Insights from Hubert Harrison

Insights from Hubert Harrison


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



A touchstone is a black stone used to test the purity of gold. As such it is also a metaphor that can be applied

widely to test the degree of equality—socially, politically, and economically—in America. Every area where

 political work is undertaken—housing, employment, education, healthcare, incarceration, etc.—can be put to

the test and the questions can be asked “How are Black people faring?” and “What is to be done about it?



Insights from Hubert Harrison

By Jeffrey B. Perry



Arrival in America, Contrast with St. Croix

Hubert Harrison emigrated from St. Croix, Danish West Indies to the United States in 1900 as an impoverished seventeen-year-old orphan. His arrival in New York came shortly after that city’s fourth major “race riot” and coincided with the period of intense racial oppression of African Americans marked by lynching, segregation, disfranchisement, and peonage that historian Rayford Logan described as “the nadir” in post-Emancipation “race relations.”46

On arrival, Harrison encountered a vicious white supremacy that was quite unlike anything he knew previously. The key was that “the color line” was drawn differently in the U.S. than in St. Croix (a fact that exemplified what he later referred to as “the shifting reality of race”). In St. Croix, where 80% of the population was Black, 5% European, and 15% “colored” (of mixed African and European ancestry), the greatly outnumbered European ruling elite had, for social control reasons, implemented a policy of promotion of a significant sector of the African-descended population. During slavery, “free coloreds” served in the militia, the principal instrument of social control, and in 1834 they were extended an “Edict of Full Equality.”

In contrast, in the U.S., slave patrols were “lily white,” Black people, as codified in the Dred Scott decision of 1856-57, “had no rights that a white was bound to respect,” and the general policy was one of severe racial proscription for African Americans.47 The contrasting promotion vs. proscription policies led to markedly different social practices. In St. Croix there was no history of lynch terror and no formal segregation; class promotion among people of African descent was fostered, and white supremacy was not as virulent or as organized as in the United States. Harrison and other early twentieth-century Afro-Caribbean immigrants coming from countries with similar tripartite social structures often commented on the difference between the U.S. and their homelands.

When Harrison, at age twenty, first started writing letters in the New York Times he was prompted by the racial oppression he encountered in the United States He expressed “shock” at the horror of, and support for, lynching in America and explained that he was “a Negro who feels the injustice and veiled oppression under which his race struggles” in the U.S. His friend, Jamaica-born Claude McKay, explained that when he came to the U.S. it marked “the first time” he “had ever come face to face with such manifest, implacable hatred of my race,” and though he had heard of prejudice in America he “never dreamed of it being so intensely bitter.”48

Socialist Party Writings

In the 1911-1914 period Harrison was an extremely popular indoor and outdoor socialist speaker and writer. He agitated about how “the revolution is not coming from above, but from below, working its way up from the depths” and he emphasized that the capitalist “creates and keeps alive race prejudice” because “it pays the capitalist to keep the workers divided.” The New York Times vividly described how he once spoke for three hours on socialism to a rapt audience in front of the New York Stock Exchange at Broad and Wall Streets in Manhattan. Overall, he was unrivalled as the Socialist Party’s foremost Black speaker.49

From his earliest socialist writings, Harrison was an ardent opponent of class exploitation and racial oppression. When he became fully active with the Socialist Party around 1911 it was the self-proclaimed “party of the working class,” yet it had few Black members, paid little attention to “the Negro Question,” and took positions ranging from outright support for white supremacy to the “color blind” stance of Eugene V. Debs.

Harrison quickly made major theoretical contributions when he wrote articles on the socio-historical development of “The Negro Problem” in the U.S. He made the struggle against white supremacy central to his efforts; criticized “racism is innate” arguments; considered enslaved African Americans as proletarians; and emphasized that “race prejudice” and “the inferior economic status of the colored race” were “in the interests of the capitalists of America,” not in the class interest of workers.

