William L. Patterson
William L. Patterson led the International Labor Defense (ILD) and its successor the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) and was an active member of the Communist Party, USA. The ILD gained fame during its campaign to free the “Scottsboro Boys” during the 1930s and acted as a left-wing legal defense arm for labor union members, civil rights issues and communists.

His 1940 marriage to Harlem Renaissance figure and civil rights activist Louise Patterson created a black power couple.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the CRC led campaigns against racial injustice in the Willie McGee, Martinsville Seven and Trenton Six cases. Patterson and Paul Robeson led a delegation to the United Nations in 1951 with a petition entitled “We Charge Genocide,” outlining the rampant discrimination and violence perpetrated against African Americans in the United States.

The CRC also led campaigns against the burgeoning red scare in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The U.S. Attorney General listed the organization as subversive and the success of the McCarthy era in stifling the much of the left-wing movement led the dissolution of the CRC in 1956.

William Patterson, a giant of the civil rights movement from the mid 1930s to mid 1950s, died in 1980 in relative obscurity as his role in the black rights movement was written out of history due to his communist affiliation.
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