June 8, 2011
Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett’s late father-in-law and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Vernon Jarrett, was a key member of the South Chicago communist left of the late 1940s.
After graduating from Knoxville College in Tennessee, Jarrett moved to Chicago in 1946 to work as a journalist. On his first day on the job at the radical Chicago Defender, he was sent to cover a race riot.
The Defender was heavily influenced by the Communist Party USA and included on its roster well known Chicago Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis.
Jarrett and Davis worked on the Defender around the same time. They certainly knew each other through the Communist Party and its fronts.
In June 1946, Vernon Jarrett was elected to the Illinois Council of the Communist Party’s youth wing, then known as American Youth for Democracy. This is according to Testimony of Walter S. Steele regarding Communist activities in the United States. Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, first session, on H. R. 1884 and H. R. 2122, pages 75,76. It is the first hard evidence tying Vernon Jarrett directly to the Communist Party. Frank Marshall Davis, incidentally, was an official sponsor of American Youth for Democracy, along with confirmed communists Howard Fast, Langston Hughes, John Howard Lawson and Dirk Struik.
In April 1948, Frank Marshall Davis and Vernon Jarrett were working together as members of the publicity committee of the communist controlled Citizens’ Committee to Aid Packing-House Workers.
Besides Davis and Jarrett, communist officials of the strike committee included Oscar Brown (Treasurer) , Louise Patterson (Assistant Treasurer) and Ishmael Flory (food & groceries committee).
Later that year, Frank Marshall Davis left Chicago for Hawaii to work on the Honolulu Record, then edited and run by Communist Party member Koji Ariyoshi.
A member of the “Dixie Mission” to Yenan, the HQ of the Chinese communist forces in the 1940s, Ariyoshi spent nearly two years in China as an officer of an all-Nisei psychological warfare unit. The unit’s job was to direct propaganda against the Japanese civilians and troops in China at the time.
Immediately after the war, Ariyoshi worked New York City with accused “Amerasia” spy John S. Service and Ed Rohrbough – who would become business manager of the Honolulu Record, in an effort to steer U.S. policy towards the Chinese Communists and against the Nationalists.
Ariyoshi also worked the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy, whose board included two people later arrested during the famous “Amerasia” spy case, “Amerasia editors Philip J. Jaffe and Kate L. Mitchell.
Frank Marshall Davis was an active member of the Communist Party in Hawaii, even after it went formally underground in 1950, when he assumed chairmanship of a tiny cell known as Group #10. Later Davis joined in the infiltration of the Hawaii Democratic Party, serving in 1950, as Assistant Secretary and Delegate to the Territorial Democratic Convention in his Precinct Club – Third Precinct of the Fifth District.
Davis was also later observed by the FBI on several occasions photographing remote shorelines and beachfronts, possibly for intelligence purposes. The FBI continued to monitor Davis into the 1960s and he was placed on the “Security Index.” This meant Davis was marked for immediate arrest should war break out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
While the Communist Party in Hawaii faded into the Democratic party and the International Longshore Workers Union, there is no evidence that Frank Marshall Davis ever stopped being a communist. As late as 1973, three years after Davis met and began mentoring the 10 year old Barack Obama, he was still listed as an endorser of one of the party’s oldest fronts, the Committee for Protection of Foreign Born.
Also in 1948, Vernon Jarrett left his job as journalist at the Chicago Defender to start a black oriented radio show “Negro Newsfront” with comrade Oscar Brown. He also went on to become the Chicago Tribune’s first black syndicated columnist and was a founder of the leftist National Association of Black Journalists.
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