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Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Bertha Weiss
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Bertha Weiss was born in 1907 in Poland. She came to the U.S. with her family, who were Jewish political refugees, in 1914. They settled in Minneapolis. While she was growing up, her father worked as a book binder, though after she graduated from North High School (1925), Frank and Rose Weiss opened up a grocery store. Bertha helped them in the grocery business as well as working in the needle trades. Ms. Weiss joined the Young Communist League while she was still in high school, and then the Communist Party. As a member of the united Garment Workers, she was a delegate to the Minneapolis Central Labor Union in the late 1920s, and later joined the International Workers Defense. In 1933 or 1934 she was expelled from the CP. About three years later she married, and she and her husband bought their own grocery store. Since her husband was African American, Ms. Weiss occupied a unique social niche between the Jewish and black communities. In 1946 the couple purchased land outside Crosby, Minnesota, and over the next few years built a resort there. During the winters they lived in Minneapolis, where Ms. Weiss worked as a tailor and then as an assistant to the editor of the Twin Cities Observer. Her husband ran his own construction business, later in partnership with their only son. The resort, Patton's, became a vacation spot for Twin Cities African Americans. At the time of the interview, Ms. Weiss was retired and living in Minneapolis. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Jewish radicals associated with the Morgen Freiheit in Minneapolis, and Jewish sympathizers with the Communist Party. Split in the CP which led to the formation of a Trotskyist group in Minneapolis, 1928-1929. Succession of CP district organizers for Minnesota, 1920s and 1930s. Activities of the International Labor Defense in Minneapolis, especially on behalf of the Scottsboro Boys. Memories of the radical Jewish community on the north side of Minneapolis, 1920s. Discrimination against African Americans in Minneapolis, 1930s. African Americans in the CP. Activities at the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House, 1930s. Employment opportunities for African Americans during the Second World War; efforts of the Urban League to find jobs; Federal Cartridge Corporation; activities of African American newspaper editors to find jobs for black workers. Memories of the Sumner Field Home Project. Relations between Jewish and African Americans on the north side, 1930s and 1940s. Activities of the Unemployed Councils: hunger marches, advocacy for people getting welfare. Expulsion from the Communist Party. Fears about the possible repercussions of her political activities on her son. Organizing for the Workers and Farmers Cooperative Unity Alliance on the Iron Range, 1930s. African Americans living in rural Minnesota, 1930s and 1940s. Resorts in the Crosby area, especially those run by African Americans, 1920s-1950s. Racism in rural Minnesota, 1940s. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Ms. Weiss requested that her birthname be used throughout, as she was still sensitive about her former membership in the Communist Party and the effect it could have on her son. The interview rambles somewhat towards the end. There is a lot of microphone noise on the tapes, and Ms. Weiss tapped emphatically and often, which makes the interview hard to hear. The spellings of quite a few names could not be verified for the transcript.
2 hours sound cassette
32 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
01:40:26 running time
Interviewee: Weiss, Bertha
Interviewer: Ross, Carl
Made in: Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 30 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.41 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'