As a socialist theoretician he argued that “the Negro” as “a group is more essentially proletarian than any other group” and he advocated that the Socialists champion the cause of African Americans as a revolutionary doctrine and affirm the duty of all Socialists to oppose race prejudice. Harrison’s treatment of the “Negro Question” as a socio-historically developed and “revolutionary” question and his emphasis on the duty of “whites” to oppose white supremacy foreshadowed theoretical positions taken by the Communist Party and the Communist International in the 1928-30 period. Drawing from the efforts of autonomous women’s clubs and foreign language federations, he urged that special appeals be made to and for African Americans and he initiated a Colored Socialist Club to do that outreach. His proposal that “the crucial test of Socialism’s sincerity” was the duty to champion the cause of African Americans anticipated by more than a year Du Bois’ dictum that the “Negro Problem . . . [is] the great test of the American socialists.”50

“Southernism or Socialism—which?”

Harrison’s experience with the Socialists is instructive. In a major theoretical article prior to the 1912 Socialist Party convention, he cited instances of white supremacy within the Party including “dirty diatribes against the Negro” in a Socialist paper in Texas and segregation at a meeting in Tennessee. He then pointedly raised the challenge: “Southernism or Socialism—which?” When Harrison boldly placed his “Southernism or Socialism” challenge before the national Socialist Party leadership he also suggested what the response should be. He addressed the two large factions in the Party, the political (evolutionary) and the industrial (revolutionary) Socialists, on their own terms.

In each case, using the logic of their theoretical positions, he called for special emphasis on African Americans in the interests of the working class.51  First he addressed the political socialists. Harrison agreed that the power of the working class could be expressed through the ballot and that with good political organization the workers could “secure control of the powers of government by electing members of the working class to office.” Then, they could “secure legislation in the interests of the working class until such time as the workers may be able, by being in overwhelming control of the government, to ‘alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.’” He stressed, however, that in this work for “the abolition of capitalism, by legislation,” the “Negro, who feels most fiercely the deep damnation of the capitalist system[,] can help.”52

While recognizing the need for political work in electoral politics, Harrison also sought to reach the revolutionary socialists. He recognized that there were serious problems to be faced—the majority of African Americans, particularly in the South, were disfranchised. This fact led him to argue for the importance of workplace organizing and he agitated for an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)-type, point-of-production economic organizing, even in the South. He emphasized that “even the voteless proletarian can in a measure help toward the final abolition of the capitalist system.”

These workers, though absent the ballot, possess “labor power—which they can be taught to withhold” and they can organize themselves “at the point of production” and “work to shorten the hours of labor, to raise wages . . . [and] to enforce laws for the protection of labor.” He noted that the Western Federation of Miners, an IWW union, had done this and had successfully won the eight-hour workday “without the aid of the legislatures or the courts.”53 This approach required “a progressive control of the tools of production and a progressive expropriation of the capitalist class.” Harrison had clearly put forth his strategic contribution, his new “crucial test,” for U.S. Socialists—“to champion” the cause of the “Negro.”

The Socialist Party Put [the “White”] Race First and Class After

The Socialist Party responded at its 1912 Convention by ignoring “the Negro Question” and, in its discussion on Asian immigration, it took some of the most white supremacist positions in its history, replete with calls for “restricting the invasion of the white man’s domain by other races” and with a majority resolution in opposition to Asian Immigration that maintained that “class consciousness must be learned, but race consciousness is inborn and cannot be wholly unlearned.”54 This, of course, was the “racism is innate” position that Harrison saw at the core of so-much white supremacist thought.

As Harrison, who had previously challenged such positions, was leaving the Party, he criticized the Southern Socialists for being “‘southerners’ first and ‘Socialists’ after” and he offered what is arguably the most profound, but least heeded criticism, in U.S. left history. He stated simply that the Socialist Party [like the labor movement] has  “insisted on [white] Race First and class after”; that it put “[the white] race first, before class.”55 At the 1912 National Convention the Socialist Party not only took its “white race” first position on the immigration question; it also, as historian Sally M. Miller has explained, “abruptly terminated” activities of its woman’s sector.

