Hubert Harrison (1883-1927): Race Consciousness and the Struggle for Socialism

The historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color, describes the brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and “one of America’s greatest minds.” Rogers adds (amid chapters on Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey), “No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten his fellow-men” and “none of the Afro-American leaders of his time had a saner and more effective program.”1

Variants of Rogers’ lavish praise were offered by other contemporaries. William Pickens, field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a former college dean, and an oratory prize winner at Yale, described Harrison as “a plain black man who can speak more easily, effectively, and interestingly on a greater variety of subjects than any other man I have ever met in the great universities.” Pickens added that it made “no difference” whether he spoke about “Alice in Wonderland or the most extensive work of H.G. Wells; about the lightest shadows of Edgar Allen Poe or the heaviest depths of Kant; about music, or art, or science, or political history.”2 The novelist Henry Miller, a socialist in his youth, remembered Harrison on a soapbox as his “quondam idol” and as an unrivaled, electrifying speaker.3 Eugene O’Neill, America’s leading playwright and a future Nobel Prize winner for literature, lauded Harrison’s ability as a critic and considered his review of the ground-breaking play The Emperor Jones to be “one of the very few intelligent criticisms of the piece that have come to my notice.”4 W. A. Domingo, one of the early Black socialists and the first editor of Marcus Garvey’s Negro World, emphasized the fact that Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Cyril Briggs, Grace Campbell, Richard B. Moore and the other leading Black activists of their generation, “all followed Hubert Harrison.”5 Hodge Kirnon, a freethinker and one of those activists in Harlem, praised the fact that Harrison “lived with and amongst his people,” “taught the masses,” and was “the first Negro whose radicalism was comprehensive enough to include racialism, politics, theological criticism, sociology and education in a thorough-going and scientific manner.”6

Despite such high praise from his contemporaries and despite being rated “one of the 20th century’s major thinkers” by the double Pulitzer Prize winning Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis, Harrison is, as Harvard University’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes, “a major but neglected figure in our history.” While his name has an “almost mythical character” to activists such as Black Radical Congress co-chair Bill Fletcher, he is largely a “forgotten” and “unknown” radical. Historian Gerald C. Horne considers him “a scandalously ignored thinker and activist.” Columbia University’s Winston James, placing this neglect in perspective, observes: “Seldom has a person been so influential, esteemed, even revered in one period of history” and within a matter of years become “so thoroughly unremembered.”7

The effects of this historical neglect were again brought home at the 2003 Socialist Scholars Conference, where discussions with participants made clear that many progressive activists and intellectuals remain unaware of Harrison’s life and work. There is great loss in this since his life was one of remarkable contributions; since he exerted major influence on a generation of early 20th-century activists and “common people”; since many of his views, as historian James points out, became “the stock-in-trade of the black left” in the 20th century; and since his writings and speeches offer profound insights on the struggle against white supremacy, on socialism and democracy in America, and on a wide range of other subjects.8

Harrison’s class and race conscious political message merits special attention. 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 white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism; challenged the idea that racism was innate; developed a socio-historical as opposed to a religious or biological understanding of race; maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States; argued that racism and racist practices were not in workers’ class interests; and urged “Negroes” not to wait on white Americans while struggling to shape their future.

This message was combined with a consistent internationalism, a scientific approach to social problems, and an impressive grasp of history, science, politics, religion, freethought, literature, and the arts. His militant, mass-based approach broke from the patron-based leadership of Booker T. Washington and the “Talented Tenth”-based leadership of W.E.B. Du Bois and profoundly influenced a generation of activists that included Randolph and Garvey. Harrison was more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey; he is the key ideological link in the two great trends of 20th-century African American 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.

Harrison’s political message, repeatedly delivered to the masses, enabled him to uniquely play 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. Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party (SP) of New York during its 1912 heyday; as the founder and leading figure of the militant World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920. He also worked with the Industrial Workers of the World, the Communist Party, the Farmer Labor Party, the American Negro Labor Congress and a number of other radical and progressive organizations. Such efforts, during the period when Harlem became the “international Negro Mecca” and “the center of radical Black thought,” led Randolph and others to revere him as “The Father of Harlem Radicalism.”9

Harrison was not only a radical activist, however. He was also an immensely popular orator and freelance educator; a highly praised journalist, editor, literary critic, and book reviewer (who initiated the first “regular book-review section known to Negro newspaperdom”); a promoter and aide to Black writers and artists (including writers J.A. Rogers and Claude McKay, actor Charles Gilpin, musician Eubie Blake, and sculptor Augusta Savage); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library popularizer (who helped to found and develop the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture known today as the Schomburg Center). In his later years he was the leading Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education when such lectures served as a principal form of adult education in the city.10

Hubert Henry Harrison was born at Estate Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, on April 27, 1883. Little is known with certainty about his parents. Rogers writes that they were of “unmixed African ancestry” and church records indicate that his mother was a poor, laboring-class woman, who was not formally married at the time of Hubert’s birth, had several other children, and died in 1899.11

Harrison’s first seventeen years on St. Croix provided a firm foundation for his future work. In St. Croix he became familiar with important traditions “rooted in the African communal system” (including free public gardens and Saturday markets) which mitigated some of the oppressive pressures of the capitalist economy on laboring families. He learned of the Crucian people’s rich history of direct action mass struggle including the 1848 enslaved-led emancipation victory and the 1878, week-long, island-wide, labor protest known as “The Great Fireburn” (led by rebel leaders “Queen Mary” Thomas, “Queen Agnes” and “Queen Matilda”). He also came to know poverty, and that experience, he said, helped to keep his “heart open to the call of those who are down” and kept him from developing “such airs as might make a chasm between myself and my people.”12

Interestingly and instructively, Harrison claimed that as a youth he knew nothing of the “doctrine of chromatic inferiors and superiors” which was “violently thrust upon the islanders” by the occupying U.S. Navy after the United States purchased the Danish West Indies in 1917. Due to different historical particulars, class struggle, and social control, the color line and “race relations” in St. Croix differed from those in the United States. In St. Croix there was a historic policy of promotion of a sector of the African-descended population (under slavery, Crucian “coloreds” were the key to the social control force, served in the militia, and were extended an edict of full equality in 1834). In the United States laboring “whites,” not “coloreds,” were the historic key social control force, and the general rule under slavery (as described in the 1857 Dred Scott decision) was one of severe racial proscription for the African-descended population (African Americans “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”). The extension and development of these differences took such form that the St. Croix of Harrison’s youth did not have the lynching, formal segregation, virulent white supremacy, or severe racial proscriptions against advancement for those of African descent that Harrison would encounter in the United States.13

