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July 4, 1917 Hubert Harrison Liberty League Rally in Harlem

 
 

On July 4, 1917, at a Harlem Rally St. Croix-born Hubert Harrison put out a call for armed self-defense in the face of white supremacist attacks (such as the recent "pogrom" in East St. Louis, Illinois) and distributed the first edition of "The Voice: A Newspaper for the New Negro," which was the first newspaper of the militant "New Negro Movement."

Background

104 – Years Ago -- 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 Montserrat-born 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 (which is 12 miles from Ferguson, Missouri). 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.

As president of the Liberty 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 and joined Harrison's Liberty League, 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's" 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."

For information on Harrison's life see "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) See HERE and see "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" HERE 

See also "A Hubert Harrison Reader" HERE  (and in electronic book form see HERE )

 and see Hubert H. Harrison, "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" HERE

 
One Hundred Years Ago Hubert Harrison Wrote... 
"Wanted--A Colored International" 

 

One Hundred Years Ago Hubert Harrison Wrote... 

"Wanted--A Colored International" 

 

 

    In early 1921 Hubert Harrison, "the father of Harlem radicalism" reportedly rejected an offer of financial support from the Communist Party of the United States, which was affiliated with the Third (Communist) International (or Comintern) headed by the Bolshevik party of Russia. According to Bureau of Investigation Special Agent "P-138" (Herbert Simeon Boulin), Edgar M. Grey, Secretary of the Liberty League, had said "in confidence" that Cyril Briggs's periodical, the Crusader, was subsidized by the Communists and that toward the end of May party member Rose Pastor Stokes had offered Party support to Harrison "so that he could use the LIBERTY LEAGUE as a branch of spreading communism among negroes." Harrison reportedly refused the proposition because he preferred "to make the Liberty League a purely negro organization, fighting for the negro cause." According to historian Robert A. Hill, Harrison's rejection of the overture showed he would not be the communists' "stalking horse against Garvey." Hill adds that Briggs, on the other hand, joined the communist Workers Party around this time.

     The communists were attempting to pay attention to the "Negro Problem" and wanted radical propagandists like Harrison. A section of the "Program of the United Communist Party," on the "Negro Question," reprinted in the Toiler of February 12, 1921, described "the negro population of the United States" as an "outlaw race" and "the most exploited people in America." The UCP emphasized that "the only possible solution of the negro problem" was "through the overthrow of the capitalist State and the erection of the Communist society." In order "to break down the barrier of race prejudice that separates and keeps apart the white and the negro workers, and to bind them into a union of revolutionary forces for the overthrow of their common enemy," the UCP aimed to "find the revolutionary and potential revolutionary elements among the negroes and select those most likely to develop into revolutionary propagandists" for training in "revolutionary work."

Around the time that he reportedly rejected the Communist's offer, Harrison wrote a call for a "Colored International" which appeared in the May 28, 1921, Negro World. It was based, in part, on his "The New International," which had appeared in the Negro World of May 15, 1920. Harrison's "call" reflected the fact that he was not only distancing himself from Marcus Garvey, but that with his class-conscious and anti-imperialist views he was also posing an alternative to the communists while trying to resurrect the Liberty League. This article, with its perceptive explanation of the cause of modern war and its call for an anti-imperialist "congress of the darker races," was Harrison's response to communist efforts to woo him and other African Americans. He advised that the "revolutionists" should "show their sincerity by first breaking down the exclusion walls of white workingmen before they ask us to demolish our own defensive structures of racial self-protection."

 

"Wanted A Colored International"

 

All over the world today the subject peoples of all colors are rising to the call of democracy, to formulate their grievances and plan their own enfranchisement from the chains of slavery, social, political and economic. From Ireland and Armenia, from Russia and Finland, from India, Egypt and West Africa, efforts have come looking for their relief from the thralldom of centuries of oppression.