After years of intensive work, the Woman’s National Committee “was phased out by the National Executive Committee” of the Party. In the period after the convention woman’s work was increasingly denied financial assistance and “meetings were discouraged while further propaganda or organizational work were simply suspended.” The demise of the Woman’s Clubs had been preceded by, and was in some ways similar to, the demise of the Harrison-initiated Colored Socialist Club, the Party’s effort at special work among African Americans.56

Class Consciousness, White Supremacy, and the Duty

to Champion the Cause of the Negro

Harrison’s writings while a member of the Socialist Party put forth an important understanding of class consciousness based on an explicit challenge to white supremacy, to white supremacist exclusion of Asian immigrants, and to the exclusion of Black workers from unions. This understanding included an innovative call for socialists to make special efforts at reaching the African American masses (who were overwhelmingly working class). For Harrison, the key issue for socialist activists was not political action versus direct action, or whether or not to work within the American Federation of Labor, but, rather, the “duty to champion” the cause of “the Negro.”

Harrison viewed “the Negro [as] the touchstone of the modern democratic idea” and he considered the struggle against white supremacy as central to efforts for socialism.57 An investigation into the relation between white supremacy and class consciousness in the United States, offers insights into one of the most important questions in U.S. left history—what German scholar Werner Sombart asked in 1906, and what many have asked since—“Why is there no socialism in the United States?” The answer that Harrison repeatedly suggested was that there was no socialism because “whites,” particularly “white” socialists and “white” workers, put the “white race” first, before class.

Over time Harrison would stress that race consciousness among Black people was necessary, not only as a measure of self-defense, but also as a means of challenging white supremacy (which was the principle roadblock to class consciousness among European Americans) and that this was especially needed when “white” socialists and “white” workers would not pose those challenges.58

On “The Touchstone” and the Two-Fold Character

of “Democracy” in America

Harrison’s class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness led him to offer profound insights on the two-fold character of “democracy” in America—that is, when it is a “whites only” (or a white supremacist-shaped) “democracy” it is a retardant to social progress; when it is thoroughgoing and genuine, it is a catalyst for progressive social change.59 In 1911 in the Socialist Party of New York’s Call he wrote: “Politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea. The presence of the Negro puts our democracy to the proof and reveals the falsity of it.” A touchstone is a black stone used to test the purity of gold. As such it is also a metaphor that can be applied widely to test the degree of equality—socially, politically, and economically—in America. Every area where political work is undertaken—housing, employment, education, healthcare, incarceration, etc.—can be put to the test and the questions can be asked “How are Black people faring?” and “What is to be done about it?”60

In that same “touchstone” passage Harrison added that true democracy and equality for “the Negro” implies “a revolution startling to even think of.” This compelling insight foreshadowed the civil rights/Black liberation struggles of the 1960s, which posed such an important challenge to the existing social order and gave impetus to the anti-war, student, women’s, Latino, Asian, labor, gay, and other movements for progressive social change. Harrison also described the dehumanizing and anti-working class effects of the betrayal of democracy noting that “the broad denial of justice to colored” people “as exemplified in lynchings, segregation, public proscription and disfranchisement, results in the vitiation of democratic faith” and provides “the supplying power” for other deceitful practices.61

After Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913 he proceeded to oversee segregation in federal workplaces; to bring the white-supremacist film The Birth of a Nation into the White House for a special showing; to invade Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and to lead the U.S. into World War I in order, he said, to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” In a telling retort to such “Wilsonian democracy,” and while lynching, segregation, disfranchisement, and peonage marred the land, Harrison described how, when white supremacy reigns, “the cant of ‘Democracy’ is intended as dust in the eyes of the white voter.”

This “dust in the eyes” of “whites” concept foreshadowed two extremely important similar concepts—W. E. B. Du Bois’ “Blindspot in the Eyes of America” (1935) and Theodore W. Allen and Noel Ignatiev’s “White Blindspot” (1967). In yet another challenge to the misuse of “democracy”—in this case as a call to war—Harrison explained, “During the war the idea of democracy was widely advertised, especially in the English-speaking world, mainly as a convenient camouflage behind which competing imperialists masked their sordid aims.” In words that resonate today he added “those who so loudly proclaimed . . . the new democratic demands never had the slightest intention of extending . . . ‘democracy.’”62

Concentrated Race-Conscious Work in the Black Community

After leaving the Socialist Party because he found that “white” socialists put the “white race” race first, before class, Harrison functioned independently and then turned to concentrated, race conscious, “Race First” work in the Black community. By 1916-17 he was the founder and intellectual guiding light of the “New Negro Movement”—the race conscious, internationalist, mass-based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for “political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power,” which laid the basis for the Garvey movement. In 1917, as the “Great War” raged abroad, along with race riots, lynching, segregation, discrimination, and white-supremacist ideology at home, Harrison founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper of the “New Negro Movement.”

