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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

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

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

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Hubert Harrison and Others “Occupy Wall Street” on September 13, 1912

104 years ago (on September 14, 1912) in “Enlightening Wall Street” the New York Times reported that “Hubert Harrison, an eloquent and forceful negro speaker, shattered all records for distance in an address on Socialism in front of the Stock Exchange building yesterday [September 13]” His “voice carried to the furthermost limits of the crowd,” he “was still going strong, at the beginning of the third hour,” and he continued on until “the big gong in the Exchange announced the closing.”

Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, editor and political activist who was described by J. A. Rogers as “perhaps the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and by A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.”

Hubert Harrison was the leading Black activist in the Socialist Party around 1912 when he emphasized that politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea” and when he lectured on socialism as many as 23 times a week (including speaking before 40,000 people in Manhattan’s Union Square).

By 1917 Hubert Harrison was the founder of the militant “New Negro Movement,” a precursor to the Black Power Movement of the 1960s, and he was organizing a massive Harlem rally that protested the white supremacist “pogrom” (his word) on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (12 miles from Ferguson, Missouri).

Hubert Harrison was a major radical influence on both A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey and on a generation of “New Negroes.” (Extending those political lines of descent leads to Martin and Malcolm).

When he died unexpectedly from an appendicitis-related condition in 1927 bibliophile Arthur Schomburg, knowing how popular Harrison was in his day, presciently eulogized that Hubert Harrison “was ahead of his time.”

In the 21st century we have much to learn from Hubert Harrison and the struggles he and others waged!

For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see -- HERE

For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) see -- HERE

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see -- HERE

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