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April 26, 2018
April 27th Marks 135th Anniversary of Birth of Hubert Harrison:
“Father of Harlem Radicalism” and
Founder of the First Organization and First Newspaper of the Militant “New Negro Movement”
by Jeffrey B. Perry
Hubert H. Harrison (April 27, 1883-December 17, 1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and radical political activist. Historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color, described him as “perhaps the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” Civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph, described Harrison as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.” Bibliophile Arthur Schomburg, outstanding collector of materials on people of African descent, eulogized at Harrison’s Harlem funeral that he was “ahead of his time.”
Harrison’s views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants including the class radical A. Philip Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a key link to two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement – the labor and civil rights trend associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist trend associated with Malcolm X. (Randolph and Garvey were important links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm (whose father was a Garveyite preacher and whose mother wrote for the “Negro World”), speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.
Harrison was not only a political radical, however. Rogers described him as an “Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator,” whose contributions were wide-ranging, innovative, and influential. He was an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator who spoke and/or read six languages; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (who reportedly started "the first regular book-review section known to Negro newspaperdom"); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who was an officer on the committee that helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what has become known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Harrison was born on Estate Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, on April 27, 1883. His mother was an immigrant worker from Barbados and his father, who had been born enslaved in St. Croix, was a plantation worker.
In St. Croix Harrison received the equivalent of a ninth grade education, learned customs rooted in African communal traditions, interacted with immigrant and native-born working people, and grew with an affinity for the poor and with the belief that he was the equal to any other. He also learned of the Crucian people’s rich history of direct-action mass struggles including the successful 1848 enslaved-led emancipation victory; the 1878 island-wide “Great Fireburn” rebellion (in which women such as “Queen Mary” Thomas played prominent roles); and the general strike of October 1879.
After the death of his mother Harrison traveled to New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. In his early years in New York he attracted attention as a brilliant high school student, authored over a dozen letters that were published in the New York Times, involved in important African American and Afro-Caribbean working class intellectual circles, and became a freethinker.
In the United States Harrison made his mark by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of those he affectionately referred to as “the common people.” He consistently emphasized the need for working class people to develop class-consciousness; for “Negroes” to develop race consciousness, self-reliance, and self-respect; and for all those he reached to challenge white supremacy and develop an internationalist spirit and modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.
A self-described “radical internationalist,” Harrison was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe and he wrote and lectured indoors and out (he was a pioneering soapbox orator) on these topics. More than any other political leader of his era, he combined class-consciousness and anti-white supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism. He opposed capitalism and imperialism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States. He emphasized that “politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea”; that “as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race” were “downright lying” and “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters”; that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of”; and that “capitalist imperialism which mercilessly exploits the darker races for its own financial purposes is the enemy which we must combine to fight.”
Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s and his thoughts on “democracy in America” offer penetrating insights for social change efforts in the twenty-first century.
Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; spoke at Broad and Wall Streets in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1912 on socialism for over three hours to an audience that extended as far as his voice could reach (in a clear precursor to “Occupy Wall Street”); was the only Black speaker at the historic Paterson silk workers strike of 1913; founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, race-conscious, World War I-era “New Negro” movement and led a giant Harlem rally that protested the white supremacist attacks on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is only twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri) in 1917; edited "The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort" (“intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races – especially of the Negro race”) in 1919; wrote "The Negro and the Nation" in 1917 and "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" in 1920; and served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.
After leaving the "Negro World" and becoming a U.S. citizen in 1922, Harrison wrote and lectured widely. He published in the "Amsterdam News," "Interstate Tattler," "Modern Quarterly," "New Republic," "Nation," "New York Times," "New York Tribune," "Boston Chronicle," "New York World," "Negro Champion," "Opportunity," and the "Pittsburgh Courier." He also lectured for the New York City Board of Education from 1922-1926; served as the New York State Chair of the American Negro Labor Congress and taught World Problems of Race at the Workers (Communist) Party’s Workers’ School and at the Institute for Social Study in Harlem; and spoke at universities, libraries, community forums, and street corners throughout New York City, as well as in New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Maintaining his political independence, he worked with Democrats, the Single Tax Movement, Virgin Island organizations, the Farmer Labor Party Movement, and Communists. A bibliophile and advocate of free public libraries, he was also a founding officer of the committee that helped develop the “Department of Negro Literature and History” of the 135th Street Public Library into a center for Black studies, subsequently known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In addition, though he was a trailblazing book reviewer and literary critic during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance, he questioned the “Renaissance” on its willingness to accept standards from “white society” and on its claim to being a rebirth, a claim that he felt ignored the steady flow of works by “Negro” writers since 1850.
In 1924 Harrison founded the International Colored Unity League (ICUL), which emphasized “Negro” solidarity and self-support, advocated “race first” politics, and sought to enfranchise “Negroes” in the South. The ICUL attempted “to do for the Negro the things which the Negro needs to have done without depending upon or waiting for the co-operative action of white people.” It urged that “Negroes” develop “race consciousness” as a defensive measure, be aware of their racial oppression, and use that awareness to unite, organize, and respond as a group. Its economic program advocated cooperative farms, stores, and housing, and its social program included scholarships for youth and opposition to restrictive laws. The ICUL program, described in 1924 talks and newspaper articles and published in "The Voice of the Negro" in 1927, had political, economic, and social planks urging protests, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and collective action and included as its “central idea” the founding of “a Negro state, not in Africa, as Marcus Garvey would have done, but in the United States” as an outlet for “racial egoism.” It was a plan for “the harnessing” of “Negro energies” and for “economic, political and spiritual self-help and advancement.” It preceded a somewhat similar plan by the Communist International by four years. The journalist and activist Hodge Kirnon from Montserrat was one of the ICUL officers and in 1924 Harrison and Rogers spoke on behalf of the organization in the Midwest and in New England.
