Pedro Albizu Campos: Hero of the Puerto Rican People

By Miguel Rosario, Caitlin Selinger, and Kylie Steadman

Pedro Albizu Campos was the consummate hero. In 1921 he became the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School while mastering many different languages — English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, and Greek. After earning his Harvard law degree, he returned to Puerto Rico and opened a one-man law office where he accepted food, water, and clothing as payment for his legal services from people who could not afford a lawyer.

Pedro Albizu Campos was a man who was more concerned with the progress of the Puerto Rican people than with his own personal gain. As president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PNP), he was determined to lead Puerto Rico in its political battle against the United States for the island’s independence. It was during his time as president of the PNP that Puerto Rico would rally the most support it had ever seen towards its fight for political autonomy.

As befitting a hero, Albizu Campos was able to overcome considerable adversity. During his time in the United States, like many other people of color, he had to overcome blatant racism. After World War I broke out, Campos volunteered for the U.S. military and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the army reserves. Upon completing his training Campos was assigned to the 375th Regiment, the unit reserved strictly for blacks—an act that was in accordance with the US military policies of the time due to racial segregation. Pedro Albizu Campos would eventually be honorably discharged in 1919 with the rank of First Lieutenant.

Campos graduated from Harvard Law School with the highest grade-point average in his entire law class, earning him the right to give the valedictorian speech at his graduation ceremony. Many people at Harvard did not appreciate having a mulatto Puerto Rican as valedictorian, so one of his professors delayed two of his final exams, thus keeping Campos from graduating on time. He would eventually receive his degree a year later after taking both exams and passing them while in Puerto Rico.

The conflicts that Pedro Albizu Campos experienced with the U.S. were his motivation for leading the PNP in its fight for Puerto Rico’s independence. During his time as president, members of the PNP met U.S. repression with armed resistance. In 1950 Campos was arrested as a political prisoner and was subjected to human radiation experiments leading to his death in 1965. Ironically enough this abuse occurred decades after Campos accused Dr. Cornelius Rhoads (a leading cancer specialists with the Rockefeller Institute) of injecting live cancer cells into Puerto Ricans to see if the cancer could spread. The accusations came from a manuscript Rhoads had written which Campos had published after getting his hands on it.

It was not until 1994 that the U.S. Department of Energy admitted to conducting these human radiation experiments on Campos and other individuals. Campos thus became the focal point of tension between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, putting his life on the line in the process. The lasting legacy of Pedro Albizu Campos and his fight for his people’s freedom has been compared to that of Patrick Henry, Nat Turner, Chief Crazy Horse, Frederick Douglass, and Nelson Mandela. Albizu’s political and military actions forever transformed Puerto Rico, its people, and its culture.

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Miguel Rosario, Caitlin Selinger, and Kylie Steadman are undergraduate students at the University of Richmond.  They are enrolled in Scott Allison’s Social Psychology course and composed this essay as part of their course requirement

4 Responses to “Pedro Albizu Campos: Hero of the Puerto Rican People”


  • ‘he accepted food, water, and clothing as payment for his legal services from people who could not afford a lawyer’ makes him a hero in my eyes.

  • This man was truly an inspiration and hero. It saddens me that such a courageous, ethical and intelligent man was the victim of the primitive bigotry of that era. It saddens me more that this led him to militant action for Puerto Rican independence, because I consider him a great American. Like most others, I’m proud that Puerto Rico is part of the United States and I’ve advocated and expected Puerto Rican statehood for over forty years. The vibrancy and diversity of Puerto Rico’s culture enriches us all and she should be a full partner with the rest of us.

  • Albizu Campos is the true spirit of Puerto Ricans of Indian descent, the Statehood propaganda movement was and is primarily generated by descendants of Spaniards. If statehood is what the people of Puerto Rico truly wanted then it would have accomplished that end by now. Irrespective of the media manipulations by Spaniard descendants that basically rule the government of Puerto Rico, True Puerto Ricans don’t want to become a state of AmeriKKKA. The U.S.A. holds its citizens in financial servitude with the promotion of debt as the only means by which a society can prosper…….that is, and has always been the European mindset in governing its citizens, though historically it never surmounts to social gratification, instead it only continues to empower those who’s financial dominance are what maintains such divisions of class. P.R.’s should not think that by being given a full fledge identity of “Americans” that this will somehow solve the problems of the Island, IT WON’T. The stark reality is that it will become even worse than its current Europeanized governmental managing that is controlling the Island now. So to think that statehood will somehow magically solve the problems of Puerto Rico is nothing more than a travesty that plagues the minds of our people to make them seem incapable of managing themselves via Sovereignty.

    The horrors committed upon señor Albizu Campos should cement the reality of Who European Americans truly are, the same Savages that call themselves “Spanish”, “Roman”, “German”, “Greeks”, etc., etc., etc. Our goal should not be geared towards assimilation, since assimilation has gained nothing but slums and ghettos for our people. And yes there are SOME success stories of some of our people that have attained some success, however, when you look up their ancestry you inevitably discover that they are of Spanish descent and not Taino, which only further highlights the racial discrepancy often overlooked because the propaganda of “Inclusion through Assimilation” is nothing but a farce. Though some of our people own some small Bodegas, or some small stores, this by no means is reflective of true equality to the hierarchal Europeans who are the ones who’ve established this God forsaken governmental oversight over the Island that is endeared towards only using our people as American Experiments, nothing more. You will always be checked as to who you really are to them because they will never let you forget who they are, as opposed to who you think you are.

    Don’t you notice that Puerto Rico is only of any significance to America when they have Pharmaceutical drugs that they need to test, birth control methods they need to try out, Guerrilla Police tactics used on our people in order to control them through fear. And most importantly, we are incapable of true free trade with other countries unless we are given permission of who to interact with by the Euro-Americans. This doesn’t seem like freedom to me. Look at how they treat their own Eurpean equals, they enslave them through debt then tax the hell out of them until basically their whole lives revolve around subjection to the Tax and debt monopoly that they have set up. Look at the details and don’t just Parrot what they tell you, look up the legislations that impact P.R., you’ll be surprised to the motives behind their establishing of certain laws and amendments.

  • This is the first time I heard of Campos. But definitely his effort for the betterment of Puerto Rican people should be admired.

    I guess there are many people like Campos who have lived and are still living around us. Can we call them silent heroes? They do what they think is right for other people and only when they have died do we know their whole social contribution.

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