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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

April 27th Marks 135th Anniversary of Birth of Hubert Harrison

April 26, 2018

Tags: April 27, Birthday, Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Henry Harrison, #hubertharrison, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Jeffrey B. Perry, Harlem, working class, writer, orator, educator, critic, political activist, book reviewer, Joel A. Rogers, foremost Afro-American intellect, A. Philip Randolph, father of Harlem radicalism, radical internationalist, race, class, New Negro, class radical, race radical, Marcus Garvey, race-conscious, class-conscious, two great trends, Black Liberation Movement, labor/civil rights trend, Martin Luther King, Jr., race/nationalist, Malcolm X, Socialist Party, Paterson silk workers strike, soapbox orator, New York Times, Broad and Wall Streets, New York Stock Exchange, socialism, Occupy Wall Street, Liberty League, The Voice, East St. Louis, Illinois, Ferguson, Missouri, Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort, international consciousness, darker races, Negro race, Negro World, When Africa Awakes, Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro in the Western World, lists, course, syllabus, library, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Negro and the Nation

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


100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding
of the First Organization
of the Militant “New Negro Movement"

June 12, 2017

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, The Father of Harlem Radicalism, Columbia University Press, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, Diasporic Africa Press, When Africa Awakes, Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, Western World, First Organization, First Newspaper, New Negro Movement, Harlem, Marcus Garvey, Chandler Owen, W.A. Domingo, J. A. Rogers, A.Philip Randolpj, Richrd B.Moore, Liberty Leage, The Voice, Negro World, Columbia University Press, Alain Leroy Locke, Wesleyan University Press, Diasporic Africa Press, Bethel A.M.E. Church, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Jamaican, Socialist Party, Communist Party, African Blood Bothethood, Founding, First Organization, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Harlem, Metropolitan Baptist Church, The Voice, militant, New Negro, Liberty League, Stop Lynching, Disfranchisement, Make the South Safe For Democracy, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Abyssinian Baptist Church, East St.Louis, pogrom, federal anti-lynching legislation, sefregation, make the South Safe for Democray, 13th amendment, 14th amendment, 15th amendment, armed self-defense, lynching, Jamaica, Harlem

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

Hubert Harrison
Growing Appreciation for this Giant of Black History
December 17 Marks the 89th Anniversary of His Death

December 17, 2016

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, J. A. Rogers, A. Philip Ramdolph, Marcus Garvey, Socialist Party, New Negro Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, touchstone, Columbia University Press, Wesleyan University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, St. Croix, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Diasporic Africa Press, December 17, death, radical internationalist, New Negro, Voice, Negro World, touchstone



Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), the “father of Harlem radicalism” and founder of the militant “New Negro Movement,” is a giant of our history. He was extremely important in his day and his significant contributions and influence are attracting increased study and discussion today. On the anniversary of his December 17, 1927, death let us all make a commitment to learn more about the important struggles that he and others waged. Let us also commit to share this knowledge with others.


Harrison was born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, on April 27, 1883, to a laboring-class Bajan mother and a born-enslaved, plantation-laboring Crucian father. He arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably 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 voluminously and lectured indoors and out 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 on the limitations and potential of America 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; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; 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 When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World in 1920; and he served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.



His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants including the class radical Randolph and the race radical Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is the key link in the ideological unity of the 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, respectively, the direct 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 self-educated lecturer (for the New York City Board of Education) 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 of 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.


Hubert Harrison was truly extraordinary and people are encouraged to learn about and discuss his life and work and to Keep Alive the Struggles and Memory of this Giant of Black History.

Additional Information

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, 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” see HERE

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see 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 see HERE

For a NEW VIDEO of a Slide Presentation/Talk on HUBERT HARRISON the “Father of Harlem Radicalism” for the St. Croix Landmarks Society see
HERE (Note: The slides are very clear.)

Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

July 3, 2016

Tags: Recommended Summer Reading, Theodore W. Allen, Black Radicalism, African American History, Labor History, American History, U.S. History, Non-Fiction, Freethought, Origin, Racial Oppression, Anglo-America, Recommended Summer Viewing, Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, autodidact, anti-white supremacist, white privilege, white skin privilege, whiteness, Bacon's Rebellion, slavery, chattel bond-servitude, working class, intellectuals, Hubert H. Harrison, Ted Allen, twentieth century, race, class, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro, Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, Developing Conjuncture, Insights, Centrality, Fight, struggle, Against White Supremacy, The Invention of the White Race, Racial Oppression, Social Control, Verso Books, Dudley Branch, Boston Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts, Brecht Forum, New York City, Multiracial Organizing Conference, Greensboro, NC



Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

Important summer reading and viewing -- The autodidactic, anti-white supremacist, working-class intellectuals Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen are two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class. The following readings and videos are recommended:

“A Hubert Harrison Reader” ed. with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World,” edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought -- CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control," edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Verso Books), CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race,” Volume 2: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," CLICK HERE

“Hubert Harrison,” video of a slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library in Roxbury, Massachusetts on February 15, 2014, CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen’s ‘The Invention of the White Race’" by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Brecht Forum in New York City CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” video of 2016 slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” against white supremacy in Greensboro, NC CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought) http://www.jeffreybperry.net (at Top Left) or see http://clogic.eserver.org/2010/2010.html

April 27 is the Birthday of Hubert Harrison
Share Information on the Life and Work of This Giant of Black History

April 26, 2016

Tags: April 27, Birthday, Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Henry Harrison, #hubertharrison, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Jeffrey B. Perry, Harlem, working class, writer, orator, educator, critic, political activist, book reviewer, Joel A. Rogers, World’s Great Men of Color, autodidact, foremost Afro-American intellect, A. Philip Randolph, father of Harlem radicalism, radical internationalist, race, class, New Negro, class radical, race radical, Marcus Garvey, race-conscious, class-conscious, two great trends, Black Liberation Movement, labor/civil rights trend, Martin Luther King, Jr., race/nationalist, Malcolm X, Socialist Party, Paterson silk workers strike, soapbox orator, New York Times, Broad and Wall Streets, New York Stock Exchange, socialism, Occupy Wall Street, Liberty League, The Voice, pogrom, East St. Louis, Illinois, Ferguson, Missouri, Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort, international consciousness, darker races, Negro race. Negro World, Mrcus Garvey, When Africa Awakes, Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro in the Western World, lists, course, syllabus, library, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918


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

Five Books to Consider for Readings on Race and Class in America

April 16, 2016

Tags: #theodorewallen, Books, Readings, Race, Class, America, black history, black radicalism, white privilege, white skin privilege, Hubert Harrison, Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883, 1918, Columbia University Press, 2008, #jeffreybperry, Theodore W. Allen, Invention, White Race, Racial Oppression, Social Control, Verso Books, Origin of Racial Oppression, Anglo-America, Hubert Harrison Reader. Wesleyan University Press, When Africa Awakes, Inside Story, Stirrings, Strivings, New Negro, Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, 2015, independent, working class, intellectuals #HubertHarrison, #huberthharrison, twentieth century, important thinkers, videos. slide presentation talks, Brecht Forum, New York City, Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts)



Five Books to Consider for Readings on Race and Class in America


Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press, 2008). Also see HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" , Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (1994, Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012).

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America", Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (1997, Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012).

“A Hubert Harrison Reader”, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Wesleyan University Press, 2001).

Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World,” New Expanded Edition, Edited with Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press, 2015).

The independent, working class intellectuals -- Harrison and Allen – are two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class. They have much to offer readers today.

In addition, here are links to videos of slide presentation talks on –

Theodore W. Allen's “The Invention of the White Race” at the Brecht Forum in New York City and on
Hubert Harrison (at the Dudley Public Library in Roxbury, Massachusetts).



Hubert Harrison founded the first organization
and the first newspaper of the militant “New Negro Movement” in 1917
(years before Alain Locke’s “New Negro”)

April 6, 2016

Tags: Hubert Harrison, first organization, first newspaper, Militant New Negro Movement, When Africa Awakes, Marcus Garvey, Negro World, The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, 1917, Alain Locke, New Negro



Anyone reading about, discussing, or teaching “The New Negro” is encouraged to include in that effort 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.”
Hubert Harrison founded the first organization and the first newspaper of the militant “New Negro Movement” in 1917 (years before Alain Locke’s “New Negro” publication) and this book includes over 50 Harrison articles (with introductions and notes) covering the period from 1917 into 1920 (when he edited Marcus Garvey’s “Negro World"). See HERE

You can also see the book at the Diasporic Africa Press website HERE

See the E-book HERE

Hubert Harrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Theodore W. Allen
"The Blindspot"

December 27, 2015

Tags: Hubert Harrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, New Negro, white blindspot, Hubert H. Harrison, cant of Democracy, dust in the eyes of white voters, white quetion, centrality of problem of white supremacy, white skin privilege, socialism, blindspot on the eyes of America, bait for the clever statesman, Theodore W. Allen, The Blindspot, dust in the eyes of white voters