These differences help to explain why Harrison was provided more encouragement to pursue his educational interests in St. Croix than was afforded the overwhelming majority of African American youth in the southern United States. He used the library at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Christiansted, studied under one of the island’s best teachers (Wilfurd Jackson, whose son, D. Hamilton Jackson, was Harrison’s friend and schoolmate, and became the island’s foremost labor leader), and excelled enough as a student that he was chosen as a teaching assistant. These differences also help to explain why Harrison would challenge the virulent white supremacy he encountered in the United States. When he left for the U. S., though virtually penniless, the fires of learning were burning and Harrison believed he was the equal of any other.14

Shortly after his mother died Harrison immigrated to the United States, arriving in 1900 as a 17-year-old orphan. His move from the rural, agricultural island of St. Croix to the teeming urban/industrial metropolis of New York was truly a move from the 19th into the 20th century. His arrival coincided with U.S. capitalism’s ascent to new imperialist heights, with the period of intense racial oppression of African Americans known as the “nadir,” and with the era of critical writing and muckraking journalism that, according to one social commentator, produced “the most concentrated flowering of criticism in the history of American ideas.” These factors would play an important part in shaping the remainder of his life.15

Over the next twenty-seven years, until his unexpected death at age 44 (from appendicitis-related complications), Harrison made his mark in the United States by struggling against class exploitation and racial oppression; by participating in and helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life; and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of “the common people.” His political/educational work 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 develop modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation. His work was especially marked by his focus on education of the masses, for which he utilized indoor and outdoor talks and mass oriented publications.

Soon after his arrival in New York he began working low-paying service jobs and attending high school at night. He finished school, read constantly, and, after several years, obtained postal employment, married Irene Louise Horton (whose family came from Antigua, Demerara, and Puerto Rico), and started to raise a family that eventually included five children born between 1910 and 1920. His insatiable thirst for knowledge and his critical mind led him to break from “orthodox and institutional Christianity” and to develop an “agnostic” “philosophy-of-life” that stressed rationalism, modern science, and evolution and placed humanity at the center of its worldview. In his “Diary” Harrison wrote that he would never “be anything but an honest Agnostic” because “I prefer… to go to the grave with my eyes open.”16

During his first decade in New York Harrison set out to write a “History of the Negro in America” and he began to participate in the vibrant intellectual life that was created by working-class Black New Yorkers. He was active in church lyceums, the YMCA and YWCA, the White Rose Home social work center, a postal worker study circle, and a press club. He befriended working-class scholar/activists such as bibliophiles Arthur Schomburg and George Young, the journalist John E. Bruce, the actor Charles Burroughs, and the social worker/educator/activist Frances Reynolds Keyser. Harrison’s approach, especially his efforts at getting “in full-touch with the life of my people” as an aid “to understanding them better,” makes clear that he was what Antonio Gramsci would later describe as an “organic intellectual.”17

Harrison was a critical and independent thinker; his wide-ranging interests included history, politics, science, freethought, literature, social and literary criticism, and the protest philosophy of activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois. Like Du Bois, Harrison criticized the approach of Booker T. Washington. His differences with Washington centered on politics, education, labor unions, protest, and dissent. Washington, the most powerful Black man in the U.S., had achieved his position of influence by building an extensive patronage machine through ties to powerful whites. Washington’s policy was one of Black subordination in political and economic spheres, and his core philosophy emphasized industrial over higher education for African Americans, Christian character-building, economic base-building before demands for equal civic and political rights, and co-operation with wealthy and powerful Southern “white friends.” Washington warned that “the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly,” advised that African Americans must begin “at the bottom of life” and “not at the top,” and emphasized that “the Negro” was “not given to strikes and lockouts.” Washington also pledged unquestioning loyalty to President Theodore Roosevelt and firmly opposed those African Americans who dared to criticize him.18

Harrison described Washington as “subservient.” He criticized the core of Washington’s philosophy, which he referred to as “one of submission and acquiescence in political servitude.” In contrast to Washington, Harrison was staunchly anti-Republican Party and favored protests and struggles for equality, “modern education,” thought unfettered by religion, support of trade unions, and Black leaders who were chosen by Black people rather than by powerful whites. Only in the area of economic base-building, and only at a later date, would Harrison articulate some views remotely similar to Washington.19

Harrison’s readings in history and politics along with events like the 1906 Brownsville, Texas, affair (in which, under Republican leadership, 167 Black soldiers were unjustly dishonorably discharged from the army), led him to reject the Republican Party to which African Americans had been wedded since the Civil War era. (He repeatedly challenged what he called “the great superstition” that “the Negro is a born Republican” whose “political philosophy is presumed to be summed up in the aphorism that ‘The Republican Party is the ship and all else is the open sea.'”) In addition, as his readings extended further into sociology, economics, evolution, and single taxism, he became familiar with the authors Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, Lester F. Ward, Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Henry George, Karl Kautsky, T. Thomas Fortune, Mary MacLean, Francisco Ferrer, and Du Bois, and he moved in the direction of socialism. The rejection of the Republican Party and the sympathy for the socialist message accelerated his move toward third-party politics and toward the Socialist Party.20

In this vibrant intellectual environment and with a developing self-confidence, Harrison began lecturing, teaching, and writing letters to newspapers. (His first piece of literary criticism, at age 23, appeared in The New York Times Saturday Review of Books Literary Section in 1907.) His boldness soon affected him economically. After he wrote two 1910 letters to the New York Sun that criticized Booker T. Washington (for inaccurately portraying abroad the oppressive conditions faced by African Americans at home) Harrison lost his postal employment through the efforts of Washington’s powerful “Tuskegee Machine.” It was a devastating blow and the resultant loss of income and security seriously impacted his remaining years with his family and at times influenced his political and educational efforts.21

Shortly after his postal firing, Harrison, who had briefly served as assistant editor of The Masses, turned to full-time work with the Socialist Party. From 1911 to 1914 he was America’s leading Black socialist-a prominent party speaker (at times delivering over twenty talks in a week) and campaigner (especially in the 1912 presidential campaign of Eugene V. Debs), an articulate and popular critic of capitalism, the leading Black socialist organizer in New York, and the initiator of the Colored Socialist Club-an unprecedented effort by U.S. socialists at organizing African Americans. His most important theoretical contributions were two series of articles on the subject of “The Negro and Socialism” which appeared in the Socialist Party’s New York Call and in the International Socialist Review. The articles provided the first comprehensive political, economic, social, and educational analysis of “The Negro Question” by a Black Socialist, challenged the racism-is-innate and the racism-is-in-workers’-class- interest arguments used to support white supremacist thinking, moved “Negro problem” discussion from the biological and religious spheres to the socio-historical arena, and broke new ground by calling on Socialists to champion the cause of African Americans as a revolutionary doctrine, to develop a special appeal to and for African Americans, and to affirm the duty of all socialists to oppose white supremacy. His proposal that “the crucial test of Socialism’s sincerity” was its “duty” to “champion” the cause of the African American anticipated by over a year Du Bois’s dictum that the “Negro Problem… [is] the great test of the American Socialists.”22

