The African Blood Brotherhood (...for African Liberation and Redemption) was a radical black liberation organization with ties to the Communist Party. The group was the brainchild of Cyril Briggs, a West Indian-born radical of mixed racial parentage living in New York. Briggs was a staunch exponent of the theory of racial separatism who, after feeling his work had been censored at The Amsterdam New, quit and launched his own monthly magazine The Crusader in November 1918. The African Blood Brotherhood was launched shortly thereafter, early in 1919, beginning with about a score of activists in Harlem and gradually adding membership through the recruiting clout of the magazine, which had a peak circulation of 36,000.
The ABB was a propaganda organization built on the model of the secret fraternity, organized in "posts" with a centralized national organization based in New York City. The group's size has been variously estimated between 1,000 to Briggs' claim of "less than 3,000" members at its peak. In the words of historian Mark Solomon, Briggs' ABB "sought to draw together the themes of race patriotism, anticapitalism, anticolonialism, and organized defense against racist assault. The organization projected fraternity and benevolence, and even offered a program of calisthenics." [pp. 9-10]
The early ABB was an independent radical organization -- not an auxiliary of the Communist Party. That situation changed only in 1921, when Briggs was convinced by Rose Pastor Stokes tojoin the underground CPA, becoming the 3rd black member of that organization. The party sought to make the ABB into a vehicle for mass work among the black working class.
In June of 1921 The Crusader formally announced that it had become the official organ of the African Blood Brotherhood. With Communist Party funds tight in 1922 and Briggs' own financial situation no better, The Crusader was not long for the world, however; publication was terminated in February 1922. In the aftermath Briggs continued to operate the Crusader News Service, providing news material to affiliated publications of the American black press. Briggs later asserted that central to this decision was a desire to fight the ideology of Marcus Garvey and his "back to Africa" movement, which Briggs believed to be bourgeois.
Sometime during the early 1920s the African Black Brotherhood was dissolved, with many of its members merged into the regular Workers Party of America and later into the National Negro Labor College.
[fn. Barbara Bair, "The Crusader" in Buhle et al. (eds), Encyclopedia of the American Left, First Edition, pp. 170-171; Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity: Communists and Afrioan Americans, 1917-1936, chapters 1&2, passim.; Cyril Briggs, letter to Theodore Draper, Draper Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, box 38.]