Of all those peoples the darker races are the ones who have suffered most. In addition to the economic evils under which the others suffer they must endure those which flow from the degrading dogma of the color line; that dogma which has been set up by the Anglo-Saxon peoples and adopted in varying degrees by other white peoples who have followed their footsteps in the path of capitalistic imperialism; that dogma which declares that the lands and labors of colored races everywhere shall be the legitimate prey of white peoples and that the Negro, the Hindu, the Chinese and Japanese must endure insult and contumely in a world that was made for all.

Here in America, we who are of African ancestry and Negro blood have drunk this cup of gall and wormwood to the bitter dregs. Our labor built the greatness of this land in which we are shut out from places of public accommodation: from the church, the ballot and the laws' protection. We are Jim-Crowed, disfranchised and lynched without redress from law or public sentiment, which vigorously exercises its humanity on behalf of the Irish, Armenians and Germans thousands of miles away, but can find no time to concern itself with the barbarism and savagery perpetrated on black fellow citizens in its very midst.

This cynical indifference extends to the leaders of the Christian Church, the high-priests of democracy and the conservative [HH crossed out conservative] exponents of the aims of labor. Thus the Negro is left out of the plans being put forward by these groups for the reorganization and reconstruction of American affairs on the basis of "democracy."

We Negroes have no faith in American democracy, and can have none so long as lynching, economic and social serfdom lie in the dark alleys of its mental reservations. When a president of this country [Woodrow Wilson] can become famous abroad for his preachments on "The New Freedom" while pregnant Negro women are roasted by white savages in his section of the South with not one word of protest coming from his lips; when a church which calls itself Christian can grow hysterically "alarmed" over the souls of savages in Central Africa, while it sees everyday the bodies of its black fellow Christians brutalized and their souls blasted while it [HH changed while it to and] smirks in gleeful acquiescence; when the "aims of labor" on its march to justice exclude all reference to the masses of black workers whom conservative labor leaders would condemn in America to the shards and sweepings of economic existence--when such things represent what happens every day in a "sweet land of liberty" where "democracy" is the great watchword, then we Negroes must be excused for feeling neither love nor respect for the rotten hypocrisy which masquerades as democracy in America.

When we look upon the Negro republics of Hayti and Santo Domingo where American marines murder and rape at their pleasure while the financial vultures of Wall Street scream with joy over the bloody execution which brings the wealth of these countries under their control; when we see the Virgin Islanders in the deadly coils of American capitalism gasping for a breath of liberty, and Mexico menaced by the same monster, we begin to realize that we must organize our forces to save ourselves from further degradation and ultimate extinction.

We have appealed to the common Christian sentiment of the white people for justice, but we have been told that with the white people of this country race is more powerful than religion. We have appealed to the common patriotism which should bind us together in a common loyalty to the practice rather than the preachments of democracy, and in every case we have been rebuffed and spurned. We have depended on protest and publicity, and protest and publicity addressed to the humane sentiments of white America have availed us nothing. We are too weak to wage war against these evil conditions with force, yet we cannot afford to wait for help to come to us from those who are our oppressors. We must, therefore, learn a lesson from those others who suffer elsewhere from evils similar to ours. Whether it be Sinn Fein or Swadesha, their experiences should be serviceable for us.

Our first duty is to come together in mind as well as in mass; to take counsel from each other and to gather strength from contact; to organize and plan effective resistance to race prejudice wherever it may raise its head; to attract the attention of all possible friends whose circumstances may have put them in the same plight and whose program may involve the same way of escape. We must organize, plan and act, and the time for the action is now. A call should be issued for a congress of the darker races, which should be frankly anti-imperialistic and should serve as an international center of co-operation from which strength may be drawn for the several sections of the world of color. Such a congress should be worldwide in scope; it should include representatives and spokesmen of the oppressed peoples of India, Egypt, China, West and South Africa, and the West Indies, Hawaii, the Phillipines, Afghanistan, Algeria and Morocco. It should be made up of those who realize that capitalist imperialism which mercilessly exploits the darker races for its own financial purposes is the enemy which we must combine to fight with arms as varied as those by which it is fighting to destroy our manhood, independence and self-respect. Against the pseudo-internationalism of the short-sighted savants who are posturing on the stage of capitalist culture it should oppose the stark internationalism of clear vision which sees that capitalism means conflict of races and nations, and that war and oppression of the weak spring from the same economic motive--which is at the very root of capitalist culture.