In 1927 Harrison edited the International Colored Unity League’s "Embryo of the Voice of The Negro" and then "The Voice of the Negro" until shortly before his unexpected December 17 death at Bellevue Hospital in New York from an appendicitis-related condition. His funeral was attended by thousands and preceded his burial in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, a gift of his portrait for placement on the main floor of the 135th Street Public Library, and the (ironic) establishment of The Hubert Harrison Memorial Church in Harlem in his honor.
Hubert Harrison lived and died in poverty. In 2015, after eighty-seven years, a beautiful tombstone was placed on his shared and previously unmarked gravesite. His gravesite marker includes his image and words drawn from Andy Razaf, outstanding poet of “New Negro Movement” – speaker, editor, and sage . . . “What a change thy work hath wrought!” That commemorative marker, as well as the notable increase in books, articles, videos, audios, and discussions on his life and work reflect a growing recognition of his importance and indicate that interest in this giant of Black history will continue to grow in the twenty-first century and that Hubert Harrison has much to offer people today.
Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry is an independent, working class scholar and archivist who was formally educated at Princeton, Harvard, Rutgers, and Columbia University. He was a long-time rank-and-file activist, elected union officer with Local 300, and editor for the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (div. of LIUNA, AFL-CIO). Perry preserved and inventoried the Hubert H. Harrison Papers (now at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library); edited of A Hubert Harrison Reader (Wesleyan University Press, 2001); authored Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press, 2008); wrote the introduction and notes for the new, expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison, When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the New Negro in the Western World (1920; Diasporic Africa Pres, 2015); and wrote the new introduction and supplemental material for the expanded edition of Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, 2 vols. (1994, 1997; Verso Books, 2012). He is currently working on volume two of the Hubert Harrison biography and preparing his vast collection of Theodore W. Allen Papers and Research Materials on Hubert Harrison for placement at a major repository.
For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see HERE
and see HERE
For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) see HERE
For information on the new, Diasporic Africa Press expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” see HERE
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see HERE
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see HERE
For a link to the Hubert H. Harrison Papers at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library see HERE
July 28, 2017
The Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library just published its Finding Aid for the Leo H. Downes papers (34 cassette boxes; 12 document boxes). It is a collection of great importance by an extraordinary individual (special attention should be paid to the audio cassettes). Many thanks to Diana Greenidge, Julie Siestreem, Thai Jones, and Patrick Lawlor for making this happen. See http://findingaids.cul.columbia.edu/staging/ead/nnc-rb/ldpd_11359941/
Leo H. Downes was an independent and provocative intellectual based in Harlem. His interests covered a wide range of topics, including African-American history, neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, art, music, culture, sociology, theology, athletics, and education.
Downes was born July 15, 1933 in Coffee Gully, The Parish of St. Joseph on the island of Barbados. He was the only child of William Lionel Blackman and Adeline Ione Downes. His father was an engineer and, overseer. Leo graduated from St. Leonard's Boy's School in St. Michael Barbados West Indies in 1955. He attended the New School of Social Research in New York City from 1967 to 1970. He attended Columbia University School of General Studies from 1972 to 1974. He then attended New York Institute of Technology in Psychology in Westbury, New York.
Downes directed the Youth Opportunity Program for the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) located in the Washington Heights neighborhood for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003. The YOP program was designed as a pairing of high school adolescents with doctors as mentors for 15 to 20 hours per week to work in each doctor's respective area of research. It was a valuable and critically successful support system that worked well for both the doctors and students. Downes received numerous awards for this outstanding work. A teacher, counselor and, rehabilitator, he worked with children and adults in the Reality Halfway House, Cornell's Children's Services, and New York City Model Cities Program. He worked one to one, with small groups and, large groups as needed. He taught ex-cons, ex-addicts, dropouts and, High School Equivalency Programs.
Downes had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and consistently asked the most challenging questions of anyone on any given topic. Others sought him out frequently to attend their classes, lectures, discussion groups and, movies because, they knew he would come up with the best questions. For 35 years he moderated a monthly study group of the Society for the Study of African Philosophy. He was a part of the Institute for Research in African American Studies program at Columbia University from its beginning in 1993.
Downes was a member of the Harlem YMCA for 55 years. He was a competitive body builder from 1950 to 1974. He died on April 28, 2014 at the age of 80.
