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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


100 – Years Ago Today -- On July 4, 1917
Hubert Harrison Founded "The Voice"
The First Newspaper
of the Militant New Negro Movment
The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.”

July 4, 2017

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Jeffrey B. Perry, Liberty League, The Voice, Messenger, Negro World, Crusader, Marcus Garvey, Cyril Briggs, A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Harlem, Metropolitan Baptist Church, 138th Street, Lenox Avenue, Newspaper for the New Negro, Hodge Kirnon, East St. Louis, Illinois, Ferguson, Missouri, Samuel Gompers, American Federation of Labor, East St. Louis, W. S. Carter, pogrom, race riot, July 4, 1917, San Juan Hill, Liberty League, New York Times, armed self-defense, an eye for an eye



100 – Years Ago Today -- A July 4, 1917 rally of Hubert Harrison’s Liberty League at Harlem’s Metropolitan Baptist Church on 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues drew national attention and saw the first edition of “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.” Harrison’s Liberty League was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement” and his newspaper, “The Voice,” was the first newspaper of the movement and a prime example of the militant new spirit that was developing.

It “really crystallized the radicalism of the Negro in New York and its environs” wrote Hodge Kirnon. Historian Robert A. Hill points out that Harrison’s Voice was “the radical forerunner” of the periodicals that would express the developing political and intellectual ferment in the era of World War I. It was followed in November 1917 by the Hodge Kirnon. Historian Robert A. Hill These four publications, led by “The Voice,” manifested “the principal articulation of the New Negro mood.”

The July 4 meeting came in the wake of the July 1-3 white supremacist pogrom in East St. Louis, Illinois (which is 12 miles from Ferguson, Missouri). Reports on the number of African Americans killed ranged from thirty-nine to two-hundred-and-fifty and 244 buildings were totally or partially destroyed. Historian Edward Robb Ellis reports that in East St. Louis Black women were scalped and four Black children slaughtered.

These riots were widely attributed to “white” labor’s opposition to Black workers coming into the labor market and they were directly precipitated by a car of white “joy riders” who fired guns into the African-American community. Officials of organized labor served as prominent apologists for “white” labor’s role in the rioting. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, placed principal blame for the riots on “the excessive and abnormal number of negroes” in East St. Louis while W. S. Carter, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, maintained that “the purpose of the railroads in importing Negro labor is to destroy the influence of white men’s labor organizations.” A subsequent House of Representatives committee found that the local police and Illinois National Guard were inept and indifferent, and, in specific instances, supported the white mobs.

The Liberty League’s July 4 meeting in the largest church in Harlem came one day after a “race riot” in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan (the third in six weeks) in which two thousand people fought after a reserve policemen arrested a uniformed Black soldier standing on a street corner who allegedly refused to move fast enough.

The “New York Times” reported that at the July 4 Liberty League rally a thousand Black men and women were present and enthusiastically cheered the speakers who were “all Negroes.” Every speaker was reported to have denounced the East St. Louis rioters as ruthless murderers and each condemned the authorities for not preventing the atrocities and for not providing protection.

Edgar M. Grey, secretary of the Liberty League, chaired the July 4 meeting. He informed the audience that the League had sent its message to Congress and appealed for a thorough and impartial investigation of East St. Louis, of the lynching of African Americans, and of treatment of Black people throughout the land. Harrison spoke next and reportedly said that “they are saying a great deal about democracy in Washington now,” but, “while they are talking about fighting for freedom and the Stars and Stripes, here at home the white apply the torch to the black men’s homes, and bullets, clubs and stones to their bodies.”

As president of the Liberty League, Harrison advised Black people who feared mob violence in the South and elsewhere to take direct action and “supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property.” According to the “Times” he received great applause when he declared that “the time had come for the Negroes [to] do what white men who were threatened did, look out for themselves, and kill rather than submit to be killed.” He was quoted as saying: “We intend to fight if we must . . . for the things dearest to us, for our hearths and homes” and he encouraged Black people everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law "to arm for their own defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use them." He also called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them, emphasizing that “Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this” because “East St. Louis touches us too nearly.” As he later put it -- “‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ and sometimes two eyes or a half dozen teeth for one is the aim of the New Negro.” Harrison stressed that it was imperative to “demand justice” and to “make our voices heard.”