It is the same economic motive that has been back of every modern war since the merchant and trading classes secured control of the powers of the modern state from the battle of Plassy to the present world war. This is the natural and inevitable effect of the capitalist system. For that system is based upon the wage relationship between those who own and those who operate the gigantic forces of land and machinery. Under this system no capitalist employs a worker for two dollars a day unless the worker creates more than two dollars worth of wealth for him. Only out of this surplus can profits come. If ten million workers should thus create one hundred million dollars worth of wealth each day and get twenty or fifty millions in wages it is obvious that they can expend only what they have received, and that, therefore, every nation whose industrial system is organized on a capitalist basis must produce a mass of surplus products over and above, not the need, but the purchasing power of the nation's producers. Before these products can return to their owners as profits they must be sold somewhere. Hence the need for foreign markets, for fields of exploitation and "spheres of influence" in "undeveloped" countries whose virgin resources are exploited in their turn after the capitalist fashion. But since every industrial nation is seeking the same outlet for its products clashes are inevitable, and in these clashes beaks and claws--must come into play. Hence beaks and claws must be provided beforehand against the day of conflict, and hence the exploitation of white men in Europe and America becomes the reason for the exploitation of black and brown and yellow men in Africa and Asia. Just as long as black men are exploited by white men in Africa, so long must white men cut each other's throats over that exploitation.

Thus the subject races and the subject classes are tied to each other like Kilkenny cats in a conundrum of conflict which they cannot escape until the system which so binds them both is smashed beyond possibility of "reconstruction." And thus it becomes the duty of the darker races to fight against the continuance of this system from without and within. The international of the darker races must avail itself of whatever help it can get from those groups within the white race which are seeking to destroy the capitalist international of race prejudice and exploitation which is known as bourgeois "democracy" at home and colonial imperialism abroad.

And here we meet our oppressors upon their own ground--a fact which can be readily appreciated. When Mr. [J. P.] Morgan wants to float a French or British loan in the United States; when Messrs. [Woodrow] Wilson, [Georges] Clemenceau and [David] Lloyd George want to stabilize their joint credit and commerce or to wage war on Germany or Russia; when areas like the Belgian Congo are to be handed over to certain capitalist cliques without the consent of their inhabitants--then the paeans of praise go to the god of "internationalism" in the temple of "civilization." But when any portion of the world's disinherited (whether white or black) seeks to join hands with any other group in the same condition, then the lords of misrule denounce the idea of internationalism as anarchy, sedition, Bolshevism and "disruptive propaganda," because the international linking up of peoples is a source of strength to those who are linked up. Naturally, our overlords want to strengthen themselves. And, quite as naturally, they wish to keep their various victims from strengthening themselves in the same way.

 

For more background on this article see Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927 (Columbia University Press, 2020) and Hubert Harrison, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Ed. and Intro. by Jeffrey B. Perry, (Wesleyan University Press, 2001). For information on Jeffrey B. Perry see HERE

Readers Comments on "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press, Dec. 2020)

This long-awaited final volume guides us through the last decade of Harrison's life, when he played a major role in the political upheavals and cultural transformations that shaped Harlem in the wake of the First World War. Thanks to Perry's definitive portrait, it will no longer be possible to overlook the fierce and flinty polymath who was arguably the most brilliant Black radical intellectual of his generation.
Brent Hayes Edwards, author of The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism

 

Jeffrey B. Perry's much-anticipated second volume on Hubert Harrison forces scholars to rethink the history of the Black radical tradition, the New Negro movement, and African American social movements. Through this magnificent exploration of Harrison's life, Perry establishes Harrison's centrality to early twentieth-century Black nationalist, pan-African, and socialist thought.
Ousmane Power-Greene, author of Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle Against the Colonization Movement