Tony Martin First World, 10/22/1988 (HF 90/Sony)
Dr. Tony Martin First World Alliance, 10/22/1988 (AV-90/TDK)
Brother Tony Martin Africa Experience Creates a Pan-African Philosophy #1, 3/6/1993 (dB 90/memorex)
Brother Tony Martin Africa Experience Creates a Pan-African Philosophy #2, 3/6/1993 (HF 60/Sony)
Brother Tony Martin Caribbean Unity and a Pan African Perspective, 3/1/1997 (HF 60/Sony)
Dr. Martin /Garvey Story, No date (FI 60/JVC)
T. Martin / Garvey Story, No date (HF 90/Sony)
James Baldwin / Speak, No date (HF 60/Sony)
James Baldwin / interview, No date (CHF 90/Sony)
James Baldwin Conf., 6/24/1989 (HF60/Sony)
James Baldwin, No date (HF90/Sony)
James Baldwin Conf., No date (DC 9/TDK)
James Baldwin/ Baraka at St. John Divine, No date (60 min./audio tech)
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Temple Univ. Nat. Afrocentric Institute, 5/9/1992 (60 min./ Greatronic)
July 4, 2017
100 – Years Ago Today -- A July 4, 1917 rally of Hubert Harrison’s Liberty League at Harlem’s Metropolitan Baptist Church on 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues drew national attention and saw the first edition of “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.” Harrison’s Liberty League was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement” and his newspaper, “The Voice,” was the first newspaper of the movement and a prime example of the militant new spirit that was developing.
It “really crystallized the radicalism of the Negro in New York and its environs” wrote Hodge Kirnon. Historian Robert A. Hill points out that Harrison’s Voice was “the radical forerunner” of the periodicals that would express the developing political and intellectual ferment in the era of World War I. It was followed in November 1917 by the Hodge Kirnon. Historian Robert A. Hill These four publications, led by “The Voice,” manifested “the principal articulation of the New Negro mood.”
The July 4 meeting came in the wake of the July 1-3 white supremacist pogrom in East St. Louis, Illinois (which is 12 miles from Ferguson, Missouri). Reports on the number of African Americans killed ranged from thirty-nine to two-hundred-and-fifty and 244 buildings were totally or partially destroyed. Historian Edward Robb Ellis reports that in East St. Louis Black women were scalped and four Black children slaughtered.
These riots were widely attributed to “white” labor’s opposition to Black workers coming into the labor market and they were directly precipitated by a car of white “joy riders” who fired guns into the African-American community. Officials of organized labor served as prominent apologists for “white” labor’s role in the rioting. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, placed principal blame for the riots on “the excessive and abnormal number of negroes” in East St. Louis while W. S. Carter, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, maintained that “the purpose of the railroads in importing Negro labor is to destroy the influence of white men’s labor organizations.” A subsequent House of Representatives committee found that the local police and Illinois National Guard were inept and indifferent, and, in specific instances, supported the white mobs.
The Liberty League’s July 4 meeting in the largest church in Harlem came one day after a “race riot” in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan (the third in six weeks) in which two thousand people fought after a reserve policemen arrested a uniformed Black soldier standing on a street corner who allegedly refused to move fast enough.
The “New York Times” reported that at the July 4 Liberty League rally a thousand Black men and women were present and enthusiastically cheered the speakers who were “all Negroes.” Every speaker was reported to have denounced the East St. Louis rioters as ruthless murderers and each condemned the authorities for not preventing the atrocities and for not providing protection.
Edgar M. Grey, secretary of the Liberty League, chaired the July 4 meeting. He informed the audience that the League had sent its message to Congress and appealed for a thorough and impartial investigation of East St. Louis, of the lynching of African Americans, and of treatment of Black people throughout the land. Harrison spoke next and reportedly said that “they are saying a great deal about democracy in Washington now,” but, “while they are talking about fighting for freedom and the Stars and Stripes, here at home the white apply the torch to the black men’s homes, and bullets, clubs and stones to their bodies.”
As president of the Liberty League, Harrison advised Black people who feared mob violence in the South and elsewhere to take direct action and “supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property.” According to the “Times” he received great applause when he declared that “the time had come for the Negroes [to] do what white men who were threatened did, look out for themselves, and kill rather than submit to be killed.” He was quoted as saying: “We intend to fight if we must . . . for the things dearest to us, for our hearths and homes” and he encouraged Black people everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law "to arm for their own defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use them." He also called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them, emphasizing that “Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this” because “East St. Louis touches us too nearly.” As he later put it -- “‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ and sometimes two eyes or a half dozen teeth for one is the aim of the New Negro.” Harrison stressed that it was imperative to “demand justice” and to “make our voices heard.”
The emphasis on a political voice ran across the masthead of “The Voice,” which proclaimed “We will fight for all the things we have held nearest our hearts--for democracy--for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” Several years later Marcus Garvey, who learned from Harrison and joined Harrison’s Liberty League, emphasized that “[the] new spirit of the new Negro . . . seeks a political voice, and the world is amazed, the world is astounded that the Negro should desire a political voice, because after the voice comes a political place, and . . . we are not only asking but we are going to demand--we are going to fight for and die for that place.” According to Robert A. Hill, this demand for a political voice marked the new spirit of the “New Negro” and keyed the later radicalism of Garvey’s UNIA.
This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard marked Harrison’s activities in 1917.
“The Voice” editorial on “The East St. Louis Horror” argued that although the nation was at war to make the world “safe for democracy,” until the nation was made safe for African Americans, they would refuse to believe in the country’s democratic assertions. Harrison stressed that “New Negroes” would not re-echo “patriotic protestations of the boot-licking leaders whose pockets and positions testify to the power of the white man’s gold” and, despite what Black people might be forced by law to say publicly, “the resentment in their hearts will not down.” Then he described the core feeling of the new militancy developing in the wake of East St. Louis:
. . . Unbeknown to the white people of this land a temper is being developed among Negroes with which the American people will have to reckon.