In his writings Harrison maintained (in an assessment that offers insight into the catalytic nature of Civil Rights struggles fifty years later) that simple democracy for Black people in America implied a revolution “startling to even think of.” In direct reference to the philosophy of Booker T. Washington he explained “that the prevailing social philosophy among Negroes-that which white capitalism will pay to have them taught-is one of submission and acquiescence in political servitude.” He described the dehumanizing and anti-working class effects of the betrayal of democracy and noted that “the broad denial of justice to colored men as exemplified in lynchings, segregation, public proscription and disfranchisement results in the vitiation of democratic faith.” This provided “the supplying power” for other deceitful practices and as the public mind accustomed itself to seeing such inhumanity it became immunized to the injustice in “the jailing of innocent labor leaders and the murder of working girls in a fire trap factory” [a reference to the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in which 146 were killed].23

Harrison focused particular attention on “The Duty of the Socialist Party.” He suggested that the party take up the largely ignored “Negro Question” at its 1912 National Convention because the time was ripe “for taking a stand against the extensive disfranchisement of the Negro in violation of the plain provisions of the national constitution.” He asked: “If the Negroes, or any other section of the working class in America, is to be deprived of the ballot, how can they participate with us in the class struggle?” He directly challenged the party’s practices citing instances of gross racism within the Socialist Party including: “dirty diatribes against the Negro in a Texas paper [The Rebel]” that was still on the national list of Socialist papers; the experiences of party speaker Theresa Malkiel in Tennessee “where she was prevented by certain people from addressing a meeting of Negroes on the subject of Socialism”; and “other exhibitions of the thing called southernism.” He emphasized that the party could no longer ignore the question “Southernism or Socialism-which?”24

As he placed his challenge before the national party leadership Harrison also addressed the two large groupings in the party, the political (evolutionary) socialists 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.

First he addressed the political socialists. He agreed that the power of the voting proletariat 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” and 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” and would be “the balance of power” in certain elections.25

While recognizing the need for political work in electoral politics, Harrison also sought to reach the industrial socialists. He recognized that there was a serious problem to be faced: the majority of African Americans, particularly in the South, were disfranchised. This fact led him to his ultimate conclusions on “The Negro and Industrial Socialism.” He argued for an IWW type, point-of-production, economic organizing, even in the South, and explained 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.” This approach required “a progressive control of the tools of production and a progressive expropriation of the capitalist class.” In such work African Americans could help. Thus far, many, under the influence of Booker T. Washington’s pro-capitalist philosophy, remained unorganized industrially, but industrial unionism beckoned to them. The program of the Socialist Party in the South, in Harrison’s opinion, could “be based upon this fact.”26

The implications of Harrison’s analysis were profound. For the majority in the party the key political debates concerned positions on revolutionary vs. evolutionary socialism and revolutionary unionism vs. AFL craft unionism. Harrison, in 1911-12, proposed a new litmus test, a new “crucial test,” for U.S. Socialists-“to champion” the cause of the “Negro.” He thought this was central to revolutionary change. For the rest of his life he would seek “to champion” the cause of the “Negro” and to get others to do the same.27

The Socialist Party’s National Convention met in Indianapolis May 12-18, 1912, and essentially ignored the “Negro Question.” The only person who raised the issue was William D. “Big Bill” Haywood, who argued that industrial unionism was the best way to organize disfranchised southern Blacks. The convention, however, did not limit itself to mere indifference and neglect on the race issue. In the debate over Asian immigration, the Socialists, couched in the cloak of “science,” expressed some of the most rabidly racist sentiments in U.S. left history and effectively gave Harrison the answer to his question, “Southernism or Socialism?” In this case it was not only “Southernism,” but “Westernism,” too, for the racism in the party seemed to know no sectional bounds. Immigration was an issue of particular concern among Western “white” delegates who spoke of fear of an influx of Japanese workers. Both the Majority Report and the Minority Report were approved and each opposed Asian immigration. The Majority Report of the Committee on Immigration went even further and declared, in words Harrison would never forget, that:

Race feeling is not so much a result of social as of biological evolution. It does not change essentially with changes of economic systems. It is deeper than any class feeling and will outlast the capitalist system. It persists even after race prejudice has been outgrown… We may temper this race feeling by education, but we can never hope to extinguish it altogether.

Class-consciousness must be learned, but race-consciousness is in-born and cannot be wholly unlearned.28

Here was the “racism is innate” argument-that Harrison dubbed the core of all racist arguments-and it was proclaimed loudly by national leaders of the Socialist Party at their convention. If race feeling was innate, if race consciousness superseded class consciousness, then the Socialist Party was implicitly saying that corrective actions against racism would be minimal and that they would be of no real importance to a Socialist agenda.29

The significance of this convention towards Harrison’s future work is clear. The Majority Report on Immigration favored Asian exclusion as “legislation restricting the invasion of the white man’s domain by other races.” In a similar debate at the 1908 convention Victor Berger had argued that socialism would be victorious only by keeping the U.S. a “white man’s country.” The convention debates support the point made by historian Mark D. Naison that “beneath their rhetoric of class struggle, most Socialist Party leaders accepted the political and economic hegemony of whites over non-white peoples…” Leading white socialists were, in Harrison’s words, putting [the “white”] “‘race first’ rather than ‘class first.'” Harrison later referred to such “white” Socialists as “the bourgeois opportunists of the Socialist Party,” and during the remainder of his life his theoretical development and race consciousness would be shaped, in part, by his efforts to respond to their positions.30

The relation between white supremacy and class consciousness offers insights into one of the most important questions in U.S. left history-what German scholar Werner Sombart asked in 1906- “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 race first before class. Over time Harrison would stress that race consciousness among African Americans was necessary, not only as a measure of self-defense, but also as a means of challenging white supremacy (which was the principal roadblock to class consciousness among European Americans).31

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 “by an arbitrary decision by the party’s executive committee.” 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.” It was in some ways similar to the treatment afforded to the Colored Socialist Club earlier. Harrison considered “the Negro [as] the touchstone of the modern democratic idea” and, in fact, the demise of the Woman’s Clubs had been preceded by, and was similar to, the demise of the Colored Socialist Club, the party’s effort at special work among African Americans.32

Socialist Party theory and practice as well as a number of personal incidents contributed to Harrison’s move toward the more egalitarian, militant, action-oriented, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He was a featured speaker (along with the IWW leaders “Big Bill” Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Carlo Tresca, and Patrick Quinlan) and the only Black speaker at the historic 1913 Paterson silk strike. He also publicly defended Haywood against attack by the right wing of the Socialist Party on the issue of “sabotage.” SP leaders soon moved to restrict Harrison’s speaking, however, and as their attacks on both his political views and his principal means of livelihood intensified, his disenchantment grew, he was suspended, and he then left the Socialist Party.