The Blindspot


“. . . as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race must be simply downright lying . . . The cant of ‘Democracy’ is intended as dust in the eyes of white voters . . . It furnishes bait for the clever statesmen.”
Hubert Harrison
New Negro, 1919


“It is only the Blindspot in the eyes of America, and its historians, that can overlook and misread so clean and encouraging a chapter of human struggle and human uplift.”
W.E.B. Du Bois
Black Reconstruction in America:
An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played
in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880

1935


“All the while their white blindspot prevents them from seeing what we are talking about is . . . the ‘white question,’ the white question of questions - the centrality of the problem of white supremacy and the white-skin privilege which have historically frustrated the struggle for democracy, progress and socialism in the US.”
Theodore W. Allen
White Blindspot, 1967 

The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights
from Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen
on the Centrality of the Fight
Against White Supremacy

June 9, 2014

Tags: Developing Conjuncture, Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Harrison, Against White Supremacy, Jeffrey B. Perry, Cultural Logic, racism, nationalism, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, socialism, New Negro, communism, Socialist Party, Communist Party, Garvey Movement, national question, white privilege, white skin privilege, capitalism, Theodore W. Allen

In recent years the gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown to record proportions while stark racial disparities have persisted and in many instances increased. Millions of poor and working people are suffering and conditions are getting worse, particularly for Black and Latino people. This is happening at a time when the U.S. Census Bureau is predicting that “minorities” will comprise more than half of all children by 2023 and the majority of the population by 2042 and at a time when poor and working people domestically and internationally are showing an increased willingness to protest against exploitation and oppression.

While there are many factors affecting the current situation it is instructive to review some class and racial aspects of the developing conjuncture in the United States and to do so in the context of insights drawn from the lives and work of Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005). Harrison and Allen were working-class intellectual/activists who focused on the centrality of the fight against white supremacy and they are two of the twentieth-century’s most important writers on race and class. In the belief that their work has much to offer scholars, activists, and readers today, this essay presents an introduction to Harrison and Allen followed by a brief look at the developing conjuncture and a lengthier discussion of some insights from their lives and work.

For more see -- "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 in Cultural Logic, Special Issue: Culture and Crisis, available HERE and HERE

“Hubert Harrison:
The Voice of Harlem Radicalism”
Presentation
by Jeffrey B. Perry

May 8, 2014

Tags: Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, Jeffrey B. Perry, J. A. Rogers, A. Philip Randolph, Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, Harlem, Radicalism, New Negro, Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, August Savage, Sol Plaatje, Eubie Blake, Socialism, Negro World, Arthur Schomburg, Schomburg Center, Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts, Mimi Jones, Friends of the Dudley Library, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, Massachusetts Global Action, Mirna Lascano, Umang Kumar, Charlie Welch, Boston Neighborhood News TV, Around Town, Comcast 9, RCN 15, Justin D. Shannahan, Ted Lewis, Laura Kerivan, Nia Grace, Scott Mercer, BNNTV



“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

Hubert H. Harrison
The Negro and the Nation
1917

March 21, 2014

Tags: Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Harrison, The Negro and the Nation, Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Company, Liberty League, The Voice, New Negro Movement, The Negro and the Nation, Barbados, Orlando M. Thompson, Black Star Line, Richard B. Moore, Socialist, Communist, Scottsboro Boys, orator, bibliophile, Introductory, World War, race consciousness, The Black Man's Burden, Socialism and the Negro, The Real Negro Problem, On A Certain Conservatism in Negroes, What Socialism Means To Us, The Negro and the Newspapers, Preface, the New Negro, aims and ideals, international crusade for democracy, the right to have A VOICE in their own governmen, Woodrow Wilson, President Wilson, New Negro, When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, The Porro Press, Introductory, AFRICA, Preface



Hubert H. Harrison
The Negro and the Nation
(Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Company
2305 Seventh Avenue, New York
1917


In August 1917, shortly after founding the first organization (The Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the “New Negro Movement,” Hubert Harrison completed his first book -- The Negro and the Nation.

The book was published by the Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Company, which was headed by Barbados-born Orlando M. Thompson (a future Vice-President of the Black Star Line) and included Barbados-born Richard B. Moore (a Socialist and bibliophile and future Communist and Scottsboro Boys orator) as a part owner.

Harrison was at a highpoint in popularity and the book's "Introductory" described in detail how the World War had quickened the development of race consciousness. The book then reprinted some of Harrison's early articles -- "The Black Man's Burden" (1912), "Socialism and the Negro" (c. 1912), "The Real Negro Problem" (c. 1912), "On A Certain Conservatism in Negroes" (1914), "What Socialism Means To Us" (1912), and "The Negro and the Newspapers" (c. 1910-1912).

