Charlotta Bass (1874-1969) was the first Black female newspaper owner-editor in the U.S. She published the California Eagle, the largest and oldest Black newspaper on the west coast from 1912-1951. Bass dedicated herself to combating racist images such as the 1915 film Birth of A Nation, police brutality and supporting the Scottsboro Boys in 1931. During the 1920s she was the co-president of the Los Angeles chapter of Garvey’s UNIA and founded the Industrial Business Council to counter racial employment discrimination. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, she encouraged Black businesses with the campaign known as “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work”.
Bass’ uncompromising stance against racial injustice resulted in her life being threatened on numerous occasions. She was branded a communist, and the FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that her paper was seditious.
In the 1940s, the Republican Party chose Bass as western regional director for Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign. Three years later, she became the first African-American grand jury member for the Los Angeles County Court. In the late 1940s, Bass left the Republican Party and joined the Progressive Party because she believed neither of the major parties was committed to civil rights.
Bass served in 1952 as the National Chairman of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice, an organization of Black women set up to protest racial violence in the South. That year, she was nominated for Vice-President of the United States by the Progressive Party. Bass became the first Black woman to run for Vice-President of the United States. Her platform called for civil rights, women’s rights, an end to the Korean War, and peace with the Soviet Union. Bass’s slogan during the vice presidential campaign was, “Win or lose, we win by raising the issues.”