The emphasis on a political voice ran across the masthead of “The Voice,” which proclaimed “We will fight for all the things we have held nearest our hearts--for democracy--for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” Several years later Marcus Garvey, who learned from Harrison and joined Harrison’s Liberty League, emphasized that “[the] new spirit of the new Negro . . . seeks a political voice, and the world is amazed, the world is astounded that the Negro should desire a political voice, because after the voice comes a political place, and . . . we are not only asking but we are going to demand--we are going to fight for and die for that place.” According to Robert A. Hill, this demand for a political voice marked the new spirit of the “New Negro” and keyed the later radicalism of Garvey’s UNIA.

This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard marked Harrison’s activities in 1917.

“The Voice” editorial on “The East St. Louis Horror” argued that although the nation was at war to make the world “safe for democracy,” until the nation was made safe for African Americans, they would refuse to believe in the country’s democratic assertions. Harrison stressed that “New Negroes” would not re-echo “patriotic protestations of the boot-licking leaders whose pockets and positions testify to the power of the white man’s gold” and, despite what Black people might be forced by law to say publicly, “the resentment in their hearts will not down.” Then he described the core feeling of the new militancy developing in the wake of East St. Louis:

. . . Unbeknown to the white people of this land a temper is being developed among Negroes with which the American people will have to reckon.
At the present moment it takes this form: If white men are to kill unoffending Negroes, Negroes must kill white men in defense of their lives and property. This is the lesson of the East St. Louis massacre.

For information on Harrison’s life see “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press). For comments on that work by scholars and activists CLICK HERE

See also information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader” by CLICKING HERE

And see information on the new expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” HERE

On May 1, 1912, International Workers Day
Hubert Harrison Spoke Before 50,000 People
at the May Day Rally at Union Square, New York City

May 3, 2017

Tags: 105 Years Ago, May 1, 1912, International Workers Day, Columbia University Press, Hubert Harrison, English language speakers, Socialist Party, May Day, Union Square, New York City, New York Times, 50, 000, workers, bright red of socialism, labor

105 Years Ago -- On May 1, 1912, International Workers Day, Hubert Harrison, one of the featured English language speakers of the Socialist Party, spoke at the May Day rally at Union Square (New York City) which, according to the New York Times, was attended by "some 50,000 organized workers, men and women, wearing the bright red of socialism as the world wide band of labor."
For information on Harrison’s life see “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press). For comments on that work by scholars and activists CLICK HERE



Hubert Harrison on Mayday 1912

May 1, 2016

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Mayday, International Worker Day, socialism, Socialist Party, Union Square, Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street, New York Times

Hubert Harrison on Mayday
On May 1, 1912, International Workers Day, the brilliant soapbox orator, Hubert Harrison, was one of the Socialist Party’s featured speakers at a giant May Day rally at Union Square which, according to the “New York Times” was attended by "some 50,000 organized workers, men and women, wearing the bright red of socialism as the world wide band of labor."

In September of 1912, in a precursor to “Occupy Wall Street,” the “Times” described Harrison him as "an eloquent and forceful negro speaker" who "shattered all records for distance in an address on Socialism in front of the Stock Exchange building." He reportedly "mounted the stand in front of the Socialists' banner at noon and started in with a description of life in the medieval ages." At first "his voice carried to the outermost limits of the crowd" and as the hours passed his "voice grew huskier and huskier, and his circle of auditors all drew closer and closer." He went strong into the third hour and then talked himself into "a hoarse whisper" before ending.”

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

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

“Letter of Support”
from Jeffrey B. Perry and Gene Bruskin
sent to the “New York Times”
on the Princeton Protests and Woodrow Wilson

November 29, 2015

Tags: Letter of Support, Black Justice League, Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, Jeffrey B. Perry, Gene Bruskin, US Labor Against the War, Hubert Harrison, New York Times, Princeton University Student Protests, Woodrow Wilson, November 24, 2015, Erase Wilson’s Name at Princeton, Howard Schneiderman, The Birth of thr Nation, segregation, Post Office, Espionage Act, Palmer Raids, Haiti, Hayti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Hubert H. Harrison, Make the World Safe for Democracy, Make the South Safe for Democracy, Nicaragua Panama, Honduras, Mexico, race riots, white supremacist attacks, East St. Louis, pogrom, Ferguson, Herb Boyd, Michael A. Feirstein, Daniel Wolf



[This “Letter of Support” from Jeffrey B. Perry and Gene Bruskin was sent to the “New York Times” regarding the Princeton University Student Protests and Woodrow Wilson. The “Times” indicated that they were preparing to publish a shortened version of the letter (probably in the November 24, 2015 issue).
The November 24, 2015, issue of the “New York Times” (under the headline “Erase Wilson’s Name at Princeton?”) did not publish the shortened form of this letter, but did publish other letters by Howard Schneiderman, Herb Boyd, Michael A. Feirstein, and Daniel Wolf.]

