Johnny Rogers (Robert Ellery), in memoriam

March 15, 2022

From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters

We mourn the death of Johnny Rogers (pen name Robert Ellery), one of the founding members of News and Letters Committees. In the very first issue of News & Letters, June 24, 1955, he wrote a popular article, “G.I. View of June 17,” about the June 1953 East German uprising. He wrote the “Thinking It Out” youth column from Jan. 31, 1956, to March 1961, often taking up experiences with street gangs, the criminal justice and school bureaucracies, and elders’ disdain for youth. And he wrote “Rebels with a Cause,” the unsigned lead article in the Feb. 5, 1957, issue, which showed that, far from being the apolitical “Beat Generation” described by commentators, youth were a new force of revolution.

In her “Theoretical and Practical Perspectives: Where to Begin” report, Raya Dunayevskaya told the first Convention of News and Letters Committees in July 1956:

“The new type of intelligence in the world, Proletarian Reason, has its reflection, if you please, in our paper. All you have to look at is the list of worker columnists—from the editor himself, Charles Denby, to Angela Terrano, from Robert Ellery to Ethel Dunbar, and you will see at once that they all, including youth…first got into their own stride revealing talents no one else knew they had, not even they themselves, after 1950 when jammed against the new in Marxism.”

After turning over the youth column to younger writers in 1961, Rogers, a Brooklyn jazz buff, continued writing Leads and other articles for N&L, such as “Education Bows to War Plans” (11/28/1958), “Youth Conflict Exposes Delinquent Society” (Nov. 1959), “Militarization and Devaluation: The War Moves to the Home Front” (March 1973) and “Fascist and Capitalist Repression Challenged: Worldwide Revolutionary Youth Resurgence” (Nov. 1975).

He helped create the pamphlet The Young Marxist-Humanist in 1963, contributing the article “Why the Young Marxist-Humanist.” This was followed by a newsletter titled The Marxist-Humanist published at the University of California Los Angeles from 1963 to 1966, to which he occasionally contributed articles.

The way Johnny Rogers exemplified the immediate post-World War II generation of youth as a revolutionary force speaks to all generations.

Franklin Dmitryev

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