In the "Preface" Harrison explained that the reprinted articles helped to describe “the present situation of the Negro in present day America” and showed” how that situation re-acts upon the mind of the Negro." He emphasized that such exposure was the "Negro's" immediate "great need."

In the “Preface" he also indicated that he planned, in the near future, to write a book "on the New Negro" which would "set forth the aims and ideals” of the new movement “which has grown out of the international crusade 'for democracy -- for the right to have A VOICE in their own government' -- as President Wilson so sincerely put it."

In 1919 Harrison would edit 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.”

Then, in 1920, Harrison did complete that second book -- When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World (The Porro Press, 513 Lenox Ave, New York, August 1920). In the “Introductory” to that work Harrison writes: “It is hardly necessary to point out that the AFRICA of the title is to be taken in its racial rather than its geographical sense.”

To read The Negro and the Nation CLICK HERE

For additional information by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

Anselmo Jackson
Discusses Hubert Harrison’s Influence on Marcus Garvey

September 10, 2013

Tags: Anselmo Jackson, Hubert Harrison, radicalism, Marcus Garvey, The Voice, Liberty League, New Negro

Anselmo Jackson, a writer for both Hubert Harrison’s “Voice” and Marcus Garvey’s “Negro World,” writes that beginning in 1916,

“outdoors and indoors, Hubert Harrison was preaching an advanced type of radicalism with a view to impressing race consciousness and effecting racial solidarity among Negroes. The followers of Harrison, responding to his demand that a New Negro Manhood movement among Negroes be organized, formed the Liberty League fo[r] Negro-Americans, a short while prior to Garvey. . . . The . . . atmosphere was charged with Harrison’s propaganda; men and women of color thruout the United States and the West Indies donated their dollars and pledged their support to Harrison as they became members of the Liberty League.

Garvey publicly eulogized Harrison, joined the Liberty League and took a keen interest in its affairs. . . . Harrison rendered memorable educational and constructive community service to the Negroes of Harlem. It may be truly said that he was the forerunner of Garvey and contributed largely to the success of the latter by preparing the minds of Negroes through his lectures, thereby molding and developing a new temper among Negroes which undoubtedly made the task of the Jamaican much easier than it otherwise would have been.”

For more on Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 click here, here and here

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBERT H. HARRISON
April 27, 1883 -- December 17, 1927

April 26, 2013

Tags: Hubert H. Harrison, Hubert Harrison, Birthday, Kevin Rashid Johnson, A. Philip Randolph, Marcus Garvey, Arthur Schomburg, New Negro, Socialism, The Voice, Liberty League, Jeffrey B. Perry



April 27th is the 130th Anniversary of the Birth of Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927)


Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” Rogers adds that “No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten” others and “none of the Afro-American leaders of his time had a saner and more effective program.” Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.” Harrison’s friend and pallbearer, Arthur Schomburg, fully aware of his popularity, eulogized to the thousands attending Harrison’s Harlem funeral that he was also “ahead of his time.”

Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, in 1883, to a Bajan mother and a Crucian father, Harrison arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and race oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of “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 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, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe. 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 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”; that “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters”; and that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of.”

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 on the limitations and potential of America 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; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and he served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920. His 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 the key link in the ideological unity of the 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, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm, whose parents were involved with the Garvey movement, 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 (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer "in Negro newspaperdom"); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what became known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; a pioneer Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education, and one of its foremost orators). His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

For reviewers' comments from scholars and activists on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.

For Columbia University Press’s page on the biography CLICK HERE

For a link to some writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (the first volume of a projected two-volume biography of Harrison) is now on sale at a special 50% off discount.

It is selling for $14 in paperback from Columbia University Press through April 30, 2013 CLICK HERE

(To save 50% simply use the coupon code "SALE" in your shopping cart after you have entered the book for your order, click "apply" and your savings will be calculated.)

Jeffrey B. Perry



Artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is Defense Minister of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter (not to be confused with the “New Black Panther Party”). He is the author of Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art, Featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw (2010), "Political Struggle in the Teeth of Prison Reaction: From Virginia to Oregon,", Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 27, No. 1 (2013), 78-94, other articles in Socialism & Democracy (nos. 38 and 43), and many other works available online. Address: Kevin Johnson, no. 19370490, Snake River Correctional Institution, 777 Stanton Blvd., Ontario, OR 97914.