The Liberty League was called into being, Harrison explained, by “the need for a more radical policy” than that of existing civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He felt that the NAACP too often limited itself to paper protests and repeatedly stumbled over the problem of what to do “if these [‘white’] minds at which you are aiming remain unaffected” and refuse “to grant guarantees of life and liberty.” In contrast to the NAACP, the Liberty League was not dependent on “white” supporters, and it aimed beyond the “Talented Tenth” at “the common people” of the “Negro race.”

Its program emphasized internationalism, political independence, and class and race consciousness. In response to “white supremacy” it called for a “race first” approach, full equality, federal anti-lynching legislation, enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, labor organizing, support of socialist and anti-imperialist causes, political independence, and armed self-defense in the face of white-supremacist attacks. It stressed that new Black leadership would emerge from the masses.63

Capitalist Imperialism and the Need to Break

Down Exclusion Walls of White Workers

During 1915 talks and in a 1918 article on “The White War and the Colored Races” Harrison developed ideas that pre-dated T. Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of  Color: Against White World Supremacy (1920). Harrison described how “even though the white capitalists knew” that “the white race . . . was busy burning up, depleting . . . resources on which its primacy depended,” “mad greed was still their master.” Stoddard’s book, which played on post-war “white” fears of the end of white supremacy, became a nationwide sensation. Harrison viewed matters differently than Stoddard and received no similar attention. In a letter to Stoddard he wrote, “my sympathies are not at all with you: that which you fear, I naturally hope for.”64

In the Negro World of 1921 Harrison called on peoples of “the darker races” who have suffered from “the degrading dogma” of the color line,” which functions in the interest of “capitalist imperialism,” to “come together . . . and to issue a call for a congress of the darker races, which should be frankly anti-imperialistic and should serve as an international center of co-operation” and 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.”

Concerned about the “white” labor movement and the “white” left putting the “white race” first, before class, he stressed that “the temporary revolutionists of today 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.” He explained that “The latter arose as a consequence of the former and the cause should be removed before the consequence can fairly be expected to disappear.” Harrison made clear, however, that  “those who will meet us on our own ground will find that we recognize a common enemy in the present world order and are willing to advance to attack it in our joint behalf.”65

The International Colored Unity League

Harrison’s final organization, The International Colored Unity League [ICLU], was established in 1924 and maintained until his death. It was his most broadly unitary effort among Black people. The ICUL emphasized work among the “common people” and sought to develop and encourage “unity of purpose and aim.” It worked “to stop Negroes . . . from attacking each other,” “to mobilize . . . against lynching, disfranchisement and Jim Crow,” to use the ballot in the North to secure the ballot in the South, to develop cooperative action, and to “cooperate with the Negro church, lodge, and other organizations.”66

The ICUL program sought to have the “New Negroes” shape their own future in order to obtain “political equality, social justice, civic opportunity and economic power.” It aimed “to serve the interests of the great masses of our people” and to fight “those evil conditions created by race-prejudice.” In response to “the graver aspects of the American race-problem,” it called for the “setting up of a state, or states, in the Union as a homeland for the American Negro, where we can work out the ultimate economic and racial salvation as a part of the American people” and where “the Negro’s aspiration . . . can flower and bear fruit.” The League’s Magazine, The Voice of the Negro, sought to provide “information about what is taking place in every quarter of the colored world.”67

Struggle Against White Supremacy is Central

A self-defined “radical internationalist” and a true educator, Harrison approached the Black masses with a call for self and group awareness and bottom-up unity while also urging “white” workers to fight against white supremacy. Quite simply, he had concluded, after much practical experience and intellectual analysis that, as long as the United States remained a white supremacist capitalist society, a necessary corrective, in the interest of the vast majority, was for African Americans to develop race consciousness and “international colored unity” and for workers and socialists to actively oppose white supremacy. Harrison, the former leading Black socialist, had concluded that in the United States, in the face of racial oppression, the struggle against white supremacy would have to be placed front and center.68

