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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Jeffrey B. Perry WBAI Radio interview/discussion with host Hugh Hamilton on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (Verso Books) and on Hubert Harrison “The Father of Harlem Radicalism”

Jeffrey B. Perry interview/discussion with host Hugh Hamilton on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (Verso Books) and on Hubert Harrison “The Father of Harlem Radicalism.” WBAI Radio (99.5 FM, NYC) Broadcast, Thursday, March 14, 2013 from 4 to 5 PM. To listen please go HERE -- (to the second hour of the two-hour radio program) [Special thanks to Michael G. Haskins for his assistance with this program] Read More 
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Jeffrey B. Perry on “Talk Back” with Hugh Hamilton, WBAI Radio (99.5 FM New York) at 4 PM, Thursday, March 14, 2013 discussing Theodore W. Allen (particularly The Invention of the White Race - new edition, Verso Books, 2012) and Hubert Harrison

Jeffrey B. Perry will be on “Talk Back” with host Hugh Hamilton on Radio Station WBAI (99.5 FM New York) at 4 PM today, Thursday, March 14, 2013 discussing the work of Theodore W. Allen (particularly The Invention of the White Race - new edition, Verso Books, 2012) and Hubert Harrison. For more information and to listen online CLICK HERE Read More 
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Hubert Harrison -- Described by J. A. Rogers as "the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time"

The brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist Hubert Harrison (1883–1927) is one of the truly important yet little known figures of early-twentieth-century America. The historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color, describes him as "the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time" and "one of America’s greatest minds." Rogers adds (amid insightful chapters on the early-twentieth-century Black leaders Booker T. Washington, William Monroe Trotter, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey), "No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten his fellow-men" and "none of the Afro-American leaders of his time had a saner and more effective program." [For more information CLICK HERERead More 
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Hubert Harrison on the Post Office

Hubert Harrison, in 1911 offered the following:

“[T]he Post Office is the one great example of the public ownership of a gigantic public business. The advantage of this government ownership over private ownership has been overwhelmingly demonstrated since the early days of the Post Office Department, and it has provoked comparisons with such privately controlled public industries as railroads, coal mines, and lighting systems.

As long as the Post Office maintained this advantage its very existence was an argument in favor of government ownership and against the large public utilities corporations. This would never do, of course, and consequently, efforts have been made to have it appear a failure and, at the same time, to prevent the extension of its sphere of operations.”

Harrison was a postal worker – he was fired in 1911 (for letters he wrote to the "New York Sun") -- through the efforts of Booker T. Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” and New York City postmaster Edward Morgan (the man for whom Morgan Station, the largest postal facility in New York, is named). Read More 
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J. A. Rogers on Hubert Harrison from "World's Great Men of Color"

Hubert Harrison

That individuals of genuine worth and immense potentialities who dedicate their lives to the advancement of their fellowmen are permitted to pass unrecognized and unrewarded from the scene, while others, inferior to them in ability and altruism, receive acclaim, wealth, and distinction, is common -- yet it never ceases to shock all but the confirmed cynic. Those with a sense of right and wrong, of fitness and incongruity -- whether they be wise men or fools -- will forever feel that this ought not to be.

Shakespeare was so little regarded during his lifetime that no one bothered to record the details of his life, and today most of what is said about him is pure conjecture. Gregor Mendel, whose experiments were to revolutionize biology and agriculture, was practically unknown until sixty years after his death. Of course, there are some of genuine worth who do not die obscure and who do win gradual recognition while alive. But why are so many whom we feel really ought to be up, down; and why are so many who certainly ought to be down, up?

Hubert Henry Harrison is the case in point. Harrison was not only perhaps the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time, but one of America's greatest minds. No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten his fellowmen; none of the Afro-American leaders of his time had a saner and more effective program -- but others, unquestionably his inferiors, received the recognition that was his due. Even today but a very small proportion of the Negro intelligentsia has ever heard of him.

From J. A. Rogers, "World's Great Men of Color," Vol. 2 (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1947), p. 611. Read More 
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Happy Birthday Hubert Harrison!

Happy Birthday Hubert Harrison (April 27th)

(The photo to the left shows Hubert Harrison's unmarked, shared gravesite in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The gravesite reflects both the poverty that Harrison and his family lived in and the lack of recognition that he has received since his death)


The St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (April 27, 1883 – December 17, 1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, editor, educator, critic, and political activist, and a self-described “radical internationalist.” Historian Joel A. Rogers in "World’s Great Men of Color" described him as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and the one with the sanest program. A. Philip Randolph, referring to a time when Harlem was recognized as the “international Negro Mecca” and “the center of radical black thought,” called him “the father of Harlem radicalism.”

