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Hubert Harrison Life, Legacy & Some Writings

Hubert Harrison Assumes Managing Editor Position at  Marcus Garvey's "Negro World" in January 1920

Hubert Harrison assumed the managing editor position at the "Negro World" (the paper of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association) in early January 1920 (102 years ago). He not only transformed the paper through his editing efforts; he also did so with his own editorials and articles. Throughout the period leading up to the August 1920 UNIA Convention he sought to develop race consciousness among the African American masses and to point the way forward with a militant, "Negro"-led, direction in the struggle for liberty and equality. The themes he treated and subjects he covered -- the leadership question, international and domestic issues, education, poetry, and book and theatre reviews were wide-ranging. His voluminous writings in this short period were remarkable and offer an important look at the radical, race-conscious message that he offered. This is discussed in "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press) by Jeffrey B. Perry.

On the 94th Anniversary of the Death of Hubert Harrison

 

December 17, 2021, marks the 94th anniversary of the appendicitis-related death in Bellevue Hospital of St. Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), who was described by A. Philip Randolph as "the father of Harlem Radicalism," It is an appropriate occasion to call attention to his extraordinary life and political and intellectual work.

 

Harrison was: the leading Black activist in the Freethought movement (c. 1911) and the Socialist Party (1912); the only Black speaker at the Paterson Silk Strike (1913); the founder of the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper ("The Voice") of the militant "New Negro Movement" (1917); author of "The Negro and the Nation" (1917);  editor of "The New Negro" ["an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races – especially of the Negro race"] (1919); principal managing editor of Marcus Garvey's globe-sweeping "Negro World" (1920); and author of "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" (1920). He initiated the first "regular book-review section known to Negro newspaperdom" (beginning in 1920) and he was: a pioneering regular lecturer for the New York City Board of Education (beginning in 1922); a regular columnist for the "Boston Chronicle" (1924); a founding officer of the Committee that established the Department of Negro  History, Literature, and Art of the 135th St. Public Library (1924-1925) [which grew into the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem]; and founder of the International Colored Unity League (1924) and editor of its monthly "The Voice of the Negro" (1927).

 

Among the Black radicals of his day Harrison has been described as "the most class conscious of the race radicals and the most race conscious of the class radicals." He was a major influence on the class-radical Randolph and the race-radical Garvey, and on a generation of activists including Richard B. Moore, W. A. Domingo, Hodge Kirnon, and Cyril Briggs. He also supported artists, social workers, and literary figures such as author and poet Claude McKay, social worker Frances Reynolds Keyser, sculptress Augusta Savage, editor Drusilla Dunjee Houston, pianist Eubie Blake, and poet, composer, and lyricist Andy Razaf.

 

Harrison, a former postal worker who was fired after criticizing Booker T. Washington, opposed capitalism and imperialism and emphasized: that "racism" was not innate; that white supremacy was not in "white" workers class interests; that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States; and that struggle against white supremacy was central to radical social change efforts in the U.S.  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." When he left the Socialist Party, he offered the profound insight that the Socialists, like the labor movement, "put [the white] Race First, and class after" and he soon responded by calling on Black people to put "Race First!"
Described by Joel A. Rogers in "World's Great Men of Color" as an "intellectual giant" who was "perhaps the foremost Aframerican intellect of his time," the "radical internationalist" Harrison wrote and spoke knowledgeably on literary, political, domestic and international topics. Author Henry Miller, a socialist in his youth, remembered Harrison on a soapbox [he spoke before as many as 50,000 people at Union Square in 1912] as his "quondam idol." "There was no one in those days . . . who could hold a candle to Hubert Harrison," explained Miller. "He was a man who electrified by his mere presence."

 

At his 1927 funeral, the outstanding bibliophile, Arthur Schomburg eulogized that Harrison "came ahead of his time." Schomburg was correct! While Harrison was a leading activist of his day, 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 on the limitations and potential of social change efforts in America in the twenty-first century.
When Harrison died, he was buried in an unmarked plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  Interest in him has increasingly grown in recent years, however, and a beautiful jet-black slant marker with etching was placed on the gravesite. It includes these words derived from the poem "Hubert H. Harrison" written by Andy Razaf, the unofficial poet laureate of the militant "New Negro Movement" –

Speaker

Editor

Sage

"What A Change Thy Work Hath Wrought."

 
Hubert Harrison has much to offer current and future generation!

 

 

Columbia University Press recently completed publication of the second volume of Jeffrey B. Perry's two-volume biography of Harrison, which is believed to be the first, full-life, multi-volume biography of an Afro-Caribbean and only the fourth of an African American after those of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, and Langston Hughes.

 

Jeffrey B. Perry

 

Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry is the author of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" and "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize).  He also edited "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) and placed "The Hubert H. Harrison Papers" at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library where a significant number have been placed online.

AUDIOS

VIDEOS

Jeffrey B. Perry on Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen
and the "white race" as a ruling class social control formation.
Interview conducted by Ingemar Smith at Morehouse College, March 4, 2010.
See HERE




“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism”
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry
Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts,
February 15, 2014
Over 11,000 views





Hubert Harrison the “Father Harlem Radicalism” and Founder of the “New Negro Movement”

Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry

at Estate Whim, St. Croix, July 19, 2016.

