Hubert Harrison: Key Link in the Two Great Trends of the Black Liberation Movement

This article originally
appeared in New Politics.

“The Life and Times of
Hubert Harrison: A Forgotten Synthesis of African-American Socialism and Black
Nationalism,” Review of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism,
1883-1918 by Jeffrey B. Perry (Columbia University Press, 2009).

 

harrison

“One of the many strengths of the Perry biography is the detailed exposition of the transformation of Harrison from a socialist to both a socialist and Black Nationalist.”

Hubert Harrison emerged in the first two decades of the twentieth century as one of the leading voices of Harlem radicals rejecting American claims to an egalitarian democratic heritage and commitment to such a future based on the undeniable persistence of massive racial and class inequalities.

Jeffrey Perry’s exhaustive biography of Hubert Harrison elevates the lesser-known Harrison to the stature he so richly deserves as one of America’s most perceptive public intellectuals on the critically intertwined issues of American democracy, race relations, and class structure.

Harrison, a St. Croix immigrant from the Virgin Islands, was one of the first to combine the divergent strands of socialism and Black Nationalism. Hubert Harrison emerges as the principal black spokesman for the Socialist Party in its heyday in the early twentieth century.In this volume, Perry explores the interaction, cooperation, and conflicts between intellectuals and radicals such as A. Philip Randolph, John E. Bruce, Arturo Schomburg, Cyril Briggs, and others in pre-Marcus Garvey Harlem. Against this background of contending local leaders and intellects in the cultural capital of black America, Harrison will distinguish himself as a preeminent thinker analyzing the philosophical and tactical positions of nationally known black leaders like the Harvard trained historian W.E.B. Du Bois and the president of Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington.

 

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