 

This book offers an unparalleled explication of Harrison's courageous journalism, perspicacious theoretical writings, electric oratory, wide-ranging political activity, persistent organization building, expansive mentorship and influence, and radical commitment to Black and working-class liberation. Equal in rigor, insight, and erudition to the first volume, this book completes the biography that the father of Harlem radicalism demands and deserves.
Charisse Burden-Stelly, coauthor of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Life in American History

 

Perry's magnificent achievement reaffirms that the life and work of Hubert Harrison stood at the center of the New Negro movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and American life and thought in general. This excellent book should broaden the prevailing conceptions of the history of ideas, sociology of knowledge, and intellectual history. Anyone who peruses this biography will experience a revelation, with respect to content, interpretation, and methods, and an epiphany respecting the professional ethos.
Wilson J. Moses, author of Thomas Jefferson: A Modern Prometheus

 

The brilliant radical educator and activist Hubert Harrison has found in Jeffrey B. Perry a meticulous and indefatigable champion. Perry serves as both a perceptive guide to Harrison's immense literary output and as Harrison's partner in setting the historical record straight. For scholars who want to understand this once-hidden parent of Harlem radicalism, Perry's work is the essential starting point.
Brian Jones, author of The Tuskegee Student Revolt: Black Power on Booker T. Washington's Campus

 

Hubert Harrison was a profoundly prolific writer and activist with a bottomless reservoir of insight. Perry, in this second volume, continues his deep dive into Harrison's work, surfacing with fresh illumination of his legacy. J. A. Rogers said Harrison worked tirelessly to enlighten others, and those words characterize Perry's pursuit.
Herb Boyd, author of Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin

 

Hubert Harrison is one of those historical transformative figures who demands full revelation. Perry's meticulous scholarship continues that process from which future studies can only benefit.
Carole Boyce Davies, author of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

 

Perry's book symbolically captures the heavy weight of history. His close and meticulous examination of Harrison's life sheds light on this 'renaissance man,' restoring Harrison's career and removing it from the shadow of Marcus Garvey's legacy. Perry lifts the veil off the face of history and documents the genius of a man.
E. Ethelbert Miller, author of If God Invented Baseball: Poems

 

Reading When Africa Awakes as an undergrad introduced me to Hubert Harrison. I have remained an ardent fan of Harrison since, motivated by his insistence, in When Africa Awakes, we should study Africa and Africans because they have much to teach us. Jeffrey B. Perry's two-volume biography of this activist-intellectual and polyglot rewards, and even exceeds, why many of us have been so drawn to Harrison's life and work. Harrison's political and intellectual acumen made him a multiverse, skilled at numerous things, packaged into one exceptionally gifted individual, all brought to life in Perry's deeply researched and carefully-written volumes, reintroducing Harrison to a new generation who will no doubt become awestruck as I did many years ago.
Kwasi Konadu, author of Our Own Way in This Part of the World: Biography of an African Community, Culture, and Nation

 

