Pettis Perry, Communist Party official and Smith Act defendant, was born January 4, 1897 in Marion, Alabama, the son of tenant farmers. The discrimination and violence he witnessed in Alabama had a deep impact on him and he would work throughout the U.S. searching for a place "where Negroes were treated as men and women - as Americans with the full rights as other citizens." At age seventeen, he left home for a series of jobs at a plantation, lumber company, and pipe foundry. In February 1932, Perry met members of the International Labor Defense who introduced him to the Daily Worker and the Liberator and acquainted him with the Scottsboro case. In September of that year he joined the Communist Party because he had become convinced that they were the "best fighters ... for freedom." After serving as Executive Secretary of the ILD for Southern California and Arizona, Perry began work for the Communist Party, first as a section organizer and then, in 1948, as Secretary of the Party's Negro Commission in New York. There he had a voice in ideological questions and recommended policies and programs. After the imprisonment of eleven of the Party's front-rank leaders, Perry assumed a greater leadership role in Party affairs. On June 20, 1951 he was indicted with sixteen others for conspiracy. Perry represented himself during a nine-month trial and was convicted in February 1953. Sentenced to three years in prison, he was released in May 1957. Following his release, Perry returned to California and served on the Party's Southern California District Board. He died of heart disease in a Moscow hospital on July 24, 1965.
From the description of Pettis Perry papers, 1942-1967. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 436872271