"The Letter to the Editor that 'Science and Society' Refused to Publish"

February 5, 2012

Tags: Science and Society, David Laibman, Margaret Stevens, Jeffrey B. Perry, Amselmo Jackson, Grace Campbell, New Negro, Richard B. Moore, W. A. Domingo, Scott McLemee, The Voice, New Negro, Negro World, Columbia Journalism Review, William Monroe Trotter, Crisis, Close Ranks, Liberty Congress, Joel E. Spingarn, Robert L. Zangrando, NAACP, Dusk of Dawn, Eugene O'Neill, Hubert Harrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Chandler Owen, Cyril V. Briggs, Richard B. Moore, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Williana Jones Burroughs, J. A. Rogers, A. Philip Randolph

To: David Laibman, Editor of "Science and Society"
From: Jeffrey B. Perry, jeffreybperry@gmail.com, www.jeffreybperry.net
Correspondence Submission
Re: Review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (in April 2011 issue)
August 5, 2011

“In the first place, remember that in a book review you are writing for a public who want to know whether it is worth their while to read the book about which you are writing. They are primarily interested more in what the author set himself to do and how he does it than in your own private loves and hates.”

Hubert Harrison, 1922

St. Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers in "World’s Great Men of Color" as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” A. Philip Randolph referred to him as the “Father of Harlem Radicalism.” (Perry, 2008, 1, 5)

Harrison merited such praise. He was a radical political activist who served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; as the founder and leading figure of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and as the editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920. He was also a class conscious and race conscious “radical internationalist” whose views profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants that included the class-radical socialists Randolph and Chandler Owen, the future communists Cyril V. Briggs, Richard B. Moore, and Williana Burroughs, and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and Owen and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a seminal figure in 20th century Black radicalism. (Perry, 2008, 2, 4, 94, and 437-38 n. 45)

He was not only a political radical, however. Harrison was also an immensely popular orator and freelance educator; a highly praised journalist, editor, and book reviewer; a promoter of Black writers and artists; a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library popularizer (who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture). In his later years he was the leading Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education. (Perry, 2008, 5-6)

One area where Harrison, has much to offer, concerns book reviewing. At age twenty-four he authored two front-page "New York Times Saturday Review of Books" pieces on literary criticism; he initiated what was described as the “first regular book review section known to Negro newspapedom”; he authored some 70 reviews and regularly reviewed books in the newspapers that he edited including "The Voice" (1917-1918), "New Negro" (1919), and "Negro World" (1920); he was praised for his insights as a critic by Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill; and he has recently been described as a “patron saint” of book reviewers by Scott McLemee in the online "Columbia Journalism Review." It was in the "Negro World" that Harrison offered the sound advice on book reviewing quoted in the epigraph above. (Perry, 2001, 2, 295-6)

I think "Science and Society" readers would have been better served if Margaret Stevens, in her April 2011 review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918," had followed Harrison’s advice more closely and if she had put more accuracy and less innuendo (Harrison’s “predilection,” “it is curious,” “it is curious that Perry, repeatedly,” etc.) in her review. Readers would have been better informed about both Harrison and the biography and they would be better able to decide, in Harrison’s words, “whether it is worth their while to read the book.”

Here are some failings of the review –

1. Stevens writes that “Perry . . . emphasizes Harrison’s role in founding the Liberty League in Harlem . . . . He does not, however, examine Harrison’s continuing ties with ‘old crowd’ Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.”

Regarding Washington, Stevens’ statement makes absolutely no sense. Harrison was an outspoken critic of Washington for years, described him as a “subservient,” and characterized his political philosophy as “one of submission and acquiescence in political servitude.” Harrison was summarily fired from the Post Office through the efforts of Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” (in 1911) after writing two letters to the "New York Sun" critical of Washington. Stevens’ statement also makes no sense since Washington died in 1915 – over a year-and-a-half before the founding of Harrison’s Liberty League in June 1917! (Perry, 2008, 123, 132-3, 261, 285, 389)

Regarding Du Bois, in Hubert Harrison I describe how Harrison started out as a supporter of Du Bois and how political differences emerged in the period covered by the first volume.