Harrison was the major radical influence on both the class-conscious Randolph and the race-conscious Marcus Garvey as well as on a generation of “New Negro” activists and “common people.” He is the only person in United States history to play signal, leading roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) of his era. He is also a key link in the ideological unity of the two great trends of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation Struggle – the labor/civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the race/nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X.

Harrison was the founder of the militant, World War-I era “New Negro Movement”; a pioneering (and reportedly unrivalled) soap-box orator and regular Black book-reviewer; the author of two books, "The Negro and the Nation" (1917) and "When Africa Awakes: The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" (1920); and the editor of important publications including "The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro" (1917-1918), the "New Negro" ("intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races – especially of the Negro race” in 1919), the "Negro World" (newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1920), and "The Voice of the Negro" (the organ of the International Colored Unity League in 1927).

Hubert Harrison's life and work have much to offer current and future generations!

Let us continue to learn from Hubert Harrison!

Help to keep his memory alive!

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"The Letter to the Editor that 'Science and Society' Refused to Publish"

To: David Laibman, Editor of "Science and Society"
From: Jeffrey B. Perry, jeffreybperry@gmail.com, www.jeffreybperry.net
Correspondence Submission
Re: Review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (in April 2011 issue)
August 5, 2011

“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.”

Hubert Harrison, 1922

St. Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers in "World’s Great Men of Color" as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” A. Philip Randolph referred to him as the “Father of Harlem Radicalism.” (Perry, 2008, 1, 5)

Harrison merited such praise. He was a radical political activist who served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; as the founder and leading figure of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and as the editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920. He was also a class conscious and race conscious “radical internationalist” whose views profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants that included the class-radical socialists Randolph and Chandler Owen, the future communists Cyril V. Briggs, Richard B. Moore, and Williana Burroughs, and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and Owen and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a seminal figure in 20th century Black radicalism. (Perry, 2008, 2, 4, 94, and 437-38 n. 45)

He was not only a political radical, however. Harrison was also an immensely popular orator and freelance educator; a highly praised journalist, editor, and book reviewer; a promoter of Black writers and artists; a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library popularizer (who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture). In his later years he was the leading Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education. (Perry, 2008, 5-6)

One area where Harrison, has much to offer, concerns book reviewing. At age twenty-four he authored two front-page "New York Times Saturday Review of Books" pieces on literary criticism; he initiated what was described as the “first regular book review section known to Negro newspapedom”; he authored some 70 reviews and regularly reviewed books in the newspapers that he edited including "The Voice" (1917-1918), "New Negro" (1919), and "Negro World" (1920); he was praised for his insights as a critic by Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill; and he has recently been described as a “patron saint” of book reviewers by Scott McLemee in the online "Columbia Journalism Review." It was in the "Negro World" that Harrison offered the sound advice on book reviewing quoted in the epigraph above. (Perry, 2001, 2, 295-6)

I think "Science and Society" readers would have been better served if Margaret Stevens, in her April 2011 review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918," had followed Harrison’s advice more closely and if she had put more accuracy and less innuendo (Harrison’s “predilection,” “it is curious,” “it is curious that Perry, repeatedly,” etc.) in her review. Readers would have been better informed about both Harrison and the biography and they would be better able to decide, in Harrison’s words, “whether it is worth their while to read the book.”

Here are some failings of the review –

1. Stevens writes that “Perry . . . emphasizes Harrison’s role in founding the Liberty League in Harlem . . . . He does not, however, examine Harrison’s continuing ties with ‘old crowd’ Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.”

Regarding Washington, Stevens’ statement makes absolutely no sense. Harrison was an outspoken critic of Washington for years, described him as a “subservient,” and characterized his political philosophy as “one of submission and acquiescence in political servitude.” Harrison was summarily fired from the Post Office through the efforts of Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” (in 1911) after writing two letters to the "New York Sun" critical of Washington. Stevens’ statement also makes no sense since Washington died in 1915 – over a year-and-a-half before the founding of Harrison’s Liberty League in June 1917! (Perry, 2008, 123, 132-3, 261, 285, 389)

Regarding Du Bois, in Hubert Harrison I describe how Harrison started out as a supporter of Du Bois and how political differences emerged in the period covered by the first volume.

