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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Book Discussion on Hubert Harrison With Jeffrey B. Perry, Komozi Woodard, amd Mark Naison C-SPAN Video from January 21, 2009

Jeffrey B. Perry talked about Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 Columbia University Press). In the book Mr. Perry recounts the life of Hubert Harrison (1883-1927), a public intellectual, activist and founder of the “New Negro Movement” whose ideas combined race and class conscious and influenced Marcus Garvey.  Jeffrey Perry discusses his book with authors Mark Naison and Komozi Woodward.

Jeffrey Perry is the editor of A Hubert Harrison Reader (Wesleyan University Press) and preserved and inventoried the Hubert H. Harrison papers, currently housed at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

To see the C-SPAN Video fro January 21, 2009 CLICK HERE!
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December 17th is the Anniversary of the Death of Hubert Harrison in 1927 at Age 44

Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian 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’s friend and pallbearer, Arthur Schomburg, fully aware of his popularity, eulogized to the thousands attending Harrison’s Harlem funeral that he was also “ahead of his time.”

Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, in 1883, to a Bajan mother and a Crucian father, Harrison arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of “the common people.” He consistently emphasized the need for working class people to develop class-consciousness; for “Negroes” to develop race consciousness, self-reliance, and self-respect; and for all those he reached to challenge white supremacy and develop modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.

A self-described “radical internationalist,” Harrison was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe. More than any other political leader of his era, he combined class-consciousness and anti-white supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism. He opposed capitalism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States. 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,” that “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters,” and that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of.”

Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. 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 America in the twenty-first century.

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; and he served as the editor of the New Negro in 1919 and as the 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 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 a key ideological link between 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 parents were involved with the Garvey movement, speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.)

Harrison was not only a political radical, however. J. A. Rogers described him as an “Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator,” whose contributions were wide-ranging, innovative, and influential. He was an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator who spoke and/or read six languages; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer in history); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what became known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; a pioneer Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education and one of its foremost orators). His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

For information on vol. 1 of his biography, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

December 17th is the anniversary of the death of Hubert Harrison in 1927 at age 44. – Please help to spread the word about his important life and work!

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Harlem Activist Hodge Kirnon on the Radicalism of Hubert Harrison and “The Voice” [c. 1917-1919]

Harlem Activist Hodge Kirnon
on the Radicalism of
Hubert Harrison and “The Voice” [c. 1917-1919]

[“The Voice”] “really crystallized the radicalism of the Negro in New York and its environs.” It exerted “a tremendous influence in inspiring the people with the highest racial ideals and aspirations” and inculcated “into every Negro a sense of race pride and determination” that was “without parallel in the history of the race.”

Harrison (who lived on Harlem’s most densely populated block) “lived with and amongst his people; not on the fringes of their social life” and he “taught the masses” and “drew much of his inspiration from them.” Harrison was “the first Negro whose radicalism was comprehensive enough to include racial¬ism, politics, theological criticism, sociology and education in a thorough-going and scientific manner.”

For more on Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 click here, here and here

The Montserrat-born Hodge Kirnon was a freethinker, editor of the The Promoter, and a race- and class-conscious community activist
For a striking photo of Hodge Kirnon CLICK HERE

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Hubert Harrison On Beginning His Diary September 18, 1907 (at age 24)

It must surely be instructive to look back after long years on one’s past thoughts and deeds and form new estimates of ourselves and others. Seen from another perspective large things grow small, small ones large and the lives of relative importance are bound to change position. At any rate it must be instructive to compare the impression of the moment, laden as it may be with the bias of feeling and clouded by partisan or personal prejudice, with the more broad and impartial review which distance in time or space makes possible.

This may serve me in some sort as a history of myself twisted of two threads--what I do, and what I think. I hope I shall not make any conscious effort to impress upon it a character of any sort. So far as life is concerned as it comes so must it be set down. And if I omit any one phrase of my life’s experience I do so for judicial reasons and not for the sake of seeming better in my own eyes when memory has ceased to testify.

From Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press), p. 59. Read More 
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“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" is Discussed by Author Jeffrey B. Perry in Video Interview Conducted on October 28, 2010, by Bernard White



Bernard White, former Program Director at WBAI Radio (99.5 FM) in New York and current Take Back WBAI activist, interviews author Jeffrey B. Perry on Hubert Harrison, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press), Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race,” and the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy. This video of almost 44 minutes was filmed on October 28, 2010 at the Brecht Forum in New York and prepared by Marlowe Mason.

For additional information on “Hubert Harrison the Voice of Harlem Radicalism” Click Here

For additional information on Hubert Harrison Click Here  Read More 
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Komozi Woodard (Sarah Lawrence College), Mark Naison (Fordham University), and Jeffrey B. Perry discuss Hubert Harrison at Barnes and Noble, 82nd St. and Broadway, NYC, January 21, 2009.

Komozi Woodard (Sarah Lawrence College), Mark Naison (Fordham University), and Jeffrey B. Perry discuss Hubert Harrison at Barnes and Noble, 82nd St. and Broadway, NYC, January 21, 2009. The recorded program was subsequently aired on C-Span. (Note—the start year for “Say Brother!” was 1968 – JP.) View a brief segment of the longer program HERE  Read More 
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“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” Read the Reviewers' Comments

“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918”
Important Summer Reading – Please Pass this to a friend!


Reviewers’ comments from Winston James, Arnold Rampersad, Joyce Moore Turner, Amiri Baraka, John Woodford, Carole Boyce Davies, Wilson J. Moses, Bruce A. Dixon, Scott McLemee, Wayne Glasker, Shelley Ettinger, Cornel West, Manning Marable, Genevieve Ryan, Bill Fletcher Jr., Elena Pajaro Peres, Komozi Woodard, Abayomi Azikwe, E. Ethelbert Miller, David Levering Lewis, Christopher Phelps, Emily Jane Dawson, Colin Benjamin, Herb Boyd, Yuri Kochiyama, Sterling Johnson, David Roediger, Allen Ruff, Felicia Pride, Rhone Fraser, Byan D. Palmer, Vanessa Bush, Peniel E. Joseph, Clarence Lang, Ken Olende, Alberto Benvenuti, Bret McCabe, Peter Moore, LeShawn Harris, Brian Jones, Larry A. Greene, Jonathan M. Hansen, Maria Bibbs, Charles L. Lumpkins, Portia James, George Tyson, Gwen Edwards, Gary Y. Okihiro, Stephanie Hanlon, Lloyd Dev, Gene Bruskin, Michael N. Jagessar, Matt Witt, Ian Kavuma, Susan Van Gelder, Brent McCabe, Hugh Hamilton, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Dave Zirin, Lavelle Porter, and others can be found HERE and HERE

Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and “one of America’s greatest minds.” Rogers adds that “No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten” others and “none of the Afro-American leaders of his time [the era of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey] had a saner and more effective program.” As Harlem grew into the “international Negro Mecca” and the “center of radical Black thought,” A. Philip Randolph emphasized that Hubert Harrison was “the father of Harlem radicalism.” Read More 
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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.

For additional information on the book -- CLICK HERE
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Alberto Benvenuti, review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918"

Review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" by the Italian Scholar Alberto Benvenuti in the online German journal "Sehepunkte," Vol. 12, No. 9 (2012)
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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. . . ."
To read more Click Here Read More 
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