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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press) Will Be Discussed by Jeffrey B. Perry with host Chris Stevenson, Saturday, May 25, 2013, 6 PM

May 25, 2013
Saturday, 6-7 PM. Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 will be discussed by Jeffrey B. Perry with host Chris Stevenson, Buffalo, NY on BlogTalkRadio. Call in at 424-243-9538.

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Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 Comments From Scholars and Activists



"Hubert Harrison is a historic work of scholarship. It is also an act of restitution- belated but generous-for the crime of historical neglect. For as Jeffrey B. Perry makes abundantly clear, Hubert Harrison's contemporaries, from the Harlem radicals of the 1920s (most notably Claude McKay and A. Philip Randolph), to Henry Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Charlie Chaplin, recognized Harrison's genius and enormous contribution in a variety of fields, yet eighty years after his death he has not been honored with a biography. Perry's effort to make good this lack is a stupendous success. His book is exhaustively researched, richly detailed, beautifully written in a spare and restrained style, and succeeds in capturing the brilliance, wit, and astonishing political and intellectual courage of Harrison. It is a fine and magisterial portrait."

Winston James
professor of history
University of California, Irvine


"Hubert Harrison is the most significant black democratic socialist of early twentieth-century America. Jeffrey B. Perry has brought his thought and practice to life in a powerful and persuasive manner."

Cornel West
Princeton University


"This is a superb study of a neglected but powerfully influential figure in African-American history. As far as I can judge, Jeffrey B. Perry’s scholarship is formidable, his documentation impeccable, his writing lucid and graceful. If his promised second volume is as admirable and compelling as his first, then we would have to count him, with gratitude, among the finest living biographers of black men and women—indeed, one of our finest biographers, without reservation."

Arnold Rampersad
professor of English and the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities
Stanford University


"Hubert Harrison was one of the most gifted and creative intellectuals in the American Left and within black America in the twentieth century. Jeffrey B. Perry’s book presents a comprehensive analysis of the first phase of Harrison’s remarkable public career. Before Marcus Garvey came to Harlem in 1916, Harrison had blazed the trail as the leading voice of black radicalism. He founded the New Negro Movement and was a central antiwar leader during WWI. Perry captures Harrison’s brilliance, energy, and leadership during a remarkable period in African-American history. The outstanding scholarship of his study will reawaken popular interest in this remarkable figure."

Manning Marable
professor of public affairs, history, and African American studies
director, Center for Contemporary Black History
Columbia University


"Jeffrey B. Perry's Hubert Harrison breaks open long-sealed tomes of information about the militant aspect of the Harlem Renaissance."
Amiri Baraka


"In rescuing a very particular hero and genius from what E. P. Thompson once called the 'enormous condescension of posterity,' this monumental and acute biography becomes the best point of entry into the whole history of modern radicalism in the United States."

David Roediger
University of Illinois
author of How Race Survived U.S. History


"This book is the epic tale of the lost ancestor of Black radicalism, Hubert H. Harrison, the great black working-class intellectual who stood at the epicenter of politics in the Harlem Renaissance. Like Malcolm X, Harrison was not only a revolutionary but also a master teacher and a leader of leaders, and his dramatic story of self-education, self-emancipation, and self-transformation will both awaken and reorient a new generation of Black liberation at the grassroots around the globe."

Komozi Woodard
Sarah Lawrence College


"For decades a brilliant and critical voice of the Harlem Renaissance has been practically ignored by historians. At last that serious gap will be filled by Jeffrey B. Perry who has thoroughly researched and carefully crafted a two-part definitive biography of the "Father of Harlem Radicalism," Hubert H. Harrison. These volumes, along with his previously published collection of Harrison's writings, are a significant contribution because they reveal in rich detail and masterful treatment the life of one of the most unique and influential African American thinkers of that time. The people of Harlem flocked to Harrison's "university level" street orations on a wide range of topics but few knew of his numerous journal articles on society, science and socialism. Perry was driven to conduct extensive research when he discovered Harrison's clarity of writing and perceptiveness of analysis. Surely his own clarity of writing, meticulous attention to events and other activists, and masterful analysis will prove in time to be an essential classic for understanding the political movements of the period."

