The Communist Mentor: Frank Marshall Davis

Were it not for the collective willful amnesia on the part of academia and the media regarding communist subversion in the United States, would Barack Obama be in the White House today?

The question comes to mind when reading Paul Kengor’s intriguing political mystery tale about “Frank,” Obama’s much-admired mentor in Dreams from My Father. His identity has been established as Frank Marshall Davis (by biographers sympathetic to Obama). In The Communist, Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, Kengor presents a gripping narrative about a man who represents an ignored part of American history: the exploitation of African Americans by the Soviet Union for subversive purposes.

The communists’ campaign began in the 1920s. Then, the Comintern was preparing to bring a dozen black Americans to Moscow for training in propaganda and agitation for a separate “Negro Republic” in the South (that would then join a workers’ uprising in the North). Among the dupes: Paul Robeson, who went on to fame and fortune as a result; Richard Wright, who went on to repudiate communism; and Lovett Fort-Whiteman, who was among the dozen who moved to the USSR in 1930 and who perished in the gulag after daring to object to being kept from returning to the United States.

The other ignored history is that of Barack Obama, who before he even held elective office provided an autobiography with the mystery man “Frank.” When Frank Marshall Davis’s FBI file was obtained and posted online by investigative journalist Cliff Kincaid, the mainstream media ignored it. In May 2008, when Kincaid held a press conference releasing a report on Davis coauthored with Herb Romerstein, they were mocked by Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. As the 2008 campaign season geared up, reporters for AP, the Washington Post, and Newsweek ignored the evidence about Davis’s communism, even as they wrote profiles of the mentor.

But we need go back only one generation to see the influence of card-carrying Communists spread wide. Davis’s close associates included the father-in-law of Valerie Jarrett, and the father of David Axelrod’s mentor. After Davis moved to Chicago in 1934 and began writing for the Associated Negro Press, he met Robert Taylor, maternal grandfather of Valerie Jarrett. (Davis officially joined the Communist Party USA during World War II.) In 1948, he worked with Valerie’s future father-in-law, someone who had been involved in communist activities since at least his election to the Illinois CPUSA youth wing. Davis and Vernon Jarrett worked together on the Packing-House Committee, a communist group.