At the present moment it takes this form: If white men are to kill unoffending Negroes, Negroes must kill white men in defense of their lives and property. This is the lesson of the East St. Louis massacre.
For information on Harrison’s life see “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press). For comments on that work by scholars and activists CLICK HERE
See also information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader” by CLICKING HERE
And see information on the new expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” HERE
June 12, 2017
June 12, 1917
100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding
of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement”
One hundred years ago, on June 12, 1917, Hubert Harrison founded the Liberty League of Negro-Americans at a rally attended by thousands at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 52-60 W. 132nd Street in Harlem. It was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement.” Several weeks later, on July 4, at a large rally at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 120 W. 138th Street, Harrison founded the movement’s first paper – “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.”
The Liberty League’s Bethel rally was called around the slogans "Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement” and “Make the South 'Safe For Democracy.'” Listed speakers included Harrison, the young activist Chandler Owen, and Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (of Abyssinian Baptist Church). Marcus Garvey, a relatively unknown former printer from Jamaica also spoke at the rally in what was his first talk before a major Harlem audience.
The League's stated purpose was to take steps "to uproot" the twin evils of lynching and disfranchisement and "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It aimed to "carry on educational and propaganda work among Negroes" and "exercise political pressure wherever possible" in order to "abate lynching." Harrison said it offered "the most startling program of any organization of Negroes in the country" as it demanded democracy at home for "Negro-Americans" before they would be expected to enthuse over democracy in Europe.
Two thousand people packed the Bethel church meeting and the audience rose in support during Harrison's introduction when he demanded "that Congress make lynching a Federal crime." Resolutions were passed calling the government's attention to the continued violation of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments (regarding slavery and involuntary servitude, citizenship rights, and voting rights); to the existence of mob law from Florida to New York; and to the demand that lynching be made a federal crime. In his talk Harrison also called for retaliatory self-defense whenever Black lives were threatened by mobs.
The Liberty League emphasized "a special sympathy" for “our brethren in Africa" and pledged to "work for the ultimate realization of democracy in Africa -- for the right of these darker millions to rule their own ancestral lands -- even as the people of Europe -- free from the domination of foreign tyrants." The League also adopted a tricolor flag. Harrison explained, because of the "Negro's" "dual relationship to our own and other peoples," we “adopted as our emblem the three colors, black brown and yellow, in perpendicular stripes." These colors were chosen because the "black, brown and yellow, [were] symbolic of the three colors of the Negro race in America." They were also, he suggested, symbolic of people of color worldwide.
Garvey, his fellow Jamaican and future “Negro World” editor W. A. Domingo, and other leading activists, including a number of important future leaders of the Garvey movement, joined Harrison’s Liberty League. From the Liberty League and the Voice came many core progressive ideas later utilized by Garvey in both the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the “Negro World.” Contemporaries readily acknowledged that Harrison’s work laid groundwork for the Garvey movement. Harrison claimed that from the Liberty League “Garvey appropriated every feature that was worthwhile in his movement” and that the secret of Garvey’s success was that he “[held] up to the Negro masses those things which bloom in their hearts” including “race-consciousness” and “racial solidarity” – “things taught first in 1917 by the “Voice” and The Liberty League.”
The July 4 meeting at which “The Voice” appeared came in the wake of the vicious white supremacist attacks (Harrison called it a “pogrom”) on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri). Harrison again advised “Negroes” who faced mob violence in the South and elsewhere to "supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property." According to the “New York Times” he received great applause when he declared that "the time had come for the Negroes [to] do what white men who were threatened did, look out for themselves, and kill rather than submit to be killed." He was quoted as saying: "We intend to fight if we must . . . for the things dearest to us, for our hearths and homes." In his talk he encouraged “Negroes” everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law to arm in self-defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use their weapons. He also reportedly called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them themselves, emphasizing that "Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this" because "East St. Louis touches us too nearly." According to the “Times,” Harrison said it was imperative to "demand justice" and to "make our voices heard." This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard were important components of Harrison's militant “New Negro” activism.
The Voice featured Harrison’s outstanding writing and editing and it included important book review and “Poetry for the People” sections. It contributed significantly to the climate leading up to Alain LeRoy Locke’s 1925 publication “The New Negro.”
Beginning in August 1919 Harrison edited “The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort,” which described itself as “A Magazine for the New Negro,” published “in the interest of the New Negro Manhood Movement,” and “intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race.”
In early 1920 Harrison assumed "the joint editorship" of the “Negro World” and served as principal editor of that globe-sweeping newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (which was a major component of the “New Negro Movement”).
Then, in August 1920, while serving as editor of the “Negro World,” Harrison completed “When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.” Many of Harrison’s most important “New Negro Movement” editorials and reviews from the 1917-1920 period were reprinted in “When Africa Awakes.” The book, recently republished in expanded form by Diasporic Africa Press, makes clear his pioneering theoretical, educational, and organizational role in the founding and development of the militant “New Negro Movement.”
Brief Biographical Background Pre the Founding of Militant “New Negro Movement”
St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927) was a brilliant, class conscious and race conscious, writer, educator, orator, editor, book reviewer, political activist, and radical internationalist. Historian J. A. Rogers in “World’s Great Men of Color” described him as an “Intellectual Giant” who was “perhaps the foremost Aframerican intellect of his time.” Labor and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, referring to a period when Harlem was considered an international “Negro Mecca” and the “center of radical black thought,” described him as “the father of Harlem radicalism.” Richard B. Moore, active with the Socialist Party, African Blood Brotherhood, Communist Party, and movements for Caribbean independence and federation, described Harrison as “above all” his contemporaries in his steady emphasis that “a vital aim” was “the liberation of the oppressed African and other colonial peoples.”
