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(1952) Charlotta Bass, “Acceptance Speech for Vice Presidential Candidate of the Progressive Party”

Los Angeles newspaper owner and political activist Charlotta Bass began her career as a conservative Republican.  By the 1940s, however, she moved to the political left.  In 1948 she supported Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace in his failed bid for the Presidency.  Four years later she was nominated for Vice President on the Progressive Party ticket.  She was the first African American woman to carry a political party’s nomination for the second highest office in the land.  Bass’s acceptance speech given at the Chicago convention of the Progressive Party on Sunday, March 30, 1952, appears below.  

I stand before you with great pride.

This is a historic moment in American political life.

Historic for myself, for my people, for all women.

For the first time in the history of this nation a political party has chosen a Negro woman for the second highest office in the land.

It is a great honor to be chosen as a pioneer. And a great responsibility. But I am strengthened by thousands on thousands of pioneers who stand by my side and look over my shoulder—those who have led the fight for freedom—those who led the fight for women’s rights—those who have been in the front line fighting for peace and justice and equality everywhere. How they must rejoice in this great understanding which here joins the cause of peace and freedom.

These pioneers, the living and the dead, men and women, black and white, give me strength and a new sense of dedication.

I shall tell you how I come to stand here. I am a Negro woman. My people came before the Mayflower. I am more concerned with what is happening to my people in my country than in pouring out money to rebuild a decadent Europe for a new war. We have lived through two wars and seen their promises turn to bitter ashes. Two Negroes were the first Americans to be decorated for bravery in France in World War I, that war that was fought to make the world safe for democracy. But when it ended, we discovered we were making Africa safe for exploitation by the very European powers

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