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press) TABLE OF CONTENTS

 -- This book can be obtained from Columbia University Press at 20 % discount by using code CUP20
A Note on Usage
Introduction
Part I: "New Negro Movement" Editor and Activist
1. Return to Harlem and Resurrection of "The Voice" (July–December 1918)
2. Political Activities in Washington and Virginia (January–July 1919)
3. "New Negro" Editor and Agitator (July–December 1919)
Part II: Editor of the "Negro World"
4. Reshaping the "Negro World" and Comments on Garvey (December 1919–May 1920)
5. Debate with "The Emancipator" (March–April 1920)
6. Early "Negro World" Writings (January–July 1920)
7. The 1920 UNIA Convention and Influence on Garvey (August–November 1920)
8. Post-Convention Meditations, Writings, and Reviews (September–December 1920)
9. Early 1921 "Negro World" Writings and Reviews (January–April 1921)
10. The Liberty League, Tulsa, and Mid-1921 Writings (May–September 1921)
11. "Negro World" Writings and Reviews (September 1921–April 1922)
12. The Period of Garvey's Arrest (October 1921–March 1922)
Part III: "Free-lance Educator"
13. Lecturer, Book Reviewer, and Citizenship (March 1922–June 1923)
14. The KKK, Garvey's Conviction, Speaking, Virgin Islands, and Reviews (1923)
15. "Boston Chronicle," Board of Ed, and "The New Negro" (January–June 1924)
Part IV: The Struggle for International Colored Unity
16. ICUL, Midwest Tour, Board of Ed, NYPL, and 1925 (March 1924–December 1925)
17. NYC Talks, Workers School, and "Modern Quarterly" (January–September 1926)
18. Lafayette Theatre Strike, "Nigger Heaven," and Garvey Divorce (June–December 1926)
19. The "Pittsburgh Courier" and "The Voice of the Negro" (January–April 1927)
20. Last Months and Death (May–December 1927)
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Notes
Index

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents
"Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918"
(This book can be obtained from Columbia University Press at 20% discount by using code CUP20)
List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
A Note on Usage
Introduction
Part I. Intellectual Growth and Development
1. Crucian Roots (1883–1900)
2. Self-Education, Early Writings, and the Lyceums (1900–1907)
3. In Full-Touch with the Life of My People (1907–1909)
4. Secular Thought, Radical Critiques, and Criticism of Booker T. Washington (1905–1911)
Part II. Socialist Radical
5. Hope in Socialism (1911)
6. Socialist Writer and Speaker (1912)
7. Dissatisfaction with the Party (1913–1914)
8. Toward Independence (1914–1915)
Part III. The "New Negro Movement"
9. Focus on Harlem: The Birth of the "New Negro Movement" (1915–1917)
10. Founding the Liberty League and "The Voice" (April–September 1917)
11. Race-Conscious Activism and Organizational Difficulties (August–December 1917)
12. The Liberty Congress and the Resurrection of "The Voice" (January–July 1918)
Appendix: Harrison on His Character
Abbreviations
Notes
Select Bibliography
Index

Jeffrey B. Perry Discussing Hubert Harrison on "Deadline NYC" WBAI (99.5 FM) with Host Tom Robbins Monday, February 15, 2021.

Jeffrey B. Perry Discussing Hubert Harrison on "Deadline NYC" WBAI (99.5 FM) with Host Tom Robbins Monday, February 15, 2021. See Here

December 17, 2020, Marks the 93rd Anniversary of the Death of Hubert Harrison

Hubert Harrison

December 17, 2020, marks the 93rd anniversary of the death of Hubert Harrison in Bellevue Hospital in 1927 at age 44. – Please help to spread the word about his important life and work.


St. Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in "World's Great Men of Color" as "perhaps the foremost Aframerican intellect of his time." Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as "the father of Harlem Radicalism." Harrison's friend and pallbearer, Arthur Schomburg, fully aware of his popularity, eulogized to the thousands attending Harrison's Harlem funeral that he was also "ahead of his time."

Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, in 1883, to a Bajan mother and a Crucian father, Harrison arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of "the common people." He consistently emphasized the need for working class people to develop class-consciousness; for "Negroes" to develop race consciousness, self-reliance, and self-respect; and for all those he reached to challenge white supremacy and develop modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.

A self-described "radical internationalist," Harrison was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe. More than any other political leader of his era, he combined class-consciousness and anti-white supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism. He opposed capitalism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States. He emphasized that "politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea"; that "as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race" were "downright lying," that "the cant of 'Democracy'" was "intended as dust in the eyes of white voters," and that true democracy and equality for "Negroes" implied "a revolution . . . startling even to think of."

Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the "New Negro"/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s and his thoughts on "democracy in America" offer penetrating insights on the limitations and potential of America in the twenty-first century.

Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; 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" monthly in 1919; served as the managing editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920; authored "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" (1920); was a regular lecturer for the New York City Board of Education (1923-1926); wrote a regular column for the "Boston Chronicle" (1924)' and edited the International Colored Unity League's "Voice of the Negro) (1927).