After leaving the Socialist Party, Harrison took what he revealingly described in his “Diary” as the first truly self-initiated step of his life-the founding of the Radical Forum. The forum was an effort at drawing together radicals from various different movements who were “sick of the insincerities of cults and creeds” and desired to receive “the awakening breath of the larger liberalism, from which all alike may draw inspiration.” In this same period he began teaching at the Modern School (along with some of America’s foremost artists and intellectuals) and he lectured indoors and out on birth control, the racial aspects of World War I, religion, science, evolution, sex, literature, and education.33

Harrison’s outdoor lectures pioneered the tradition of militant street-corner oratory in Harlem. As a soap-box orator he was brilliant and unrivalled. He had a charismatic presence, wide-ranging intellect, remarkable memory, impeccable diction, and wonderful mastery of language. Factual and interactive, he utilized humor, irony, and a biting sarcasm. With his popular outdoor style he paved the way for those who followed-including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey-and, much later, Malcolm X.34

By 1915-1916 his experiences with the racial oppression, glaring racial inequality, and white supremacy of U.S. society as well as with the “white first” attitude of the organized labor movement and the Socialists, led Harrison, the former leading Black socialist, to respond with a “race first” political perspective.35 Important steps in this direction were made through the frontier of art as Harrison wrote several theater reviews in which he described how the “Negro Theatre” revealed the “social mind… of the Negro.”36

During the summer of 1917, as the “Great War” raged abroad, along with race riots, lynchings, segregation, discrimination, and white-supremacist ideology at home, Harrison founded the Liberty League and The Voice. They were, respectively, the first organization and the first newspaper of the “New Negro” movement. The Liberty League was called into being, he explained, by “the need for a more radical policy” than that of existing civil rights organizations such as the NAACP. Harrison felt that the NAACP limited itself to paper protests, was dominated by white people’s conceptions of how Black people should act, concentrated too much on “The Talented Tenth,” and repeatedly stumbled over the problem of “white” minds that remained “unaffected” and refused “to grant guarantees of life and liberty.” In contrast to the NAACP, the Liberty League encouraged direct action, was not dependent on “whites,” and 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, The Voice called for a “race first” approach, full equality, federal anti-lynching legislation (which the NAACP did not support at that time), enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, labor organizing, support of socialist and anti-imperialist causes, and armed self-defense in the face of racist attacks. It stressed that new Black leadership would emerge from the masses.37

As Harrison later explained, he had grown dissatisfied with strategies such as those advocated by the NAACP that sought “to secure certain results by affecting the minds of white people” when, in fact, African Americans had “no control” over those minds and had “absolutely no answer to the question, ‘What steps do you propose to take if those minds at which you are aiming remain unaffected?'” As an alternate strategy he began to advocate “the mobilizing of the Negro’s political power, pocket book power and intellectual power,” which were “within the Negro’s control” in order “to do for the Negro the things which the Negro needs to have done.” This would be accomplished “without depending upon or waiting for the co-operative action of white people.” Though interracial cooperation, whenever it came, would be “a boon” which “no Negro, intelligent or unintelligent” would “despise,” he emphasized that Blacks could not “afford to predicate the progress of the Negro upon such co-operative action,” because such action “may not come.”38

With this race conscious approach Harrison served as the founder and intellectual guiding light of the “New Negro” Movement. This race and class conscious, internationalist, mass-based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement sought political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power, and laid the basis for the Garvey movement. It also encouraged mass involvement with literature and the arts and contributed mightily to the vibrant literary climate leading to the 1925 publication of Alain Locke’s well-known The New Negro.38

Contemporaries readily acknowledged that Harrison’s work laid the groundwork for the Garvey movement. From the Liberty League and The Voice came the core progressive ideas and leaders later utilized by Marcus Garvey in both the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Negro World (this included two presidents of the UNIA, the secretary of the New York local of the UNIA, the first three editors of the Negro World, the president of the Ladies Division, and the originator of the idea for, president, and vice-president of the Black Star Line). Harrison himself claimed, with considerable basis, 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-racialism, race-consciousness, racial solidarity-things taught first in 1917 by The Voice and The Liberty League.”40

After The Voice ceased publication in early 1918, Harrison briefly served as an organizer for the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and then chaired the Negro-American Liberty Congress. The June 1918 Liberty Congress (co-headed by the long-time activist William Monroe Trotter) issued wartime demands against discrimination and segregation and petitioned the U.S. Congress for federal anti-lynching legislation. This autonomous and militant effort was undermined by the U.S. Army’s anti-radical Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) in an ominous foreshadowing of future government tactics.

The Military Intelligence campaign was spearheaded by the prominent NAACP founder and leader Joel E. Spingarn who enlisted the support of Emmett Scott (Booker T. Washington’s former chief assistant) and the NAACP’s Du Bois in speedily calling a preemptive June Editors Conference of more moderate leaders to undermine the Liberty Congress and support President Woodrow Wilson’s war effort. During this period Du Bois attempted to secure a commission in Military Intelligence (that branch of government which monitored radicals and the African American community) and wrote what was probably the most controversial editorial of his life-“Close Ranks”-which appeared in the July 1918 issue of the Crisis. It urged African Americans, “while this war lasts,” to “forget our special grievances and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and allied nations that are fighting for democracy.”41

Following the Liberty Congress, Harrison initiated “New Negro” criticism of Du Bois for urging African Americans to forget justifiable grievances, for “closing ranks” behind President Woodrow Wilson’s war effort, and for following Spingarn’s lead and seeking a captaincy in Military Intelligence. Harrison’s exposé, “The Descent of Dr. Du Bois,” was a principal reason that Du Bois was denied the captaincy he sought in Military Intelligence and, more than any other document, it marked the significant break between the “New Negroes” and the older leadership.42 Harrison’s Liberty Congress strategy of pushing wartime demands for equality, rather than Du Bois’s infamous “Close Ranks” and “forget our special grievances” approach, was a clear forerunner of the A. Philip Randolph-led March on Washington Movement (MOWM) during World War II and of the 1963 Randolph/Martin Luther King, Jr.-led March on Washington during the Vietnam War.43

