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

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
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Hubert Harrison and the Militant New Negro Movement Slide Presentation Video by Jeffrey B. Perry




Hubert Harrison and the Militant New Negro Movement


Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of twentieth-century history. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by Joel A. Rogers, in "World's Great Men of Color" as "the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time." Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as "the father of Harlem Radicalism."

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 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 and common people 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 father was a Garveyite preacher and whose mother wrote for the Negro World), speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.

Harrison was also an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer; a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what is now the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

For information on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
and CLICK HERE

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

For a short video of Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

This video introduction to Hubert Harrison is part of a five-part presentation series on Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen. This segment was videoed on July 26, 2014 by Fred Nguyen of Fan Smiles.

For the article “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, CLICK HERE

For information on Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

For a Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE
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Video On "Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the ’New Negro Movement’ and the Liberty Congress” (1911-1918)Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry August 9, 2014 at The Commons




“Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York,
and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1909),"
by Jeffrey B. Perry,
Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014


Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) was the leading Black activist and theoretician in the Socialist Party; a brilliant writer, orator, and editor; the founder of the "New Negro Movement," the major radical influence on A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and a self-described "radical internationalist." He was an autodidact and a free-thinker and he is known as "The Father of Harlem Radicalism."

Jeffrey B. Perry preserved and edited the Hubert H. Harrison Papers, edited “A Hubert Harrison Reader” (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and authored “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press, 2008). Perry also authored "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" (“Cultural Logic,” 2010). He is currently working on a new edition of "When Africa Awakes" by Hubert Harrison for Diasporic Africa Press and on Vol. 2 of the Hubert Harrison biography.

For the article “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, CLICK HERE

For information on Hubert Harrison --
CLICK HERE for reviews of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918"
and CLICK HERE for information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader"
and CLICK HERE for writings, audio, and video abour Hubert Harrison

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

For a Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE

For Videos of the Slide Presentation/Talks in the series “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” by Jeffrey B. Perry see


1. "Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, July 26, 2014

2. “Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York, and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1910)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014

3. “Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the 'New Negro Movement,' and the Liberty Congress (1911-1918)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 9, 2014

4. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy,"[Part 1] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014

5. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 2] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, September 6, 2014

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