Among African-American leaders of his era, St. Croix-born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison was the most class conscious of the race radicals, and the most race conscious of the class radicals. This seeming incongruity was made possible by the political-economic system of the United States in which a system of racial oppression was central to capitalist rule. Then, as now, the demands for economic justice premised on true racial equality struck at the very heart of the existing social order and were inherently radical.69



 46Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, p. 4 and Rayford W. Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro: From Rutherford B, Hayes to Woodrow Wilson, new enlarged ed., originally published as The Negro in American Thought and Life: The Nadir, 1877-1901 (1954: New York, The Macmillan Company), pp. 11, 62.

47 Perry, Hubert Harrison, 30-34, 414-18 and Jeffrey B. Perry, ed. and intro, A Hubert Harrison Reader (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 317. Neville A. T. Hall, Slave Society in the Danish West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, ed. B. W. Higman, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 160, describes the “incipient class formation” through systematic promotion of “coloreds” into intermediate positions.

48Perry, Hubert Harrison, 63-64 and Hubert Harrison, “A Negro on Lynching,” New York Times, June 28, 1903. Consistent with Harrison’s use of the word “shock,” Allen,

The Invention of the White Race

, p. 1: 113, writes that early twentieth-century Caribbean immigrants to the U.S. “experienced the ‘cultural shock’ of the transition from the class-based ‘tri-partite social order’ with its African-Caribbean ‘colored’ intermediate stratum, to the white-supremacist social order in the United States.” See also Claude McKay, “A Negro Poet and His Poems,” Pearson’s Magazine, September 1918, p. 275, cited in Perry, Hubert Harrison, 32. Harrison and McKay, like many other Caribbean immigrants coming from the “tri-partite social order” at home, would lead quite active and radical lives after encountering the virulent white supremacy in the U.S.

Historian Winston James emphasizes “the prominence and often pre-eminence of Caribbean immigrants” in American radicalism. See Perry, Hubert Harrison, p. 51, p. 427 n. 84 and Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America, (New York: Verso, 1998), p. 1. Allen, “‘Race’ and ‘Ethnicity’: History and the 2000 Census,” writes that “whereas European-American radicalism and trade unionism was fundamentally accommodationist with regard to white supremacism, the Caribbean-American radicalism . . . was predicated on a rejection of and struggle against white supremacism.”

49 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 173, 191, 193, 210 and “Enlightening Wall Street,” New York Times, September 14, 1912.

50 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 4 and 73, quotes pp. 99, 307 and Perry, Hubert Harrison, pp. 7, 141-45. See for example the 1928 and 1930 Communist International Resolutions on the Negro Question in the United States. The 1928 Resolution appeared in The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Workers (Communist) Party of America, on 12 February 1929. The 1930 Resolution was published in The Communist International, VIII: 2 (1 February 1931).

51Perry, Hubert Harrison, pp. 183-84.

52 Perry, Hubert Harrison, pp. 183-84.

53 Perry, Hubert Harrison, p. 184.

54 Perry, Hubert Harrison, pp. 75, 109, 115, 183, 186-187 and Socialist Party, National Convention of the Socialist Party Held at Indianapolis, IN, May 12 to 18, 1912 (Chicago, 1912), p. 210.

55 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 109, 115, 183, 215. Harrison’s comments take on much added significance in light of the work of Theodore W. Allen on the “white race,” class consciousness, and social control.

56 Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison (1883-1927): Race Consciousness and the Struggle for Socialism,” Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 2, no. 17 (No. 34, Summer-Fall, 2003), pp. 103-129, esp. p. 114 and Sally M. Miller, “Other Socialists: Native Born and Immigrant Women in the Socialist Party of America, 1900-1917,” Labor History, 24, No. 1 (Winter 1983), pp. 84-102, esp. 101.

57 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 54 and 73.

58 Perry, “Hubert Harrison (1883-1927): Race Consciousness and the Struggle for Socialism,” p. 114 and Werner Sombart, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? [1906] Ed. and with an introductory essay by C. T. Husbands, foreword by Michael Harrington (White Plains, N.Y., 1976), esp. pp. xix-xxiii.

