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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing (1922)from A Hubert Harrison Reader ed. by Jeffrey B. Perry

Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing


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. Not that these are without value, but they are strictly secondary. In the next place, respect yourself and your office so much that you will not complacently pass and praise drivel and rubbish. Grant that you don’t know everything; you still must steer true to the lights of your knowledge. Give honest service; only so will your opinion come to have weight with your readers. Remember, too, that you can not well review a work on African history, for instance, if that is the only work on the subject that you have read. Therefore, read widely and be well informed. Get the widest basis of knowledge for your judgment; then back your judgment to the limit.

“On a Certain Condescension in White Publishers” (Part II)
Negro World, March 11, 1922
Reprinted in
A Hubert Harrison Reader
ed. and intro by Jeffrey B. Perry
(Wesleyan University Press)

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Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing (1922)from A Hubert Harrison Reader ed. by Jeffrey B. Perry

Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing


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. Not that these are without value, but they are strictly secondary. In the next place, respect yourself and your office so much that you will not complacently pass and praise drivel and rubbish. Grant that you don’t know everything; you still must steer true to the lights of your knowledge. Give honest service; only so will your opinion come to have weight with your readers. Remember, too, that you can not well review a work on African history, for instance, if that is the only work on the subject that you have read. Therefore, read widely and be well informed. Get the widest basis of knowledge for your judgment; then back your judgment to the limit.

“On a Certain Condescension in White Publishers” (Part II)
Negro World, March 11, 1922
Reprinted in
A Hubert Harrison Reader
ed. and intro by Jeffrey B. Perry
(Wesleyan University Press)

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Hubert HarrisonOn Book Reviewing


“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. Not that these are without value, but they are strictly secondary. In the next place, respect yourself and your office so much that you will not complacently pass and praise drivel and rubbish. Grant that you don’t know everything; you still must steer true to the lights of your knowledge. Give honest service; only so will your opinion come to have weight with your readers. Remember, too, that you can not well review a work on African history, for instance, if that is the only work on the subject that you have read. Therefore, read widely and be well informed. Get the widest basis of knowledge for your judgment; then back your judgment to the limit.”

Hubert Harrison


For samples of Harrison's work as a reviewer and critic see A Hubert Harrison Reader especially entries 17, 74, and 97-130. Read More 
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Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing




"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. Not that these are without value, but they are strictly secondary. In the next place, respect yourself and your office so much that you will not complacently pass and praise drivel and rubbish. Grant that you don’t know everything; you still must steer true to the lights of your knowledge. Give honest service; only so will your opinion come to have weight with your readers. Remember, too, that you can not well review a work on African history, for instance, if that is the only work on the subject that you have read. Therefore, read widely and be well informed. Get the widest basis of knowledge for your judgment; then back your judgment to the limit."

--Hubert Harrison --
"On a Certain Condescension in White Publishers" (Part 2)
"Negro World," March 11, 1922
Reprinted in "A Hubert Harrison Reader" ed. by Jeffrey B. Perry
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Hubert Harrison on Book Reviewing from Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

Hubert Harrison was reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer in history. About seventy of his reviews have been located. He offers some insights here in a "Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism" link. Harrison's original article was on the front page of the "New York Times Saturday Review of Books" in 1907.
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