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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Black newspaper publisher called a subversive, 1963


Notes from the political fringe on EBay. 

California Eagle publisher Charlotta Bass appears on a list of 'people who are against the John Birch Society and other patriotic organizations.'

Kangaroo_court_crop_2I'm always looking for historic material on the African American papers in Los Angeles, and that includes items on Bass, especially a copy of her book "Forty Years: Memoirs From the Pages of a Newspaper."

Her name rarely pops up on EBay, but I'm patient and sometimes I'm rewarded. Imagine my surprise, however, when this little item became available. A.J. MacDonald's "Kangaroo Court Versus the John Birch Society" was published in 1963 as a response to Mike Newberry's 1961 "The Fascist Revival ... the Inside Story of the John Birch Society."

After 40 years of journalism in Los Angeles, Bass went into politics and was the vice presidential candidate on the Progressive ticket in 1952. The Times did not publish her obituary after she died April 12, 1969.

MacDonald's list of subversives includes Gus Hall, Dalton Trumbo, Paul Robeson, Alger Hiss, Harry Bridges, Victor Perlo, Dorothy Ray Healey and Jack Stachel.

MacDonald apparently operated out of Los Angeles. His biography says he was a fundraiser for Pat Brown. Otherwise, there is little information about him.

The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research has more information on Bass. Photographs from the California Eagle are at USC. An index of her papers is here.


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Comments (1)

A.J. MACDONALD was a conservative Democrat who was born in Malden MA in 1910 and died in October 1993 in Los Angeles.

He founded Citizens United For America and edited its newsletter, Americans on Guard.

He also was Executive Director of the Motion Picture Alliance For The Preservation of American Freedoms as well as Executive Director of Silent Guardians, Inc. -- which was a group of former FBI informants who spoke before groups about the dangers of Communist infiltration into society. The roster of speakers included Virgil and Moiselle Clinger, Julia C. Brown, and Karl Prussion.

The FBI file on Charlotta Bass includes the following observations:

“Mrs. Charlotta A. Bass for some years has been editor and publisher of the ‘California Eagle’ which has been assisted financially over a period of time by the Communist Party. Although our investigation has never definitely established Bass as being a member of the CP, her newspaper has consistently followed the CP line."

"Bass in he past has been identified as associating with many top-ranking members of the CP in the Los Angeles area and also our investigation has shown that she has been active in the following Communist front groups all of which have been cited by the Attorney General.” (8 orgs listed in memo).

Memo, pg 2, notes that Bass was on the FBI's Security Index which was comprised of individuals thought to be such a security concern that they were scheduled for detention during time of national emergency.
[HQ main file 100-297187, serial #28 (F.J. Baumgardner to Alan Belmont.]

Former FBI security informant, Julia Brown, who infiltrated the Communist Party at the request of the FBI, stated that Bass had been introduced to her as a Communist when Bass ran for Vice President in 1952 on the Progressive Party ticket. Bass denied it and called Brown a liar.


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