Hubert Harrison played unique, signal roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) of his era. He was a major influence on the class radical Randolph, on the race radical Garvey, and on other militant “New Negroes” in the period around World War I. W. A. Domingo, a socialist and the first editor of Garvey’s “Negro World” newspaper explained, “Garvey like the rest of us [A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore, and other “New Negroes”] followed Hubert Harrison.” Historian Robert A. Hill refers to Harrison as “the New Negro ideological mentor.” Considered the most class conscious of the race radicals and the most race conscious of the class radicals in those years, he is a key link in the two great trends of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggle – the labor and civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X. (King marched on Washington with Randolph at his side and Malcolm’s father was a Garveyite preacher and his mother was a reporter for Garvey’s Negro World, the newspaper for which Harrison had been principal editor.)
From 1911 to 1914 Harrison served as the leading Black theoretician, speaker, and activist in the Socialist Party of America. Party statements and practices -- including events at the 1912 convention where Socialists failed to address the “Negro Question” and supported Asian exclusion as “legislation restricting the invasion of the white man’s domain by other races” -- caused him to leave the Socialist Party in 1914. After departing, he offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded, criticism in the history of the United States left -- that Socialist Party leaders, like organized labor leaders, put the “white race” first, before class, that they put the [“white’] “Race First and class after.”
Harrison was a pioneering Black activist in the Freethought, Free Speech, and Birth Control Movements. Two years after leaving the Socialist Party, Harrison turned to concentrated work in the Black community. Beginning in 1916, he served as the intellectual guiding light of the militant “New Negro Movement” -- the race and class conscious, internationalist, mass based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for “political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power.”
Those interested in additional information on Hubert Harrison and the founding of the militant “New Negro Movement” are encouraged to read "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press), "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press), and the new, expanded, Diasporic Africa Press edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.”
For information on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE
and CLICK HERE
For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE
For information on the new, expanded, Diasporic Africa Press edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” CLICK HERE
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison at the Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Mass. filmed by Boston Neighborhood News TV CLICK HERE
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on HUBERT HARRISON the “Father of Harlem Radicalism” for the St. Croix Landmarks Society CLICK HERE
(Note: The slides are very clear.)
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
April 26, 2016
April 27 is the Birthday of Hubert Harrison
Share Information on the Life and Work of This Giant of Black History
Hubert Henry Harrison (April 27, 1883–December 17, 1927) was a brilliant, St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, working-class, writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist. Historian Joel A. Rogers in “World’s Great Men of Color” said that the autodidactic Harrison was “perhaps the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” A. Philip Randolph called him “the father of Harlem radicalism.”
Harrison was a “radical internationalist” and his views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of "New Negro" militants including the class radical Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race-conscious than Randolph and more class-conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a key link in the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor/civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race/nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X.
Harrison was the leading Black activist in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday and the only Black speaker at the historic Paterson silk workers strike of 1913.
He was an extraordinary soapbox orator and the New York Times described how he spoke at Broad and Wall Streets in front of the New York Stock Exchange on socialism for over three hours to an audience that extended as far as his voice could reach (in a clear precursor to “Occupy Wall Street”).
In 1917 Harrison founded the first organization, the Liberty League, and the first newspaper, The Voice, of the militant "New Negro Movement.” That year he also led a giant Harlem rally that protested the white supremacist “pogrom” on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is only twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri).
In 1919 Harrison edited The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort (“intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race”).
In 1920 he served as editor of the "Negro World" and as the principal radical influence on the Marcus Garvey movement. Toward the end of that year he published his second book, When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.
People are encouraged to include Hubert Harrison in their readings, study, course lists, and courses and to encourage public, private, and school libraries to include books by and about him in their collections.
For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE
For a link to the Hubert H. Harrison Papers at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library CLICK HERE
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE
For information on the new, Diasporic Africa Press expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” CLICK HERE
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
February 22, 2015
February 24, 2015
Tuesday, 7:00 pm
"Hubert Harrison: Brilliant Harlem Intellectual/Activist and Founder of the 'New Negro Movement'"
Slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry
Bogota Borough Public Library
375 Larch Ave.
Bogota, NJ, 07063
Contact person Radwa Ali, Branch Director, 201-488-7185.
August 17, 2014
“Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York,
and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1909),"
by Jeffrey B. Perry,
Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014
Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) was the leading Black activist and theoretician in the Socialist Party; a brilliant writer, orator, and editor; the founder of the "New Negro Movement," the major radical influence on A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and a self-described "radical internationalist." He was an autodidact and a free-thinker and he is known as "The Father of Harlem Radicalism."
Jeffrey B. Perry preserved and edited the Hubert H. Harrison Papers, edited “A Hubert Harrison Reader” (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and authored “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press, 2008). Perry also authored "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" (“Cultural Logic,” 2010). He is currently working on a new edition of "When Africa Awakes" by Hubert Harrison for Diasporic Africa Press and on Vol. 2 of the Hubert Harrison biography.