Harrison differed from Du Bois on “The Talented Tenth,” which Du Bois described as the “educated and gifted” group whose members “must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people.” Harrison thought that the “Talented Tenth” hadn’t provided the leadership that was needed, that they should come down from their Mt. Sinais and get among the people, and that the “Colored” leadership implicit in that concept was not “pre-ordained” to lead Black people.(Perry, 2008, 125, 238)

During 1911-12 Harrison, drawing from the work of autonomous women’s clubs and Foreign Language Federations in the SP, initiated a Colored Socialist Club in a special effort to attract “Negroes” to the party. Du Bois, while still an SP member, did not support that effort. (Perry, 2008, 148, 169-71)

In the 1912 election Harrison supported and campaigned vigorously for the SP Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, while Du Bois left the SP in order to support Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party candidate. (Perry, 2008, 19, 269, 281)

In 1916 Harrison articulated a plan for developing bottom-up race unity that would eventually lead to the founding of the Liberty League. The plan was consciously in opposition to the approaches of both Washington and Du Bois whom Harrison felt started at the wrong end – i.e. they began at the top when they should have began at the bottom. Interestingly, in his third autobiography, "Dusk of Dawn" (1940), Du Bois would reach a similar conclusion. (Perry, 2008, 271)

In 1917-1918 with the Liberty League and then with the Liberty Congress Harrison advocated federal anti-lynching legislation, which the NAACP declined to push at this time and did not publicly support until later. In 1917, according to historian Robert L. Zangrando in "The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950," the NAACP “actually declined to make an open push for” federal anti-lynching legislation.” Zangrando concluded that NAACP’s failure to wholeheartedly support the anti-lynching legislation reflected the fact that it “was reaching for southern support and still pulling its punches on the matter of federal statute.” (Perry, 2008, 9, 288-9, 298-9, 310, 375, 381, 515 n 29)

The Harrison/William Monroe Trotter-led Liberty Congress of 1918 was a major Black national protest effort during World War I. It opposed lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement and petitioned Congress for federal anti-lynching legislation. Joel E. Spingarn, the head of the NAACP, attempted to have it called off. Spingarn was a major in Military Intelligence (that branch of the War Department that monitored the Black and radical communities) and he was a pro-war socialist at a time when Lenin and others in the international socialist movement were criticizing that position. When Spingarn’s attempt to get the Liberty Congress called-off didn’t work, he spoke with Du Bois and they agreed to host a “Colored Editors Conference” to meet a week earlier in a blatant effort to steal the thunder from, and undermine, the Liberty Congress. In this period Du Bois put in an application for a captaincy in Military Intelligence and, as part of the quid-pro-quo related to his captaincy application, he wrote his infamous July 1918 "Crisis" editorial entitled “Close Ranks.” In that editorial Du Bois urged African Americans to “forget our special grievances [lynching, segregation, disfranchisement] and close ranks” behind Wilson’s war effort. (Perry, 2008, 232, 373-6, 381, 385-6, 473-4 n 36)

In response to Du Bois’s “Close Ranks” editorial and his application for the captaincy in Military Intelligence, Harrison wrote a scathing editorial in "The Voice" entitled “The Descent of Dr. Du Bois.” Harrison’s exposé was a principal reason that Du Bois was denied the captaincy and, more than any other document, it marked the significant break between the “New Negroes” and the older leadership. (Perry, 2008, 386-91, 408 n. 34; Aptheker, 1983, 159)

Because of such criticism, Du Bois never mentioned Harrison in "The Crisis" and seemingly went out of his way to avoid doing so. (Perry, 2008, 352-3, 386-91, 408 n 34.)

2. Stevens questions my “placing Harrison rather than Garvey at the helm of Harlem’s burgeoning Black radical community” and not “more clearly” elucidating some related “larger theoretical and historical” issues (which she does not name or define).

The record left by contemporaries is clear about Harrison's importance as a radical and his signal influence on Garvey's radicalism. Through mid-1918 (when volume one ends) Harrison was clearly the dominant figure in Harlem radicalism. For anyone to even suggest that Garvey, not Harrison was the dominant radical figure at that time, is, based on the record, utter nonsense. My biography sought to document what actually happened and I think this is a proper task for both a biographer and an historian.

The Jamaica-born Garvey came to the United States in 1916 in order to raise funds to set up an industrial school in Jamaica along the lines of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute, which he admired. At first, he did not fare very well in the U.S. and he had, in his own words, "made up his mind to return to Jamaica in the spring of 1917, when he became associated with [his old boyhood friend] Mr. W. A. Domingo and Mr. Hubert Harrison.” Domingo, a socialist and the first editor of Garvey’s "Negro World," explained that Harrison “was a brilliant man, a great intellectual, a Socialist and highly respected” and “Garvey like the rest of us [A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore, and other “New Negro” militants] followed Hubert Harrison.” (Perry, 2008, 2, 294)

Anselmo Jackson, a writer for both Harrison’s "Voice" and Garvey’s "Negro World," further explains that beginning in 1916:

outdoors and indoors, Hubert Harrison was preaching an advanced type of radicalism with a view to impressing race consciousness and effecting racial solidarity among Negroes. . . . [The] atmosphere was charged with Harrison’s propaganda; men and women of color thruout the United States and the West Indies . . . pledged their support to Harrison as they became members of the Liberty League. Garvey publicly eulogized Harrison, joined the Liberty League and took a keen interest in its affairs. . . . [Harrison] was the forerunner of Garvey and contributed largely to the success of the latter . . . (Perry, 2008, 338)

As regards “larger theoretical and historical” issues – they appear throughout the biography: I will mention a few.

