"Negroes in Spain," from The Volunteer for Liberty (1937)

In July, on the boat with me coming from New York, there was a Negro from the far West on his way to Spain as a member of the 9th Ambulance Corps of the American Medical Bureau. He was one of a dozen in his unit of American doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers offering their services to Spanish Democracy.

When I reached Barcelona a few weeks later, in time for my first air-raid and the sound of bombs falling on a big city, on of the first people I met was a young Porto Rican of color acting as interpreter for the Loyalist troops.

A few days later in Valencia, I came across two intelligent, young colored men from the West Indies, aviators, who had come to give their services to the fight against Fascism.


And now, in Madrid, Spain's besieged capital, I've met wide-awake Negroes from various parts of the world -- New York, our Middle West, the French West Indies, Cuba, Africa -- some stationed here, others on leave from their battalions -- all of them here because they know that if Fascism creeps across Spain, across Europe, and then across the world, there will be no more place for intelligent young Negroes at all. In fact, no decent place for any Negroes -- because Fascism preaches the creed of Nordic supremacy and a world for whites alone.

In Spain, there is no color prejudice. Here in Madrid, heroic and bravest of cities, Madrid where the shells of Franco plow through the roof-tops at night, Madrid where you can take a street car to the trenches, this Madrid whose defense lovers of freedom and democracy all over the world have sent food and money and men -- here to this Madrid have come Negroes from all the world to offer their help.


On the opposite side of the trenches with Franco, in the company of the professional soldiers of Germany, and the illiterate troops of Italy, are the deluded and drive Moors of North Africa. An oppressed colonial people of color being used by Fascism to make a colony of Spain. And they are being used ruthlessly, without pity. Young boys, mean from the desert, old men, and even women, compose the Moorish hordes brought by the reactionaries from Africa to Europe in their attempt to crush the Spanish people.

I did not know about the Moorish women until, a few days ago I went to visit a prison hospital here in Madrid filled with wounded prisoners. There were German aviators that bombarded the peaceful village of Colmenar Viejo and machine-gunned helpless women as they fled along the road. One of these aviators spoke English. I asked him why he fired on women and children. He said he was a professional soldier who did what he was told. In another ward, there were Italians who joined the invasion of Spain because they had no jobs at home.


But of all the prisoners, I was most interested in the Moors, who are my own color. Some of them, convalescent, in their white wrappings and their bandages, moved silently like dark shadows down the hall. Other lay quietly suffering in their beds. It was difficult to carry on any sort of conversation with them because they spoke little or no Spanish. But finally, we came across a small boy who had been wounded at the battle of Brunete -- he looked to be a child of ten or eleven, a bright smiling child who spoke some Spanish.

"Where did you come from?", I said.

He named a town I could not understand in Morocco.

"And how old are you?"

"Thirteen," he said.

"And how did you happen to be fighting in Spain?"


Then I learned from this child that Franco had brought Moorish women into Spain as well as men -- women to wash and cook for the troops.

"What happened to your mother", I said.

The child closed his eyes. "She was killed at Brunete," he answered slowly.

Thus the Moors die in Spain, men, women, and children, victims of Fascism, fighting not for freedom -- but against freedom -- under a banner that holds only terror and segregation for all the darker peoples of the earth.

A great many Negroes know better. Someday the Moors will know better, too. All the Franco's in the world cannot blow out the light of human freedom.

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