November 20, 2015

To: The “New York Times”

Dear Editor:

In 1964 as Princeton freshmen we were told that Woodrow Wilson had been a leading Progressive, a proponent of “Democracy,” and a champion of self-determination abroad. It is good to see students today challenging that picture (“Students Want Woodrow Wilson’s Name Removed From Princeton,” November 19, 2015).

Wilson’s record was deplorable on the “race question.” He cut back federal appointments of African Americans; supported showings of the white-supremacist film "The Birth of a Nation" for himself, his Cabinet, Congress, and the Supreme Court; stood by silently as segregation was formalized in the Post Office, Treasury, Interior, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Navy; did nothing as almost two dozen segregation-supporting legislative attempts including exclusion of Black immigrants, segregation of streetcars, and a ban on inter-racial marriages in the District of Columbia were introduced in the House and Senate; and declined to use any significant power of office to address lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement (which marred the land) and the vicious white-supremacist attacks on twenty-six African American communities including Washington, DC, Chicago, and East St. Louis that occurred during his administration.

Under Wilson the U.S. not only implemented the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, and the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, it also occupied Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Nicaragua and intervened in Panama, Honduras, and Mexico. Nevertheless, Wilson ran for President in 1916 on a campaign slogan “he kept us out of war,” posed before the world as a champion of democracy, and prated of “the rights of small nationalities,” of “self-determination,” and of “the right of all who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” In addition to the awful horrors let loose on small countries pre-war, in the postwar period he also helped to pave the way for partition, occupation, and conquest in the Middle East and Africa and for future wars.

There were contemporaries of Wilson, people like the intellectual/activist Hubert Harrison, the founder of the first organization (the Liberty League) and first newspaper (“The Voice”) of the militant “New Negro Movement,” who saw through the misleading portrait of Wilson so often found in the media and history books. Harrison understood that while lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement marred this land, and while the U.S. brazenly attacked smaller countries, “Wilson's protestations of democ­racy were lying protestations, consciously, and deliberately designed to deceive.” At the founding meeting of the Liberty League in June 1917, Harrison posed a direct challenge to Wilson who had claimed the U.S. was entering World War I in order to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” Harrison’s mass meeting was called, as its organizational flyer headlined, to "Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement in the Land Which We Love and Make the South 'Safe For Democracy.'" A month later Harrison led a second major Harlem rally to protest the white supremacist “pogrom” (his word) in East St. Louis, Illinois (15 miles from Ferguson, Missouri).

We are glad that the Black Justice League is raising some of these issues, opening the eyes of many, and helping to point the way forward in the 21st century.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry ‘68
Author of “Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) and editor of the new expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” (Diasporic Africa Press)

Gene Bruskin ‘68
Founder, U.S. Labor Against the War
Trade Unionist

Jeffrey B. Perry
Open Letter in Response to
“Challenging White Privilege From the Inside” by Kyle Spencer
in the "New York Times," February 20, 2015

February 22, 2015

Tags: Jeffrey B. Perry, Open Letter, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside, Kyle Spencer, white skin privilege, New York Times, SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, Thomas R. Brooks, The New Left is Showing its Age, The Invention of the White Race, White Privilege, white race identity problem



Unfortunately, the “New York Times” article on “Challenging White Privilege From the Inside” (February 20, 2015) totally ignores the seminal contributions of Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) who did pioneering work on “white privilege” and “white skin privilege” from the mid-1960s until his death in 2005.

Also ignored is the fact that by June 15, 1969, Allen’s work, and that of others, had impacted Students for a Democratic Society so much that the organization’s national office was calling "for an all-out fight against 'white skin privileges.'” (Thomas R. Brooks, "The New Left is Showing Its Age," “New York Times,” June 15, 1969, p. 20.)

Allen’s important analysis of “white privilege,” which was developed into his two-volume “classic” “The Invention of the White Race,” should be of interest to “Times” readers.

After pointing out that the word “white” as a symbol of social status did not appear in any Virginia Colonial Records until 1691 and demonstrating that the “white race,” as we know it, did not exist in early 17th Century Virginia (the pattern-setting plantation colony), Allen develops the thesis that the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the later, civil war stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77).

