the National Alliance until her retirement. She is survived by her
daughter, Dr. Mary Louise Patterson, two grandchildren and a great grandson.

A memorial is planned in New York, the time and place to be announced. 

William Patterson was born in San Francisco on 27th August, 1891. His mother
had been a slave and spent her childhood on a Virginia plantation. 

While studying at the University of California he began reading The Crisis,
The Masses and The Messenger. After graduating with a law degree in 1919 he
joined the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People
(NAACP) where he met his future wife, Louise Thompson.

Patterson spent time in London where he met George Lansbury and other
leading figures in the Labour Party. He also contributed articles to the
socialist newspaper, The Daily Herald on the problems faced by black people
in the United States. Patterson intended to move to Africa but Lansbury
convinced him to return to the United States.

Patterson met Paul Robeson in 1920. The two men became very active in
left-wing politics. Patterson also became friends with Heywood Broun who
tried to persuade Patterson to join the Socialist Party. Patterson rejected
the idea and eventually became a member of the American Communist Party,
Patterson was a regular contributor to the Daily Worker. Patterson was also
a regular contributor to the Daily Worker.

In 1923 Patterson and two friends opened a law office in Harlem. As a
lawyer, Patterson was involved in several campaigns to free people wrongly
convicted of criminal acts. This included the defence of Nicola Sacco and
Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two anarchists who were eventually executed in August,
1927. Patterson also worked on the Scottsboro Case, where nine young black
men were falsely charged with the rape of two white women on a train. 

Patterson went to the Soviet Union in 1927 and enrolled in the Far East
University and took part in the Sixth Comintern Congress in Moscow. In 1930
Patterson was a delegate to the World Conference Against Racism and
Anti-Semitism in Paris, France.

After arriving back in the United States Patterson returned to his law
practice in Harlem. Patterson was also executive secretary of the
International Labor Defense and leader of the Civil Rights Congress. 

In 1951 Patterson joined with Paul Robeson, Eslanda Goode, Harry Haywood,
Mary Church Terrell, Robert Treuhaft, Jessica Mitford, Louise Thompson to
deliver a petition to the United Nations which charged the United States
government with genocide. The petition was a detailed documentation of
hundreds of cases of murder, bombing, torture of black people in the United
States. It provided details of the "mass murder on the score of race that
had been sanctified by law" and stated that "never have so many individuals
been so ruthlessly destroyed amid so many tributes to the sacredness of the

Patterson was also involved in the defence of Angela Davis and Black
Panthers leaders arrested during the 1960s. His book The Man Who Cried
Genocide, was published in 1971. William Patterson died in 1980.






(1) William Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (1971)

My mother often talked to us about her childhood on the Virginia plantation
where she was born as a slave in 1850 and
had lived until she was ten. It was in cotton lands not far from Norfolk -
she knew that because her grandfather, who often
drove to the "big city," was seldom gone for long. Her father, William Gait,
was a slave who belonged to the owner of an adjacent plantation, and as a
child she saw very little of him. As coachman for his master - who was also
his father - he drove back and forth on visits to the Turner plantation,
where he met and later married my grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Turner.

The big house was set back from the magnolia-lined plantation road leading
to the main highway to Norfolk. But my mother lived in the slave quarters,
which were quite some distance back from the manor house. Here, separated
from her mother and grandmother, she lived with older slave women who were
part of the crew that served the master's immediate household.

My grandmother was personal maid to the white wife of her father and master;
my great-grandmother was head of the house slaves and also her owner's slave
woman (at that time the word "mistress" was not used in this sense). My
mother had learned of her grandmother's role from gossip among the field
hands, but it was beyond her to question the morality of this situation.
Morality played no part in the relationships between white slaveowners and
their slave women - the masters' morals were class morals in judging the
slave system or their own personal relations with slaves.

According to the gossip, my great-grandmother first came to the notice of
the big house through her ability as a cook. In line with the general
mistreatment of field hands - rags for clothing, shacks for living quarters,
cheap and primitive medication - they were never well fed. When my mother's
grandmother was living among the field slaves, she got the slaves who
slaughtered and cut up the hogs and cattle to bring her the entrails,
hooves, heads and other "throwaway" parts, along with similar leftovers from
chicken killings. Somehow she had acquired great skill in the use of herbs
for cooking as well as for healing. She converted the leftovers into such
tasty dishes that she soon gained a reputation as the best cook on the
plantation. Before long she was ordered into the big house to cook for the
master's family. She was an attractive woman and, as the story goes, the
master found more than her cooking to his taste. Eventually she gave birth
to three of his children.


(2) William Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (1971)

One day, as I walked to the hotel from the university, I was attracted by a
copy of the Crisis, on display in the window of a
bookstore. This was the official organ of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, and what particularly struck me was the
headline "Close Ranks." It turned out to be the title of an editorial
written by W. E. B. Du Bois, the magazine's editor. His injunction that
colored people should support the U.S. war effort did not correspond with my
own thoughts on the subject. But I wanted to examine the arguments in
support of the opposite viewpoint. Walking into that store was like walking
into a new life. Emanuel Levine, a short, stocky man of about 30, with a
shock of black hair and a muscular body that made me think of a wrestler,
greeted me cordially.

