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V. J. Jerome--Biographical Note

[Biographical Note supplied by the Yale University Library,
where Jerome’s papers are located.]

Victor Jeremy Jerome, writer, editor and chairman of the Communist Party's Cultural Commission, was born Jerome Isaac Romain in Strykov Poland in 1896. Shortly after his birth, his parents migrated to England, leaving Jerome with relatives in Poland. At the age of nine he joined his parents in England where he spent the next ten years. In 1915 he came to New York, where he worked at odd jobs and started school at City College. He left school when he married Frances Winwar, who bore him one child before their marriage ended in divorce.

His involvement with radical politics began in the early 1920's when Jerome accepted a position as a bookkeeper with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Possibly because of his involvement with left-wing politics, he changed his name in 1923. In 1924 he joined the Communist Party and in the following year married Rose Pastor Stokes. He returned to college and in 1930 received a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University. After Rose Pastor Stoke’s death in 1933, Jerome spent a year in Hollywood raising money for the Spanish Loyalists. He returned to New York and in 1935 he became editor of The Communist (which later became Political Affairs) and held that position until 1955. He had risen in the Party hierarchy and in the mid-1930's was appointed cultural commissioner of the Communist Party. In 1937 he married Alice Hamburger.

Between 1935 and 1965 Jerome wrote constantly. He wrote two autobiographical novels A Lantern for Jeremy (released during the "Foley Square Trials" in 1952) and its sequel, The Paper Bridge (published posthumously in 1966). He also published a collection of vignettes entitled Unstill Waters (1964). A prolific writer, he turned out short stories, plays, and literary and art criticism. Victor Jerome is best known, however, for his political and cultural essays. Among these are "The Intellectuals and the War" (1940), "The Negro in Hollywood Films" (1950), and "Culture in a Changing World" (1948).

A1952 pamphlet -- "Grasp the Weapon of Culture" -- which Jerome presented as a report to the Communist Party, became the "overt act" under which Victor Jerome was prosecuted and convicted under the Smith Act. Indicted with sixteen other Communist leaders in 1951, he was accused of "conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow by force and violence" of the U.S. government. Following a nine month trial in New York's Foley Square Courthouse -- Jerome passed the long hours in court writing poetry and reading page proofs of A Lantern for Jeremy -- Jerome was convicted and in 1953 sentenced to three years at Lewisburg Penitentiary. He served the sentence between 1954 and 1957.

Following his release from prison, Jerome toured Eastern Europe. He spent 1958 in Poland, and for the next two years worked in Moscow as an editor of a collection of Lenin's works. He returned to the United States in 1962 to continue work he had begun on a novel based on the life of Spinoza.

He died in 1965 at the age of 68.

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