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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement"

June 12, 1917

100th Anniversary of Hubert Harrison’s Founding
of the First Organization of the Militant “New Negro Movement”



One hundred years ago, on June 12, 1917, Hubert Harrison founded the Liberty League of Negro-Americans at a rally attended by thousands at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 52-60 W. 132nd Street in Harlem. It was the first organization of the militant “New Negro Movement.” Several weeks later, on July 4, at a large rally at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 120 W. 138th Street, Harrison founded the movement’s first paper – “The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro.”


The Liberty League’s Bethel rally was called around the slogans "Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement” and “Make the South 'Safe For Democracy.'” Listed speakers included Harrison, the young activist Chandler Owen, and Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (of Abyssinian Baptist Church). Marcus Garvey, a relatively unknown former printer from Jamaica also spoke at the rally in what was his first talk before a major Harlem audience.

The League's stated purpose was to take steps "to uproot" the twin evils of lynching and disfranchisement and "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It aimed to "carry on educational and propaganda work among Negroes" and "exercise political pressure wherever possible" in order to "abate lynching." Harrison said it offered "the most startling program of any organization of Negroes in the country" as it demanded democracy at home for "Negro-Americans" before they would be expected to enthuse over democracy in Europe.

Two thousand people packed the Bethel church meeting and the audience rose in support during Harrison's introduction when he demanded "that Congress make lynching a Federal crime." Resolutions were passed calling the government's attention to the continued violation of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments (regarding slavery and involuntary servitude, citizenship rights, and voting rights); to the existence of mob law from Florida to New York; and to the demand that lynching be made a federal crime. In his talk Harrison also called for retaliatory self-defense whenever Black lives were threatened by mobs.

The Liberty League emphasized "a special sympathy" for “our brethren in Africa" and pledged to "work for the ultimate realization of democracy in Africa -- for the right of these darker millions to rule their own ancestral lands -- even as the people of Europe -- free from the domination of foreign tyrants." The League also adopted a tricolor flag. Harrison explained, because of the "Negro's" "dual relationship to our own and other peoples," 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 worldwide.

Garvey, his fellow Jamaican and future “Negro World” editor W. A. Domingo, and other leading activists, including a number of important future leaders of the Garvey movement, joined Harrison’s Liberty League. From the Liberty League and the Voice came many core progressive ideas later utilized by Garvey in both the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the “Negro World.” Contemporaries readily acknowledged that Harrison’s work laid groundwork for the Garvey movement. Harrison claimed that from the Liberty League “Garvey appropriated every feature that was worthwhile in his movement” and that the secret of Garvey’s success was that he “[held] up to the Negro masses those things which bloom in their hearts” including “race-consciousness” and “racial solidarity” – “things taught first in 1917 by the “Voice” and The Liberty League.”

The July 4 meeting at which “The Voice” appeared came in the wake of the vicious white supremacist attacks (Harrison called it a “pogrom”) on the African American community of East St. Louis, Illinois (which is twelve miles from Ferguson, Missouri). Harrison again advised “Negroes” who faced mob violence in the South and elsewhere to "supply themselves with rifles and fight if necessary, to defend their lives and property." According to the “New York 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." In his talk he encouraged “Negroes” everywhere who did not enjoy the protection of the law to arm in self-defense, to hide their arms, and to learn how to use their weapons. He also reportedly called for a collection of money to buy rifles for those who could not obtain them themselves, emphasizing that "Negroes in New York cannot afford to lie down in the face of this" because "East St. Louis touches us too nearly." According to the “Times,” Harrison said it was imperative to "demand justice" and to "make our voices heard." This call for armed self-defense and the desire to have the political voice of the militant New Negro heard were important components of Harrison's militant “New Negro” activism.

The Voice featured Harrison’s outstanding writing and editing and it included important book review and “Poetry for the People” sections. It contributed significantly to the climate leading up to Alain LeRoy Locke’s 1925 publication “The New Negro.”

Beginning in August 1919 Harrison edited “The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort,” which described itself as “A Magazine for the New Negro,” published “in the interest of the New Negro Manhood Movement,” and “intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race.”

In early 1920 Harrison assumed "the joint editorship" of the “Negro World” and served as principal editor of that globe-sweeping newspaper of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (which was a major component of the “New Negro Movement”).

Then, in August 1920, while serving as editor of the “Negro World,” Harrison completed “When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.” Many of Harrison’s most important “New Negro Movement” editorials and reviews from the 1917-1920 period were reprinted in “When Africa Awakes.” The book, recently republished in expanded form by Diasporic Africa Press, makes clear his pioneering theoretical, educational, and organizational role in the founding and development of the militant “New Negro Movement.”