Harrison differed from Du Bois on “The Talented Tenth,” which Du Bois described as the “educated and gifted” group whose members “must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people.” Harrison thought that the “Talented Tenth” hadn’t provided the leadership that was needed, that they should come down from their Mt. Sinais and get among the people, and that the “Colored” leadership implicit in that concept was not “pre-ordained” to lead Black people.(Perry, 2008, 125, 238)

During 1911-12 Harrison, drawing from the work of autonomous women’s clubs and Foreign Language Federations in the SP, initiated a Colored Socialist Club in a special effort to attract “Negroes” to the party. Du Bois, while still an SP member, did not support that effort. (Perry, 2008, 148, 169-71)

In the 1912 election Harrison supported and campaigned vigorously for the SP Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, while Du Bois left the SP in order to support Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party candidate. (Perry, 2008, 19, 269, 281)

In 1916 Harrison articulated a plan for developing bottom-up race unity that would eventually lead to the founding of the Liberty League. The plan was consciously in opposition to the approaches of both Washington and Du Bois whom Harrison felt started at the wrong end – i.e. they began at the top when they should have began at the bottom. Interestingly, in his third autobiography, "Dusk of Dawn" (1940), Du Bois would reach a similar conclusion. (Perry, 2008, 271)

In 1917-1918 with the Liberty League and then with the Liberty Congress Harrison advocated federal anti-lynching legislation, which the NAACP declined to push at this time and did not publicly support until later. In 1917, according to historian Robert L. Zangrando in "The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950," the NAACP “actually declined to make an open push for” federal anti-lynching legislation.” Zangrando concluded that NAACP’s failure to wholeheartedly support the anti-lynching legislation reflected the fact that it “was reaching for southern support and still pulling its punches on the matter of federal statute.” (Perry, 2008, 9, 288-9, 298-9, 310, 375, 381, 515 n 29)

The Harrison/William Monroe Trotter-led Liberty Congress of 1918 was a major Black national protest effort during World War I. It opposed lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement and petitioned Congress for federal anti-lynching legislation. Joel E. Spingarn, the head of the NAACP, attempted to have it called off. Spingarn was a major in Military Intelligence (that branch of the War Department that monitored the Black and radical communities) and he was a pro-war socialist at a time when Lenin and others in the international socialist movement were criticizing that position. When Spingarn’s attempt to get the Liberty Congress called-off didn’t work, he spoke with Du Bois and they agreed to host a “Colored Editors Conference” to meet a week earlier in a blatant effort to steal the thunder from, and undermine, the Liberty Congress. In this period Du Bois put in an application for a captaincy in Military Intelligence and, as part of the quid-pro-quo related to his captaincy application, he wrote his infamous July 1918 "Crisis" editorial entitled “Close Ranks.” In that editorial Du Bois urged African Americans to “forget our special grievances [lynching, segregation, disfranchisement] and close ranks” behind Wilson’s war effort. (Perry, 2008, 232, 373-6, 381, 385-6, 473-4 n 36)

In response to Du Bois’s “Close Ranks” editorial and his application for the captaincy in Military Intelligence, Harrison wrote a scathing editorial in "The Voice" entitled “The Descent of Dr. Du Bois.” Harrison’s exposé was a principal reason that Du Bois was denied the captaincy and, more than any other document, it marked the significant break between the “New Negroes” and the older leadership. (Perry, 2008, 386-91, 408 n. 34; Aptheker, 1983, 159)

Because of such criticism, Du Bois never mentioned Harrison in "The Crisis" and seemingly went out of his way to avoid doing so. (Perry, 2008, 352-3, 386-91, 408 n 34.)

2. Stevens questions my “placing Harrison rather than Garvey at the helm of Harlem’s burgeoning Black radical community” and not “more clearly” elucidating some related “larger theoretical and historical” issues (which she does not name or define).

The record left by contemporaries is clear about Harrison's importance as a radical and his signal influence on Garvey's radicalism. Through mid-1918 (when volume one ends) Harrison was clearly the dominant figure in Harlem radicalism. For anyone to even suggest that Garvey, not Harrison was the dominant radical figure at that time, is, based on the record, utter nonsense. My biography sought to document what actually happened and I think this is a proper task for both a biographer and an historian.