This was Harrison’s most forceful critique of Du Bois, but over the years he developed others. He was particularly critical of Du Bois’s notion of “The Talented Tenth”-the “educated and gifted” group whose members “must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people” in order to lead African Americans forward. Harrison, in contrast, emphasized education of, and self-development of the masses, the so-called “common people.” He also increasingly equated “The Talented Tenth” concept with the concept of “Colored” [or “Mulatto”] leadership of the “Negro race.” He did not think that such a “Talented Tenth” was in any way preordained to lead the “Negro race”; nor did he think that it had effectively done so. Harrison rejected the white domination that unchallenged acceptance of such leadership implied. As he explained, for two centuries African Americans “have been told by white Americans that we cannot and will not amount to anything except in so far as we first accept the bar sinister of their mixing with us.” Thus, “always when white people had to select a leader for Negroes they would select some one who had in his veins the blood of the selector.” Under slavery, according to Harrison, “it was those whom Denmark Vesey of Charleston described as ‘house niggers’ who got the master’s cut-off clothes, the better scraps of food and culture which fell from the white man’s table, who were looked upon as the Talented Tenth of the Negro race.” Historically, “the opportunities of self-improvement, in so far as they lay within the hand of the white race, were accorded exclusively to this class of people who were the left-handed progeny of the white masters.”44

Harrison’s differences with Du Bois extended beyond domestic protests for equality and redress of grievances during World War I, the “Talented Tenth,” relations with “white friends,” and the NAACP program. Other differences over the years included those on the question of lynchers and lynching (Harrison called for armed self-defense and federal anti-lynching legislation when Du Bois and the NAACP did not); on the Socialist Party’s approach to African Americans (Harrison had called for a special effort, the Colored Socialist Club, which Du Bois opposed); on the 1912 presidential election (Harrison had supported the Socialist candidate Debs while Du Bois left the Socialists in order to support Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson); and on segregated military camps during World War I (Harrison had opposed them, while Du Bois supported them). By the end of the war Harrison’s core differences with Du Bois were clear. Whereas, to Harrison, Du Bois’s strategy revolved around “The Talented Tenth,” paper protests, and hoped for inter-racial cooperation, Harrison increasingly advocated the alternate strategy of “mobilizing of the Negro’s political power, pocket book power and intellectual power” rather than “depending upon or waiting for the co-operative action of white people.”45

During the First World War Harrison was deeply concerned with international matters and the racial implications of the conflict. In particular, he opposed the imperialist and white-supremacist aims of the major war powers, the imperialist oppression of nations, the imperial powers’ designs on Africa, and the use of working people as cannon fodder. He also explained that the conflict was destroying many resources of the “white world,” facilitating contact among oppressed peoples, and providing the oppressed an opportunity to press their demands and improve their conditions. After the war he offered instructive comments on the white supremacist aims of the disarmament sought by the U.S. and European powers.46

Sensing the need to articulate a new direction, Harrison restarted The Voice and worked on a daring plan to bring it into the Deep South.47 Ill health caused him to abort that plan. After the resurrected Voice failed, Harrison next edited the monthly New Negro magazine from August through October 1919. The New Negro was “intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races-especially of the Negro race”; it aimed to be for African Americans what The Nation was for “white” Americans. Harrison’s attention to international matters intensified over the next several years and he wrote many powerful pieces critical of imperialism (“the most dangerous phase of developed capitalism”) and supportive of internationalism. He was abreast of current events and wrote knowledgeably on Africa, India, Asia, the Islamic world, the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, Russia, and the Russian Revolution. He repeatedly began his analysis of situations from an international perspective and emphasized that it was important for Black people to overcome ignorance of international events and for African Americans “to get in international touch” with “the downtrodden section of the human population of the globe and establish business, industrial and commercial relations with them.”48

On the domestic front, Harrison’s criticism of left, labor, and Black leadership grew. He increasingly sought to mobilize “the Negro’s political power, pocket book power and intellectual power.” What was particularly new in his strategy was his conception of, and approach to, race unity. As he later explained, many who sought race unity were unclear as to what they actually meant-was it to be “unity of thought and ideas,” “unity of organization,” “unity of purpose,” or “unity of action”? For Harrison unity of thought was neither desirable nor possible, except in the graveyard, and unity of organization was exceedingly difficult and not likely. Unity of purpose was a real possibility, however. The fault with previous efforts, he wrote, was that the uniters (and here he referred principally to Washington and Du Bois) had “generally gone at the problem from the wrong end.” As he explained, “They have begun at the top when they should have begun at the bottom.” “To attempt to unite the ‘intellectuals’ at the top” was “not the same thing as uniting the Negro masses,” who were the key to “racial solidarity.”49

In December 1919, Marcus Garvey approached Harrison and asked him to head a college that he planned to develop. Harrison was a superb educator and considered modern educational work in the Black community to be a revolutionary endeavor. In an article “Education and the Race” he explained how, in “the dark days of Russia, when the iron heel of czarist despotism was heaviest on the necks of the people,… Leo Tolstoi and the other intelligentsia began to carry knowledge to the masses.” Then, as “knowledge spread, enthusiasm was backed by brains, and the developing Russian revolution ‘began to be sure of itself,’ thus confirming the age-old wisdom that ‘Knowledge is power.'” Harrison repeatedly emphasized that “brains and… the product of brains” offered the power to open “political, social and economic” doors.50

Though Garvey approached Harrison to head a UNIA college, in fact, he wanted him to edit his organization’s paper, the Negro World. Harrison became the principal editor of the Negro World in January 1920 and proceeded to reshape and develop that paper-changing its style, format, content, and editorial page. He was primarily responsible for developing it into the preeminent radical, race-conscious, political and literary publication of the day. He initiated the “Poetry for the People” and “West Indian News Notes” sections, wrote book reviews, and, over the first eight months of 1920, he was the Negro World’s chief radical propagandist. In August, at the UNIA’s 1920 convention, he was the one who gave “radical tone” to the UNIA’s “Declaration of the Negro Peoples of the World.”51

By the 1920 convention Harrison was highly critical of Garvey. His criticisms concerned the extravagance of Garvey’s claims, Garvey’s ego, the conduct of his stock-selling schemes, and his politics and practices. Though Harrison continued to write columns and book reviews for the Negro World into 1922, their political differences grew and Harrison worked against, and sought to develop political alternatives to, Garvey. In particular, Harrison urged political action in terms of electoral politics; he attempted to build the all-Black Liberty Party (to run African American candidates for political offices, including the presidency); he consistently maintained the position that African Americans’ principal struggle was in the United States (and that they should therefore not seek to develop a state in Africa); he opposed imperialism and did not seek an African empire; he argued that Africans, not African Americans, would lead struggles in Africa; he vociferously opposed the Ku Klux Klan; and he favored reason, science, and fact-based knowledge over more exaggerated claims to the masses.52

In the 1920s, after breaking with Garvey, Harrison continued his full schedule of activities. He lectured on a wide range of topics for the New York City Board of Education and for its “Trends of the Times” series, which included prominent professors from the city’s foremost universities. His book and theater reviews and other writings appeared in many of the leading periodicals of the day- including the New York Times, New York Tribune, New York World, Nation, New Republic, Modern Quarterly, Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, Amsterdam News, Boston Chronicle, and Opportunity magazine. He also spoke against the revived Ku Klux Klan and the horrific attack on the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Black community, and he worked with numerous groups, including the Virgin Island Congressional Council, the Democratic Party, the Farmer-Labor Party, the single tax movement, the American Friends Service Committee, the Urban League, the American Negro Labor Congress, and the Workers (Communist) Party.