Joyce Moore Turner
author of Caribbean Crusaders and the Harlem Renaissance,
co-editor with W. Burghardt Turner of
Richard B. Moore, Caribbean Militant in Harlem


"Jeffrey B. Perry has made a significant contribution to the history of Black radicalism through his biography of Hubert Harrison. With thorough research and compelling analysis, Perry offers the reader insight into a brilliant and under-studied activist and intellectual who played a major role in helping to shape the Black radical tradition. Hubert Harrison reads with a draw like that of a study of a long lost city, rediscovered and offering answers to an incomplete history."

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Executive Editor, BlackCommentator.com
co-author of Solidarity Divided


"Entrusted with the remains of Hubert Harrison's papers, Jeffrey B. Perry favors us with this meticulous chronicle of one of the century's most influential voices for democracy and freedom. Harrison, island-born, colonial subject, and immigrant, stirred the masses in Harlem, at the time the center of Black radical thought, to a "new race-consciousness" and an apprehension of "their powers and destiny"" in the United States and world. Hubert Harrison testifies to the remarkable durability of lives well lived and truths told straight."

Gary Y. Okihiro
Columbia University
author of Island World: A History of Hawai'i and the United States


"Jeffrey Perry's significant biography lives up to the promise of its title. Finally, the voice of this major Harlem Renaissance progressive is to be heard again loud and clear."

David Levering Lewis
New York University
author of a two-volume biography of W.E.B. Du Bois


"Hubert Harrison was in his lifetime the leading American black intellectual socialist, but he receded from memory after his death. We are all in debt to Jeffrey B. Perry for his devoted and fastidious recuperation of Harrison's memory. This assiduously researched biography, an extraordinary feat of scholarship, restores Harrison to his proper standing in the pantheon of other Afro-Caribbeans, from Marcus Garvey to C. L. R. James, who contributed to reshaping American political thought in the twentieth century."

Christopher Phelps
Ohio State University


"One of the most significant 20th century African American philosophers, Jeff Perry finally accords Harrison his place among the forebears of modern African American political and cultural thought, and also suggests the sweeping scope of Harrison's life and achievement."

Portia James
Cultural Resources Manager & Senior Curator
Anacostia Community Museum


"Jeffrey B. Perry's Hubert Harrison is not simply an archaeological uncovering of a century old Black icon. Harrison's life and his insights on race and class, especially during wartime, leap off the page. They particularly resonate today. Harrison challenged the government's hypocritical notion of sending Black men to fight and die to make "the world safe for democracy" in World War I, while they were being lynched, segregated and disenfranchised at home. I see Harrison's ghost on a Harlem soapbox today exposing the links between the destructive wars abroad and the need to expand the fight for civil liberties and civil rights and to forge a new global partnership with the world's people. This is a ghost that needs to be listened to."

Gene Bruskin
National Co-Convener
US Labor Against the War


"A groundbreaking biography and act of historical recovery that restores Hubert Harrison’s vital importance to African American history and politics during the New Negro era. Meticulously written and painstakingly researched, Hubert Harrison is a major work of scholarship that will transform understanding of black life during the early twentieth century."

Peniel E. Joseph
Brandeis University
author of Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America


"Perry’s detailed research brings to life a transformative figure who has been little recognized for his contributions to progressive race and class politics."
Booklist


"Perry's clear prose allows access to a three-dimensional picture of Harrison's life."
Library Journal


"An excellent work and a great contribution to scholarship . . . Perry must be applauded."

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Z Magazine


"[Hubert Harrison] offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America."
Industrial Worker


"Through Perry's prodigious research Harrison's brilliance can once more engage a generation eager to find inspiration and renewed political spirit."

Herb Boyd
The Neworld Review


"[A] brilliant masterpiece."

Wilson J. Moses
American Historical Review


"This critically important book will do for Harrison what David Levering Lewis did for Du Bois . . . Essential."
Choice


"This meticulously-researched book fills and enormous gap in the knowledge of black activist intellectuals in the US."

Carole Boyce Davies
Working USA


"Rich and exhaustively researched."

Clarence Lang
Against the Current


"Scholars and students . . . are indeed indebted to Jeffrey Perry for this magisterial study of Hubert Harrison."

Larry A. Greene
New Politics


"Perry offer(s) new and provocative analyses of African American leadership during the early twentieth century."

LaShawn Harris
Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era


"Hubert Harrison is more than a work of scholarship. It is a timely act of generous recognition and restitution of a Black Caribbean scholar who played a significant role in the story of Harlem Radicalism."
Black Theology: An International Journal


"Perry's biography gives an illuminating account not only of Harrison's strengths and weaknesses but also of the larger historical contradictions informing Black radicalism and Marxism during Harrison's lifetime."
Science & Society


"Perry's rich biography of Harrison is filled with examples of leadership that would eventually be followed nationwide and result in black political power in Harlem."