The Jamaica-born Garvey came to the United States in 1916 in order to raise funds to set up an industrial school in Jamaica along the lines of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute, which he admired. At first, he did not fare very well in the U.S. and he had, in his own words, "made up his mind to return to Jamaica in the spring of 1917, when he became associated with [his old boyhood friend] Mr. W. A. Domingo and Mr. Hubert Harrison.” Domingo, a socialist and the first editor of Garvey’s "Negro World," explained that Harrison “was a brilliant man, a great intellectual, a Socialist and highly respected” and “Garvey like the rest of us [A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore, and other “New Negro” militants] followed Hubert Harrison.” (Perry, 2008, 2, 294)

Anselmo Jackson, a writer for both Harrison’s "Voice" and Garvey’s "Negro World," further explains that beginning in 1916:

outdoors and indoors, Hubert Harrison was preaching an advanced type of radicalism with a view to impressing race consciousness and effecting racial solidarity among Negroes. . . . [The] atmosphere was charged with Harrison’s propaganda; men and women of color thruout the United States and the West Indies . . . pledged their support to Harrison as they became members of the Liberty League. Garvey publicly eulogized Harrison, joined the Liberty League and took a keen interest in its affairs. . . . [Harrison] was the forerunner of Garvey and contributed largely to the success of the latter . . . (Perry, 2008, 338)

As regards “larger theoretical and historical” issues – they appear throughout the biography: I will mention a few.

From 1911 to 1914 Harrison was America’s leading Black Socialist and he made major theoretical contributions on the subject of “The Negro and Socialism” by advocating that socialists champion the cause of African Americans as a revolutionary doctrine; that they develop a special appeal to and for African Americans; and that they affirm the duty of all socialists to oppose race prejudice. These three themes would contribute significantly to left activism in the U.S. in the twentieth century. (Perry, 2008, 7)

When he left the SP Harrison offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded criticism, in U.S. left history. He stated simply that the Socialist Party [like the labor movement] has “insisted on [white] Race First and class after.” That the “white men” of the Party put “[the white] ‘race first’ rather than ‘class first.’” As I explain, “Harrison was suggesting that a primary reason for limited working-class consciousness and for the absence of socialism in the United States was white supremacy.” (Perry, 2008, 87-8; Perry, 2001, 109, 115)

I also make clear that Harrison’s “experiences with white supremacy within the socialist and labor movements” was an important factor leading to his founding of “the ‘New Negro Movement’ . . . which laid the basis for the Garvey movement and contributed so significantly . . . to the social and literary climate leading to the 1925 publication of Alain Locke’s well-known 'The New Negro.'” I emphasize that “Harrison’s mass-based political movement was, however, qualitatively different from the more middle-class, arts-based, apolitical movement associated with Locke.” (Perry, 2008, 7, 8)

3. Stevens writes “it is curious that Perry repeatedly refers to Harrison as African American rather than Caribbean American or even Afro-Caribbean.”

In the biography I refer to Harrison as “Negro,” “Negro American,” “Black,” “Black Caribbean,” “a key figure in developing Caribbean radicalism”; a “poor, working-class, Black Caribbean immigrant,” “poor, Black, foreign born, and from the Caribbean,” “African American,” and so on and I refer to his parents as “Afro-Caribbean.” In response to Stevens’ assertion that my biography “repeatedly refers to Harrison as African American” – she is simply wrong. In the entire book I count two times that I refer to Harrison as an “African American” – hardly the “repeatedly” that Stevens tells readers. (Perry, 2008, 3, 5, 23, 16-7, 159)

I have no problem referring to Harrison as an African American, however, particularly since that is one name that has come to replace “Negro American”; since Harrison referred to himself with pride as an “untamed, untamable African” and a “Negro American”; since he named his organization the “Liberty League of Negro Americans”; since he wrote “I was born Danish and am now twice an American; first by my own free choice and next by Uncle Sam’s purchase of the Danish islands”; and since he wrote:

I became an American because I was eager to be counted in the fight wherever I happened to be, to bear the burden and heat of the day in helping to make conditions better in this great land for the children who will come after me. And although I am not SATISFIED with American conditions as they now are, I realize that in these days of change and unrest I would not have been satisfied anywhere else. In China I would be fighting against foreign domination, in Egypt, India, South Africa or West Africa I would be fighting against the British oligarchs, in Jamaica against the sinister repression of black people practiced by both whites and mulattoes, and in the Dutch, French or American West Indies against crackerism, stupidity or cowardice. (Perry, 2001, 92, 254, 256, 282, 302)

4. Stevens writes (p. 284) that Harrison had a “predilection for electoral struggles.”

To the contrary, Harrison is a prime example of a radical activist who would struggle, as the saying goes, “by any means necessary.” During his life he was a militant proponent of direct action, sabotage, armed self-defense, strikes, boycotts, migration, and direct challenges to the KKK. In volume two I will cite Military Intelligence that he frequently advocated Bolshevism. (Perry, 2008, 7, 11, 197-8, 201, 291, 298-9, 311.)

