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John Reed Biography

(1887–1920), The American Magazine, The Masses, Insurgent Mexico, The Seven Arts

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: David Rabe Biography to Rhinoceros (Rhinocéros)

American journalist, born in Portland, Oregon, educated at Harvard. Rejecting his wealthy background, he became one of the USA's most famous radical journalists and the only American to be buried in the Kremlin Wall. With the aid of Lincoln Steffens, the famous radical journalist, he began his career with The American Magazine, but finding it politically restrictive he began to write for other journals, including The Masses. He achieved national recognition with his hard-hitting coverage of the Paterson mill strike, and of the Mexican Revolution, Insurgent Mexico (1914), which condemned America's interference in Mexican domestic affairs. As part of the radical literary bohemia, he wrote articles, small vignettes of New York life, and some modernist poetry for The Seven Arts and other little magazines, meeting such leading figures as Floyd Dell and Eugene O'Neill. He covered the war in Europe, and his eye-witness account of the events of the October Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919), is among the finest reportage of the century; it combines a sense of the historical importance of the events with an anecdotal quality which uses small incidents to illustrate the extent of the changes taking place. Praised by Lenin, the book won him international renown. He participated in the founding of the Communist Labour Party of America in 1919, then returned to Russia where he became a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, dying prematurely of typhus. The John Reed Clubs were established in 1929 to encourage proletarian writing and to encourage an awareness of the political nature of all culture.

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