In 1930 Alabama, the Great Depression was pushing both sharecroppers and urban workers from poverty into starvation. Jim Crow segregation and lynch law perpetuated semifeudal conditions; Black civil and political rights were nonexistent. Into this nightmare came 24-year-old James S. Allen and his wife Isabelle as organizers. Combining stealth and bravado, they started the weekly Southern Worker, published in secrecy but widely circulated as an open publication of the Communist Party.
Their aim was "subversive," to change the social order, to uproot its remnants of slavery, and to humanize relations between Blacks and whites with socialism as a future goal. The Southern Worker became the organizing tool to shatter taboos with nonsegregated trade-union and civil rights meetings, to form the first racially integrated unions of sharecroppers, and to rescue victims of Southern courts.
The Allens were eyewitness to the brutality, murder, and arson endured and resisted by African Americans in the Deep South. Covering the Scottsboro case as a reporter, James Allen learned details (included here) unrecorded in standard histories.
This political memoir records the heavy toll paid, in arrests, beatings, and lynchings, by Black and white Communists and their allies in struggle. James and Isabelle Allen's front-line soldiering suggests reconsideration of the starting date conventionally assigned to the Civil Rights movement.