Interview describes the Communist Party in Harlem during the 1930s, including his involvement in Communist Party apparatus, personalities in the CP, relationships with other activist groups, and the CP's intellectual climate during the Great Depression.
Berry analyzes at length the relationship between Party policies on race and African American identity. This includes the initial appeal of the Communist Party for African Americans and the organizational implications of the CP policy of black and white unity. He also looks at how this policy fit into larger questions of African American national identity at time, including the CP's relationship with Garvey movement. He also speaks about the study of American history by African American CP leadership and the prevalent desire for assimilation. He also looks at the CP's broader policy towards a mass movement with an American identity, and he analyzes how Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies and CP policies worked together during the Depression.
Berry also shares his memories of Party administrators and figures in Harlem. These include Richard Moore, James Ford, Cyril Briggs, Arnold Johnson, Merrill Work, Charles White, and Manning Johnson, who later testified before HUAC. He also shares his recollections of the 1935 Harlem riot and subsequent hearings and Robert Minor's involvement in hearings.
Also included is an analysis of Richard Wright's work and commentary on the Party, including discussion of Native Son and The Outsider. Berry describes of meetings with Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Theodore Ward, in which they discussed literature, especially the use of symbols. He also describes the CP's attempts to control cultural criticism, and comments on Socialist realism and its divorce from reality. Berry also discusses the Party's acceptance of jazz and folk music, and speaks of the theoretical implications of improvisation in jazz music.
Berry also discusses the activities of the CP and its interactions with other organizations. This includes his activities and politics in Politburo in the late 1930s; analysis of the trade union caucuses, including Mike Quill and the TWU; the reactions to the Nazi-Soviet Pact; the foundation of the National Negro Congress; experiences working with Garvey movement; and the work of the Ethiopian Defense Committee in Harlem. Berry also describes the Party's working relationships with ministers, including Adam Clayton Powell (Baptist), Johnny Johnson (Episcopalian), Father Phillips (Episcopalian), William Lloyd Imes (Presbyterian), and Father Divine.
Other topics addressed include the CP education programs for members in Harlem, the high turnover among CP members, differences in debate of African-American self-determination in North and South of United States, the activities of the Workers' Alliance at the Home Relief Bureaus, Unemployed Councils, and interracial marriage in the Party.
Interview by Mark Naison.