To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite, in its own class interest, deliberately instituted a system of “white race” privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and to establish a system of racial oppression; and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers, whose class interests differed fundamentally from those of the ruling elite. He describes these “white privileges” as a “poison bait” (like a shot of heroin) for European-American workers.

Allen’s work also challenges “The Great White Assumption” – “the unquestioning, indeed unthinking acceptance of the ‘white’ identity of European-Americans of all classes as a natural attribute rather than a social construct.”

In addition, Allen shied away from the term “whiteness.” As he explained, “it’s an abstract noun, it’s an abstraction, it’s an attribute of some people, it’s not the role they play. And the white race is an actual objective thing. It’s not anthropologic, it’s a historically developed identity of European Americans and Anglo-Americans and so it has to be dealt with. It functions . . . in this history of ours and it has to be recognized as such . . . to slough it off under the heading of ‘whiteness,’ to me seems to get away from the basic white race identity problem.”

Theodore W. Allen’s work is essential for understanding “white privilege” and the “white race.”

Here is a video on Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” and the development of the system of “white privileges”




The fullest treatment of the development of Theodore W. Allen’s work can be found in “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy,” available in PDF format HERE (at the top left) and HERE.

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books with a new, internal study guide CLICK HERE.

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s Vol. I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books with a new, internal study-guide CLICK HERE.

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE.

For Sean Ahern’s review of Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (Verso Books) in "Black Commentator" CLICK HERE.

For another video “On Theodore W. Allen, ‘The Invention of the White Race,’ and White Supremacy in U.S. Labor History” – An Interview with Jeffrey B. Perry at the Labor and Working Class History Association Conference in New York City CLICK HERE.

Re: Naomi Zack
“What ‘White’ Privilege Really Means”
from “New York Times”
by Jeffrey B. Perry
Drawing on Work of Theodore W. Allen

November 7, 2014

Tags: What ‘White’ Privilege Really Means, Naomi Zack, George Yancy, November 5, 2014, New York Times, Opinionator, The Stone, white privilege, Theodore W. Allen, Jeffrey B. Perry, The Invention of the White Race, social construct, #whiteprivilege, #whiteskinprivilege, #theodorewallen, #newyorktimes, #naomizack

Re: “What ‘White’ Privilege Really Means” – a Naomi Zack interview by George Yancy in the November 5, 2014, “New York Times” online "Opinionator" column “The Stone.”

On the subject of “white privilege” I encourage people to read the work of Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) who pioneered his "white skin privilege" analysis in the 1960s and authored the two-volume classic “The Invention of the White Race” in the 1990s.

Allen maintains that the "white race" was invented as a ruling-class social control formation and that a system of racial oppression was imposed in response to labor solidarity in the wake of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77); that the "white race" was created and maintained through "white race" privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans; and that these privileges were not in the interest of African-Americans or laboring class European-Americans.

Unlike Naomi Zack, Allen was not “motivated by a great need to work and not to be bored.” Rather, he sought historical understanding in order to challenge white supremacy and to contribute toward efforts at radical social change.

Allen documents how the word “white” as a symbol of social status did not appear in a Virginia colonial record until 1691. He further explains how "rights" in England were denied to European-American and African-American laborers through most of the 17th century in Virginia as a system of chattel-bond servitude was imposed (particularly after 1622). He then explains how, in response to Bacon’s Rebellion and other instances of labor solidarity, the plantation elite contrived a new social status, a “‘white’ identity,” designed to set European-Americans at a distance from African Americans and “to enlist European-Americans of every class as . . . supporters of capitalist agriculture based on chattel bond-labor.” The distinguishing characteristic of this “white race” was the participation of the laboring classes and the key to this “counterfeit of social mobility” was “to reissue long-established common law rights, ‘incident to every free man,’ but in the form of ‘white’ privileges: the presumption of liberty, the right to get married, the right to carry a gun, the right to read and write, the right to testify in legal proceedings, the right of self-directed physical mobility, and the enjoyment of male prerogatives over women.” Allen stressed, “the record indicates that laboring-class European-Americans in the continental plantation colonies showed little interest in ‘white identity’ before the institution of the system of ‘race’ privileges at the end of the seventeenth century.

Allen also emphasizes that to say race is a “social construct,” as does Zack, is not enough. He maintains that it must be emphasized that the “white race” is a ruling class social control formation. To simply say that race is a “social construct” leaves the back door open for those like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Dinesh D’Souza who might at any time “adapt their thesis to ‘race-as-a-social-construct’ by describing racial prejudice as proceeding from ‘white’ Americans’ reaction to the ‘crisis of the Negro family,’ and a vast train of ‘social pathology’ that Moynihan ascribes to it; or, to the historical ‘cultural dysfunctionality’ of which D’Souza accuses African-Americans.”