59 The dialectical “two-fold character” concept is taken from a letter Karl Marx sent to Frederick Engels on August 24, 1867 concerning the forthcoming volume 1 of Capital. Marx explained, “The best points in my book are: 1. (this is fundamental to all understanding of the facts) the two-fold character of labour according to whether it is expressed in use-value or exchange-value, which is brought out in the very First Chapter. . . .” Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 407 in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, (1913) Marx to Engels in Manchester 1867.

60 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, 54 and Hubert Harrison, “The Negro and Socialism: I – The Negro Problem Stated,” New York Call, November 28, 1911, p. 6, rpt. in Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 52-55. See also “Hubert Harrison Addresses Bronx Rotary Club on ‘New Americanism,’” Amsterdam News, July 28, 1926, p. 9.

61Harrison, “The Negro and Socialism,” A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 54-55.

62Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 54-55, 282, 446 n. 10; Harrison, “The Negro and Socialism: I –The Negro Problem Stated,” New York Call, November 28, 1911, p. 6; Harrison, “When Africa Awakes,” pp. 6-10; W. E. B. Du Bois, Black-Reconstruction, An Essay Toward a History of the part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 (1935; New York: Athenaeum, 1971), p. 577; and Ignatin [Ignatiev] and Allen, White Blindspot & “Can White Workers Radicals Be Radicalized?”

63 Perry, Hubert Harrison, pp. 8-9.

64 Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 305-10, quotes 306, 308, 310 and Hubert Harrison to T. Lothrop Stoddard June 24, 1920 in Hubert H. Harrison Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Butler Library, Columbia University.

65 Hubert Harrison, “Wanted: A Colored International,” Negro World, May 28, 1921 rpt. in Perry, ed., A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 223–28, quotes pp. 224, 226, 228.

66 Hubert H. Harrison, “Seeking a Way Out,” “The Trend of the Times” column, Boston Chronicle, May 31, 1924, copy in Hubert H. Harrison Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Butler Library, Columbia University; Hubert H. Harrison, “The Common People,” Boston Chronicle, May 17, 1924, rpt. in Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 404-05; and Hubert H. Harrison, “The Right Way to Unity,” Boston Chronicle, May 10, 1924, rpt. in Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 402-04.

67 [Hubert Harrison], “The I.C.U. L. [International Colored Unity League],” The Embryo of the Voice of the Negro 1 (February 1927), 2, rpt. in Perry, ed., A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 399-402.

68 Jeffrey B. Perry, “An Introduction to Hubert Harrison: The Father of Harlem Radicalism,” Souls, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 38-54 and 50-51, and Hubert Harrison, “Race First Versus Class First,” Negro World, March 27, 1920, rpt. in Perry, A Hubert Harrison Reader, pp. 107-09. See also Perry, ed., A Hubert Harrison Reader, p. 4.

69 Perry, “An Introduction to Hubert Harrison: The Father of Harlem Radicalism,” p. 48 and Perry, “Hubert Harrison (1883-1927): Race Consciousness and the Struggle for Socialism,” p. 124. Ted (Theodore W.) Allen, “The Most Vulnerable Point,” (n.p., 1972), p. 4, elaborates the position that “The principal aspect of United States capitalist society is not merely bourgeois domination, but bourgeois white-supremacist domination.”

Source: Cultural Logic

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Hubert H. Harrison Papers at Columbia University—B

orn April 27, 1883, in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, Hubert H. Harrison was a brilliant and influential writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist in Harlem during the early decades of the 20th century. He played unique, signal roles, in what were the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the New Negro/Garvey movement) of his era. Labor and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph described him as “the father of Harlem radicalism” and historian Joel A. Rogers considered him “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and “one of America’s greatest minds.”

Following his December 17, 1927, death due to complications of an appendectomy, Harrison’s important contributions to intellectual and radical thought were much neglected. In 1900 Harrison moved to New York City where he worked low-paying jobs, attended high school, and became interested in free thought and socialism. His first of many published letters to the editor appeared in the New York Times in 1903.

