The Vito Marcantonio Forum is a cultural historical community based organization that brings together people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, dedicated to disseminating and sharing knowledge of the life and work of Vito Marcantonio (1902 to 1954). Marcantonio, who served as Congressman from East Harlem for fourteen years (1934-1936, 1938-1950), organized a powerful political coalition of that community’s Italian-American, Puerto Rican, and African-American residents. Marcantonio’s dedication to his beloved East Harlem, a working-class community where he spent his entire life, continues to inspire his admirers. Marcantonio politically survived incessant attacks from the two major parties and the commercial media. He aroused the ire of these forces because of his advocacy of civil rights, Puerto Rico’s independence, labor’s cause, equal treatment for the foreign-born, and his insistence on reining in what he saw as rapacious capitalism. During the postwar period, he reached even wider audiences for his almost single-handed opposition to the United States’ government’s confrontational foreign policy and his defense of the victims of McCarthyism in court and from the floor of the House. The VMF is committed to correcting the historical record, which oft-times has ignored or misrepresented Marcantonio’s unceasing work on behalf of those left out of the American Dream and his courageous fight for a more authentically democratic country. Also part of the VMF’s mission is to publicize the history of Marcantonio’s mentors and collaborators—Leonard Covello, the Italian American educator, and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who had served as the District’s congressman from 1922 to 1932. Like Marcantonio, Covello and LaGuardia both of whom resided in East Harlem. The VMF is also interested in increasing awareness of the American Labor Party, which Marcantonio led for many years, and the critical role of the Left that rallied to Marcantonio. In addition, the Vito Marcantonio Forum seeks to inform wide audiences of the political and cultural backdrop of Italian Harlem and El Barrio that explains the emergence of the “Vito Marcantonio Phenomenon,” that is, a successful progressive politician who never compromised his principles. The Vito Marcantonio Forum offers valuable important frame of reference for coalition-building across races, creeds, color, genders, sexual orientations, and generations. The VMF is a beacon to that memory and will aim to restore much of what the McCarthy hysteria destroyed.
Vito Marcantonio during mayoral campaign ca. 1949