It was not surprising that a discontented Black law student should find
pleasure in a place where he could engage in
friendly and informative discussions. At school they were teaching me to
accommodate to the racist society in which I
lived, while in the bookstore I began to learn some fundamentals about the
nature of that society and how to go about
changing it.

I became acquainted with the Masses, a militant magazine that published
lively social criticism of the entire American
scene. I was introduced to Marxist literature and books; I read the
Messenger, a magazine published in New York by two
young Black radicals - A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. I was stirred
by its analyses of the source of Black oppression and the attempt to
identify it with the international revolution against working-class
oppression and colonialism. This was an enriching and exhilarating


(3) William Patterson visited the Soviet Union for the first time in 1929.
He wrote about the experience in his autobiography, The Man Who Cried
Genocide (1971). 

As my return to the United States approached, I began to evaluate many
aspects of the socialist country in which I had had the good fortune to
study, to travel, to learn, to participate in the anti-fascist struggle. The
peoples of the USSR were faced with a mountain of problems in the building
of a socialist society. The tsar had bequeathed them a heritage of poverty,
ignorance, medieval farming techniques, racial and national prejudice. In
addition. World War I, the international enemies of the Revolution, and the
defeated counterrevolution had wrought wide devastation. Millions of
families were homeless, tens of thousands of orphaned children wandered
across the land, stealing to live.

It is difficult to convey the impact of a place like Moscow in 1927,
particularly on a Negro. Just the strangeness of the city - the
architecture, the foods, the clothes, the customs. The quiet darkness of the
streets at night. There was nothing to compare with the massive explosion of
neon signs in New York, the sidewalk pitchmen, the blaring music, the flags
and bands of our hard-sell society, the general Main Street hysteria - nor
the river of autos, taxicabs and trucks that fill our own downtown streets
with the roar of a giant waterfall.

The second impact, if one is an American Negro, comes in the discovery that
there is no racial tension in the air. One looks at, talks to, works with
white men and women and youth as an equal. It is as if one had suffered with
a painful affliction for many years and had suddenly awakened to discover
the pain had gone. The Russians seemed to give a man's skin coloration only
a descriptive value, looking immediately past this attribute to the
significant human differences of character, mind and heart.

I saw the people of the USSR facing up to the tasks of removing the ruins of
the old and building the new. Under the leadership of the Communist Party,
an awe-inspiring creative explosion was under way, touching every aspect of
life. From their western borders to the Pacific, the people were mobilized
to solve their tremendous problems.

There were four jobs waiting for every available worker. Yes, there were
homeless children but homes and work and educational camps were being built
for them and they were becoming citizens of their motherland. Here was a
people who had found a way to throw the fantastic power of their collective
strength into solving the basic problems of living. In the process, the
participants were remaking themselves; learning to think and work
collectively - for the benefit of all. The remnants of racism and religious
bigotry of tsarism was being fought tooth and nail.

I had seen a new man in the making and I liked what I had seen.


(4) William Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (1971)

With the help of my new progressive and Communist friends, I began to
explore the roots of society's most rampant diseases - racism and
exploitation. They lay deep in the imperative for continuing profit and
power among those who controlled our economy, our legal system, our
government. As time went on, it became crystal-clear to me that the horrors
of colour persecution and poverty could only be fully grappled with in a
struggle against the economic and social forces that had spawned them. In my
special concern with the oppression of Black men and women, I felt it was
essential to achieve unity between Black and white workers - nothing was
more certain than that the powers that be were concerned with preventing
that unity at all costs.

If, in these pages, I direct my sharpest barbs against racism, it is because
I could not get away from it - it was my constant and unwanted companion.
How could I possibly speak dispassionately of the crimes committed in its
name? But the military-industrial-governmental complex lays heavy burdens on
other minority peoples as well as on white workers, turning them,
periodically or chronically into jobless, homeless expatriates in a land of
plenty. To me, the only hope lay in socialism - the only system that had
shown itself capable of ending the terrible contradictions of a profit
society. When I saw that the Communist Party was taking the lead in the
struggle for the rights of minorities and of labor, exposing the role of
imperialism in conquest and war, I found that my constant concern with the
racist issue became an integral part of the broader struggle for human
rights everywhere.


(5) Upton Sinclair, Boston (1928) 

There was John Dos Passos, faithful son of Harvard, and John Howard Lawson,
another one of the 'New Playwrights'
from Greenwich Village. There was Clarina Michelson, ready to do the hard
work again, and William Patterson, a Negro
lawyer from New York, running the greatest risk of any of them, with his
black face not to be disguised. Just up Beacon
Street was the Shaw Monument, with figures in perennial bronze, of
unmistakable Negro boys in uniforms, led by a young Boston blueblood on
horseback; no doubt Patterson had looked at this, and drawn courage from it.