Brief Biographical Background Pre the Founding of Militant “New Negro Movement”

St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born, Harlem-based, Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927) was a brilliant, class conscious and race conscious, writer, educator, orator, editor, book reviewer, political activist, and radical internationalist. Historian J. A. Rogers in “World’s Great Men of Color” described him as an “Intellectual Giant” who was “perhaps the foremost Aframerican intellect of his time.” Labor and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, referring to a period when Harlem was considered an international “Negro Mecca” and the “center of radical black thought,” described him as “the father of Harlem radicalism.” Richard B. Moore, active with the Socialist Party, African Blood Brotherhood, Communist Party, and movements for Caribbean independence and federation, described Harrison as “above all” his contemporaries in his steady emphasis that “a vital aim” was “the liberation of the oppressed African and other colonial peoples.”

Hubert 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 a major influence on the class radical Randolph, on the race radical Garvey, and on other militant “New Negroes” in the period around World War I. W. A. Domingo, a socialist and the first editor of Garvey’s “Negro World” newspaper explained, “Garvey like the rest of us [A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore, and other “New Negroes”] followed Hubert Harrison.” Historian Robert A. Hill refers to Harrison as “the New Negro ideological mentor.” Considered the most class conscious of the race radicals and the most race conscious of the class radicals in those years, he is a key link in the two great trends of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggle – the labor and civil rights trend associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist trend associated with Garvey and Malcolm X. (King marched on Washington with Randolph at his side and Malcolm’s father was a Garveyite preacher and his mother was a reporter for Garvey’s Negro World, the newspaper for which Harrison had been principal editor.)

From 1911 to 1914 Harrison served as the leading Black theoretician, speaker, and activist in the Socialist Party of America. Party statements and practices -- including events at the 1912 convention where Socialists failed to address the “Negro Question” and supported Asian exclusion as “legislation restricting the invasion of the white man’s domain by other races” -- caused him to leave the Socialist Party in 1914. After departing, he offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded, criticism in the history of the United States left -- that Socialist Party leaders, like organized labor leaders, put the “white race” first, before class, that they put the [“white’] “Race First and class after.”

Harrison was a pioneering Black activist in the Freethought, Free Speech, and Birth Control Movements. Two years after leaving the Socialist Party, Harrison turned to concentrated work in the Black community. Beginning in 1916, he served as the intellectual guiding light of the militant “New Negro Movement” -- the race and class conscious, internationalist, mass based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for “political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power.”

Those interested in additional information on Hubert Harrison and the founding of the militant “New Negro Movement” are encouraged to read "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press), "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press), and the new, expanded, Diasporic Africa Press edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World.”

For information on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE
and CLICK HERE

For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE

For information on the new, expanded, Diasporic Africa Press edition of Hubert H. Harrison's “When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” CLICK HERE

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison at the Dudley Public Library, Roxbury, Mass. filmed by Boston Neighborhood News TV CLICK HERE

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on HUBERT HARRISON the “Father of Harlem Radicalism” for the St. Croix Landmarks Society CLICK HERE (Note: The slides are very clear.)

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
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Hubert Harrison: Pioneering Black Activist in the Freethought Movement by Jeffrey B. Perry Truth Seeker May-August 2017

"Hubert Harrison: Pioneering Black Activist in the Freethought Movement" by Jeffrey B. Perry in Truth Seeker May - August 2017

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Hubert Harrison, "Poetry of Claude McKay" “Negro World” (May 21, 1921) and Claude McKay’s “Harlem Shadows”

Hubert Harrison, "Poetry of Claude McKay," “Negro World” (May 21, 1921) and Electronic Text of McKay’s “Harlem Shadows.” The text of this Harrison article is available in Jeffrey B. Perry's “A Hubert Harrison Reader” (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001) To read the Harrison article and "Harlem Shadows"
CLICK HERE
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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Theodore W. Allen’s "The Invention of the White Race" (Verso Books) With References to Hubert Harrison Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry May 4, 1917 Paul Robeson Freedom School Lecture Series, Brooklyn

This Thursday, May 4, 2017, at 6:00 PM
Jeffrey B. Perry will offer a slide presentation/talk on "Theodore W. Allen’s "'The Invention of the White Race’ and the Centrality of Struggle Against White Supremacy" (with some references to the life and work of Hubert Harrison) and Dr. Jahi Issa will offer a presentation on “American Slavery." Paul Robeson Freedom School Lecture Series at The Brooklyn Christian Center, 1061 Atlantic Ave (between Classon and Franklin Avenues), Brooklyn, NY. The event is FREE. For additional information call 347-618-8675.
For information on “The Invention of the White Race” Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) CLICK HERE

