Organize, Fight, Win

A lecture by Charisse Burden-Stelly about Black Communist Women's political writing


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Pedagogy
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Philadelphia Young Communist League, and Philly Socialists

Opens to public





Slought 4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Organize, Fight, Win," a lecture by Charisse Burden-Stelly about Black Communist Women's political writing, on Friday, October 14, 2022 from 5-6:30pm. This event is free and open to the public, and has been organized in partnership with the Philadelphia branch of the Young Communist League and Philly Socialists. Burden-Stelly will be introduced by Christopher R. Rogers, Program Director of the Paul Robeson House & Museum. Donations to these local organizations are encouraged.

Burden-Stelly is the editor, together with Jodi Dean, of the landmark collection Organize, Fight, Win—the first collection of the writing of Black communist women. The book explores how Black Communist women throughout the early to mid-twentieth century fought for and led mass campaigns in the service of building collective power in the fight for liberation. Through concrete materialist analysis of the conditions of Black workers, these women argued that racial and economic equality can only be achieved by overthrowing capitalism. The first collection of its kind, Organize, Fight, Win brings together three decades of Black Communist women's political writings. In doing so, it highlights the link between Communism and Black liberation. Likewise, it makes clear how Black women fundamentally shaped, and were shaped by, Communist praxis in the twentieth century. In Philadelphia, this tradition is exemplified by Black women Communists such as Elsie Dickerson and Debbie Bell.

Organize, Fight, Win includes writings from card-carrying Communists like Dorothy Burnham, Williana Burroughs, Grace P. Campbell, Alice Childress, Marvel Cooke, Esther Cooper Jackson, Thelma Dale Perkins, Vicki Garvin, Yvonne Gregory, Claudia Jones, Maude White Katz, and Louise Thompson Patterson, and writings by those who organized alongside the Communist Party, like Ella Baker, Charlotta Bass, Thyra Edwards, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dorothy Hunton.

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"In this brilliantly curated anthology, Burden-Stelly and Dean celebrate the voices of Black and communist women whose struggles against capitalism were confluential with their struggles against sexism and white supremacy. The thoughtful collection of articles, reports, proclamations, and personal reflections provides an invaluable glimpse of the essential political role that Black women played between 1919 and 1956, an era which encompassed the first Red Scare, the Great Depression, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the second Red Scare instigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph R. McCarthy. Organize, Fight, Win reminds us that anticommunism remains a key ideological bludgeon of American white supremacists to this day and provides relevant theoretical tools for continued resistance."

– Kristen Ghodsee, author of Red Valkyries: Feminist Lessons from Five Revolutionary Women

Charisse Burden-Stelly is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College. She is the author, with Gerald Horne, of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Life in American History.

Listen to "To Elevate the Level of Struggle," a podcast with Charisse Burden-Stelly & Jodi Dean on Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women's Political Writing (September 30, 2022)

"When one begins from the writings of Black communist women, one sees a Communist Party created at the branch and neighborhood level through local organizing that recognizes itself as part of an international struggle. The party is perpetually responding and changing, assessing its failures and bettering itself.

The caricature of an all-powerful political monolith falls away before the appreciation of a vibrant organizational ecosystem, with new organizations, conferences, and campaigns to bring more people into the struggle. The Black communist women of the early- to mid-twentieth century have a lot to teach the contemporary radical left about concrete, action-oriented, materialist analysis—and about organizing to fight, build, and win."

— Charisse Burden-Stelly & Jodi Dean, Boston Review