For the article “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy,” by Jeffrey B. Perry, CLICK HERE
For information on Hubert Harrison --
CLICK HERE for reviews of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918"
and CLICK HERE for information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader"
and CLICK HERE for writings, audio, and video abour Hubert Harrison
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For a Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE
For information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE
For Videos of the Slide Presentation/Talks in the series “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” by Jeffrey B. Perry see
1. "Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy,"
by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, July 26, 2014
2. “Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York, and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1910),"
by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014
3. “Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the 'New Negro Movement,' and the Liberty Congress (1911-1918),"
by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 9, 2014
4. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy,"[Part 1]
by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014
5. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 2]
by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, September 6, 2014
July 4, 2014
July 4, 1917
First Edition of “The Voice” – First Newspaper of the Militant “New Negro Movement”
Hubert Harrison Urges Armed Self-Defense at Harlem Rally
On July 4, 1917, “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro” — the first newspaper of the “New Negro Movement,” edited by Hubert H. Harrison, made its debut at a rally at the Metropolitan Baptist Church at 120 W. 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in Harlem.
The rally was called by Harrison’s Liberty League (which was the first organization of the “New Negro Movement and which Marcus Garvey and many other activists joined) and drew national attention as it protested against lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement.
The protest rally came in the wake of two series of white supremacist pogroms (from May 27 to May 30 and July 1 through 3, 1917) against the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois. Estimates of the number of African Americans killed in East St. Louis ranged from 39 to 250 and the attacks were widely attributed to “white” labor’s opposition to Black workers. Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, placed principal blame for the “riots” on “the excessive and abnormal number of negroes” in East St. Louis.
At the rally Harrison reportedly said “they are saying a great deal about democracy in Washington now,” but, “while they are talking about fighting for freedom and the Stars and Stripes, here at home the white apply the torch to the black men’s homes, and bullets, clubs and stones to their bodies.”
As president of the Liberty League, Harrison advised Black people who faced mob violence in the South and elsewhere to take direct action and “supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property.”
According to the “New York Times” Harrison received great applause when he declared that “the time had come for the Negroes [to] do what white men who were threatened did, look out for themselves, and kill rather than submit to be killed.” He was quoted as saying, “We intend to fight if we must . . . for the things dearest to us, for our hearths and homes,” and he encouraged Black people everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law “to arm for their own defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use them.”
He also called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them, emphasizing that “Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this” because “East St. Louis touches us too nearly.”
As he later put it, “ ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ and sometimes two eyes or a half dozen teeth for one is the aim of the New Negro.”
Harrison stressed that it was imperative to “demand justice” and to “make our voices heard.”
In 1919 -- Hubert H. Harrison edited The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort
-- “intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race.”
In 1920 Harrison continued his militant "New Negro" work as managing editor of The Negro World
and author of When Africa Awakes: The "Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World
Click Here for New York Times coverage.
For more on this topic see
Hubert Harrison: the Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
Also see A Hubert Harrison Reader
and see Hubert Harrison’s articles on founding the The Liberty League and on East St. Louis HERE
June 15, 2014
June 22, 2014
Sunday early morning at 12:30 AM (show actually starts at midnight on Saturday, July 21)
Host Hugh Hamilton of "The Meeting on the African Village Square," WVIP 93.5 FM in New Rochelle discusses St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, Hubert Harrison, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," with Jeffrey B. Perry. Listen live by CLICKING HERE or HERE
For more information on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For a video on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For more on Hugh Hamilton CLICK HERE
May 8, 2014
“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism”
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry
Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts,
February 15, 2014
The event was hosted by Mimi Jones and sponsored by Friends of the Dudley Library, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, and Massachusetts Global Action. Contact people included Mirna Lascano, Umang Kumar, and Charlie Welch in addition to Mimi.
Video Prepared by Boston Neighborhood News TV’s “Around Town” -- Channel: Comcast 9 / RCN 15 Justin D. Shannahan, Production Manager, Ted Lewis, cameraman, and Laura Kerivan, copy editor for Boston Neighborhood Network Television. Nia Grace, Marketing and Promotions Manager of BNNTV, and Scott Mercer, of BNNTV, coordinated efforts to make the video available.
For additional information on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
and CLICK HERE
Note: The presentation and Question and Answer period lasted over 2 hours. The TV station edited it down to this length. There was much more presentation and discussion. Also, the crowd was remarkable since the event was at the highpoint of the winter’s big snowstorm, the governor was telling people to stay off the roads, and the public library closed early (only leaving a door open to the auditorium where this event was held). Those who made it to and stayed through the event were determined and this was manifested in their interest during the presentation, the lengthy Q and A period (some of which was cut), and much informal discussion that went on into the evening.
For Boston Neighborhood News TV’s “Around Town” -- Channel: Comcast 9 / RCN 15 on the internet Click Here
or Click Here
For more on Hubert H. Harrison and on the work of Theodore W. Allen see “The Developing Conjuncture and some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” available by >a href="www.jeffreybperry.net"> Clicking Here and going to top left
For those interested in a video on Theodore W. Allen’s work CLICK HERE
February 26, 2014
Members of the Parks, Recreation & Transportation Committee of Community Board 10, in Harlem voted unanimously on May 11, 2011, to Co-Name 134th St. between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Blvd. after Hubert Harrison.
Hubert Harrison, “The Father of Harlem Radicalism,” pioneering soapbox orator, founder of the Liberty League (1917), and editor of "The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro" (1917-1918), the "New Negro" (1919), and the "Negro World" (1920), lived on that block and often spoke at 134h Street and Lenox Avenue, which was known as “Liberty’s Corner.”
