Ms Jones did well I school, earning the Good Citizenship award in Junior High, but was frequently ill. At 17 she suffered a terrible bout of tuberculosis, forcing her to leave Wadleigh High School and leaving her with a lifetime of weak, susceptible lungs and heart disease. She finally graduated in 1935 and went to work in a laundry but began writing, publishing a column in a Harlem-based newspaper entitled “Claudia’s Comments”.
Ms Jones was politically aware from an early age and in around 1936 when her mother passed away, in part due to the terrible conditions she worked in, Ms Jones joining the American Communist Party. This was a way of becoming active in the fight for equality as at the time the ACP was the only party advocating for this.
Ms Jones edited the ACP newspaper section devoted to race issues and spoke on civil liberties around the country. After completing a six-month training course organised by the Young Communist League she was elected to the National Council of the YCL. By 1938 she was editing the ACP’s Weekly Review paper and aged 25 she became Director of the YCL. During the War the YCL changed its name to the American Youth for Democracy and Ms Jones served as the editor of the monthly journal “Spotlight”.
Ms Jones was reportedly married to Albraham Scholnick from 1940 to 1947 but had no children, and towards the end of her life was in a relationship with Abhi- manyu Manchanda. Very little is written about her personal life. In 1942 the FBI started surveillance and a file on her, reaching over a thousand pages in two volumes. This research is now a valued resource for biographical information.
Ms Jones’ most well known piece “An End To the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman” was published in 1949 in the Political Affairs magazine of the ACP; now hailed as one of the first iterations of intersectional ideology. In 1953 she took over the editorship of Negro Affairs, which was devoted to race and equality.
Membership of the Communist Party was deemed a politically radical move in 1950s USA and following several short terms in prison and a year spent at Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women, all sentences for convictions regarding political activity. She suffered further ill-health in prison, having her first heart attack in 1951 whilst inside and being diagnosed with hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Although sentenced to deportation in December 1951, Ms Jones was not actually deported until 7 December 1955 for ‘Un-American Activities’ and for being an alien who was an avowed member of the Communist Party.. She was rejected by Trinidad as a potential liability to the Trinidadian government and eventually gained asylum on humanitarian in Britain as Trinidad was at the time still a British colony. It was only upon confirmation of this asylum that Ms Jones ceased fighting the deportation order.
Ms Jones continued to speak at events across the globe as well as around Britain but chose not join the British Communist Party due to a culture of prejudice within it. She did however retain affiliations with Black members of the BCP. Instead, Ms Jones focused her attention on civil rights and racism and joined the West Indian Forum and Committee on Racism and International Affairs. Works for Caribbean Labour Congress and helped edit the Caribbean News. In 1958 she founded and edited “The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News”, which became a focus for the fight for equal rights.
1958 was the year of the Notting Hill (a suburb of London) Riots and Robin Hood Lane Nottingham Riots, which were a result of the increasing intensity of racist attacks suffered by the Black community combined with lack of action by the authorities. There were no laws in the UK to specifically deal with racially based crime at the time, and discrimination was rife throughout housing and employment. Six months later a racist murder of a young Black carpenter named Kelso Cochrane in London looked like it may ignite the situation again. As a result, tensions were very high, and Ms Jones wanted to help address the negativity, racism and oppression suffered, and empower and celebrate Afrocaribbean culture. She had been approached by many community leaders in this regard, and collectively they also wished to promote cultural diversity and bridge-building between cultures. To do this, in 1959 she co-founded the Mardi Gras, a precursor to the internationally renowned Notting Hill Carnival which still goes on annually to this day attracting millions of party-goers.
In the early 1960s Ms Jones helped organise campaigns against the Immigration Act, which specifically regulated immigration into the UK on a skin colour basis amongst other regulations. She was also active in the campaign to free Nelson Mandela from his politically-motivated imprisonment on Robben Island in South Africa.
Ms Jones continued writing, lecturing and being politically active, passing away from a heart attack on 25 December 1964, aged only 49. Sadly her paper folded 8 months later. She is buried next to the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery, London, England.
Blog by Tina Price-Johnson