Norman Thomas is Egged, 1938

On June 4, 1938, a mob of over 200 people attacked Norman Thomas at a Socialist rally in Jersey City. Today largely forgotten, in his day, Thomas was largely maligned for his staunch social views. He was a frequent candidate on the Socialist ticket, running for Governor of New York in 1924, for Mayor of New York in 1925, for New York State Senate in 1926, for Alderman in 1927 and for Mayor of New York again in 1929. In 1934, he ran for the US Senate in New York and polled almost 200,000 votes, then the second best result for a Socialist candidate in New York state elections. He would be six-time presidential nominee of the Socialist Party.

Often banned from public platforms, Thomas was at various times egged, teargassed, and even kidnapped and deported whenever he tried to speak. However, no public outcry was as fierce as the one he received in Jersey city on that June 4th. Banners read, “The Working People of Our City Are Contented–Reds keep out.” He had barely uttered a dozen words when a mob of 200-people plus 30-man band stormed the gathering. Eggs and vegetables were tossed at Thomas. As several eggs hit Thomas simultaneously, freelance photographer Ralph Morgan took this picture, which was widely published in many newspapers of the day.

Although the Socialist Party declined, Thomas himself remained a forceful crusader for social and economic justice, supporting workers’ strikes, fighting the Ku Klux Klan, police brutality, fascists and corruption, and founding the Keep America Out of War Committee. He was one of the few public figures to oppose President Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor, even accusing the ACLU of “dereliction of duty” when the organization supported the internment. Thomas said of his own activism, “I am not the champion of lost causes, but the champion of causes not yet won.”

 

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