Jeffrey B. Perry discusses Hubert Harrison at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., 16 February 2014. Video recorded by Enaa Doug Greene.
Hubert Harrison, (1883-1927) was an immensely skilled writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist who, more than any other political leader of his era, combined class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness into a coherent political radicalism. The St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born and Harlem-based Harrison profoundly influenced "New Negro" militants, including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and his synthesis of class and race issues is a key unifying link between the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement: the labor- and civil-rights-based work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist work associated with Malcolm X.
Harrison played unique, signal roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the New Negro/Garvey) movement of his era. He was the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician of the Socialist Party of New York, the founder of the "New Negro" movement, the editor of the "Negro World," and the principal radical influence on the Garvey movement. A self-described, "radical internationalist," he was also a highly praised journalist and critic (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer), a postal labor unionist, a union organizer (with both the Hotel Workers and the Pullman Porters), an IWW supporter, a speaker at the 1913 Paterson strike, a freethinker and early proponent of birth control, a supporter of Black writers and artists, a leading community-based public intellectual, an adult education lecturer for the New York City Board of Education, and a bibliophile who helped transform the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture (known today as the world-famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.
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