One of his most important activities in this period was the founding of the International Colored Unity League (ICUL) and its organ, The Voice of the Negro. The ICUL was Harrison’s most broadly unitary effort (particularly in terms of work with other Black organizations and with the Black church). It urged Blacks to develop “race consciousness” and its 1924 platform had political, economic, and social planks urging protests, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and collective action. It also included as its “central idea” the founding of “a Negro state, not in Africa, as Marcus Garvey would have done, but in the United States,” as an outlet for “racial egoism.” It was a plan for “the harnessing” of “Negro energies” and for “economic, political and spiritual self-help and advancement” (which preceded a somewhat similar plan by the Communist International by four years).53

Overall, in his writing and oratory, Harrison’s appeal was both mass and individual. He focused on the man and woman in the street and emphasized the importance of each individual’s development of an independent, critical attitude. The period during and after World War I was one of intense racial oppression and great Black migration from the South and the Caribbean into urban centers, particularly in the North. Harrison’s race-conscious mass appeal utilized newspapers, popular lectures, and street-corner talks and marked a major shift from the leadership approaches of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Harrison’s affective appeal (later identified with that of Garvey) was aimed directly at the urban masses and, as the Harlem activist Richard B. Moore explained, “More than any other man of his time, he [Harrison] inspired and educated the masses of Afro-Americans then flocking into Harlem.”54

Though he was extremely popular among the masses who “flocked to hear him,” Harrison, according to Rogers, was often overlooked by “the more established conservative Negro leaders, especially those who derived support from wealthy whites.” Others, “inferior… in ability and altruism, received acclaim, wealth, and distinction” that was his due. When he died on December 17, 1927, the Harlem community, in a major show of affection, turned out by the thousands for his funeral. A church was (ironically) named in his honor and his portrait was to be placed prominently at the 135th Street Public Library, where he, along with the bibliophile Arthur Schomburg and others, had helped to found and develop the world-famous “Department of Negro Literature and History.”55

Despite these manifestations of love and respect from his contemporaries, Harrison has been greatly neglected in death. Some reasons for this neglect are readily apparent. Harrison was poor, Black, foreign born, and from the Caribbean. Each of these groups has suffered from discrimination and neglect in the United States. He opposed capitalism, racism, and the Christian church-dominant forces of the most powerful society in the world. He supported socialism, “race consciousness,” racial equality, women’s equality, freethought, and birth control. The forces arrayed against the expression of such ideas were, and continue to be, formidable. Others, most notably (the similarly poor, Black, Caribbean-born) Garvey, who challenged the forces of white supremacy only began to emerge from similar historical neglect with the increase in Black studies and popular history that were by-products of the civil rights/Black power struggles of the 1960s. Even then, however, Harrison was largely overlooked. In part this was undoubtedly due to his “radicalism” on issues other than race-particularly on matters of class and religion.56

There is one other important factor that has served to keep Harrison’s achievements and ideas from the prominence they deserve. He was a candid critic. He criticized the ruling classes, white supremacists, organized religion, organized labor, politicians, civil rights and race leaders, socialists, and communists. Many leaders who might have publicly preserved his memory made little effort to do so; some actually led in the great neglect that followed.57

While students of African American history are familiar with the work of the early 20th-century leaders Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, it is important to recognize in Hubert Harrison a major alternative intellectual and political voice, rooted in the working class, with significant mass appeal.59 It is also important to consider the nature of Harrison’s radicalism. Among African- American leaders of his era, he 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. Harrison’s radicalism was grounded in his study, his analysis of society, and his practical work. He stressed modern and historical knowledge, critical and scientific approaches to problems, political independence while working with different groups and parties, and concern with the great democratic issues of the day. He worked tirelessly with those he referred to as the “common people.” The radicalism in all this stems from the fact that it came from an African American who would not deny that race and class divided America. 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.59


1. J[oel] A. Rogers, “Hubert Harrison: Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator (1883-1927),” in J[oel] A. Rogers, World’s Great Men of Color [hereafter WGMC], edited with an introduction, commentary, and new bibliographical notes by John Henrik Clarke, 2 vols. (1947; New York: Collier Books, 1972), 2:432-42, esp. 432f.

2. William Pickens, “Hubert Harrison: Philosopher of Harlem,” Amsterdam News, February 7, 1923, 12.

3. Henry Miller, The Rosy Crucifixion, Book Two: Plexus (1963; New York: Grove Press, 1965), 560f.

4. Eugene O’Neill to Hubert Harrison (hereafter HH) June 9, 1921, copy in HH Papers, Correspondence, possession of author.

5. W.A. Domingo, interview with Theodore Draper, January 18, 1958, New York, Theodore Draper Papers, Robert W. Woodruff Library for Advanced Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, Preliminary listing as Box 20, Folder 7, “Negro Question for Vol. 1 (cont.),” Notes re: W. A. Domingo, 2.

6. Hodge Kirnon, “Hubert Harrison: An Appreciation,” Negro World [hereafter NW], December 31, 1927.

7. David Levering Lewis to author, August 13, 2001, possession of author; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to author, December 12, 1996, possession of author; Gerald C. Horne, BRC-Discuss, general internet discussion group of the Black Radical Congress, June 1, 2001,; Bill Fletcher, Jr., “Radicals Known and Unknown,” Monthly Review, December 2001, 57-59, quote 57; Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America (New York: Verso, 1998), 123.

8. Winston James, “Notes on the Ideology and Travails of Afro-America’s Socialist Pioneers, 1877-1930,” Souls, 1 no. 4 (Fall 1999): 45-63, esp. 54. Bibliographic material on Harrison is found in Jeffrey B. Perry, ed. A Hubert Harrison Reader (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), (hereafter cited as AHHR), 407-09 and Jeffrey B. 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″ (Ph. D. Diss., Columbia University, 1986), 711-809.

