NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 47

In November national and statewide elections occurred. The nnc threw its support behind progressive candidates. It supported the New Deal, while, in California, it opposed a proposition on the statewide ballot that restricted boycotts and pickets. In the Los Angeles recall election, a similar measure had been passed, which tarnished slightly the Bowron victory. Progressives prevailed in the November elections in California, with the election of Culbert Olson, the first Democratic governor in 40 years, and the defeat of the anti-picketing proposal. The la nnc council held mass meetings to discuss the election results and the new state administration. 62 In a year when party building was a Communist priority, the California district was one of the fastest growing in the nation. It was also a period when professionals were entering the Party’s ranks in record numbers. The Party emphasized that the lawyers in its ranks “must challenge prevalent musty capitalist legal conceptions and rewrite our legal history.” 63 The Party, even though it tacitly supported progressives in the Democratic Party in the California elections, entered its own slate of candidates in the contest. Leo Gallagher ran for secretary of state on both the Democratic and Communist Party tickets, while Pettis Perry, recently returned from the Party’s national training school in New York, ran statewide for the Board of Equalization. Gallagher received nearly 200,000 votes in the November election. 64 While Loren Miller kept one foot in the Communist movement, he had another in establishment political organizations such as the naacp and the Democratic Party. This was a period of transition for Miller. He had an active leadership role in the nnc and participated actively in other Communist causes such as support for the Loyalist cause in Spain. He was a speaker at the memorial for Virgil Rhetta, a Jefferson High graduate who joined the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigade and was killed, after five months at the front by Franco forces in Spain. Later in the year, Miller was a sponsor of a lecture by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps on their recent travels to Spain and Haiti. 65 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE At the end of the year, the la Council announced plans for a far western regional conference of the nnc to include all affiliated organizations west of the Rockies. This goal was aborted, when the Oakland Council announced it would not participate. The la Council then resolved to hold a statewide conference in February 1939. The National Office was lukewarm about the statewide conference. John Davis wrote the la Council that, since “no systematic attempt will be made to secure a statewide delegation, no statewide radio and publicity efforts will be made. In my opinion a poorly and shabbily presented conference in the name of the nnc is worse than none at all.” He encouraged the la Council to restrict the conference to Los Angeles. 60 Davis’s negative attitude toward the la Council’s planning was a reflection of a deeper dissatisfaction with its direction. “In the past Los Angeles with a population of more than 70,000 Negro people,” he wrote to Lillian Jones, “had not contributed to the support of the national office.” He urged the la Council to contribute to the support of the national office in 1939, by sending $480 or $40 a month. “This compares,” he noted, “with equally large quotas for our councils in cities with a much smaller Negro population — as Atlantic City, n.j., for example with only a 15,000 Negro population.” 61 45 The la Council marshaled support from community groups through letters and a speaker’s bureau for low-cost housing projects in the black community. It prepared a pamphlet on housing in the Central Avenue district, which was sent to the national office. The national office, in turn, urged the la Council to send the pamphlet to the United States Housing Authority in Washington d.c. After the Los Angeles City Council established a Housing Authority that qualified for $50,000,000 in Federal slum clearance and low-cost housing funds, the la nnc Council held a mass meeting at which 20 community organizations attended. Hawkins explained details of the u.s. housing act to the audience. His goal was to make sure a portion of the Federal money was spent in the black districts 59