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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Hubert H. Harrison The Negro and the Nation 1917

Hubert H. Harrison
The Negro and the Nation
(Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Company
2305 Seventh Avenue, New York

In August 1917, shortly after founding the first organization (The Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the “New Negro Movement,” Hubert Harrison completed his first book -- The Negro and the Nation.

The book was published by the Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Company, which was headed by Barbados-born Orlando M. Thompson (a future Vice-President of the Black Star Line) and included Barbados-born Richard B. Moore (a Socialist and bibliophile and future Communist and Scottsboro Boys orator) as a part owner.

Harrison was at a highpoint in popularity and the book's "Introductory" described in detail how the World War had quickened the development of race consciousness. The book then reprinted some of Harrison's early articles -- "The Black Man's Burden" (1912), "Socialism and the Negro" (c. 1912), "The Real Negro Problem" (c. 1912), "On A Certain Conservatism in Negroes" (1914), "What Socialism Means To Us" (1912), and "The Negro and the Newspapers" (c. 1910-1912).

In the "Preface" Harrison explained that the reprinted articles helped to describe “the present situation of the Negro in present day America” and showed” how that situation re-acts upon the mind of the Negro." He emphasized that such exposure was the "Negro's" immediate "great need."

In the “Preface" he also indicated that he planned, in the near future, to write a book "on the New Negro" which would "set forth the aims and ideals” of the new movement “which has grown out of the international crusade 'for democracy -- for the right to have A VOICE in their own government' -- as President Wilson so sincerely put it."

In 1919 Harrison would edit 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.”

Then, in 1920, Harrison did complete that second book -- When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World (The Porro Press, 513 Lenox Ave, New York, August 1920). In the “Introductory” to that work Harrison writes: “It is hardly necessary to point out that the AFRICA of the title is to be taken in its racial rather than its geographical sense.”

To read The Negro and the Nation CLICK HERE

For additional information by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
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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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Ninety-Six Year Ago -- July 4, 1917 Vol. 1, No. 1 of The Voice "A Newspaper for the New Negro" (The First Newspaper of the Militant “New Negro Movement”)

A July 4, 1917 rally of Hubert Harrison’s Liberty League at Harlem’s Metropolitan Baptist Church on 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues drew national attention and saw the first edition of The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro. Harrison’s Liberty League was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement” and his newspaper, The Voice, was the first newspaper of the movement and a prime example of the militant new spirit that was developing.

It “really crystallized the radicalism of the Negro in New York and its environs” wrote Hodge Kirnon. Historian Robert A. Hill points out that Harrison’s Voice was “the radical forerunner” of the periodicals that would express the developing political and intellectual ferment in the era of World War I. It was followed in November 1917 by the Messenger of A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen and in August 1918 by the Negro World of Marcus Garvey and the Crusader of Cyril Briggs. These four publications, led by The Voice, manifested “the principal articulation of the New Negro mood.”

The July 4 meeting came in the wake of the July 1-3 white supremacist pogrom in East St. Louis, Illinois. Reports on the number of African Americans killed ranged from thirty-nine to two-hundred-and-fifty and 244 buildings were totally or partially destroyed. Historian Edward Robb Ellis reports that in East St. Louis Black women were scalped and four Black children slaughtered.

These riots were widely attributed to “white” labor’s opposition to Black workers coming into the labor market and they were directly precipitated by a car of white “joy riders” who fired guns into the African-American community. Officials of organized labor served as prominent apologists for “white” labor’s role in the rioting. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, placed principal blame for the riots on “the excessive and abnormal number of negroes” in East St. Louis while W. S. Carter, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, maintained that “the purpose of the railroads in importing Negro labor is to destroy the influence of white men’s labor organizations.” A subsequent House of Representatives committee found that the local police and Illinois National Guard were inept and indifferent, and, in specific instances, supported the white mobs.

The Liberty League’s July 4 meeting in the largest church in Harlem came one day after a “race riot” in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan (the third in six weeks) in which two thousand people fought after a reserve policemen arrested a uniformed Black soldier standing on a street corner who allegedly refused to move fast enough.

The New York Times reported that at the July 4 Liberty League rally a thousand Black men and women were present and enthusiastically cheered the speakers who were “all Negroes.” Every speaker was reported to have denounced the East St. Louis rioters as ruthless murderers and each condemned the authorities for not preventing the atrocities and for not providing protection.

Edgar M. Grey, secretary of the Liberty League, chaired the July 4 meeting. He informed the audience that the League had sent its message to Congress and appealed for a thorough and impartial investigation of East St. Louis, of the lynching of African Americans, and of treatment of Black people throughout the land. Harrison spoke next and reportedly said that “they are saying a great deal about democracy in Washington now,” but, “while they are talking about fighting for freedom and the Stars and Stripes, here at home the white apply the torch to the black men’s homes, and bullets, clubs and stones to their bodies.”