9. On Harrison as the “Father of Harlem Radicalism” see Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), 79f.

10. Rogers, WGMC, 2:432; AHHR, 294.

11. Baptism Record of “Hubert Henry [Harrison],” July 7, 1883, St. John’s Anglican Church, Christiansted, St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands, 9; HH, “Diary,” cover, possession of author; Rogers, WGMC, 2:433.

12. AHHR, 241-50, esp. 243, 420f, nn. 48-49. For the St. Croix years see Perry, “Hubert Henry Harrison,” 1-40.

13. AHHR, 247; Perry, “Hubert Henry Harrison,” 7-12; Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race 2 vols. (New York: Verso, 1994, 1997) 1:113, 2:238; and Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia, 5.

14. AHHR, 240-41, 420 n. 48; Perry, “Hubert Henry Harrison,” 14-19.

15. Daniel Bell, “The Background and Development of Marxian Socialism in the United States,” in Donald Drew Egbert and Stow Persons, eds., Socialism and American Life, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), 1:213-405, quote 268, and Rayford W. Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro: From Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson, New Enlarged Edition (1954; New York: Macmillan Company, 1970), 11, 62.

16. AHHR, 36-39, 428-429 n. 8. Harrison considered his agnosticism to be similar to that of Thomas Huxley. Huxley explained his agnosticism as “not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle… the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, follow your reason as far as it can carry you without other considerations. And negatively, in matters of the intellect, do not pretend the conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.” With such a perspective, a person “shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store.” See Thomas Henry Huxley, “Agnosticism,” (1889), rptd. in Gordon Stein, ed., An Anthology of Atheism amd Rationalism (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1980), 42-45, quote 43, 44.

Harrison’s break from religion made possible a critical approach to all matters as had been noted in 1844 by a young Karl Marx who pithily concluded that “criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.” See Karl Marx, “Toward the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” in Lewis S. Feuer, ed., Marx & Engels: Basic Writings on Philosophy and Politics (Garden City: Doubleday, 1959), 262-66, quote 262. Freethought also influenced other Black activists and writers of Harrison’s era including Randolph, Rogers, Briggs, Moore, Claude McKay, Chandler Owen, Walter Everette Hawkins, George S. Schuyler, and Rothschild Francis, while Du Bois was influenced by agnosticism. See AHHR, 35f, 427f, nn. 6-7.

17. AHHR, 33-39; Antonio Gramsci, “The Modern Prince” and Other Writings (New York: International Publishers, 1957), 118-20 and Manning Marable, Black Leadership (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 97-101.

18. AHHR, 13, 442 n. 58.

19. HH, “The Negro American Vol. VIII: The Negro Factions. The Negro Factions, The Protestants, The Subservients,” scrapbook [5], HH Papers.

20. AHHR, 129-36, 151-61.

21. HH to the Editor, New York Times Saturday Review of Books, April 13, 1907, 242 and April 27, 1907, 274; HH to the editor, New York Sun, December 8, 1910, 8 and December 19, 1910, 8; Charles W. Anderson to Booker T. Washington September 10 and October 30, 1911, in Louis R. Harlan & Raymond W. Smock, eds. The Booker T. Washington Papers, 13 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972-1984), 11:300-01, 351.

22. AHHR, 52-62, 71-78, 107-116, quotes p. 73.

23. AHHR, 54f.

24. AHHR, 75; “‘Socialists’ Despise Negroes in South,” NYC, August 21, 1911, 3.

25. AHHR, 60-62, 76.

26. AHHR, 76; Seth M. Scheiner, Negro Mecca: A History of the Negro in New York City, 1865-1920 (New York: New York University Press, 1965), 73.

27. David A. Shannon, The Socialist Party of America: A History (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 10f; Bell, “The Background and Development of Marxian Socialism in the United States,” 275, 277.

28. Socialist Party, National Convention of the Socialist Party Held at Indianapolis, Ind., May 12 to 18, 1912, Stenographic Report by Wilson E. McDermut, assisted by Charles W. Phillips, ed. by John Spargo (Chicago, 1912), 209-11; Philip S. Foner, American Socialism and Black Americans: From the Age of Jackson to World War II (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975), 350.

29. AHHR, 55f.

30. Socialist Party, National Convention… 1912, 210. Harrison writes that “The quoted passage [on immigration] cuts the very heart out of their [the Socialists’] case.” See AHHR, 109, 113-17. See Foner, American Socialism and Black Americans, 258; Mark Naison, “Marxism and Black Radicalism: Notes on a Long (and continuing) Journey,” Radical America, May-June 1971, 3-25, quote 6.

31. Werner Sombart, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? [1906], ed. and with an introductory essay by C. T. Husbands (White Plains, N.Y., 1976), esp. xix-xxiii.

Theodore W. Allen is instructive on the theme of white supremacy and class consciousness in the U.S. Allen reviews a host of Marxist and labor historians (including Frederick Engels, Frederick A. Sorge, Richard T. Ely, Morris Hillquit, William Z. Foster, John R. Commons, Selig Perlman, Norman J. Ware, Mary and Charles Beard, Allan Nevins, Henry Steele Commager, and Frederick Jackson Turner) who, he argues, created a classic consensus which ascribes the low level of class consciousness to “six peculiar objective factors of United States historical development.” The six factors which Allen maintains were adopted, at least in part, by all of the writers he cites, include: 1) early existence of the right to vote and other democratic liberties; 2) heterogeneity of the working class; 3) the “safety valve” of western homesteading opportunities; 4) social mobility; 5) relative shortage of labor and higher wages; and 6) development of trade unions prior to development of a labor party. Allen argues that each point of this six-pronged rationale is refuted or seriously challenged by factual analysis and that each thesis of the consensus “must be decisively revised in the light of the question of white supremacy.” For Allen, “the key to the defeat of labor and popular forces” in the U.S. has historically been the theory and the practice [as exhibited by the Socialist Party in 1912] of white supremacy. See Theodore W. Allen, “‘The Kernel and the Meaning,’ A Contribution to a Proletarian Critique of United States History,” n.p., c. 1967, possession of author, 1-41, esp. 8-9, 13-14, 20-21; Theodore W. Allen, “Can White Radicals Be Radicalized?,” in Noel Ignatin and Ted Allen, “White Blindspot” “Can White Radicals Be Radicalized?” (New York, 1969), 12-18, esp. 13; and Theodore W. Allen, “On Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness,” CLogic, 4:2, esp. paragraphs 7-10, at

32. 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), 84-102, esp. 101.

33. HH, “Diary,” September 28, 1914.

34. “The Reminiscences of A. Philip Randolph,” interview with Wendell Wray, July 25, 1972, 152, in Oral History Project, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York; Lester A. Walton, “Street Speaker Heralds Spring in Harlem,” New York World, March 23, 1928, 17.