Shortly after the May 2011 vote "a moratorium" was imposed affecting that naming and the street has never officially been co-named after Hubert Harrison.
Thus, no street named after Hubert Harrison is included in the list of the Honorific Streets in New York City.
"Honorific Streets" were the subject of a February 28, 2014, Sam Roberts, “New York Times” article -- “Honorific Streets, Now Catalogued: City Lacked Official Record, So Ex-Urban Planner Made List.”
September 10, 2013
Harlem Activist Hodge Kirnon
on the Radicalism of
Hubert Harrison and “The Voice” [c. 1917-1919]
[“The Voice”] “really crystallized the radicalism of the Negro in New York and its environs.” It exerted “a tremendous influence in inspiring the people with the highest racial ideals and aspirations” and inculcated “into every Negro a sense of race pride and determination” that was “without parallel in the history of the race.”
Harrison (who lived on Harlem’s most densely populated block) “lived with and amongst his people; not on the fringes of their social life” and he “taught the masses” and “drew much of his inspiration from them.” Harrison was “the first Negro whose radicalism was comprehensive enough to include racial¬ism, politics, theological criticism, sociology and education in a thorough-going and scientific manner.”
For more on Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
The Montserrat-born Hodge Kirnon was a freethinker, editor of the The Promoter, and a race- and class-conscious community activist
For a striking photo of Hodge Kirnon CLICK HERE
December 1, 2010
Thabiti Asukile, "The Harlem Friendship of Joel Augustus Rogers (1880-1966) and Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927)" in "Afro - Americans in New York Life and History," July 1, 2010 is available at HERE
September 15, 2010
Just published -- Thabiti Asukile, "The Harlem Friendship of Joel Augusts Rogers (1880-1966) and Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927)," "Afro-Americans in New York Life and History" (New York: July 2010), Vol. 34, Iss. 2, pp. 54-75.
August 18, 2009
ST. CROIX - From the words of Hubert Harrison's biographer Jeffrey B. Perry, "His journey from the depths of plantation poverty to political and intellectual achievements of great influence is a powerful testament to human potential."
In order to truly understand St. Croix-born Hubert Harrison and the great influence he had on the African American community and the nation at large, Perry's book "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" must be read.
The book details the first half of Harrison's life. The second edition, "Hubert Harrison: Race Consciousness and the Struggle for Democracy 1918-1927," will be released in 2012.
According to Perry, and many other scholars, Harrison joins the ranks of other black pioneers such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., although he was comparatively unrecognized. That is until now.
With the discovery and preservation of Harrison's writings, as well as the publication of his biography, Perry believes Harrison will now be given the equally-deserved recognition of those who came before and after him on the fight for free thought and equal rights.
It was based upon those writings, which Perry was given access to by Harrison's relatives, that the true depth of Harrison's intellect was revealed.
Harrison's struggle against racial and class oppression in the early 1900s took place within the working class communities of New York City, where he lectured and helped create a "vibrant intellectual life among African Americans."
He encouraged class and race consciousness, self-reliance and self- respect as a means to challenge white supremacy. He promoted the development of modern, scientific, critical and independent thought as the avenue to liberation.
According to Perry, Harrison played a key role in the largest class-radical and race-radical movements of the time.
Harrison spoke or read six languages, he was a journalist, critic, book reviewer, activist and bibliophile, and much more. He lectured for the New York City Board of Education and he helped to found the 135th Street Public Library's "Negro Literature and History" collection, which is now known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black History.
In addition to writing his own books, Harrison was the editor of several race and class conscious publications, and contributed regularly to other mainstream publications of the time. At age 20 he began writing letters to the editor in the "New York Times." His writings also appeared in the "New York Tribune," the "New York World," "Nation," "New Republic," "Modern Quarterly" and many other publications.
Throughout his earlier educational pursuits, Harrison lectured at the lyceums, literary and political forums that were located in churches. It is believed that at both the St. Benedict's and St. Mark's churches lyceums, Harrison formulated his developing intellect and was exposed to organized groups of people willing to challenge "white" norms, as Perry puts it.
Harrison remained in poverty, even after obtaining postal employment and marrying his wife Irene Louise Horton Harrison in 1909 and starting a family, which eventually grew to seven members. He lost his job with the Post Office after writing two letters that criticized Booker T. Washington, who urged black people to compromise and work with whites. He would eventually isolate himself further by criticizing many other influential black leaders.
He then joined the Socialist Party. He continued to write about class and race, to teach and lecture and was at 35 years old given the title "The Father of the Harlem Radicalism."
He founded the "New Negro Movement," while he presided over the "Liberty League of Negro Americans" and "The Voice." He was behind and participated in many other radical publications. In all, he promoted the use of the word “Negro” and its capitalization.
Harrison was president of the Liberty Congress, which lobbied for federal anti-lynching legislation, and led the path that A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. would take in their historic marches through Washington. During World War I, the Liberty Congress would call on America to first offer a true democracy at home before fighting for it abroad.
He went on to found the International Colored Unity League and "The Voice of the Negro," which called on black people to develop race consciousness and to unite, organize and respond to racial oppression.
