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"Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism," or the Odyssey of Earl Browder

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Laura Browder

Laura Browder

Author, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University

Earl Browder was the head of the American Communist Party during its most influential period—the great Depression. He coined the slogan “Communism is 20th-century Americanism.” He ran for president twice against Roosevelt and appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1938. In 1946, on Stalin’s orders, he was expelled from the Communist Party for revisionism. During all of those years, he was tracked by both the FBI and the KGB, and in the mid-1990s, the VENONA project was published—a series of KGB cables that named my grandfather as a Soviet spy.

If the CPUSA is essentially irrelevant today, the experience of a political radical, hounded by a national security state, is very relevant in light of the Patriot Act and other forms of increased state surveillance of political dissidents. Browder’s life epitomizes like few others how it is to be a radical in the USA. Earl Browder lived a transnational life, moving back and forth among three continents in an attempt to build a radical movement that would be both truly international and authentically American. He sought, through his activism, to redefine ”American.”


Laura Browder is the Tyler and Alice Haynes Professor of American Studies at the University of Richmond and is the executive producer of the PBS documentary The Reconstruction of Asa Carter, based on her book Slippery Characters:  Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities. She is currently working on a biography of her grandfather, entitled Patriot: The Lives of Earl Browder. Her most recent book, based on the traveling exhibit of the same name, is When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans, with photographs by Sascha Pflaeging, for which she interviewed 52 women from all branches of the military.

Assigned Reading

Laura Browder, Rousing the Nation: Radical Culture in Depression America (University of Massachusetts Press, 1998)


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

Laura Browder event poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public