He functioned both inside and outside the electoral arena and arguably his most important contribution to revolutionary strategy in the U.S. was related to that fact.

While in the Socialist Party during a period when the key political debates concerned positions on revolutionary vs. evolutionary socialism and revolutionary unionism vs. AFL craft unionism, Harrison, in 1911 and 1912, appealed to both wings of the Party and proposed a new litmus test, a new “crucial test,” for U.S. Socialists—“to champion” the cause of the “Negro.” He thought this was the key to revolutionary strategy in the United States. (Perry, 2008, 180)

5. Stevens writes: “Perry’s emphasis on Harrison’s primacy among the leading ‘race men’ in Harlem’s Black radical scene in 1917 occludes the role of women in the Black radical tradition.”

Stevens creates a “straw man.” The phrase that Stevens puts in quotes -- “race men” -- never appears once in "Hubert Harrison." Stevens doesn’t mention one woman on the Harlem scene in this period that was “occluded.” This volume, covering the period up to 1918, contains information on many women active in Harlem and highlights, in particular, the contributions of Williana Jones Burroughs and Frances Reynolds Keyser. It also offers interesting new information on Eslanda Cardoza Goode.

6. Stevens finds it “curious” that I don’t compare Harrison’s marriage to several others (including two second marriages) that all occur outside the time frame of this volume and include Du Bois’s 1951 marriage to Shirley Graham.

The book is a biography of Hubert Harrison’s life up to 1918. It is not a work focusing on comparative marriages, particularly not on one 24 years after Harrison’s death.

Hubert Harrison was popular and extremely influential in his day. Fully aware of that popularity and influence Arthur A. Schomburg, the outstanding book collector of the African Diaspora, presciently pointed to Harrison’s importance for future generations when he eulogized at his funeral that Harrison was “ahead of his time.” Schomburg was correct. Harrison’s life story and insights have much to offer readers today, particularly in this period of intensifying class and race oppression. (Perry, 2008, vii, 395)

I think that "Science and Society" should have offered a more accurate and less innuendo-laden review that better informed readers about the biography of Hubert Harrison, the most important Black Socialist in early twentieth-century America. Because this was not done, I hope you will share my response – keeping in mind the inspiring words from the front page of Hubert’s Harrison’s "Voice" –

“For the future in the distance
And the good that we can do.”

In solidarity,

Jeffrey B. Perry


Perry, Jeffrey B., ed. 2001. "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Middletown, Ct: Wesleyan University Press)
Perry, Jeffrey B. 2008.

"Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (New York: Columbia University Press)

Note this letter can also be found in pdf format at http://www.jeffreybperry.net (top left). Read More 
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Background and Comments on "The Letter to the Editor that 'Science and Society' Refused to Publish"

Background and Comments on "The Letter to the Editor that 'Science and Society' Refused to Publish”
by Jeffrey B. Perry
February 5, 2012

On September 12, 2011, I received an email from David Laibman, the Editor of "Science and Society," in response to a “Letter to the Editor” that I had submitted to that journal on August 5, 2011. My letter, submitted as “Correspondence,” followed the guidelines for such submission that are printed in the journal and on "Science and Society’s" webpage. My submission, “On Hubert Harrison,” was a response to a review of my book "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press, 2008) published in the April 2011 (Vol. 75, No. 2) issue of "Science and Society."

My “Correspondence” sought to set the historical record straight. It also put forth the position that readers of "Science and Society" “would have been better served” if the review “had more accuracy and less innuendo.” The letter addressed a number of specific issues and cited specific page references (the review cited no page references). My submission can be found at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/index.htm (top left) and at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/blog.htm entry dated February 5, 2012)

In his letter to me Laibman wrote that he was in receipt of my Communication "On Hubert Harrison" and that it had been read by the Manuscript Collective of Science and Society. Laibman then stated: “The problem is that *Science & Society* (like, I think, most journals) has a firm policy against allowing book authors to respond to book reviews.” He further stated that he had “also learned after many years in this business that there are exceptions to every rule in publishing, this one included,” but in “the present case,” Science and Society’s manuscript readers feel “that no exception should be made.”

The problems I have with Laibman’s “firm policy” statement are the following:

1. If the “firm policy” was so firm a policy one would think it would be listed in "Science and Society," or on the journal’s website, as are other policies. It is not.

