Places that Matter

Finnish Progressive Society Hall (now Pilgrim Cathedral of Harlem)

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HIstoric
HIstoric
Martha Cooper
Site of an important Communist party event
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Place Matters Profile

In 1922 the Finnish Progressive Society built its social and political hall here. By the 1930s the Finns had the largest percentage of Communist Party members of any ethnic group in the country, and their hall was at the center of a key political event. In 1931 Party Unit Leader and janitor August Yokinen was "tried" by the Community Party for white chauvinism for his refusal to allow blacks entry at a Finnish Workers Club dance here. At a mock trial before an audience of thousands at the Harlem Casino, he was expelled from the Party despite pleas by his "attorney" that "a verdict of expulsion in disgrace from the Communist Party is considered by a class conscious worker worse than death at the hands of the bourgeois oppressors." Before he could redeem himself, Yokinen was deported by federal authorities as an undesirable alien.