LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles journalist and activist made history nearly 70 years ago as the first Black woman nominated for the United States vice president.
Charlotta Bass was the vice-presidential candidate for the Progressive Party during the 1952 presidential race.
"She was an activist and an organizer, and I think she took every opportunity and pursued every pathway to make [a] change and to seek justice," Dr. Regina Freer said. Freer is a political professor at Occidental College who's writing a book about Bass' life.
Bass first sought justice through journalism. In 1912 she became editor of the California Eagle, the premiere Black newspaper on the West Coast. She owned the building in Los Angeles, where the paper was published.
Bass was also a local activist who organized protests at police stations against police brutality and stood up against housing covenants that prohibited the selling of homes to Black people.
In Bass' autobiography, entitled, Forty Years: Memoirs From the Pages of A Newspaper, she talks about being the first Black juror in L.A. County.
Bass' work eventually led her to politics. First, she ran for L.A. City Council, which resulted in a runoff election. She didn't win. Later she ran for Congress focusing on issues including fair employment, civil rights, and peace.
During her political runs, she never ran away from her identity.
"She knew and talked about and understood that it was her blackness and womanhood and the intersection of those two that was very unique, and that was the platform from which she entered the political arena," Freer said.
Bass entered the biggest arena in 1952 as a vice presidential candidate to lawyer Vincent Hallinan, a candidate for the Progressive Party. They ran against Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
Freer said she believes Bass' address book is one big reason she was nominated for vice president. She was connected with political elites like W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson.
Bass campaigned for months across the country. She didn't win, but that wasn't the only goal. Her party slogan was 'Win or Lose: We win by raising the issues.'
"The two dominant parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, were really loathe to talk about racial issues, and the Progressive Party put them front and center," Freer said. "Their presence in the race meant that there was going to be at least some discourse."
Bass retired in Lake Elsinore after running for vice president and opened a reading room, a community library, and a gathering space in her home.
She married Joseph Bass and never had any children. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Los Angeles.