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Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Video of Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry Washington Project for the Arts





Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at Washington Project for the Arts, 2124 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 on Friday, April 28, 2017. To view the presentation in 5 parts CLICK HERE


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On May 1, 1912, International Workers Day Hubert Harrison Spoke Before 50,000 People at the May Day Rally at Union Square, New York City

105 Years Ago -- On May 1, 1912, International Workers Day, Hubert Harrison, one of the featured English language speakers of the Socialist Party, spoke at the May Day rally at Union Square (New York City) which, according to the New York Times, was attended by "some 50,000 organized workers, men and women, wearing the bright red of socialism as the world wide band of labor."
For information on Harrison’s life see “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press). For comments on that work by scholars and activists CLICK HERE

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Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Friday, April 28, 2017, 6:00 p.m. Washington Project for the Arts 2124 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Washington, DC, This Friday April 28 -- Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry on Friday, April 28, 2017, 6:00 p.m. Washington Project for the Arts, 2124 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
For more information CLICK HERE


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Hubert Harrison: 134 Year Birthdate Anniversary (April 27) Founder of First Organization and First Newspaper Of the Militant “New Negro Movement”

Hubert Harrison: 134 Year Birthdate Anniversary (April 27); Founder of First Organization and First Newspaper Of the Militant “New Negro Movement” in “Black Star News” CLICK HERE

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Extremely Insightful, May 20, 2004, interview (on the centrality of struggle against white supremacy) with a then 84-year-old Theodore W. Allen

For an extremely insightful, May 20, 2004 interview (on the centrality of struggle against white supremacy) with a then 84-year-old Theodore W. Allen, LISTEN HERE
The interview was conducted by Chad Pearson.

For additional information on Allen and his work
CLICK HERE


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On March 17th people are encouraged to read Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” especially Vol. 1's discussion of Irish people in Ireland and the United States

On March 17th ("St. Patrick's day") people are encouraged to become familiar with Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (especially Vol. 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control”), which offers profound insights into Irish history paying special attention to religio-racial oppression and national oppression in Ireland.
Very importantly -- In Chapter VII on “The Sea-Change” Allen looks at “an absolutely unique historical phenomenon associated with the massive Irish immigration into the ant-bellum struggle between racial slavery and freedom in the United States.” He is referring to the process by which “subjects of a history of racial oppression as Irish Catholics, are sea-changed into ‘white Americans,’ and opponents of abolition of racial slavery, and of equal rights of African-Americans in general.” (p. 159)

Table of Contents
The Invention of the White Race
Volume One
Racial Oppression and Social Control
by Theodore W. Allen

Acknowledgements
Introduction to the Second Edition [by Jeffrey B. Perry]
Introduction
1. The Anatomy of Racial Oppression
2. Social Control and the Intermediate Strata: Ireland
3. Protestant Ascendancy and White Supremacy
4. Social Control: From Racial to National Oppression
5. Ulster
6. Anglo-America: Ulster Writ Large
7. The Sea-change
8. How the Sea-change was Wrought
Appendices
Appendix A: (see Introduction, note 46 [re intermarriage])
Appendix B: (see Introduction, note 46 [re “cheaper labor” rationale])
Appendix C: (see Chapter 1, note 58 and Chapter 2 note 51 [re Africans’ strength as a limit to English colonization])
Appendix D: (see Chapter 2, notes 42 and 73 [re English Plantations in Ireland as “response to rebellion”])
Appendix E: (see Chapter 2, note 58 [re England on threshold of its career as a world colonial power, with Ireland as its first objective”])
Appendix F: (see Chapter 2, note 77 [re Mountjoy’s “starvation strategy” for Ireland])
Appendix G: (see Chapter 2, note 108 [re “social control policies of the Western colonizing powers”])
Appendix H: (see Chapter 3, note 8 [re “Scottish slavery”])
Appendix I: (see Chapter 3, note 46 [re relative cost differential of English and Irish common labor greater than differential between wage-labor and bond-labor in continental Anglo-America])
Appendix J: (see Chapter 4, note 107 [re “Daniel O’Connell’s views regarding revolutionary violence in Ireland”])
Appendix K: (see Chapter 7, note 62 [re “The Slave” by Leander (John Hughes)])
Appendix L: (see Chapter 7, note 80 [re “Address from the people of Ireland to their Countrymen and Countrywomen in America”])
Editor’s Appendix M: A Brief Biography of Theodore W. Allen
Editor’s Appendix N: Notes to Encourage Engagement with Volume I
Chronological Finding Aid for Users of this Volume
Notes
Index [Newly Expanded]

See HERE


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