Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hubert Harrison: Giant of Black and US Radical History

"I do believe that there will be a clash between East and West. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think that it will be based upon the color of the skin…." Malcolm X Speaks edited by George Breitman

"The young whites, and blacks, too, are the only hope that America has, the rest of us have always been living in a lie. "  (Malcolm X Files)

We learn through struggle. Our life experiences teaches us certain things but the true causes of our experiences are not always apparent. The capitalist media, told this writer in the 60's that black African people in Kenya hated whites and were murdering white farmers. It took some time for me to understand that this was not so.  They didn't hate whites and they didn't hate farmers.  They hated those who stole their land and denied them rights as human beings. And either way, the violence was directed against them not the other way around.

The same media made sure I understood that Malcolm X, the American black nationalist, hated all whites including me. I was not interested in reading anything Malcolm X had to say. The owners of the media were helped in this by Malcolm X himself who gave them ammunition, but surely, given history, a class conscious worker can understand that.  But that didn't last long.  If there is any confirmation that human beings can transform our thinking in to its opposite Malcolm X is it.  In his short life he began to understand that oppression and colonization of people's wasn't driven by one group of people's hatred for another based on the way they look.   He was not assassinated when he argued that. It was when he began to take a class position he became a real threat.

The class conscious white worker can benefit from reading Malcolm X, understanding his origins and his journey.  We share with our readers another less known black/African political figure and class conscious fighter, Hubert Harrison. I have to confess, I know little about Harrison but am beginning to investigate his life and Facts For Working People is grateful to Jeffrey B Perry for helping bring Hubert Harrison's ideas to a wider audience.  The post below was originally published by Jeffrey B Perry.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired. Like Facts For Working People's Facebook Page at:

On the 132nd Anniversary of His Birth
Help Spread Knowledge of the Life and Work
Of Black History Giant Hubert Harrison Militant Speaker at the 1913 Paterson Strike

(Please Share Information About Him With Friends)

by Jeffrey B. Perry

Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) is a true giant of Black, Caribbean, Diasporic African, and U.S. radical history. He was a brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist who was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in “World’s Great Men of Color”, as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and by A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.”

Harrison was born to an immigrant mother from Barbados and a formerly enslaved Crucian father on Estate Concordia in St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands), on April 27, 1883. On St. Croix he lived amongst immigrant and native-born working people, learned customs rooted in African communal systems, and grew with an affinity for the poor and with the belief that he was equal to any other. He also learned of the Crucian people’s rich history of direct-action mass struggle including the 1848 enslaved-led emancipation victory; the 1878 island-wide “Great Fireburn” rebellion in which women played prominent roles; and the October 1879 general strike.

After arriving in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900 Harrison made his mark over the next twenty-seven years by struggling against class and racial oppression and by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among those he affectionately referred to as “the common people.” He played unique, 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 Movement”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s. His talks before large crowds at Wall and Broad Streets (on Socialism) and in Harlem after the 1917 pogrom against the East St. Louis African-American community (East St. Louis is less than 12 miles from Ferguson) were precursors to recent “Occupy” and “Black Lives Matter” movements.

Harrison was the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (“The Voice”) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro Movement”; edited “The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort” (“intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races – especially of the Negro race”) in 1919; wrote “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World” in 1920; and he served as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.

His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants including the class radical A. Philip Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a key link in the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement – 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 also was a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; reportedly developed "the first regular book-review section known to Negro newspaperdom"; and helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what has become known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

People are encouraged to commemorate Hubert Harrison’s life and work and to share information on him with others.

For comments from scholars and activists on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” and on “A Hubert Harrison Reader” see
and and

Additional information on “Hubert Harrison the Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” can be found at:…/978-0-231-13910-6/hubert-harrison

An overview of Harrison’s life is available at…

For a longer “Introduction” to Hubert Harrison in “Souls” see

For more information on Hubert Harrison see…

For a video on Hubert Harrison from Boston Neighborhood Network TV

Clips from a Book TV, CSPAN-2 program on Harrison with Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry, Dr. Komozi Woodard and Dr. Mark Naison can be viewed at…

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