Sterling Johnson
Journal of American Ethnic History


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Wilson J. Moses, review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883–1918," "American Historical Review"

"For many years cognoscenti in all fields of African diaspora studies have foreseen and rejoiced at the coming of this brilliant masterpiece, in which Jeffrey B. Perry has reconstructed the early career of Hubert Harrison (1883–1927), the radical socialist and prophet of the New Negro Movement. . . . Perry's archival brilliance—one third of his six hundred pages are dedicated to notes and index—illuminates not only the life of his subject but discloses much about black Manhattan before the Harlem Renaissance. . . ."
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Earlier Wall Street Protests -- Hubert Harrison in 1912




The “New York News” claimed that during 1912 Harrison was “the most trusted and valued speaker of the Socialist Party in the city” and “demands were sent to the Party for his services as speaker and debater all over the United States.” After one of his talks at Wall Street in New York on September 13, the “New York Times” described 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 reached the outermost limits of the crowd, but as the hours passed and his voice grew huskier, the circle of auditors drew closer. He went strong into the third hour and then talked himself into a hoarse whisper before ending.

-- From Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press), p. 191 -- Read More 
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On March 10, 2010 Columbia University Press announced that they will publish a paperback edition of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918," which is scheduled t

On March 10, 2010 Columbia University Press announced that they will publish a paperback edition of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918," which is scheduled to be available by November 2010.
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On Writing Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press, 2008)


             During the 1960s, like millions of other people, I was deeply affected by the movements for social change in the United States inspired by the civil rights struggle. As a student (at both Princeton and Harvard) in that period, I was afforded opportunity to study, to research, and to interact with scholars. My ancestral roots, as far back as identifiable, are entirely among working people. These factors, and many related experiences, have led me toward a life in which I have tried to mix worker- and community-based organizing (I worked in the trade union movement for over thirty years) with historical research and writing. My major preoccupation has been with the successes and failures of efforts at social change in the United States. In that context, I have focused on the role of white supremacy in undermining efforts at social change and on the importance of struggle against white supremacy to social change.

             
I was influenced toward serious study of matters of race and class in America through personal experiences and through the insightful and seminal work of an independent scholar and close personal friend, the late Theodore William Allen (author of the two-volume work The Invention of the White Race). Allen’s writings on the role of white supremacy in U.S. history and on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy to efforts at social change have attracted increased, and well deserved, attention. Familiarity with Allen’s life and work disposed me to be receptive to the life and work of Harrison, another independent, anti-white-supremacist, working-class intellectual.

             

It was in this context, in the early 1980s, while working on a proposed Columbia University doctoral dissertation (under Professor Nathan I. Huggins and Hollis R. Lynch) on approaches to the struggle against white supremacy, that I first encountered the work of Hubert 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. 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. I searched for what I could find on him and was several hundred pages into his biography when, through the help of two Virgin Islanders—G. James Fleming, professor emeritus of Morgan State University in Baltimore, and June A. V. Lindqvist, librarian at the Enid M. Baa Library and Archives in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (and a relative of Harrison’s wife)—I was put in contact with Harrison’s daughter, Aida Harrison Richardson, and son, William Harrison.

             
I met Aida and William for the first time in 1983. Aida was a former school teacher and principal, William was a former attorney, and both were very bright, socially aware, race-conscious individuals who knew the value of their father’s work. They, along with their mother, the late Irene Louise Horton Harrison, had preserved the remains of Hubert Harrison’s once vast collection of papers and books in a series of Harlem apartments. After several meetings and discussions of their father’s work, they very generously (before William’s death in 1984) granted me access to some of their father’s materials, which were in a room in William’s Harlem apartment. At subsequent periods over the years I was provided access to additional materials (including Harrison’s diary), by Aida and then (after she passed in 2001) by her son Charles Richardson. I proceeded to preserve and inventory the Hubert H. Harrison Papers (many of which were in fragile condition) and, when the family requested, I worked with them to place the papers with the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University. I then worked with the Columbia staff to develop a finding aid.

             
From very early in this process I realized that Harrison was a major figure whose life and work merited a two-volume biography. I continued to work on Harrison and over the years I have published a number of articles and edited one book (A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, 2001) on him prior to the publication of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press, 2008).

             
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