 

 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 a key ideological link in the two great strands of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor and civil rights strand associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist strand 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 parents were involved with the Garvey movement, speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.)

Harrison was not only a political radical, however. J. A. Rogers described him as an "Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator," whose contributions were wide-ranging, innovative, and influential. He was an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator who spoke and/or read six languages to varying degrees; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (reportedly the first regular book reviewer in "Negro newspaperdom"); 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 became known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His two-volume biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

The recently completed two-volume biography of Hubert Harrison is believed to be the first, full-length, multi-volume biography of an Afro-Caribbean and only the fourth of an Afro-American after those of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, and Langston Hughes.

 

For information on volume 1 – Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1927" (Columbia University Press, 2008) see HERE and see HERE and see HERE

 

For information on volume 2 – Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927)" (Columbia University Press, 2020) see HERE and see HERE

 

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison see  HERE

 

Jeffrey B. Perry

Some Major Items Authored and/or Edited by Jeffrey B. Perry

In the accompanying photo are some major items that I have authored or edited. They include:

 

Jeffrey Babcock Perry, "Hubert Henry Harrison: The Father of Harlem Radicalism: The Early Years—1883--Through the Founding of The Liberty League and 'The Voice" in 1917," Columbia University Ph. D Dissertation (1986), 834 pp., reprinted by UPI Dissertation Services 1999.

 

"A Hubert Harrison Reader," edited with Introductions and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 503 pp.

 

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press, 2008), 623 pp.

 

Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 1 "Racial Oppression and Social Control," Edited with a New Introduction, Appendices, and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (1994; Verso Books, 2012), 371 pp.

 

Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 2 "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," Edited with a New Introduction, Appendices, and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry, (1994; Verso Books, 2012), 371 pp.

 

Hubert Harrison, "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of The New Negro in the Western World" (1920), reprinted with New Introductions and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press, 2015), 272 pp.

 

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press, 2020), 1000 pp.

 

Note: The first volume was completed when I was the elected-head of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union at the 4,000 worker Bulk Mail Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, and involved, with others, in important labor organizing focusing on the centrality of struggle against white supremacy to efforts at progressive social change.

 

 

Hubert Harrison: A Harlem Radical's Struggle for Equality
Tuesday, Dec. 8, 6pm


Panelists:
Jeffrey B. Perry, Author of Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927
 
Brent Hayes Edwards, Peng Family Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
 
Moderated by Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

"Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927"

Initial Blurbs from Brent Hayes Edwards, Herb Boyd,

Charisse Burden-Stelly, Brian Jones, and Wilson J. Moses

The first blurbs for the forthcoming "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (volume 2 of the Hubert Harrison biography) can be found HERE -
Among the early blurb offerings are those from Brent Hayes Edwards, Herb Boyd, Charisse Burden-Stelly, Brian Jones, and Wilson J. Moses.

Each of the two volumes of the biography can be obtained from Columbia University Press at 20% off by using Code "CUP20" (you will not be charged for the second volume until it is shipped) — see
"Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" HERE and see
"Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" HERE

April 27th is the 137th anniversary of the Birth of Hubert Harrison

On April 27, 1883 Hubert Harrison the "Father of Harlem Radicalism," Founder of the First Organization and First Newspaper of the Militant "New Negro Movement," and "Radical Internationalist" was born. St Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert H. Harrison (April 27, 1883-December 17, 1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and radical political activist. Interest in his life and work continues to grow.

 

For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see HERE and see HERE

 

For information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (Wesleyan University Press) see HERE and to order the book see HERE

 

For information on the new, Diasporic Africa Press expanded 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" and to purchase the book see HERE

 

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see HERE

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see HERE

For a link to the Hubert H. Harrison Papers Digital Collection online at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library see HERE

For a Finding Aid to the Hubert Harrison Papers at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library see HERE

For information on the forthcoming "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" that will be available later this year see HERE