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V. J. Jerome portrait

Born in a Polish ghetto, Victor Jeremy Jerome subsequently moved to London and from there came to New York. He joined the Communist Party in 1927 and in 1937 he became chairman of the U.S. Communist Party’s Cultural Commission and also began editing The Communist, which later became Political Affairs, the party's chief political journal. Arrested under the highly controversial Smith Act in 1951, he was convicted—on the inappropriate basis of his critical writings—of conspiracy to advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and served three years in prison. "A Negro Mother to Her Child" was first published in The Daily Worker (November 15, 1930). An illustrated version appeared in The Rebel Poet in 1932 and the poem was set to music shortly thereafter. Jerome's interest in race in America would continue throughout his life, as exemplified by his poems "To a Black Man" (1932) and "Caliban Speaks" (1953), the latter inspired by the death of the black actor Canada Lee, and his pamphlet The Negro in Hollywood (1950). A Lantern for Jeremy (1952) is a fictionalized account of his childhood in Poland.