Black Activism in the Red Party
In 1933, the Cuban Communist Party experienced a change in leadership from the white poet and lawyer Rubén Martínez Villena to a black former shoe repairman from Manzanillo, Blas Roca. This shift marked the beginning of a new era in Cuban politics. This thesis argues that the Communist Party was an unparalleled space for black political activism in Cuba’s late republic period due to the unique convergence of black actors within its ranks. The Party reflected a singular intersection of labor leaders, members of black fraternal organizations, and black intelligencia. This group of black political actors fought for an end to racial discrimination throughout the history of the Party and successfully reintroduced a public engagement with race in Cuban political rhetoric during the 1940 Constitutional Assembly. Unlike other contemporary political parties, the Communist Party created a space for simultaneous expressions of blackness and Cubanness that drew black Cubans into its ranks. The Party’s decades long struggle for anti-discrimination legislation ultimately failed, but their prolonged struggle for greater equity on the island disrupted domestic politics and distinguished the Cuban Party from other contemporary Communist parties.