Screenshot_2016-01-20-01-59-54-1This Woman! Vicki Ama Garvin (1915-2007) was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in a working class family in Harlem. pan-africanist, internationalist, who lived and worked in both Ghana and China during the revolutionary period of the 1960s. Garvin made her transition in June of 2007. She joined the Communist Party in 1947. [1] In the 1950s she worked as vice president of the National Negro Labor Council and as executive secretary in the council’s New York chapter. She moved to Africa in the late 1950s, and while there helped organize Malcolm X’s itinerary while he was in Ghana.

Vicki traveled to Africa in the late 1950s, worked in Nigeria, and then went to Ghana, where she worked closely with Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and Shirley Graham DuBois, Alphaeus and Dorothy Hunton, and others on the African Encyclopedia and anti-colonialist efforts. In Ghana she lived with Maya Angelou and Alice Windom. When Malcolm X, whom she had known in Harlem, visited Africa, Vicki introduced Malcolm to the ambassadors from China, Cuba, and Algeria whom she knew from teaching English at their embassies. Using her French language skills, she interpreted for his meeting with the Algerians.

In 1964 Vicki was invited to China by the Chinese ambassador. Both Malcolm X and Dr. DuBois encouraged her to go. She taught English for six years in Shanghai. She became close friends with many of her young students and kept in touch with them over the years. In China, she also became close to then political exiles Robert F. Williams and Mabel Williams. When Mao Tse-Tung issued his proclamation in support of the Afro-American movement in 1968, Vicki made a speech about the statement to a rally of millions. Also in China she met and married Leibel Bergman in a Red Guard ceremony during the early days of the Cultural Revolution, and became a loving stepmother to his daughter and two sons.

In speeches made just before her serious health decline, Vicki urged the younger generations forward. She wrote: “ Of course there will be twists and turns, but victory in the race belongs to the long distance runners, not sprinters ” -Vicki Ama Garvin

. Her mother was a domestic in rich white homes; her father a plasterer who often was unemployed due to racism in construction unions. Vicki spent her summers working in the garment industry to supplement her family’s income.

From high school on, she became active in Black protest politics, supporting efforts by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to obtain better paying jobs for African-Americans in Harlem and creating Black history clubs dedicated to building library resources. After earning her B.A. in political science from Hunter College, she became the first African-American woman to earn a Master’s degree in Economics from Smith College, and did graduate work in French literature. She spent World War II working for the National War Labor Board in New York, organizing a union there and serving as its President. When the wartime agencies ended, she became National Research Director of the United Office and Professional Workers of America and co-chair of its Fair Employment Practices Committee. During the postwar purges of the Left in the CIO, she was a strong voice of protest and a sharp critic of the CIO’s failure to organize in the South.

She was married briefly to a trade union organizer, and although they divorced, she kept his last name. In 1951 she took part in the formation of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), and became a national Vice President and Executive Secretary of the New York City chapter. With the NNLC, she worked closely with Coleman Young, later Mayor of Cleveland, and she organized cultural programs featuring Paul Robeson, then under persecution. He was a close friend until his death. In 1955, under pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee and other repression, the NCLC disbanded.

On their return to the U.S, they lived in Newark, where Vicki was Director of the Tri-City Citizen’s Union, a community organization for children and teenagers. In Manhattan, Vicki worked for four years as Area Leader for Community Interaction at the Center for Community Health Systems of the Faculty of Medicine of Columbia University. Later they moved to Chicago, but when the marriage ended Vicki returned to her parent’s home in Brooklyn and cared for them until their deaths.

She remained active in political and international circles, traveling back to China several times, and making many trips to Africa and the Caribbean, often with her dear friend Adelaide Simms. She was an active supporter of many organizations, including: Sisters Against South African Apartheid/Sisters to Assist South Africa (SASAA); the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP); Black Workers for Justice; and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Vicki spoke at community events and joined rallies in support of Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners. She was recognized by many organizations as an “honored elder” for her contributions to the freedom struggle of her people and the world’s peoples.