Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper ("The Voice") of the militant, World War I-era "New Negro" movement; edited "The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort" ("intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race") in 1919; wrote "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" in 1920; and he served as editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.
His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of "New Negro" militants and common people including the class radical A. Philip Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is the key link in the ideological unity of the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor and civil rights trend associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist trend associated with Malcolm X. (Randolph and Garvey were, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm (whose father was a Garveyite preacher and whose mother wrote for the Negro World), speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.
Harrison was also an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer; a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what is now the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
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