Howard Zinn, Art Shields, Black Antifascism: ALBA Events Draw Crowds

February 24, 2024

Shields’ two-volume autobiography

ALBA Features Art Shields, Labor Reporter & Activist

On January 25, ALBA’s Nancy Wallach and Josie Yurek, along with Richard Bermack, hosted a widely attended online event on Art Shields (1888-1988), a labor reporter for the Daily Worker who was in Madrid in 1939 to cover the last stand of the Spanish Republic when he was arrested and jailed by the Franco forces. You can see a recording of the event here.


Langston Hughes (l.) and Crawford Morgan [with bandaged hand] at Fuentes de Ebro, Oct. 1937 (Tamiment Library, NYU, 15th IB Photo Collection, Photo #11-1347).

Black Antifascism in Spain and Beyond

On February 26, four scholars shared recent research on the history of Black antifascism—and the crucial experience of Black volunteers in Spain—in an online roundtable, followed by a lively Q&A with Jeanelle Hope and Bill Mullen, whose book The Black Antifascist Tradition: Fighting Back From Anti-Lynching to Abolition is forthcoming with Haymarket; Ariel Mae Lambe, whose book No Barrier Can Contain It talks about Cuban antifascism and the war in Spain; and Anna Duensing, who is working on a book on the Black antifascist tradition in the civil rights movement. You can see a recording of the event here.

ALBA at the Howard Zinn Book Fair

The SF Bay Area ALBA post screened The Eyes of the World Were on Madrid at the Howard Zinn Book Fair at San Francisco City College Mission Campus on December 3. Several people in the audience sang along with the Spanish Civil War songs based on performances at Lincoln Brigade reunions. After the film, Richard Bermack began a discussion by reciting the lyrics to “Taste of Ashes,” Bruce Barthol’s haunting Spanish Civil War ballad. An emotion-filled Peter Carroll described it as one of Bruce’s best compositions, recalling memories of Bruce and his contributions to keeping the legacy of the Lincoln Vets alive.

Randy Craig followed, recalling his work with Bruce and stating that Bruce will be remembered as a keeper of the flame. Randy also talked about his own work performing the SCW songs and the strength and empowerment he gets singing them. Joan Keller, who was Bruce’s partner and is the daughter of vets Ruth Davidow and Freddie Keller, also praised the power of “Taste of Ashes.”

Donna Southard, who teaches Spanish at UC Berkeley, shared information about the plaque honoring Robert Merriman, a graduate student at Cal who became a commander of the Lincoln Brigade and an officer of the 15th International Brigade. Merriman died in Spain. Hemingway credits him as one of the inspirations for Robert Jordan, the hero of For Whom the Bell Tolls. The plaque was created by the DIDPatri group at the University of Barcelona and will be installed on the UCB campus.

Bruce Barthol. Photo Richard Bermack.

Sidney Gurewitz, daughter of Helen Sobel, described another plaque to a relative of hers who fought in Spain. Chilean Ernesto Viscarra thanked Archie Brown and other Lincoln Brigade members of the ILWU for their stands against the US backed coup in Chile and for their opposition to the contras war against Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The ALBA group also had a book table at the event. Peter Carroll displayed a galley proof of his new book of poems, Sketches from Spain, comprised of profiles of Lincoln Brigade vets. The table also featured Judith Berlowitz’s novel, Home So Far Away, about a German Jewish woman who is in Spain working as a chemistry lab technician when she volunteers in the Spanish Civil War as a nurse and translator.