Talking Gus Hall at FinnFest

I’ll be leaning harder than ever on my 1/4 quotient of Finnish blood as I prepare to speak Sept. 21 at FinnFest in Minneapolis.

Gus Hall’s mugshot after being convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Here’s how this sort of thing happens. You might recall that early last month I presented a talk about Gus Hall, the noted American communist leader who was born and raised in my home “town” (area?) of Cherry, Minnesota. The Finnish American club in Hibbing said it was their best-attended meeting yet. Word spread quickly and before I knew it, organizers at FinnFest wanted a taste of the action.

My presentation is titled “A Finnish American from Minnesota Becomes a National Political Leader — Gus Hall: His last Public Interview.” I’ll tell the story of how a 19-year-old kid managed to interview America’s most famous elderly communist from the principal’s office of the Cherry School. I’ll also share Hall’s story, including his role in building the American labor movement and his declining influence as he became an apologist for the brutalities of Soviet-style communism.

My talk is just one in a series of short presentations about the Finnish-American role in U.S. politics. I’m really looking forward to hearing them as much as I am presenting my own yarn.

The symposium opens at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 at the Norway House, 913 East Franklin Avenue, in Minneapolis. Admission costs $30 for a day’s worth of fascinating material. I’m slated to speak at 10:10 a.m. See the schedule here and register here.

I don’t get to the Twin Cities much these days, so if you’re a fan of the blog who is also interested in political history (traits that tend to overlap) come on down and say hello.


  1. I’m pretty sure that I met him circa 1973 when I was a student at UMD. I was walking to my car in student parking when I noticed a man putting leaflets on windshields. He and I reached my car at the same moment, so he handed me the leaflet. He introduced himself and I was, of course, surprised. I asked him if it wasn’t hard to be a communist when the mood in America was so strongly anti-communist? I can’t remember what he said, but he gave me a little pep talk. I wish I’d saved the leaflet. It was my own little “Forest Gump” historical moment.

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