The life of African-American socialist Hubert Harrison: a discussion with Jeffrey B. Perry
Doug Enaa Greene in discussion with historian Jeffrey B. Perry (above).
February 20, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) was an immensely skilled writer, orator, educator, critic and political activist who, more than any other political leader of his era, combined class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness into a coherent political radicalism.
The St. Croix, Virgin Islands-born and Harlem-based Harrison profoundly influenced "New Negro" militants, including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and his synthesis of class and race issues is a key unifying link between the two great trends of the African American liberation movement: the labour and civil rights-based work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist work associated with Malcolm X.
Harrison played unique, signal roles in the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the New Negro/Garvey) movement of his era. He was the foremost Black organiser, agitator and theoretician of the Socialist Party of New York, the founder of the "New Negro" movement, the editor of the Negro World and the principal radical influence on the Garvey movement.
A self-described, "radical internationalist," he was also a highly praised journalist and critic (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer), a postal labour unionist, a union organiser (with both the Hotel Workers and the Pullman Porters), a supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World, a speaker at the 1913 Paterson strike, a freethinker and early proponent of birth control, a supporter of Black writers and artists, a leading community-based public intellectual, an adult education lecturer for the New York City Board of Education, and a bibliophile who helped transform the 135th Street Public Library into an international centre for research in Black culture (known today as the world-famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture).
His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy and social change in the USA.
For more information on Jeff Perry's work, see his website at: http://www.jeffreybperry.net/
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[Doug Enaa Greene is an independent communist historian living in the greater Boston area. He has been published in Socialism and Democracy, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, MRZine, Kasama, Counterpunch, Socialist Viewpoint and Green Left Weekly. He was active in Occupy Boston and is a volunteer at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. He is currently working on a book on the French communist Louis-Auguste Blanqui.]