Perry, Pettis

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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

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Guide to the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Photographs, 1895-1967 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the James S. Allen Papers, 1920-1994 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Perry, Pettis. Destroy the virus of white chauvinism / by Pettis Perry. University of Kansas Archives / MSS / Rare Books, Kenneth Spencer Research Library
creatorOf Perry, Pettis. Pettis Perry papers, 1942-1967. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Civil rights and socialism
Communist Trial, New York, N.Y., 1952-1953
Anti-imperialist movements
African Americans--Social conditions
Governmental investigations
African Americans--Political activity
Civil rights
African American communists
African Americans--Civil rights


Active 1942

Active 1967



Ark ID: w6dg06zd

SNAC ID: 2309034