Vito Marcantonio (1902-1954), American radical congressman, New York City lawyer and politician, was a protege of Fiorello H. LaGuardia in whose law firm he became a law clerk. He made his political debut in 1924 when he managed LaGuardia's campaign for reelection to Congress. In 1934, after LaGuardia became Mayor of New York, Marcantonio ran successfully as a Republican for LaGuardia's East Harlem seat in Congress, a constituency he would represent for seven terms, six of them consecutively. Bulk of the papers reflects Marcantonio's activities as a lawyer and congressman and includes correspondence, 1935-1956, with relatives, friends, law associates, and congressional colleagues; correspondence and papers, 1935-1951, relating to constituency matters, congressional committees, and sponsorship of various bills; correspondence and papers relating to various subjects such as the American Labor Party, civil liberties, international relations, Puerto Rico, veterans' affairs, labor and labor unions, housing, and welfare projects; research files on subjects of interest to Marcantonio such as the Spanish Civil War, anti-fascism, etc.; papers relating to election campaigns; office card files; and photographs of Marcantonio, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, East Harlem community activities, motion picture promoting Henry Wallace, and phonodiscs and audio tapes of speeches, campaign dinners, press conferences, etc.
Biographical/historical: Electorally one of the most successful radicals in U. S. political history, Vito Marcantonio was born the son of Italian immigrants in 1902 in the same East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan that he represented in the U. S. House of Representatives for seven terms. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, New York University, and New York University Law School. While still in high school he became active in the East Harlem community where he came to the attention of Fiorello LaGuardia, then president of the city's Board of Aldermen.
He made his political debut in 1924 when he managed LaGuardia's campaign for reelection to Congress from East Harlem. He became a law clerk in LaGuardia's law firm and spent the rest of the 1920s mastering the complexities of New York City politics.
In 1930 he was appointed assistant U. S. Attorney, and in 1934, when LaGuardia became mayor of New York, Marcantonio ran as a Republican for LaGuardia's old seat in Congress, defeating the Democratic incumbent. Two years later he was defeated in the Democratic landslide, but returned in 1938, running on both the Republican and American Labor Party tickets. By skillfully exploiting local political alliances and working indefatigably for his constituents, Marcantonio survived being read out of both the Republican and American Labor parties, and stayed in Congress until 1950.
In 1950 he successfully defended W. E. B. DuBois against the U. S. government's charge that DuBois had failed to register as the agent of a foreign power. He also acted as one of the attorneys for the U. S. Communist Party in hearings before the Subversive Activities Control Board. In 1954 he announced his return to politics as an independent candidate for his old seat, but died before he could begin his campaign.