Harrison died at 44 years old on December 17, 1927 due to an appendicitis-related illness, and according to Perry thousands turned out to his funeral. Although Harrison was not religious and often opposed the church, after his death a church was named in his honor and his portrait was placed in the 135th Street Public Library. But, due to his poverty, he was buried in an unmarked, shared plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Perry attributed the subsequent neglect of Harrison's memory to the fact that he was poor, black, foreign born, and radical; he opposed capitalism, white supremacy and the Christian church; and he supported socialism, race consciousness, racial equality, women's equality, free thought and birth control.
The first chapter of Perry's book "Crucian Roots," is particularly relevant for Virgin Islanders to read, as it begins with the human inhabitation of the island of St. Croix in 300 to 400 BC. Perry goes on to outline a very detailed history of the human inhabitants on St. Croix and the colonization of the island by several European nations. Perry recounts the many revolts and struggles that the island's slaves and oppressed peoples had to overcome. He builds this history in order to build upon the framework of Harrison's thinking before emigrating to New York.
Harrison was born in Estate Concordia on April 27, 1883. His mother, Cecilia Elizabeth Haines, was a laboring class immigrant originally from Barbados and his father is believed to be Adolphus Harrison, a Crucian and former slave, who was not married to Harrison's mother. Harrison and his mother were both servants at the Concordia sugar plantation.
"Overall, Hubert Harrison's Crucian and Bajan family history was deeply rooted in slavery, contract labor, servitude, plantation work, and poverty," states Perry.
After learning of Harrison's passion for enlightening and uplifting working class people and his childhood roots, it is no surprise to learn that local labor leader and icon David Hamilton Jackson was Harrison's school mate on St. Croix. And, almost simultaneously they fought for and led the working-class people of St. Croix and New York into a world of greater independence through knowledge and free thought.
It is also believed that Jackson's father Wilford taught Harrison along with his son. Harrison references Wilford years later in one of his writings as "the most prominent teacher, white or black, in three [Danish West Indies] islands.
At a time when segregation and lynchings were common place in the continental United States, Harrison, although poor, was able to enjoy educational pursuits and youthful exploration as a child on St. Croix. Harrison was given the opportunity to gain an understanding of his African roots and the rich Crucian history.
"Overall, it was a period in which, despite obstacles, he had a loving family life and he was able to cultivate a love of learning, nurture his dreams, and grow with the belief that he was the equal of any other," states Perry.
Perry looks at Harrison's early years on St. Croix as very significant to the molding of the independent free thinking radical activist that Harrison was to become when arriving in New York.
Harrison emigrated to the U.S. in 1900, when he was 17 years old. His mother had died the year before in 1899.
"He arrived in New York with the clothes on his back, his Crucian roots, and an extraordinarily fertile and inquiring mind," states Perry.
However, what Harrison encountered in New York was very different from life on St. Croix.
According to Perry, Harrison was part of a larger movement of people from St. Croix in search of work, which led to a 30 percent decrease in the island's population over the previous 65 years.
Many educated West Indians migrated to the United States and were confronted with a new type of discrimination and class oppression, as well as an anti foreigner sentiment.
"Yet, Harrison, typical of most West Indians and other immigrants, was unfamiliar with the organized racial oppression of the United States, and he, like many other Black West Indians, would soon defiantly challenge assumptions of Black racial inferiority," states Perry.
But Harrison was able to channel his rebellious feelings into a powerful intellectual enlightenment that he spread throughout the African American community in New York and beyond.
The first edition of Harrison's biography ends with Harrison being recognized as a major national protest figure and founder of the growing New Negro Movement.
"The life story of this freethinking, black, Caribbean-born, race and class-conscious, working-class intellectual activist is a story that needs to be told," Perry states in the introduction of the book. "It offers a missing vision and voice that fill major gaps in the historical record and enable us to significantly reshape our understanding and interpretation of the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most important, perhaps, his life story offers profound insights for thinking about race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America."
Perry's interest in class struggle, social change and anti-white supremacy led to his discovery of Harrison and his writings. It was when he was doing research for a doctoral dissertation for Columbia University that he stumbled upon Harrison.
"When I first read microfilm copies of Harrison's two published books I was arrested by the clarity of his writing and the perceptiveness of his analysis," states Perry in the preface of the book. "I knew that I had encountered a writer of great importance, and, within a short while I decided to change my dissertation topic to a biography of Harrison.
Perry was assisted by several Virgin Islanders along the way, including G. James Flemming, June A.V. Lindqvist and George F. Tyson. Lindqvist, who was a librarian at the Enid M. Baa Library on St. Thomas was a relative of Harrison's wife. She put Perry in touch with Harrison's children Aida Harrison Richardson, a school teacher and principal, and William Harrison, a lawyer. Along with their mother Irene Louise Horton Harrison Perry was given permission to access Harrison's papers and books and eventually permission to have them placed in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Library at Columbia University.
Copies of the first volume can be purchased on St. Croix at Undercover Books and the Freudian Slip, and on St. Thomas at the Dockside Bookshop and Treasure Attic Book Shop. For more information on Perry, or the book, go to www.jeffreybperry.net.
"I think anyone who is interested in African American history, particularly of the Virgin Islands and their contribution, must read this book because they will be blown away, not only by the book itself but by Hubert Harrison," said George Tyson, director of the St. Croix African Roots Project.
(with audio, video, photo links)
Life, Legacy & Some Writings
(with audio and video links)
by Hubert H. Harrison
(Diasporic Africa Press)
with a new introduction, biographical sketch, and supplementary notes
by Jeffrey B. Perry