July 9, 2017 marks 80 years since the death of Oliver Law, a communist, labor organizer and the first Black person in the United States to lead an integrated military force in the country’s history.
Having joined the U.S. Army prior, in 1919, it wouldn’t be till he long left it, that he would join the Communist Party in 1932.
His work with them, as well as his political activities through the International Labor Defense, kept cops constantly on his coattails. In once incident, the Chicago Police Red Squad severely assaulted him.
In another incident, Law was arrested while speaking at a demonstration in Chicago on August 31, 1935, against Italy's occupation of Ethiopia during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. He was involved with organizing mass protests against the occupation.
A year later, Law joined the joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the thousands of international volunteers that traveled to Spain to fight against Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco and the rise of the fascist Nationalists.
His name should be remembered: Oliver Law, fallen on this day in 1937, fighting in Spain. pic.twitter.com/r5NHVG3gJB— Nahia Sanzo (@nsanzo) July 9, 2017
Fighting alongside the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, which occurred between July 1936 and April 1939, Law was named commander of the entire Brigade for several days and commander of its Machine Gun regiment for much longer.
The Black communist fighter led the Brigade during the initial days of the Brunete offensive. But on the fourth day of the campaign, he was fatally wounded while leading his command in an assault on Mosquito Ridge.
Five decades after his death, Law's historic achievement was recognized when Chicago Mayor Harold Washington declared November 21, 1987 as "Oliver Law and Abraham Lincoln Brigade Day.”