Timeline Capsule
Time Capsule Details | BeingBlackToday.com
New York

Williana "Liane" Burroughs
Communist Political Activist
Teacher, Politician
1882 - 1945
1st Woman to Run for Elective Office in New York

Early Life
Williana Jones was born on January 2, 1882, in Petersburg, Virginia.  He mother was born a slave and freed at the age of 16, her father died when Williana was four years old.  He mother moved her family from Viginia to New York City, a haven for many freed slaves, and worked as a cook.  However, Williana and her two siblings spent the next six years of their lives in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Harlem, until their mother came for them.

She attended New York public schools and attended New York City Normal College (Hunter College), where she received her teaching credentials.  At the age of 28, she started her first teaching position, teaching first grade.

1926 Political Career
Workers Communist Party
and then to Soviet Union
Nearing her mid-40s, Willian Burroughs joined the Workers Party.  Around 1931, she became active in the campaigns for defense of the Scottsboro boys, which the Communist Party USA helped in gaining an appeal.  She was also chairman of the Blumberg Defense Council, an organization formed to defend Isidore Blumberg, a teacher removed from the New York public schools systems due to his political views.

The Communist Party sent Burroughs to the 6th World Congress of the Communist International in Moscow in the summer of 1928 as a representative of the American Negro Labor Congress, a Communist Party auxiliary group. Burroughs traveled with her husband and her two youngest sons to the convention, with the boys remaining in the Soviet Union to attend school thereafter. Burroughs would not be reunited with them until 1937.  She became prominent within the party organization and was selected as an alternate delegate to the 6th National Convention of the Communist Party USA in March 1929.

1931 Leaves Soviet Union
for the United States
In January 1931, Burroughs returned to the United States from the Soviet Union, resuming her teaching career.  In 1933 Burroughs spoke out at a meeting of the New York City Board of Education, and in June 1933 Burroughs was dismissed from her post for "conduct unbecoming to a teacher and prejudicial to law and order.

1933 Candidate for
New York Comptroller
1934 Candidate for
Lieutenant Governor
After loss of her teaching position, Burroughs was the Communist Party's candidate for New York Comptroller in the fall of 1933 and the Communist Party's candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1934. She also ran the Harlem Worker's School from 1933 to 1934.

1937 Returns to Soviet Union
Works as Announcer for
Radio Moscow
She returned to the Soviet Union in the spring of 1937, the year of the Great Terror, where she worked as an announcer and editor for the English-language broadcasts of Radio Moscow, the international shortwave news service of the Soviet government.  Burroughs remained in Moscow for virtually the rest of her life. In the spring of 1940 she made a request to return to the United States together with her sons but was persuaded to stay. The war intervened and Burroughs and her sons remained in Moscow until 1945, when she finally managed to return to New York with the younger boy.

1961 DuSable Museum of
African American History


Margaret Burroughs

Her eldest son, Charles Burroughs, who had remained in Moscow, and his wife, Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, of which he remained curator until 1980.  A Chicago high school is named after him.

DuSable Museum
Documentary (26:37)