As president of the League, Harrison advised Black people who feared mob violence in the South and elsewhere to take direct action and “supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property.” According to the 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” and he encouraged Black people everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law "to arm for their own defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use them." He also called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them, emphasizing that “Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this” because “East St. Louis touches us too nearly.” As he later put it--“‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ and sometimes two eyes or a half dozen teeth for one is the aim of the New Negro.” Harrison stressed that it was imperative to “demand justice” and to “make our voices heard.”

The emphasis on a political voice ran across the masthead of The Voice, which proclaimed “We will fight for all the things we have held nearest our hearts--for democracy--for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” Several years later Marcus Garvey, who learned from Harrison, emphasized that “[the] new spirit of the new Negro . . . seeks a political voice, and the world is amazed, the world is astounded that the Negro should desire a political voice, because after the voice comes a political place, and . . . we are not only asking but we are going to demand--we are going to fight for and die for that place.” According to Robert A. Hill, this demand for a political voice marked the new spirit of the “New Negro” and keyed the later radicalism of Garvey’s UNIA.

This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard marked Harrison’s activities in 1917.

The Voice editorial on “The East St. Louis Horror” argued that although the nation was at war to make the world “safe for democracy,” until the nation was made safe for African Americans, they would refuse to believe in the country’s democratic assertions. Harrison stressed that “New Negroes” would not re-echo “patriotic protestations of the boot-licking leaders whose pockets and positions testify to the power of the white man’s gold” and, despite what Black people might be forced by law to say publicly, “the resentment in their hearts will not down.” Then he described the core feeling of the new militancy developing in the wake of East St. Louis:

. . . Unbeknown to the white people of this land a temper is being developed among Negroes with which the American people will have to reckon.
At the present moment it takes this form: If white men are to kill unoffending Negroes, Negroes must kill white men in defense of their lives and property. This is the lesson of the East St. Louis massacre.

Hubert H. Harrison emphasized that Black people “must protect themselves” and “the United States Supreme Court concedes them this right.” Read More 
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June 12, 1917 (96 Years Ago) Founding Meeting of Hubert Harrison’s Liberty League First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement”

On June 12, 1917, a rally at Harlem’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, at 52-60 W. 132nd Street off Lenox Avenue drew 2,000 people to the founding meeting of Hubert Harrison’s “Liberty League,” the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement.” The audience rose in support as Harrison demanded “that Congress make lynching a Federal crime.” urged support of resolutions calling for enforcement of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments (outlawing slavery, establishing national citizenship and equal protection, and guaranteeing the right to vote), and called for democracy for “Negro-Americans.”

Scheduled speakers at the event included Harrison, the young activist Chandler Owen, Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church on West 40th St.), and other prominent ministers and laymen. Other speakers included a young lawyer, James C. Thomas, Jr. who, later in the year, would run unsuccessfully for Alderman in Manhattan’s 26th district, and Marcus Garvey, a relatively unknown former printer from Jamaica, who had spent some time in Costa Rica, England, and touring the United States. Harrison made clear that this “New Negro Movement” was “a breaking away of the Negro masses from the grip of old-time leaders--none of whom was represented.”

The Liberty League, in June 1917, adopted a tricolor flag. Because of the “Negro’s” “dual relationship to our own and other peoples,” explained Harrison, “[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 world-wide. It was from this black, brown, and yellow tri-color that Marcus Garvey would later, according to Harrison, draw the idea for the red, black, and green tri-color racial flag which the UNIA would popularize, and which later would become identified as Black liberation colors.

While the June 12 meeting at Bethel Church formally founded the Liberty League it was a July 4, 1917, rally at the Metropolitan Baptist Church on 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues, which drew national attention to the organization and saw the first edition of the Hubert Harrison edited newspaper The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.

Information on the founding of the Liberty League and The Voice and the Declaration, Petition, and Resolutions of the Liberty League can be found Here, Here and and Here Read More 
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"Does . . . Hubert Harrison require scholars teaching the Harlem Renaissance (or New Negro Movement) to revise their curriculum?

THE LITTLE e-NOTE: The 1 Question Interview.

Jeffrey B. Perry, biographer of Hubert Harrison answers a question posed by Professor E. Ethelbert Miller, Director, Afro-American Studies Resource Center, Howard University, for his blogspot www.eethelbertmiller1.blogspot.com (September 8, 2009)

Question: Does your research on Hubert Harrison require scholars teaching the
Harlem Renaissance (or New Negro Movement)  Read More 
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