2. If the “firm policy” was so firm a policy one would think it would be well known by the journal’s “Editorial Administrator.” In fact, it was the Editorial Administrator of "Science and Society" who, in the "Science and Society" office, showed me a pre-publication version of the review, printed out a copy and gave it to me, and suggested that I should submit any corrections I cared to make in a letter for the “Correspondence” section of the journal.

3. My own recent experiences with other journals make clear that Laibman’s “firm policy” is not as widespread as he suggests. Specifically, in the period since "Science and Society’s" refusal to publish my letter, I have had two pieces published in journals that offer concrete evidence that other journals do publish letters from authors in response to reviews of their books. In both cases journals have indicated that serious efforts by an author to set the historical record straight, take precedence over any policy of not allowing an author to respond to a review.

In one case the journal "Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas" edited by Leon Fink printed my letter (Volume 8, No. 4, Winter 2011, pp. 175-77) in response to a review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" by Brian Kelly. In the second case, my article “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight against White Supremacy,” (published in "Cultural Logic" on January 1, 2012 at http://clogic.eserver.org/2010/2010.html), quotes from Theodore W. Allen’s letter to the editor of the "Journal of Southern History" (Vol. 66, No. 1, February 2000, pp. 196-2000) that was published in response to a J. Douglas Deal’s review of Allen’s "The Invention of the White Race" in that journal.

4. I believe that any “firm policy” against publishing an author’s response, especially if that author’s response seeks to correct inaccuracies in a review, works against "Science and Society’s" stated interest in being part of a “serious community both rooted in and developing a systematic alternative vision and method” in the Marxist traditions. [I note in contrast that I received very different treatment from another Marxist publication, the online SocialistWorker.org, which on November 30, 2010 published a letter by me that aimed to set the historical record straight in response to a piece by one of their editors who discussed Hubert Harrison. See http://socialistworker.org/2010/11/30/response-on-race-and-racism .]

Further Background and Comments

In early 2011 I was shown into the office of "Science and Society" by that journal’s Editorial Administrator, who was also a member of a class I taught at the Brecht Forum in New York on “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Continuing Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy.” (The "Science and Society" office is on the same floor of the same building as the Brecht Forum.) The Editorial Administrator proceeded to show me on screen, and then to print a copy for me of, a submitted review about my book "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press, 2008), which is the first volume of my two-volume Harrison biography. When I read the review I found inaccuracies, innuendos, and a failure to even attempt to substantiate any statements with page references. I mentioned this to the Editorial Administrator who suggested that a response in the form of a letter to the editor, published as “Correspondence,” would be appropriate, could generate important discussion, and should be submitted.

It was the Editorial Administrator who suggested to me that I write the letter to the editor and submit it as “Correspondence.” It was also the Editorial Administrator who told me that the reviewer of my book had a parent on the Manuscript Collective of "Science and Society" and I should know that. It was the Editorial Administrator who subsequently advised me that I should keep my submission under the 3,000-word limit so that its length would not be used as a basis for non-publication.

After being so informed by the Editorial Administrator, I then read on the "Science and Society" webpage that, “Unlike the practice of many journals, assigned book reviews are evaluated by the Manuscript Collective prior to publication.”

In the course of the overall editorial process (in the period between when I received the initially submitted review from the Editorial Administrator and the final publication of the review) several statements were elided from the reviewer’s original submission. Among the statements that were removed and did not appear in the published review are the following:

“ . . . this volume is a well-thought out, meticulously researched narrative of Hubert Harrison’s life.”

“This volume is an indispensible [sic] addition to our understanding of Black radical history and Marxist praxis in the early twentieth century.”

“Perry makes an important contribution to academic writings produced over the past few decades initiated with the magnum opus by Winston James that discuss the significance of the Caribbean for Black radicalism in the U.S.”

I found what was elided from the review during "Science and Society’s" editorial process to be of interest.

Finally, I think that David Laibman, in his letter to me put forth a strawman argument not consistent with being part of a “serious community both rooted in and developing a systematic alternative vision and method” when he wrote “Authors will understandably wish to ‘answer’ every criticism; the resulting cacophony of argument would quickly drown out the review process as such, and would discourage reviewers from writing candid reviews.” I do not think what Laibman describes has to be the case, nor do I think that it was the case in this instance.

Most importantly, I think that encouraging more well-thought-out and documented exchange of ideas would lead to higher quality reviews and would help push our collective understanding to a higher level. Read More 
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Slavery as Capitalism, Slaveholders as Capitalists, Enslaved as Proletarians

In his writings [Theodore W.] Allen sought to lay the basis for a class-conscious, anti-white-supremacist, counter narrative of American history. He offered “the groundwork for a total re-interpretation of U.S. history” that he felt was “unfettered by white labor apology which consistently locates Afro-Americans outside the working class.” This “new and consistent interpretation of colonial history and the origin of racial slavery” would, he believed, have significant implications “for interpreting all subsequent periods” of United States history.