During his first decade in New York the autodidactic Harrison read and wrote constantly and was active in Black intellectual circles at St. Benedict’s and St. Mark’s Lyceums, the White Rose Home, and the Young Men’s Christian Association. He also attended functions of the interracial Sunrise Club as well as Single Tax, Socialist, and Freethought-influenced activities. Beginning in 1907, he made his living as a postal clerk. In 1909 Harrison married Irene Louise (“Lin”) Horton, and the following year their first of five children was born. Their relationship went through difficulties and they periodically lived in separate residences. In 1910 Harrison wrote two letters critical of Booker T. Washington that were published in the “New York Sun”. Subsequent retaliatory efforts by Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” cost Harrison his postal employment and for the rest of his life he and his family were burdened with financial problems. . . .

Harrison’s unexpected death following an appendectomy on December 17, 1927, left behind his widow, four daughters, and a young son. After a massive Harlem funeral he was honored through the creation of the Hubert H. Harrison Memorial Church, which no longer exists. His radicalism on so many issues


race, class, religion, war, democracy, sexuality, literature and the arts


and the fact that he was a forthright critic of individuals, organizations, and ideas of influence, were major reasons for his subsequent neglect.

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Washington’s agent Charles W. Anderson admitted to bringing about the dismissal of Hubert Harrison a New York socialist intellectual from his position as a clerk in the post office.  Harrison has been the subject of a brilliant and long-awaited biography by Jeffrey B. Perry, who refers to the operations of the Tuskegee Machine as “dastardly.”  There is no mention of Harrison either in Harlan’s or in Norrell’s index, although the incriminating evidence was published by Harlan in The Booker T. Washington PapersWilson J. Moses, Review of Robert J. Norrell’s Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington, The Alabama Review   

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The class of 2011: Young workers face a dire labor market without a safety net—20 April 2011—In 2010, the unemployment rate for workers age 16-24 was 18.4% —the worst on record in the 60 years that this data has been tracked.” . . .

Young blacks and Hispanics are suffering disproportionately. The unemployment rate for black high school graduates under age 25 and not enrolled in school was 31.8%, compared with 22.8% for Hispanic high school graduates and 20.3% for white high school graduates. The unemployment rate for young black college graduates was 19.0%, compared with 13.8% for young Hispanic graduates and 8.4% for young white graduates.—Economic Policy Institute

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The 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey: Confidence Drops to Record Lows, Reflecting ‘the New Normal,’ Issue Brief, No. 355 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 2011—In an effort to determine Americans’ specific concerns about Social Security and Medicare, workers and retirees were asked to rate their level of concern about several possible scenarios regarding these programs. Roughly 9 in 10 workers and retirees say they are very or somewhat concerned that the cost of Medicare premiums will rise faster than inflation (92 percent of workers and 86 percent of retirees) and Medicare benefits will be reduced (88 percent of workers and 87 percent of retirees). Almost as many say they are concerned that Social Security payments will be reduced (87 percent of workers and 84 percent of retirees). Three-quarters of workers (76 percent) are concerned that the age at which they become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits will increase before they retire.—Employee Benefit Retirement Instiute


*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

By Jeffrey B. Perry

This first full-length biography of Harrison offers a portrait of a man ahead of his time in synthesizing race and class struggles in the U.S. and a leading influence on better known activists from Marcus Garvey to A. Philip Randolph. Harrison emigrated from St. Croix in 1883 and went on to become a foremost organizer for the Socialist Party in New York, the editor of the Negro World, and founder and leader of the World War I–era New Negro movement. Harrison’s enormous political and intellectual appetites were channeled into his work as an orator, writer, political activist, and critic. He was an avid bibliophile, reportedly the first regular black book reviewer, who helped to develop the public library in Harlem into an international center for research on black culture. But Harrison was a freelancer so candid in his criticism of the establishment—black and white—that he had few allies or people interested in protecting his legacy. 