 


"An Introduction to Hubert Harrison."
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry.
July 26, 2014

In the accompanying photo are some major items that I have authored or edited. They include:

 

Jeffrey Babcock Perry, "Hubert Henry Harrison: The Father of Harlem Radicalism: The Early Years—1883--Through the Founding of The Liberty League and 'The Voice" in 1917," Columbia University Ph. D Dissertation (1986), 834 pp., reprinted by UPI Dissertation Services 1999.

 

"A Hubert Harrison Reader," edited with Introductions and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 503 pp.

 

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press, 2008), 623 pp.

 

Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 1 "Racial Oppression and Social Control," Edited with a New Introduction, Appendices, and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (1994; Verso Books, 2012), 371 pp.

 

Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 2 "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," Edited with a New Introduction, Appendices, and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (1994; Verso Books, 2012), 371 pp.

 

Hubert Harrison, "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of The New Negro in the Western World" (1920), reprinted with New Introductions and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press, 2015), 272 pp.

 

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press, 2020), 1000 pp.

 

Note: The first volume was completed when I was the elected-head of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union at the 4,000 worker Bulk Mail Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, and involved, with others, in important labor organizing focusing on the centrality of struggle against white supremacy to efforts at progressive social change.

Photos from Presentation on Hubert Harrison by Jeffrey B. Perry hosted by the St. Croix Landmarks Society at Estate Whim, St. Croix. July 19, 2016. Contact persons Sonia Jacobs Dow and Naeemah Legair. To view Facebook Album CLICK HERE

Additional Harrison Writings

Natty Mark Samuels, "The Hubert Harrison Club" (African School, 2014) -- CLICK HERE

Ernest Allen, Jr., discusses Hubert Harrison in "The New Negro Explorations in Identity and Social Consciousness, 1910-1922." in 1915: The Cultural Moment,AdeleHeller and Lois Rudnick, eds. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 48-68 CLICK HERE

Ravi Malhotra, "The Legal Politics of Hubert H. Harrison: Excavating a Lost Legacy," in "Columbia Journal of Race and Law," Vol. 1, No. 3, 2012. To read the article CLICK HERE or CLICK HERE.

MORE VIDEOS





Hubert Harrison, “The Voice of Harlem Radicalism”
Presentation for the St. Croix Landmarks Society
“Coming Home to St. Croix”
Estate Whim, St. Croix, July 19, 2016
CLICK HERE

Secular Sunday lecture by Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry
on "Hubert Harrison: Pioneer Black Activist in the Freethought Movement"
hosted by the Lehigh Valley Humanists, at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center,
Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 5, 2017.  See HERE

"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

“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

“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


As he was leaving the Socialist Party Hubert Harrison offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded, criticism in U.S. left history




This video of a slide presentation/talk on Hubert Harrison discusses Harrison’s activities in the years 1911-1918. Topics such as the Socialist Party, the IWW, the Paterson Strike, the Modern School, the “New Negro Movement,” the Liberty League, The Voice, East St. Louis, the Liberty Congress, class radicalism, race radicalism, internationalism, World War I, W. E. B. Du Bois, the NAACP, Joel E. Spingarn, William Monroe Trotter, A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Marcus Garvey, early Black theater, soapbox oratory, federal anti-lynching legislation, civil rights legislation, democracy in America, armed self-defense, “Make the World Safe for Democracy,” “Make the South Safe for Democracy,” “Close Ranks,” Military Intelligence, and “the touchstone” are discussed. The slide presentation/talk was number 3 of 5 in a series and was offered on July 26, 2014, at The Commons in Brooklyn.

 


A Hubert Harrison Reader
Editor Jeffrey B. Perry interviewed by host Stella Winston for "Straight Up!"
Brooklyn Community Access Television
June 14, 2002.
Part 1


Jeffrey B. Perry discusses "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" with host Laura Flanders on GRIT-TV, July 1, 2009. To watch a segment of the show CLICK HERE

 


A Hubert Harrison Reader
Editor Jeffrey B. Perry interviewed by host Stella Winston for "Straight Up!"
Brooklyn Community Access Television
June 14, 2002.
Part 2


 





Jeffrey B. Perry discusses St.Croix-born Hubert Harrison
the "Father of Harlem Radicalism
on "It's Your Perspective" Talk Show
with Hosts David Christian and Campbell Ras Soup Carter
Christiansted, St. Croix, July 19, 2016.



Jeffrey B. Perry discusses the influence of St. Croix’s rich history of “Direct Action” on Hubert Harrison
Interview with Stella Winston for “Straight Up!”
Brooklyn Community Access Television
June 14, 2002



Hubert Harrison -- Jeffrey B. Perry Ph.D., writer of “Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918”, joins Mary Roebuck and Doug Canton in a preview of his scheduled presentation on Harrison, who is from St. Croix, at the St. Croix Landmarks Society’s “Come Home to St. Croix” on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @ 6:00 PM at the Estate Whim Museum! See also HERE




Hubert Harrison and the Militant New Negro Movement

MORE AUDIOS

Host Allen Ruff interview with guest Jeffrey B. Perry on A Public Affair, WORT 89.9 FM Madison, Wisconsin, July 10, 2014. . They discussed the life and work of Hubert Harrison (“The Father of Harlem Radicalism"), the work of Theodore W. Allen (author of “The Invention of the White Race”), and the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy. Listen HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry discusses Hubert Harrison with hosts Eddie Goldman and Bob Carson on February 9, 2009. To listen CLICK HERE