From 1911 to 1914 Harrison was America’s leading Black Socialist and he made major theoretical contributions on the subject of “The Negro and Socialism” by advocating that socialists champion the cause of African Americans as a revolutionary doctrine; that they develop a special appeal to and for African Americans; and that they affirm the duty of all socialists to oppose race prejudice. These three themes would contribute significantly to left activism in the U.S. in the twentieth century. (Perry, 2008, 7)

When he left the SP Harrison offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded criticism, in U.S. left history. He stated simply that the Socialist Party [like the labor movement] has “insisted on [white] Race First and class after.” That the “white men” of the Party put “[the white] ‘race first’ rather than ‘class first.’” As I explain, “Harrison was suggesting that a primary reason for limited working-class consciousness and for the absence of socialism in the United States was white supremacy.” (Perry, 2008, 87-8; Perry, 2001, 109, 115)

I also make clear that Harrison’s “experiences with white supremacy within the socialist and labor movements” was an important factor leading to his founding of “the ‘New Negro Movement’ . . . which laid the basis for the Garvey movement and contributed so significantly . . . to the social and literary climate leading to the 1925 publication of Alain Locke’s well-known 'The New Negro.'” I emphasize that “Harrison’s mass-based political movement was, however, qualitatively different from the more middle-class, arts-based, apolitical movement associated with Locke.” (Perry, 2008, 7, 8)

3. Stevens writes “it is curious that Perry repeatedly refers to Harrison as African American rather than Caribbean American or even Afro-Caribbean.”

In the biography I refer to Harrison as “Negro,” “Negro American,” “Black,” “Black Caribbean,” “a key figure in developing Caribbean radicalism”; a “poor, working-class, Black Caribbean immigrant,” “poor, Black, foreign born, and from the Caribbean,” “African American,” and so on and I refer to his parents as “Afro-Caribbean.” In response to Stevens’ assertion that my biography “repeatedly refers to Harrison as African American” – she is simply wrong. In the entire book I count two times that I refer to Harrison as an “African American” – hardly the “repeatedly” that Stevens tells readers. (Perry, 2008, 3, 5, 23, 16-7, 159)

I have no problem referring to Harrison as an African American, however, particularly since that is one name that has come to replace “Negro American”; since Harrison referred to himself with pride as an “untamed, untamable African” and a “Negro American”; since he named his organization the “Liberty League of Negro Americans”; since he wrote “I was born Danish and am now twice an American; first by my own free choice and next by Uncle Sam’s purchase of the Danish islands”; and since he wrote:

I became an American because I was eager to be counted in the fight wherever I happened to be, to bear the burden and heat of the day in helping to make conditions better in this great land for the children who will come after me. And although I am not SATISFIED with American conditions as they now are, I realize that in these days of change and unrest I would not have been satisfied anywhere else. In China I would be fighting against foreign domination, in Egypt, India, South Africa or West Africa I would be fighting against the British oligarchs, in Jamaica against the sinister repression of black people practiced by both whites and mulattoes, and in the Dutch, French or American West Indies against crackerism, stupidity or cowardice. (Perry, 2001, 92, 254, 256, 282, 302)

4. Stevens writes (p. 284) that Harrison had a “predilection for electoral struggles.”

To the contrary, Harrison is a prime example of a radical activist who would struggle, as the saying goes, “by any means necessary.” During his life he was a militant proponent of direct action, sabotage, armed self-defense, strikes, boycotts, migration, and direct challenges to the KKK. In volume two I will cite Military Intelligence that he frequently advocated Bolshevism. (Perry, 2008, 7, 11, 197-8, 201, 291, 298-9, 311.)

He functioned both inside and outside the electoral arena and arguably his most important contribution to revolutionary strategy in the U.S. was related to that fact.

