Notes: An indictment of white supremacy and discrimination adapted from the closing remarks of the African American attorney George W. Crockett Jr. during a notorious trial that convicted eleven members of the Communist Party of seeking the violent overthrow of the US government. This pamphlet also includes Crockett's impromptu speech given when the judge in the case sentenced him to four months in prison for contempt immediately after the jury verdict was read.
Crockett (1909–1997) had been the first Black attorney in the US Department of Labor in the 1930s, and he worked for the United Auto Workers Union in the early 1940s, before becoming a founding partner at the first integrated law firm. He gained national prominence as one of five attorneys defending Communist leaders charged with violations of the Smith Act; their nine-month trial was at the time the longest ever in federal court. All of the defense attorneys were—without warning—sentenced to jail for contempt immediately after the trial. After his release, Crockett continued to work as a lawyer. He was elected judge in 1965 and then to Congress representing Michigan in 1980.
In this excerpt from his closing remarks, Crockett addresses the prosecution's contention that the Communist Party had been "using" African Americans and exploiting their "grievances" to undermine America. Crockett pulled no punches: "The whole notion of using Negroes is part and parcel of that white supremacy which seemingly is running roughshod over this country... I resent anyone referring to the problems faced by Negroes in this country today as simply grievances, as though you stepped on someone's toe... Is that all the significance the prosecution attaches to the denial of eight million Negroes of the right to vote simply because they happen to have black skin?"
He continues the argument, calling attention to his unusual role in the trial (which featured two Black defendants): "In this day and time it is still considered unusual that I, a Negro, should be representing two white defendants in a federal court. And of course, you and I know that it is the general practice in our American courts not to have Negro lawyers in important cases like this."
When he was sentenced to jail for contempt with all the other lawyers in the case, Crockett managed to find a ray of hope in his response: "For the first time in the 15 years that I have been practicing law I have had the opportunity to practice as an American lawyer and not as a Negro lawyer. I have enjoyed that brief trip into the realm of freedom... There have been similar instances in history, especially in connection with trials under the Alien and Sedition Laws, where judges have seen fit to imprison attorneys... but history has revealed that the attorneys in those cases were correct."
Edition + Condition: First edition. A fine copy in stapled wrappers. With a printed letter from Howard Fast, the treasurer of the publisher, transmitting the pamphlet and encouraging donations to the defense team.
Publication: New York: National Non-partisan Committee to Defend the Rights of the 12 Communist Leaders, .
Item No: #361015