Basing his work on decades of historical research, and with an awareness of the dangers in the Moynihan and D’Souza arguments, Allen emphasizes that the "white race" was invented and is maintained as a ruling-class social control formation and that it serves ruling class interests.

For more on Theodore W. Allen’s important work CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

For a video of a slide presentation/talk on Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE

For an in-depth discussion of Allen's work see 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” at the top left
HERE and also at "Cultural Logic" HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry

The Naomi Zack interview by George Yancy entitled “What ‘White’ Privilege Really Means” is available online HERE

“No Basis for Claims John Punch was ‘Indentured’
and Two Servants Were ‘White’”

August 3, 2012

Tags: Barack Obama, John Punch, New York Times, History News Network, Jeffrey B. Perry

In "Obama's slavery roots on mom's side" the "History News Network" (1 August 2012) repeats inaccuracies from Sheryl Gay Stolberg's (30 July 2012) "New York Times" article "Obama Has Ties to Slavery Not By His Father but His Mother, Research Suggests." HNN and Stolberg write “ In 1640, Mr. [John] Punch then an indentured servant, escaped from Virginia and went to Maryland. He was captured there and, along with two white servants who had also escaped, was put on trial.”

There is no basis for the claims that John Punch was "indentured" and that the other two servants were "white."

Ancestry.com (in the article Stolberg discusses) cites the following paragraph from the Journal of the Executive Council of Colonial Virginia dated 9 July 1640 as “the only one surviving account that certainly pertains to John Punch’s life”:


"Whereas Hugh Gwyn hath by order from this Board brought back from Maryland three servants formerly run away from the said Gwyn, the court doth therefore order that the said three servants shall receive the punishment of whipping and to have thirty stripes apiece one called Victor, a [D]utchman, the other a Scotchman called James Gregory, shall first serve out their times with their master according to their Indentures and one whole year apiece after the time of their service is Expired ... the third being a Negro named John Punch shall serve his said master and his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere."

There is no indication in the 1640 document that John Punch was “indentured.” While the document specifically indicates that the other two “servants” James Gregory and Victor did have “Indentures” it does not say this about Punch. There is no documentation that Punch signed an indenture (particularly not for transportation to Virginia) and it is extremely unlikely that he did. What is likely is that he was previously subjected to limited-term chattel bond-servitude (the passage makes reference to John Punch serving “his said master and his assigns”).


Theodore W. Allen in his seminal two-volume study "The Invention of the White Race," in Volume II on "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," shows that in Virginia chattelization was imposed on free laborers, tenants, and bond-servants increasingly after 1622, that it was imposed on both European and African descended laborers, that it was a qualitative break from English labor law, and that the chattelization of plantation labor constituted an essential precondition of the emergence of the subsequent lifetime chattel bond-servitude imposed on African-American laborers in continental Anglo-America under the system of racial slavery and racial oppression.

The other two servants captured with John Punch were not “white” and were not described as such. The 1640 record says only they were “Victor, a [D]utchman” and “a Scotchman called James Gregory.” In Volume I of "The Invention of the White Race," subtitled "Racial Oppression and Social Control," Allen emphasizes there were no “white” people in Virginia at that time and he explains that after examination of 885 county-years of pattern-setting Virginia’s colonial records, he found no instance of the official use of the word “white” as a token of social status prior to 1691. This was not merely a matter of semantics; he also found that the “white race” as we know it was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.

It is important to understand that through much of the seventeenth century there was a commonality of experience between European and African descended laboring people in Virginia who fought together, ran away together, made love together, and, in general, resisted their oppression together. When economic hard times worsened after 1660 there were numerous examples of militant labor solidarity culminating in the later, civil war stages of Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77) in which European and African descended chattel bond-laborers fought together demanding their freedom from bondage.

Allen insightfully explains how in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to such labor solidarity; how a system of racial privileges was deliberately instituted as a conscious ruling-class policy in order to define and establish the “white race”; how a system of “racial slavery” was imposed that was also marked by severe racial proscriptions against free people of African descent; and how the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the African-American workers and other direct victims of racial oppression, it was also disastrous for “white” workers.

As people organize to protest the growing hard times today it is most important to accurately learn our seventeenth-century history and whose class interests are served by white supremacist appeals.

Jeffrey B. Perry

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

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