While in the Socialist Party during a period when the key political debates concerned positions on revolutionary vs. evolutionary socialism and revolutionary unionism vs. AFL craft unionism, Harrison, in 1911 and 1912, appealed to both wings of the Party and proposed a new litmus test, a new “crucial test,” for U.S. Socialists—“to champion” the cause of the “Negro.” He thought this was the key to revolutionary strategy in the United States. (Perry, 2008, 180)

5. Stevens writes: “Perry’s emphasis on Harrison’s primacy among the leading ‘race men’ in Harlem’s Black radical scene in 1917 occludes the role of women in the Black radical tradition.”

Stevens creates a “straw man.” The phrase that Stevens puts in quotes -- “race men” -- never appears once in "Hubert Harrison." Stevens doesn’t mention one woman on the Harlem scene in this period that was “occluded.” This volume, covering the period up to 1918, contains information on many women active in Harlem and highlights, in particular, the contributions of Williana Jones Burroughs and Frances Reynolds Keyser. It also offers interesting new information on Eslanda Cardoza Goode.

6. Stevens finds it “curious” that I don’t compare Harrison’s marriage to several others (including two second marriages) that all occur outside the time frame of this volume and include Du Bois’s 1951 marriage to Shirley Graham.

The book is a biography of Hubert Harrison’s life up to 1918. It is not a work focusing on comparative marriages, particularly not on one 24 years after Harrison’s death.

Hubert Harrison was popular and extremely influential in his day. Fully aware of that popularity and influence Arthur A. Schomburg, the outstanding book collector of the African Diaspora, presciently pointed to Harrison’s importance for future generations when he eulogized at his funeral that Harrison was “ahead of his time.” Schomburg was correct. Harrison’s life story and insights have much to offer readers today, particularly in this period of intensifying class and race oppression. (Perry, 2008, vii, 395)

I think that "Science and Society" should have offered a more accurate and less innuendo-laden review that better informed readers about the biography of Hubert Harrison, the most important Black Socialist in early twentieth-century America. Because this was not done, I hope you will share my response – keeping in mind the inspiring words from the front page of Hubert’s Harrison’s "Voice" –

“For the future in the distance
And the good that we can do.”

In solidarity,

Jeffrey B. Perry

References

Perry, Jeffrey B., ed. 2001. "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Middletown, Ct: Wesleyan University Press)
Perry, Jeffrey B. 2008.

"Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (New York: Columbia University Press)

Note this letter can also be found in pdf format at http://www.jeffreybperry.net (top left).

"St. Croix Born, Harlem Activist Hubert Harrison Revealed"
by Stephanie Hanlon
in St. Croix Avis
August 18, 2009

August 18, 2009

Tags: St. Croix Avis, Harlem, Hubert Harrison, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Ohilip Randolph, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Liberty Congress, New Negro, St. Croix, Stephanie Hanlon, Jeffrey B. Perry, George B. Tyson

    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.

Who Was Hubert Harrison?

November 26, 2008

Tags: Joel A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvery, A. Philip Randolph, Father of Harlem Radicalism, St. Croix, Danish West Indies. class consciousness, race consciousness, Africa, Asia, Mideast, Americas, democracy, touchstone, cant of democracy, color line, class radical, race radical, Socialist Party, Liberty League, New Negro, The Voice, Liberty Party, Negro World, Garvey Movement, Civil Rights, Black Liberation Movement, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, 135th St. Public Library, New York City Board of Education, Harlem Renaissance


             Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and “one of America’s greatest minds.” Rogers adds that “No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten” others and “none of the Afro-American leaders of his time [the era of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey] had a saner and more effective program.” As Harlem grew into the “international Negro Mecca” and the “center of radical Black thought,” A. Philip Randolph emphasized that Hubert Harrison was “the father of Harlem radicalism.”

             
The life story of this Black, Caribbean-born, race- and class-conscious, freethinking, working-class intellectual-activist is a story that needs to be told. 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.

             
Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, in 1883, Harrison arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of “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 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, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe. 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 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”; that “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters”; and that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of.”

             
Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played unique, 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 on the limitations and potential of America 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; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and he served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.

             
His 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 the key link in the ideological unity of the 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, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm, whose parents were involved with the Garvey movement, 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 prolific and highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer in history); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture, and a promoter and aid to Black writers and artists. In his later years he was the leading Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education and one of its foremost orators. Though he was a trailblazing literary critic in Harlem during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance, he questioned the “Renaissance” concept on grounds of its willingness to take “standards of value ready-made from white society” and on its claim to being a significant new re-birth. (He maintained that “there had been an uninterrupted,” though ignored, “stream of literary and artistic products” flowing “from Negro writers from 1850” into the 1920s.)

Hubert Harrison:
The Voice of
Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

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