35. HH, “Introductory,” in HH, When Africa Awakes: The “Inside Story” of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World (New York: Porro Press, 1920), 5-8; HH, The Negro and the Nation (New York: Cosmo-Advocate Publishing Co., 2305 Seventh Avenue, 1917), 3 n.

36. AHHR, 370-76.

37. AHHR, 86-88, 143-47.

38. AHHR, 177f.

39. AHHR, 97f; Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), 53-59; Alain Leroy Locke, The New Negro (1925; New York: Athenaeum, 1968). Tony Martin in Literary Garveyism: Garvey Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (Dover, MA: The Majority Press, 1983), ix-x, 2, 5 and African Fundamentalism: A Literary and Cultural Anthology of Garvey’s Harlem Renaissance (1983; Dover, MA: The Majority Press, 1991), xv-xvi, emphasizes the major literary importance of the Garvey movement and the Negro World (starting around 1920 [when Harrison became editor-JP]) to the literary epoch known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harrison Papers make clear that the Garvey movement was a component of the New Negro movement and that Harrison’s book review and poetry sections were central to the Negro World’s literary appeal.

40. AHHR, 104, 196f.

41. W.E.B. Du Bois, “Close Ranks,” Crisis, 16 (July 1918): 111; AHHR, 168-174; Ernest Allen, Jr., “‘Close Ranks’: Major Joel E. Spingarn and the Two Souls of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois,” Contributions in Black Studies, No. 3 (1979-1980), 25-38; AHHR, 173-74; Mark Ellis, “W.E.B. Du Bois and the Formation of Black Opinion in World War I: A Commentary on ‘The Damnable Dilemma,'” Journal of American History 81, no. 4 (March 1995): 1584-90. According to Mark Ellis, over the next forty years, Du Bois would refer to his activity around the period of the Great War with “a mixture of shame and bitterness.” See Mark Ellis, “‘Closing Ranks’ and ‘Seeking Honors’: W.E.B. Du Bois in World War I,” Journal of American History, 79, no. 1 (June 1992), 96-124, esp. 96, 98, 122.

42. AHHR, 170-73.

43. The MOWM led to president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 8802 (on June 25, 1941) which stated that it shall be the “policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or Government because of race, creed, color, or national origin” and called for the establishment of a Fair Employment Practices Committee. The 1963 march led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (that forbade discrimination in public accommodations and employment). See Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March: The March on Washington Movement in the Organizational Politics for FEPC (1959; New York: Athenaeum, 1969), 56-61, 117-31; James Gilbert Cassedy, “African Americans and the American Labor Movement,” Prologue, 29, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 113-20, esp. 119.

44. AHHR, 170-182, esp. 179f.

45. AHHR, 20-21,216-19; HH, “The Problems of Leadership,” When Africa Awakes, 54f.

46. AHHR, 202-12, 229-34.

47. [HH,] “The Voice Is Coming Out to Stay!” c. July 4, 1918, HH Papers, Writings; Voice, July 11, 1918.

48. AHHR, 101-02, 216-19

49. AHHR, 402-04. Du Bois reached a similar conclusion in 1940 in his autobiography. At that time Du Bois explained that Booker T. Washington had proposed “a flight of class from mass in wealth with the idea of escaping the masses or ruling the masses through power placed by white capitalists into the hands of those with larger income. My own panacea of earlier days was flight of class from mass through the development of a Talented Tenth.” See W.E.B. Du Bois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept [1940] (NY: Schocken Books, 1971), 216f; Huggins, Harlem Renaissance, 5.

50. AHHR, 122-28, 183-88; HH, “Opening the Doors,” Boston Chronicle, April 5, 1924, and HH, “The Feet of the Young Men,” Boston Chronicle, March 22, 1924, both in HH Papers, Writings.

51. AHHR, 182-88, 191-94. Comments from activist Bill Fletcher and historians Ernest Allen, Gerald Horne, and Portia James say much about the caliber of Harrison’s editorials. Fletcher writes that Harrison was “a revolutionary intellectual who wrote eye-opening exposures and rigorous political analysis” that “ideologically and politically” were “clearly in the vanguard of Black political thought of the time.” Allen views Harrison as “pivotal to black intellectual life from the Progressive to the post-war era” and he adds that “his editorials and commentary were certainly no less insightful-and often a good deal more so-than anything in this vein that Du Bois ever produced in the Crisis magazine.” His writings “fill a gap not only in our understanding of black radical and nationalist writings around the World War I period and beyond, but [they] also,… change the way in which we have tended to look at black thought generally in this period.” Horne agrees that “in many ways Harrison’s analyses of the World War I era-and countless other matters-are sharper than those of Du Bois.” Historian Portia James concludes that “It is impossible to have a full understanding of the 1900-1930 period in Black politics without knowing Harrison and his influential work.” See Fletcher, Jr., “Radicals Known and Unknown,” 58; Ernest Allen, letter to Suzanna Tammimen, June 21, 1999, copy in possession of author; Horne, BRC-Discuss, June 1, 2001; Portia James, letter to Suzanna Tammimen, c. June 1999, copy in possession of author.

52. AHHR, 182-200.

53. AHHR, 399-402; “Negroes Plan New American State,” Christian Science Monitor, June 7, 1924, 5B; “Separate Colored State Urged by Harrison,” New York News, August 2, 1924; and “Wants Exclusive Negro Territory in U.S.,” New York World, August 3, 1924.

54. Richard B. Moore, Caribbean Militant in Harlem: Collected Writings 1920-1972, ed. by W. Burghardt and Joyce Moore Turner (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 216. Cary D. Wintz, Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance (Houston: Rice University Press, 1988), 3, writes that Harlem “symbolized the central experience of American blacks in the early twentieth century-the urbanization of black America.”

55. Rogers, WGMC, 2:433, 437; AHHR, 9.

56. Tony Martin, Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976). Race First, 360, points out, “for two decades or so after his death [in 1940] Garvey was all but relegated to the position of an unperson.” It was only with “the Black Power revolution of the 1960s” that the race activist Garvey received renewed recognition.

57. AHHR, 42-46, 175-77; Rogers, WGMC, 2:439.

58. Ralph Dumain of the C.L.R. James Institute writes that Harrison had “very admirable traits.” He was “A working class autodidact, a street agitator, organizer, educator, critic, and… closer to the black working class than any other revolutionary intellectual of his time.” He was “relentlessly independent, ruthlessly objective, intellectually rigorous” and devoted to “education, erudition, scientific method, and the intellectual elevation of his constituency.” Ralph Dumain, to author, June 17, 2001, possession of author.

59. Theodore W. Allen discusses the origins of the system of racial oppression and its centrality to class rule in the U.S. in Allen, Invention of the White Race, 1:32-35, 133-35; 143-50 and 2:221-22 and 239-59.

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