George Padmore

Malcolm Nurse (later known as George Padmore) was born in Arouca, Trinidad, in 1902. His grandfather was a slave and his father was a schoolteacher. As a young man Padmore met C. L. R. James and the two men became close friends.

Padmore worked as reporter in Trinidad before moving to the United States in 1924 to study sociology in New York. He joined the American Communist Party and provided articles for the Daily Worker.

In 1929 Padmore went to the Soviet Union where he became head of the Negro Bureau of the Red International of Labour Unions. The following year he helped organize the first International Conference of Negro Workers. In 1933 the Soviet Union dissolved the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers. When Padmore complained about this action he was expelled from the Comintern and denounced as a nationalist.

Padmore now moved to London and found work as a journalist. He joined the No More War Movement and associated with members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and wrote for its weekly newspaper, the New Leader. He also wrote for other left-wing publications such as Tribune and the Socialist Leader. He also wrote How Britain Rules Africa (1936) and Africa and World Peace (1937).

After the war Padmore worked as Kwame Nkrumah's personal representative. George Padmore died in 1959.

Primary Sources

(1) C. L. R. James, Notes on the Life of George Padmore (1959)

Padmore first went to Fisk University and later to Howard, the black university in Washington D.C. By this time he had become a militant revolutionary. One day Esme Howard, the British Ambassador, was due to pay a visit to Howard University. In those days that was a great event and the black professors prepared a distinguished welcome for their visitor. Padmore, however, had had printed a set of leaflets which described in fierce terms the oppression of British imperialism in Africa. When the procession of dignitaries appeared, he suddenly stepped out from among the students and threw the leaflets in front of the British Ambassador, some say into his face. Padmore was not expelled as one would expect, but he abandoned his academic career and he next appeared as a paid functionary in the American Communist Party.

George adopted the Communist doctrine completely and became very expert in it. People who knew him then agree that he was a great militant - active, devoted and fearless. The complaint of George, and most of the other blacks in the Communist Party, was that the leaders never understood that the Negro question had racial connotations which demanded special consideration by a political organization - however much this organization might aim to work for the equality of all mankind. This was the problem which formed the axis of George's career as a Marxist. Nevertheless, whatever the doubts were about George's strict Communist orthodoxy on the Negro question, by 1930 he was created head of the Negro department of the Profintern, with his headquarters in the Kremlin. He held that post until 1935, and if he had done nothing else his place in black history would still be safe.