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Lightfoot in 1955

Claude M. Lightfoot (1910–1991) was an African-American activist, politician, and author. From 1957 until his death in 1991 Lightfoot was an officer of the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) and was several times the nominee of that party for elected political office. The author of many books and articles about racism and communism, Lightfoot also traveled and lectured throughout the world.



Having moved from his birthplace in Arkansas to Chicago's South Side in 1917, Lightfoot experienced the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, prompting him to join the struggles of Black workers in the 1920s. After participating briefly in Marcus Garvey's movement, which he decided was unworkable, Lightfoot became a member of the Democratic Party. Disillusionment during the Great Depression led him to join the Communist Party in 1931.

In 1932 Lightfoot ran for the Illinois State Legislature on the Communist ticket, receiving 33,000 votes. In 1935 Lightfoot was a delegate to the Seventh (and last) World Congress of the Communist International in the Soviet Union. Lightfoot was the nominee of the Communist Party for Illinois Attorney General in November 1936.[1]

After enlisting in 1941 and serving three and a half years in World War II, he rose to the top leadership of the Illinois Communist Party, succeeding Gilbert Green as chairman in 1957 when the latter was arrested.[2]

On June 26, 1954, during the McCarthy era, Lightfoot was arrested based on the Smith Act of 1940 and put on trial. While previous Smith Act indictments had been of individuals accused directly of attempting to overthrow the US government by force or violence, Lightfoot was indicted merely for being a member of the Communist Party, which, in turn, was alleged to be attempting to overthrow the government. His conviction in January 1955 was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the conviction (355 U.S. 2 (1957)), resulting in Lightfoot's acquittal in 1961.[3][4]

Lightfoot's autobiography, which was also his doctoral thesis at the University of Illinois, is: From Chicago's Ghetto to World Politics: The Life and Struggles of Claude M. Lightfoot. It was first published as Black America and the World Revolution (New York: New Outlook Publishers, 1970). A 1980 augmented edition was titled Chicago Slums to World Politics.

In the 1970s Lightfoot wrote newspaper columns for the Chicago Courier. In 1973 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Rostock in East Germany for his book Racism and Human Survival: Lessons of Nazi Germany for Today's World. He was also honored by the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs of America and the Bulgarian and Soviet Communist parties.

Lightfoot married Geraldyne Gray in 1938. She was a CPUSA organizer who died of cancer in 1962; they adopted a disabled son, Earl, around 1955. Lightfoot married a woman named Joyce in 1965 and adopted a daughter named Tanya. He donated his papers to the Chicago Historical Museum in 1986.


  • An American looks at Russia: Can we live together in peace? (New York: New Century Publishers, 1951), 23 pp.
  • "Not guilty!" The Case of Claude Lightfoot, by Claude M. Lightfoot (New York: New Century Publishers, 1955), 15pp. (Based on a speech delivered Mar. 26, 1955 in Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • The Struggle to End the Cold War at Home (New York: New Century Publishers, 1956). (Reprinted from Political Affairs, September, 1955)
  • The Challenge of the '56 elections (New York: New Century Publishers, 1956), 24 pp. (Report to the National Committee of the Communist Party)
  • The Negro Question in the U.S.A. (New York: New Century Publishers, 1960). (Address to the 17th National Convention of the Communist Party, USA)
  • Turning Point in Freedom Road: The fight to end Jim Crow now (New York: New Century Publishers, 1962), 46 pp.
  • "Building a Negro and White alliance for progress," in: Negro liberation: A Goal for all Americans, by Henry Winston Winston, Gus Hall, Claude M Lightfoot and William L Patterson (New York: New Currents Publishers, 1964).
  • "The Path to Negro Freedom," World Marxist Review, VIII, no. 10 (October 1965), pp. 20–29.
  • Black power and liberation: A communist view (New York: New Outlook Publishers, 1967), 46 pp.
  • Ghetto Rebellion to Black Liberation (New York: International Publishers, 1968), 192 pp.
  • O poder negro em revolta (Río de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1969). (Portuguese translation of Ghetto Rebellion to black liberation)
  • "Black liberation in a socialist, Asian and African perspective," in: Some aspects of the Black liberation struggle: Two lectures, by William Patterson and Claude Lightfoot (Black Liberation Commission, Communist Party, United States of America, 1969). (lecture delivered at Fisk University on October 15, 1969, at a Moratorium Day Rally to End the War in Vietnam)
  • The Civil War and black liberation today (New York: New Outlook Publishers, 1969), 45 p.
  • Racism and human survival: Lessons of Nazi Germany for today's world (New York, International Publishers, 1972), 287 pp. illus.
  • Vosstanija v getto za osvobozzdenie negrov (Moscow: Izd. Progress, 1972).
  • The Effect of education on racism: The two German states and the USA (New York, New Outlook, 1973).
  • Der Kampf für die Befreiung der Afroamerikaner (Berlin: Dietz, 1973), 216 pp. (translation of Ghetto rebellion to black liberation)
  • Human rights U.S. style: From colonial times through the New Deal (New York: International Publishers, 1977), 229 pages.
  • Salute to Black history honoring Dr. Claude Lightfoot (Salsedo Press, Chicago: 1979), pamphlet.
  • Chicago Slums to world politics: Autobiography of Claude M. Lightfoot (New York: New Outlook, 1980), 226 pp, illus. (with Timothy V Johnson)
  • "A New Outlook on Life," in: Political Affairs 71:2(February 1992), 18-25.


  1. ^ Communist Party of Illinois, Platform of the Communist Party, State of Illinois, for the Elections November, 1936. Chicago: Communist Party Election Committee, n.d. [1936]; pg. 8.
  2. ^ "Claude Lightfoot, Chairman Of State Communist Party". Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^[dead link]
  4. ^ Wehrwein, Austin C. (16 November 1961). "Illinois Red Wins His Freedom As U.S. Drops Smith Act Trial; Motion to Dismiss Lightfoot Case Based on High Court Rulings Last Year". The New York Times.

Further readingEdit

  • The Case of Claude Lightfoot, issued by the Lightfoot Defense committee, Chicago, Illinois, 1955.

External linksEdit