Lucy Parsons was a Black woman, a communist, a fighter for the working class and a valiant defender of political prisoners.
Parsons put herself at the center of many of the important people’s struggles in U.S. history. Born in Texas during the Civil War to parents who were likely slaves, she had Black, Mexican and American Indian roots. Lucy met former Confederate soldier Albert R. Parsons in 1870 and they were soon married, in violation of laws against “race-mixing".
Like droves of Blacks fleeing the South after the Civil War, Lucy and Albert Parsons moved to Chicago where they both became active in the growing labor movement.
Albert Parsons, was one of the Haymarket martyrs, those labor and anarchist leaders fighting for an eight-hour day who were unfairly tried and hung for their role in police riots on May 3, 1886. Albert was not even present at the meeting where a mysterious bomb killed a police officer. May Day, International Workers Day, celebrated every May 1, commemorates the Haymarket martyrs and the struggle of all working people.
But Lucy was an organizer in her own right. With Albert and the other leaders in prison, Lucy helped lead the fight for their lives, touring the country to free the political prisoners. The corrupt judges and the ruling elite of Chicago ordered the execution of four of the eight defendants, including Albert. Later Lucy wrote The Life of Albert R. Parsons (1889), a book-length indictment of the Haymarket trials and vindication of her husband.
Lucy rededicated her life, to the fight for free speech, womens liberation, labor rights and freedom from political repression. Active in the early years of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), she led a march of tens of thousands against hunger in Chicago in 1915.
Lucy grew close to the young Communist Party USA by 1925 and worked with the International Labor Defense (ILD), a Party-affiliated legal defense organization for political prisoners. Lucy Parsons was active in the fight for the freedom of framed labor activist Tom Mooney and to stop the “official lynching" of the Scottsboro Boys.
In 1939, Lucy Parsons joined the CPUSA and remained active until her death in a house fire in 1942 at the age of 89. Lucy Parsons library was confiscated from the charred house by the Chicago police and the FBI.