Historian Perry’s detailed research brings to life a transformative figure who has been little recognized for his contribution to progressive race and class politics.—Vanessa Bush /  

Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (By Jeffrey B. Perry)

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A Hubert Harrison Reader

Edited by Jeffrey B. Perry

The brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important, yet neglected, figures of early twentieth-century America. Considered “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time,” Harrison, “the father of Harlem radicalism,” combined class consciousness and race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism which stressed the revolutionary importance of struggle for African American equality, emphasized the duty of all workers to oppose white supremacy, and urged Blacks not wait on whites before taking steps to shape their future.

His efforts significantly influenced A. Philip Randolph, Marcus Garvey, and a generation of activists and “common people.”

Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Jeffrey B. Perry)

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Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington

By Robert J Norrell

Since the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr., has personified black leadership with his use of direct action protests against white authority. A century ago, in the era of Jim Crow, Booker T. Washington pursued a different strategy to lift his people. In this compelling biography, Norrell reveals how conditions in the segregated South led Washington to call for a less contentious path to freedom and equality. He urged black people to acquire economic independence and to develop the moral character that would ultimately gain them full citizenship. Although widely accepted as the most realistic way to integrate blacks into American life during his time, Washington’s strategy has been disparaged since the 1960s.

The first full-length biography of Booker T. in a generation, Up from History recreates the broad contexts in which Washington worked: He struggled against white bigots who hated his economic ambitions for blacks, African-American intellectuals like W. E. B. Du Bois who resented his huge influence, and such inconstant allies as Theodore Roosevelt. Norrell details the positive power of Washington’s vision, one that invoked hope and optimism to overcome past exploitation and present discrimination. Indeed, his ideas have since inspired peoples across the Third World that there are many ways to struggle for equality and justice. Up from History reinstates this extraordinary historical figure to the pantheon of black leaders, illuminating not only his mission and achievement but also, poignantly, the man himself.—Publisher

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Black-Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880

By W. E. B. Du Bois

Du Bois took a revolutionary new look at Reconstruction in the 1930’s, providing a fresh view that went largely ignored until recent books by Foner and Litwack resuscitated this overlooked period in American history. Du Bois summons up his great intellectual bearing to illustrate that from being the unmitigated failure that Reconstruction has long been portrayed as, it was the crucible of civil rights legislation, a time when there was very definitely hope that America would redefine itself along more egalitarian lines. While the book deals predominately with the black man’s point of view, Du Bois offers a principled Marxist view of labor relations at the time, and how the leading Radical Republicans tried to come to terms with the new industrial society that was emerging in America.

Du Bois was a very compelling writer, he cuts through the layers of history to reveal the soul of the persons most greatly affected by Reconstruction. He charts the troubled waters of the Civil War, and the Presidential attempts at Reconstruction which followed the Union victories in the South. He provides a candid view of Lincoln, who struggled with his own prejudices, but eventually came to accept the black man because of the pivotal role he played in the war. Ironically, Du Bois noted a black did not become a man until he showed he could hold a gun in battle.

Du Bois felt Lincoln really did alter his views during the course of the war, no longer favouring the colonist view held by many that blacks should be repatriated to Africa. However, Du Bois felt that Lincoln lacked the convictions to really push forward Reconstruction, that his principal concern remained in reclaiming the Southern states in the Union.

The mighty task of Reconstruction was left up to the Radical Republicans in Congress and the “Black” legislatures that emerges in the South during this time. Du Bois refutes the Dunning-Bowers view that blacks were incapable of forming governments, by providing a chapter on “The Black Proletariat in South Carolina.” Here, he shows that blacks fully recognized the enormity of this most propitious moment, but that they ran up against a set of state and federal courts, which refused to hold up their decisions. While blacks were now members of state legislatures and of the US Congress, they did not take over the South, as is often described. Even in South Carolina, where blacks outnumbered whites, blacks were only temporarily able to seize control of the legislature, and force a new state constitution.

This is the book that forms the basis for Foner’s excellent book, Reconstruction. Du Bois was the first to realize that Reconstruction was more than just an epilogue to the Civil War, but the beginning of the long road to freedom, which took nearly 100 years in the making for blacks in America.—

James Ferguson

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 2 April 2012




Home   Du Bois-Malcolm-King  Education & History

Related files: White Privilege, White Entitlement, Election 2008   White Privilege   White Power   The White Masters of the World  White Anti Racists Open Letter  

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