Of major importance in this counter-narrative is Allen’s analysis of slavery as capitalism, slaveholders as capitalists, and the enslaved as proletarians. In describing “the capitalist development which motored the Anglo-American racial slavery system,” Allen’s historical work shows “that the means of production on the plantations were monopolized by one class,” that “non-owners were reduced to absolute dependence upon the owners and could live only by the alienation of their own labor power to the service of the owning class,” that “the products of the plantation took the form of commodities,” and “that the aim of production was the accumulation and expansion of capital.” He emphasizes that “slaveholders were capitalists – a plantation bourgeoisie – and the slaves were proletarians.” He also points out that the “proposition that the United States plantation system based on chattel bond-labor was a capitalist operation is a widely recognized principle of political economy,” he cites a disparate group of writers including “view Caribbean slavery in this light, as well.”

Allen calls special attention to the fact that Karl Marx invariably treated the American plantation economy as capitalist enterprise and quotes Marx that “The production of surplus-value is the absolute law of this [capitalist – TWA] mode of production.” He similarly quotes Marx that “The overworking of the Negro [bond-laborer – TWA] . . . was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products [as in ancient classical slavery – TWA]. It was now a question of the production of surplus-value itself.” Referring to circumstances where both rent and profit go to the owner-employer Marx explained, “Where capitalist conceptions predominate, as they did upon the American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit.” Finally, Allen quotes Marx before the Civil War discussing the nature of differential rent and commenting that while free wage-labor is the normal basis of capitalist production, still “the capitalist mode of production exists” in the Anglo-American plantation colonies based on “the slavery of Negroes.”

In the course of his work Allen addresses a question that might be raised – How can slavery be capitalist, since it is not based on wage labor? He responds, “What is historically significant about the wages system is that is based on the general transformation of labor-power into a commodity, and that in turn is due to the fact that the producers have lost ownership of the means production, and therefore can live only by the sale of their labor power.” He cites Marx’s letter to Lincoln, that the African-American bond-laborer was “sold without his concurrence, while the European-American worker could ‘sell himself,’” and Marx’s statement that “‘the business in which slaves are used [in the United States] is conducted by capitalists,’ and for the same purpose, the accumulation of capital by the extraction of surplus value from the exploitation of commodity-producing labor.” He notes, “the bond-labor form was a contradiction of the basic requisites of general capitalist development – a contradiction that was purged away in the Civil War,” but emphasizes that “[for] a time that form of labor was not a barrier to rapid capitalist accumulation, but its main engine.”

(For more on this topic, including footnotes, see “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) by Jeffrey B. Perry at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/works.htm (top left) 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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White Supremacy by Ruling Class Design

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in "The German Ideology" (1846), part 1, write --
"The ideas of the ruling class, are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force."

Looking back to the era of capitalist racial slavery throughout the South we see Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts explaining in the course of his March 7, 1850, oration on the proposed Compromise of that year --

". . . the general lead in the politics of the country, for three-fourths of the period that has elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, has been a southern lead."

Alexander Stephens, the future Vice-President of the Confederacy, boasted in January 1861 --

"We [the southern slaveholder states] have always had control of it [the Federal government] . . . we have had a majority of the Presidents chosen from the South, as well as the control and management of most of those chosen from the north. We have had sixty years of southern presidents, to their 24, thus controlling the executive department. So of the judges of the Supreme Court, we have had 18 from the south, and but 11 from the north; although nearly four-fifths of the judicial business has arisen from the free states, yet a majority of this court have always been from the south. This we have required, so as to guard against any interpretation of the Constitution unfavorable to us. In like manner, we have been equally watchful to guard our interests in the legislative branch of government. In choosing the presiding presidents (pro tempore of the Senate) we have had 24 to their 11. Speaker of the House, we have had 23 and they 12. While the majority of the Representatives, from their greater population, have always been from the North, yet we have so generally secured the Speaker because he, to a great extent, shapes and controls the legislation of the country . . . Nor have we had less control of every other department of the general government."

See “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 at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/works.htm (top left) Read More 
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Hubert Harrison on “The Touchstone” and on the Two-Fold Character of “Democracy” in America

Hubert Harrison’s class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness led him to offer profound insights on the two-fold character of “democracy” in America – that is, when it is a “whites only” (or a white supremacist-shaped) “democracy” it is a retardant to social progress; when it is thoroughgoing and genuine, it is a catalyst for progressive social change.

