Grace Bassett

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Grace T. Bassett ... died in Harlem, N.Y. Nov. 2013, aged 96. Bassett was a member of the People's World editorial board and a volunteer copy editor for many years, as well as the editor of Chicago's DuSable edition of The Daily Worker during the 1940s.[1]

Early life

Grace Colwell Thornton was born Dec. 17, 1916, in New Orleans.

She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority while a student at Dillard University in New Orleans. She was a social activist all of her life. She was a lifelong member of the Communist Party USA.

At Dillard University, Grace went on a trip organized by her teacher. It was a lunch with students from a white college. "It was my first interracial experience," she said.

In time, Grace became active in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, founded in 1937, just before she graduated Dillard with a Bachelor of Arts in social work.

SNYC, like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which followed SNYC, was registering black people to vote. It was an organization of 100,000 active young people that carried out voter registration and education campaigns among blacks and whites in the deep South.

"Sometimes," said Grace, "we went into unreceptive places." She described how SNYC and a white student group went to a white neighborhood to do voter education. "While many were friendly, somebody reported us," she said. Interracial groups at that time were targets of sheriff departments and the Klan.

"So we ran to our car, jumped in and left. Our program wasn't just for Black people. It was for white people too, working class whites. We tried to get them to vote and educate them on what to vote for."

The activities of SNYC helped give birth to the modern civil rights movement, she noted. World War II came, and many men went into the service. Grace assumed leadership roles in the New Orleans SNYC.

Later, she went to Atlanta to further her education. She traveled to SNYC organizing meetings in Mississippi. She met and developed friendships with SNYC leaders like Dorothy Burnham, and James Jackson and Esther Jackson. In 1984, Bassett was among those interviewed about SNYC for New York University's Tamiment Library. NYU was where she got her master's in social work.

SNYC, in addition to voter registration, organized tobacco and other workers into unions. Grace and her pioneering colleagues were active in fighting every violation of civil rights, all done at great personal risk.[2]

Chicago

Grace moved to Chicago around 1942 with her first husband. McCarthyism had cost him his job with the transport workers union. She got a job with the Daily Worker and later became editor of its DuSable edition, in which she campaigned for the integration of the White Sox and Cubs baseball teams. She and her husband later divorced.[3]

New York

It was in New York City, at a party convention, where Grace met Ted Bassett, the Harlem organizer of the party, political activist and writer. Grace and Ted were married in 1952 and Grace moved to New York. She joined the ongoing grassroots and electoral struggles there for civil rights, peace, low rents and health care. In the 1970s Ted and Grace lived in Cuba. Ted was from Virginia but spoke Spanish and was the correspondent for the Daily World. Grace was very active in the movement to free Angela Davis, the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, and the Ben Davis Club of the Communist Party in Harlem.

Grace Bassett returned to social work and was an active member of Local 1199 union as well as social workers' professional organizations. She worked in New York hospitals, including Harlem's Sydenham Hospital, until it was closed by Mayor Ed Koch, despite community protests of which Grace was a part. She worked until she turned 70 and Ted took ill. She retired to care for him. Ted died in 1994.

Grace was a journalist and a member of the People's World editorial board. Once a week she would get on the subway at her advanced age and travel from the Washington Heights neighborhood downtown to Chelsea to volunteer her considerable editing skills and help get the paper out.[4]

Salute to Sender Garlin

In May 1992 The Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a May Day supplement. Included was a page of greetings to Sender Garlin, sending greetings for his 90th Birthday. Most of the endorsers listed, were identified members or supporters of the Communist Party USA.

The list included Grace Bassett and Ted Bassett[5].

Robeson event sponsors

On May 31 1998 the Peoples Weekly World held a Paul Robeson birth centennial celebration in New York, at the Henry Winston Auditorium.

Speakers included Gus Hall, chairman of the Communist Party USA and Roger Green of the NY State Assembly.

Sponsors of the event included poet Amina Baraka, Grace T. Bassett, actress Vinie Burrows, former Peoples Voice editor Marvel Cooke, Councilmember Tom Duane, Attorney Rob Ellis, Assemblymember Roger Green, Gus Hall, Councilmember Bill Perkins, labor unionist Bobbie Rabinowitz, actor John Randolph, Pete Robinson, poet Sonia Sanchez, singer Pete Seeger, labor unionist Chris Silvera, PWW editor Tim Wheeler, New York City Coalition of Black Trade Unionists president Jim Webb and labor unionist Ira Williams.[6]

Endorsed Communist Party Call

On March 30 2002 the Communist Party USA paper People’s Weekly World called for a national holiday in honor of late Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chavez. The article was followed by a long list of endorsers[7]including Grace Bassett, Almost all endorsers were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA.

Communist Party USA

In September 2006 the Peoples Weekly World[8]listed several members of the New YorkCommunist Party USA.

Angie Lebowitz, Betty Smith, Bill Davis, Bob Beachman, Carole Marks, Charlotte Sinovoi, Dan Margolis, Eileen Reardon, Estelle Katz, Esther Moroze, Gabe Falsetta, Gary Bono, George Robbins, Gloria Freedman, Grace Bassett, Judith Paulsen, Ken Besaw, Linda Feldman, Martin Sawma, Michael Moore, Rose Bilander.

References