Michigan Historical Collections
Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan

Finding Aid for
Harry Haywood Papers, 1928-1985

Finding aid prepared by:
Brian A. Williams

Summary Information
Title: Harry Haywood Papers
Creator: Haywood, Harry, 1898-
Inclusive dates: 1928-1985
Extent: 2 linear ft.
African American revolutionary communist and theoretician of Black nationalism, joined Communist Youth League in 1923 and later communist Party U.S.A., studied at Lenin Institute and worked for the Comintern, member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spanish Civil War, author of Black Liberation (1948) and Black Bolshevik (1977). Papers include correspondence, speeches, text and notes for his writing and Communist Party material.

Call number: 851384 Aa/2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall on January 6, 1989. Donor Number 4904

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


During the lifetime of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, researchers must obtain her permission to publish quotations totalling more than five-hundred (500) words. Remaining rights have been transferred to the Bentley Historical Library.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Harry Haywood Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Harry Haywood was born in South Omaha, Nebraska, on February 4, 1898, the son of former slaves. He was a soldier in France during World War I and arrived home during the 1919 riots in Chicago. His experiences led him to become involved in the revolutionary African Blood Brotherhood. Attracted by the Russian Revolution, he joined the Young Communist League in 1923 and later the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA).

He spent four and one half years in the Soviet Union where he studied at the Lenin School. While working with the Comintern during the late 1920s, he developed a theoretical framework for the Black liberation movement in the United States and South Africa. Haywood's major thesis revolved around his assertion that a Black nation existed in the Deep South of the United States. He considered the Blacks of the Deep South as constituting an oppressed nation, placing the Black struggle in the fight against all forms of national oppression, including the right for self-determination. As the first American communist to assert this position, Haywood helped write the draft for the 1928 resolution on the Negro question in the United States. His draft was adopted by the Communist International with some reluctance by the CPUSA.

In the 1930s he was active in the labor movement and was one of the pioneers in the struggle to organize the Sharecropper's Union and the Scottsboro campaign. In Chicago he organized a massive protest against Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. Shortly after the Chicago protest he joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade fighting against Franco in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Returning to the United States, he served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and was an active member of the National Maritime Union.

In 1948, his major work, Negro Liberation, was published. Following publication he came under attack by the revisionists and fought against dropping the concept of the Black nation in the Deep South and support of the right to self-determination. His beliefs were explained in a pamphlet, For A Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question. He believed that the burgeoning civil rights movement in the South during the 1950s should be understood as a struggle of the oppressed Black nation for self-determination and against imperialism. Thinking that any other understanding would underestimate the revolutionary potential of the movement, thus ending the possibility of an interracial alliance against imperialism, he was expelled from the Communist Party.

Although expelled from the Communist Party, he continued to struggle for socialism. In 1969, in collaboration with his wife, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, he wrote, Toward A Revolutionary Program for Negro Freedom. The author of numerous other articles, his greatest triumph was the publication of his autobiography, Black Bolshevik, in 1977.

Haywood died January 4, 1985, one month before his 87th birthday. His ashes remain in Arlington National Cemetery.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of Harry Haywood consist of two linear feet of materials dating from 1928 to 1985. The collection is arranged topically. It is divided into eight series, including: Autobiography; Articles and Manuscripts; Communist Party Material; Black Conditions and Responses; Speeches and Presentations; Correspondence; Book Contracts and Reviews; and Notes, Fragments and Miscellanea.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

    • Afro-Americans--Michigan.
    • Communist Party of the United States of America.
    • Radicalism--United States.
    • Hall, Haywood, 1898-
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Autobiography [series]

    Autobiography consists of 8 inches of various drafts of his autobiography. These drafts were revised and published as Black Bolshevik.

    Box   1  
    First draft (10 folders)
    Box   1  
    Second draft (20 folders)
    Articles and manuscripts [series]

    Articles and Manuscripts consists of 4 inches of articles and unpublished manuscripts. Included are drafts of his major writings, Toward A Revolutionary Program For Negro Freedom, and For A Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question.