In 1911 in the Socialist Party of New York’s "Call" he wrote: “Politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea. The presence of the Negro puts our democracy to the proof and reveals the falsity of it.” A touchstone is a black stone used to test the purity of gold. As such it is also a metaphor that can be applied widely to test the degree of equality – socially, politically, and economically – in America. Every area where political work is undertaken – housing, employment, education, healthcare, incarceration, etc. – can be put to the test and the questions can be asked “How are Black people faring?” and “What is to be done about it?”

In that same “touchstone” passage Harrison added that true democracy and equality for “the Negro” implies “a revolution startling to even think of.” This compelling insight foreshadowed the civil rights/Black liberation struggles of the 1960s, which posed such an important challenge to the existing social order and gave impetus to the anti-war, student, women’s, Latino, Asian, labor, gay, and other movements for progressive social change.

See “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 at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/works.htm (top left) Read More 
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Struggle against white supremacy central to efforts at social change

"Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen pointed to white supremacy as the historic principal retardant to social change efforts in the U.S. They emphasized that struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at social change. Given the unfolding conjuncture and the directness and clarity with which they addressed issues of race and class, their insights deserve considerable attention, particularly from those interested in efforts to end white supremacist bourgeois domination in the United States." - See “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/files/PerryConjuncture.pdf  Read More 
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“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

“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 is now available at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/works.htm (top left)

A pre-publication version of an article that will appear online in "Cultural Logic"
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Hubert Harrison Event at Bronx Community College, October 25, 2011 at 12 noon

On Tuesday, October 25, 2011, at 12 noon, Jeffrey B. Perry will discuss Hubert Harrison in an event sponsored by the Center for Inquiry-New York City, at the Roscoe Brown Student Center, Bronx Community College, 2155 University Avenue, Bronx, N,Y, 10453.
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Hubert Harrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, Theodore W. Allen, "dust in the eyes," "Blindspot in the eyes of America," "White Blindspot" Concept

“As long as the Color Line exists, . . . The cant of ‘Democracy’ is intended as dust in the eyes of white voters . . . It furnishes bait for the clever statesmen.”
--Hubert Harrison--
--New Negro, 1919--

“It is only the Blindspot in the eyes of America, and its historians, that can overlook and misread so clean and encouraging a chapter of human struggle and human uplift [as Black Reconstruction].”
--W.E.B. Du Bois--
--Black Reconstruction, 1935--

“All the while their white blindspot prevents them from seeing what we are talking about is . . . the ‘white question,’ the white question of questions - the centrality of the problem of white supremacy and the white-skin privilege which have historically frustrated the struggle for democracy, progress and socialism in the US.”
--Theodore W. Allen--
--“White Blindspot,” 1967-- Read More 
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Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, Socialists and the "white" race

“...your official documents [show] that the white men of your [Socialist] party officially put [the white] ‘race first’ rather than ‘class first.’”
-Hubert Harrison-
-An Open Letter to the Socialist Party of New York City, Negro World, 1920-

“...the ‘white race’ must be understood, not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation.”
-Theodore W. Allen-
-“Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race,” 1998- Read More 
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Hubert Harrison, "the crucial test of socialism's sincerity" and W. E. B. Du Bois, "the great test of the American socialists"

“ . . . the mission of the Socialist Party is to free the working class from exploitation, and . . . the duty of the party to champion . . .[the "Negro’s"] cause is as clear as day. This is the crucial test of Socialism’s sincerity.”
-- Hubert Harrison --
-- “Socialism and the Negro,” "International Socialist Review," 1912 --

"The Negro problem, then, is the great test of the American socialists.”
-- W.E.B. Du Bois --
-- “Socialism and the Negro Problem,” "The New Review," 1913 -- Read More 
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Hubert Harrison -- "The Touchstone"

“Politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea. The presence of the Negro puts our democracy to the test and reveals the falsity of it . . . [True democracy and equality implies] a revolution . . . startling to even think of.”

-- Hubert Harrison --
-- “The Negro and Socialism,” 1911 --
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Hubert Harrison on Black Workers

“The ten million Negroes of America form a group that is more essentially proletarian than any other American group . . . and the Negro was . . . [under slavery] the most thoroughly exploited of the American proletariat, . . . the most thoroughly despised.”
--Hubert Harrison--
--“Socialism and the Negro,” "International Socialist Review," 1912--
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