The trooper speeds on; he has spied the black face, and wants that most of
all. The Negro runs, and the rider rears the front of his steed, intending
to strike him down with the iron-shod hoofs. But fortunately there is a
tree, and the Negro leaps behind it; and a man can run around a tree faster
than the best-trained police-mount - the dapper and genial William Patterson
proves it by making five complete circuits before he runs into the arms of
an ordinary cop, who grabs him by the collar and tears off his sign and
tramples it in the dirt, and then starts to march him away. 'Well,' he
remarks sociably, 'This is the first time I ever see a nigger bastard that
was a communist.' The lawyer is surprised, because he has been given to
understand that that particular word is barred from the Common. Mike Crowley
was so shocked, two weeks ago, when Mary Donovan tacked up a sign to a tree:
'Did you see what I did to those anarchistic bastards? - Judge Thayer.' But
apparently the police did not have to obey their own laws.


(6) William Patterson, The Man Who Cried Genocide (1971)

It had begun March 25, 1931, when nine Negro lads were dragged by a sheriff
and his deputies from a 47-car freight train that was passing through Paint
Rock, Alabama, on its way to Memphis. The train was crowded with youths,
both white and Black, aimlessly wandering about. They were riding the
freights in search of food and employment and they wandered about aimlessly
in the train. There was a fight, and some white lads telegraphed ahead that
they had been jumped and thrown off the train by "niggers." At Paint Rock, a
sheriff and his armed posse boarded the train and began their search for the

Two white girls dressed in overalls were taken out of a car; white and Black
youths alike were arrested and charged with vagrancy. But the presence of
the white girls added a new dimension to the arrest. The girls were first
taken to the office of Dr. R. R. Bridges for physical examination. No
bruises were found on their bodies, no were they unduly nervous. A small
amount of semen was found in the vagina of each of them but it was at least
a day old.

The doctor gave his report to the sheriff and obviously it ruled out rape in
the preceding 24 hours. But for the Alabama authorities that made no
difference - they came up with a full-blown charge of rape. The nine Black
lads stood accused. 

The second day after the arrests the sheriff tried to get the girls to say
they had been raped by the youths, and both refused. They were sent back to
jail, but a Southern sheriff can exert a lot of pressure, and on the
following day Victoria Price, the older of the two women (who had a police
record), caved in. Ruby Bates, the 17-year-old, an almost illiterate mill
hand, still refused to corroborate the charge. But on the fourth day she,
too, succumbed to the pressure. The Roman holiday could now be staged.

On March 31, 1931, 20 indictments were handed down by a grand jury,
emphasizing the charge of rape and assault. The nine boys were immediately
arraigned before the court in Scottsboro. All pleaded not guilty.

The first exposure of the infamous frame-up appeared April 2, 1931, in the
pages of the Daily Worker, which called on the people to initiate mass
protests and demonstrations to save nine innocent Black youths from legal
lynching. On April 4, the Southern Worker, published in Chattanooga, Tenn.,
carried a first-hand report from Scottsboro by Helen Marcy describing the
lynch spirit that had been aroused around the case. The trail began on April
7 - with the outcome a foregone conclusion.

Thousands of people poured into Scottsboro - if there were "niggers" to be
lynched, they wanted to see the show. A local brass band played "There'll Be
a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" outside the courthouse while the
all-white jury was being picked. The state militia was called out -
ostensibly to protect the prisoners. Its attitude toward the lads, one of
whom was bayonetted by a guardsman, was little different from that of the
lynch mob. In short order, Charles Weems, 20, and Clarence Norris, 19, the
two older lads, were declared guilty by the jury. On the same day, Haywood
Patterson, 17, was the next victim. And on April 8, Ozie Powell, 14; Eugene
Williams, 13; Olin Montgomery, 17; Andy Wright, 18; and Willie Robertson,
17, were declared guilty. The hearing of Roy Wright, 14 years old, ran into
"legal" difficulties. The prosecution had asked the jury to give him life
imprisonment, but eleven jurors voted for death, and it was declared a


(7) Jessica Mitford, A Fine Old Conflict (1977)

I had an ally in William L. Patterson, who often came out from New York on a
national tour to meet with CRC chapters around the country. Pat, then in his
late fifties, was a formidable figure in the black Party leadership. The son
of a slave, he was a practising lawyer at the time of the Sacco and Vanzetti
case which had led him into the Party. As a leader in the International
Labour Defense he had organized the mass defence of the Scottsboro Boys in
the thirties. Although Pat operated on a national and international level -
one of his many dazzling achievements was presentation of the CRC petition,
'We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People,' at a
United Nations meeting in Paris - he always had time for the lower-echelon
CRC workers, and took a deep interest in the day-to-day organizational
problems that beset us.


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