Friday, January 27, 2012

Bill Mardo sportswriter dead at 88

Bill Mardo is not a household name. And certainly a forgotten figure in the fight for racial equality. He was a sports writer for 'The Daily Worker', the organ of the Communist Party USA. That alone should make him forgettable or infamous. And yet, from 1942 until the closing of the paper in 1968 he wrote a much read sports column. He joined Lester Rodney who broke ground as sports writer and editor in 1936.
Say what you will about the sins of CPUSA but you cannot deny that pioneering sports journalists like Rodney and Mardo fought racism in American sports, particularly baseball. They both championed integration of all white National and American League teams. And followed the career of Jackie Robinson.
After Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Mardo and Rodney publicly called on the owners of the 15 other teams in the two Leagues to sign up black players.
CPUSA has been accused of many things, some true, some not, but one thing is certain: it was in many respects in the vanguard for racial equality in Jim Crow America.
Consider the Scottsboro Boys case. A recent Broadway revival of Kander & Ebb's musical, opened to excellent reviews, and once more brought to the broad public's attention of the framing of nine black boys and young men accused of rape in 1931 Alabama by two white women, even though the women recanted. It was the involvement of the International Labor Defense that hired the left wing lawyer Samuel Leibowitz to defend them, at a time when the more mainstream civil rights organization hesitated. Only after ILD and Leibowitz managed to draw national and international attention to this miscarriage of justice, did the ACLU and NAACP join the battle. And yet in spite of it all, it wasn't until 1976 was the last Scottsboro Boy released from prison. The case shone the light of even the Supreme Court's upholding segregation in a ruling on whether the rights of the nine 'Boys' had been violated. It also, despite the snipping at the CPUSA, made more lustrous the party's unrelenting policy and struggle for racial justice and against the oppression of America's minorities.
No one has written a book about Mardo, but the late Irwin Silber wrote 'Press Box Red' about Lester Rodney.
GuamDiary encourages the reading of Silber's book, so that a little known but important slice of the fight for racial justice and equality by CPUSA and its newspaper wont be entirely forgotten.

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