After her family emigrated to New York City when she was aged 9, she graduated from high school, and then trained as a journalist. Deported from the United States as a result of communist political activism during the period of McCarthyism political witch hunts, she eventually found a base in London, England. There she founded and organised various black nationalist activities, including in 1959 and annual Caribbean celebration that evolved into the Notting Hill Carnival. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery, next to and left of her hero, Karl Marx.
Despite being academically bright, classed as an immigrant woman she was severely limited in her career choices, and so instead of going to college Jones began working in a laundry, and subsequently found other retail work in Harlem. During this time she joined a drama group, and began to write a column called “Claudia Comments” for a Harlem journal.
In 1936, in light of trying to find organisations supporting the Scottsboro Boys, she joined the American Communist Party (ACP). As a result, in 1937 she joined the editorial staff of the Daily Worker, rising by 1938 to became editor of the Weekly Review. After the Young Communist League became American Youth for Democracy during World War II, Jones became editor of its monthly journal, Spotlight. After the second world war, Jones became executive secretary of the Women’s National Commission, secretary for the Women’s Commission of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), and in 1952 took the same position at the National Peace Council. In 1953, she took over the editorship of Negro Affairs.
Jones’ most well known piece of writing, “An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!” appeared in 1949 in Political Affairs, and today is collected in several anthologies. It exhibits Jones’ development of what would decades later come to be termed “intersectional” analysis within a Marxist framework. In it, Jones wrote:
“The bourgeoisie is fearful of the militancy of the Negro woman, and for good reason. The capitalists know, far better than many progressives seem to know, that once Negro women begin to take action, the militancy of the whole Negro people, and thus of the anti-imperialist coalition, is greatly enhanced…
As mother, as Negro, and as worker, the Negro woman fights against the wiping out of the Negro family, against the Jim Crow ghetto existence which destroys the health, morale, and very life of millions of her sisters, brothers, and children.
Viewed in this light, it is not accidental that the American bourgeoisie has intensified its oppression, not only of the Negro people in general, but of Negro women in particular. Nothing so exposes the drive to fascization in the nation as the callous attitude which the bourgeoisie displays and cultivates toward Negro women.
Jones’s most well-known lasting contribution in the UK is considered to be the Notting Hill Carnival. Four months after launching WIG, racial riots broke out in Nottinghill, London and Robin Hood Chase, Nottingham; followed a few months later by the murder of young West Indian carpenter Kelso Cochrane by six white youths in a racially motivated attack.
In light of the “black on white” racially driven analysis by the existing British daily newspapers, Jones began receiving visits from both members of the black British community, as well as various national leaders responding to the concern of their citizens, including: Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana; Norman Manley of Jamaica; Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago; plus Phyllis Shand Allfrey and Carl La Corbinière of the West Indies Federation.
As a result, Jones identified the need to “wash the taste of Notting Hill and Nottingham out of our mouths”. It was suggested that the British black community should have a carnival; it was December 1958, so the next question was: “In the winter?” Jones used her connections to gain use of St Pancras town hall in January 1959 for the first Mardi-Gras-based carnival, which headlined the Boscoe Holder Dance Troupe, jazz guitarist Fitzroy Coleman and singer Cleo Laine; and was televised nationally by the BBC. These early celebrations were epitomised by the slogan “A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom”.
Funds raised from the event were used to pay the court fees and fines of convicted young black men.
TLDR: CLADIA JONES DID INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST FIRST, SHE DID IT BETTER, SHE IS BURIED NEXT TO KARL MARX, SHE WAS AN EMBODIMENT OF EVERY AWESOME PRAXIS (RESISTING ANTI-BLACKNESS, IMPERIALISM, AND SEXISM ALL TOGETHER, AND EVEN PRODUCING A BRAND NEW CARNIVAL SETTING THAT IS STILL PUT ON TO CELEBRATE THE AWESOMENESS OF THE WEST INDIAN COMMUNITY)BUT NO ONE REALLY REMEMBERS HER. HMM I WONDER WHY.
This lady the left of Marx.. Love this lady.
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