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  Meeting set to celebrate life of SWP leader Clifton DeBerry
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ContributorThomas Walker 
Last EditedThomas Walker  Apr 07, 2006 01:19pm
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News DateFriday, April 7, 2006 07:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionSAN FRANCISCO—A meeting will be held here on April 29 to celebrate the life and political contributions of Clifton DeBerry, who died of heart failure March 24 in a hospital near his home in Union City, California. He was 82 years old.
DeBerry was a longtime leader of the Socialist Workers Party. As the party’s 1964 candidate for president of the United States, he was the first African American to be nominated and to run for that office.

A militant young worker in the l940s, DeBerry participated in union-organizing drives in the South and labor struggles in Chicago. While working at the International Harvester plant on Chicago’s west side, he became a figure in the Farm Equipment Workers union and joined the Communist Party. After breaking from the Stalinist movement, DeBerry joined the SWP in 1953. He was elected to the party’s National Committee in l957 and served on it and on the party’s Control Commission for 25 years.

Faced with mounting health problems, DeBerry dropped his membership in the party by the early 1990s, but remained a loyal supporter.

DeBerry participated in the rise of the civil rights movement, helping to organize a mass protest meeting in Chicago in response to the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi. During the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56, he worked with others to organize the Station Wagons to Montgomery Committee that raised funds to purchase vehicles for use by the boycotters.

As the SWP candidate for president, DeBerry supported the Freedom Now Party centered in Michigan, as an example of independent working-class political action in opposition to the Republican and Democratic parties. He lauded Malcolm X’s declaration in March 1964 that he would seek to develop, as the Militant reported, “black nationalist political strength and would actively support the civil-rights struggle.” DeBerry spoke out in defense of the Cuban Revolution, in support of African liberation struggles, and demanded with
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