    Box   1  
    "For A Revolutionary Position on the Negro Question" Reprint and draft,  ca. 1958
    Box   1  
    "Towards A Revolutionary Program for Negro Freedom",  ca. 1964 (3 folders)
    Box   1  
    Articles,  1930-1964 (2 folders)
    Box   1  
    Rough Draft Manuscript "Criticism of New Left Communism,"  1983
    Box   1  
    Rough Draft Manuscript "The Crisis of the New Communist Movement,"  1983
    Box   1  
    Rough Draft Manuscript "The Three World Theory and the Crisis of the New Communist Movement",  1983
    Box   1  
    Manuscript "Interview with Edward L. Doty,"  1971
    Box   1  
    Manuscript "Interview with Tony Philips,"  1978
    Communist party material [series]

    Communist Party Material is 2.5 inches of papers, minutes and notes relating to his tenure in the CPUSA. This includes some material relating to the struggle against revisionism.

    Box   2  
    October Plenum of the CC. CP. USA.,  1929
    Box   2  
    Resolutions of the Communist International on the Negro Question in the United States
    Box   2  
    Convention of the Communist Party,  1948
    Box   2  
    The Struggle Against White Chauvinism,,  1949
    Box   2  
    "An open letter to the Negro people from the Negro Commission of the Communist Party,"  1961
    Box   2  
    Struggle against revisionism/CPUSA POC,  ca. 1960 (2 folders)
    Box   2  
    Afro-American work-Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
    Box   2  
    African-American Party of National Liberation Declaration,  1964
    Box   2  
    Resolution of the 3rd National Congress of the October League "The Struggle for Black Liberation and Socialist Revolution"
    Box   2  
    Self-Determination,  ca. 1960
    Box   2  
    On the concept "Negro": report, response and notes,  ca. 1951
    Box   2  
    Racism in the United States, an essay by "Democritus,"  undated
    Black Conditions And Responses (of the 1960s) [series]

    Black Conditions and Responses is 2 inches of outlines, notes and replies to critics of the Black freedom struggle.

    Box   2  
    Outline and chronology of Black Freedom Struggle
    Box   2  
    Black conditions
    Box   2  
    Black Human Rights Manifesto
    Box   2  
    Black leadership and Black elite
    Box   2  
    Black nationalism
    Box   2  
    Black radicalism/ Black radicals
    Box   2  
    Black United Front
    Box   2  
    Memorandum on Democratic Reconstruction of Southern Agriculture
    Box   2  
    Draft Format for the Harlem Unemployment Center
    Box   2  
    Response to Grace and James Boggs
    Box   2  
    Response to R. Palme Dutt and The Colonial Question
    Box   2  
    Reply to Harold Cruse Article
    Box   2  
    Polemics against Harold Cruse
    Box   2  
    Notes and Response to Jay Lovestone
    Box   2  
    Response to George Schuyler
    Speeches and presentations [series]

    Speeches and Presentations consists of 1 inch of copies and drafts of speeches and presentations delivered by Harry Haywood.

    Box   2  
    Various,  1950s-1970s (3 folders)
    Correspondence [series]

    Correspondence consists of 3 inches of letters both sent and received between 1949 and 1985.

    Box   2  
     1949-1985 (7 folders)
    Book publication and reviews [series]

    Book Publications and Reviews is 1 inch of materials relating to contract negotiations, securing a publisher, and various reviews of his books.

    Box   2  
    Book publishing contracts and negotiations,,  1970s
    Box   2  
    Reviews and Articles about Negro Liberation,,  1948-1950
    Box   2  
    Book publicity and reviews of Black Bolshevik,  ca. 1977
    Box   2  
    Michael Goldfield's review of Black Bolshevik,  1980
    Notes, fragments, miscellanea [series]

    Notes, Fragments and Miscellanea comprises the final 2.5 inches of the collection. It is made up of notes for his writings, handbills and announcements of his death, and other miscellaneous materials accumulated by Harry Haywood.

    Box   2  
    Fragments of writing on Black Power,  undated
    Box   2  
    Fragments of writing on "Race",  undated
    Box   2  
    Notes and fragmentary writings (4 folders)
    Box   2  
    Handbills and broadsides,  ca. 1970s
    Box   2  
    Tribute to Harry Haywood,  1985
    Box   2  
    Box   2  
    Photograph of Harry Haywood