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

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

by Jeffrey B Perry
     
 

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Hubert Harrison 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. Harrison's ideas profoundly influenced "New Negro" militants, including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus

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Overview

Hubert Harrison 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. Harrison's ideas 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 Black Liberation Movement: the labor- and civil-rights-based work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist platform associated with Malcolm X.

The foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician of the Socialist Party of New York, Harrison was also the founder of the "New Negro" movement, the editor of Negro World, and the principal radical influence on the Garvey movement. He was a highly praised journalist and critic (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer), a freethinker and early proponent of birth control, a supporter of Black writers and artists, a leading public intellectual, and a bibliophile who helped transform the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture. His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Early 20th-century black liberation activist Hubert Harrison has not received much academic attention, and this initial volume of a projected two-volume biography by independent scholar Perry is the first book-length treatment of his life. Why bother to try to revive Harrison's reputation as a political leader, influential orator and journalist, and philosopher of liberation? Perry argues that Harrison's catholic views (he fought for equality on the basis of class, sex, employment, and immigration status as well as race) have kept history from recalling the influence he had in his own time: he was too independent and complicated to be easily pigeonholed by scholars. Perry attempts to redress this with his carefully researched and finely drawn study. Each aspect of Harrison's early life is delivered in deliberate context, with attention to the minutiae of personality, politics, neighborhood history, and other issues. This slow, rich storytelling style may bore some readers, but Perry's clear prose allows access to a three-dimensional picture of Harrison's life for readers with little intellectual foundation in the period. Recommended for African American history collections and larger general American history collections.
—Emily-Jane Dawson

Z Magazine - Bill Fletcher
An excellent work and a great contribution to scholarship... Perry must be applauded.

The Neworld Review - Herb Boyd
Through Perry's prodigious research Harrison's brilliance can once more engage a generation eager to find inspiration and renewed political spirit.

American Historical Review - Wilson J. Moses
[A] brilliant masterpiece.

Working USA - Carole Boyce Davies
This meticulously-researched book fills and enormous gap in the knowledge of black activist intellectuals in the US.

Against the Current - Clarence Lang
Rich and exhaustively researched.

New Politics - Larry A. Greene
Scholars and students... are indeed indebted to Jeffrey Perry for this magisterial study of Hubert Harrison.

Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era - LaShawn Harris
Perry offer(s) new and provocative analyses of African American leadership during the early twentieth century.

Journal of American Ethnic History - Sterling Johnson
Perry's rich biography of Harrison is filled with examples of leadership that would eventually be followed nationwide and result in black political power in Harlem.

Choice
This critically important book will do for Harrison what David Levering Lewis did for Du Bois... Essential.

Booklist
Perry's detailed research brings to life a transformative figure who has been little recognized for his contributions to progressive race and class politics.

Z Magazine
An excellent work and a great contribution to scholarship... Perry must be applauded.

— Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Industrial Worker
[Hubert Harrison] offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

The Neworld Review
Through Perry's prodigious research Harrison's brilliance can once more engage a generation eager to find inspiration and renewed political spirit.

— Herb Boyd

American Historical Review
[A] brilliant masterpiece.

— Wilson J. Moses

Working USA
This meticulously-researched book fills and enormous gap in the knowledge of black activist intellectuals in the US.

— Carole Boyce Davies

Against the Current
Rich and exhaustively researched.

— Clarence Lang

New Politics
Scholars and students... are indeed indebted to Jeffrey Perry for this magisterial study of Hubert Harrison.

— Larry A. Greene

Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era
Perry offer(s) new and provocative analyses of African American leadership during the early twentieth century.

— LaShawn Harris

Black Theology: An International Journal
Hubert Harrison is more than a work of scholarship. It is a timely act of generous recognition and restitution of a Black Caribbean scholar who played a significant role in the story of Harlem Radicalism.

Science & Society
Perry's biography gives an illuminating account not only of Harrison's strengths and weaknesses but also of the larger historical contraditions informing Black radicalism and Marxism during Harrison's lifetime.

Black Theology: An International Journal
Hubert Harrison is more than a work of scholarship. It is a timely act of generous recognition and restitution of a Black Caribbean scholar who played a significant role in the story of Harlem Radicalism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231511223
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
12/29/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
624
File size:
28 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

What People are saying about this

Christopher Phelps
Hubert Harrison was in his lifetime the leading American black intellectual socialist, but he receded from memory after his death. We are all in debt to Jeffrey B. Perry for his devoted and fastidious recuperation of Harrison's memory. This assiduously researched biography, an extraordinary feat of scholarship, restores Harrison to his proper standing in the pantheon of other Afro-Caribbeans, from Marcus Garvey to C. L. R. James, who contributed to reshaping American political thought in the twentieth century.

Peniel E. Joseph
A groundbreaking biography and act of historical recovery that restores Hubert Harrison's vital importance to African American history and politics during the New Negro era. Meticulously written and painstakingly researched, Hubert Harrison is a major work of scholarship that will transform understanding of black life during the early twentieth century.

Komozi Woodard
This book is the epic tale of the lost ancestor of Black radicalism, Hubert H. Harrison, the great black working-class intellectual who stood at the epicenter of politics in the Harlem Renaissance. Like Malcolm X, Harrison was not only a revolutionary but also a master teacher and a leader of leaders, and his dramatic story of self-education, self-emancipation, and self-transformation will both awaken and reorient a new generation of Black liberation at the grassroots around the globe.

Arnold Rampersad
This is a superb study of a neglected but powerfully influential figure in African-American history. As far as I can judge, Jeffrey B. Perry's scholarship is formidable, his documentation impeccable, his writing lucid and graceful. If his promised second volume is as admirable and compelling as his first, then we would have to count him, with gratitude, among the finest living biographers of black men and women—indeed, one of our finest biographers, without reservation.

Gary Y. Okihiro
Entrusted with the remains of Hubert Harrison's papers, Jeffrey B. Perry favors us with this meticulous chronicle of one of the century's most influential voices for democracy and freedom. Harrison, island-born, colonial subject, and immigrant, stirred the masses in Harlem, at the time the center of Black radical thought, to a "new race-consciousness" and an apprehension of "their powers and destiny"" in the United States and world. Hubert Harrison testifies to the remarkable durability of lives well lived and truths told straight.

Gene Bruskin
Jeffrey B. Perry's Hubert Harrison is not simply an archaeological uncovering of a century old Black icon. Harrison's life and his insights on race and class, especially during wartime, leap off the page. They particularly resonate today. Harrison challenged the government's hypocritical notion of sending Black men to fight and die to make "the world safe for democracy" in World War I, while they were being lynched, segregated and disenfranchised at home. I see Harrison's ghost on a Harlem soapbox today exposing the links between the destructive wars abroad and the need to expand the fight for civil liberties and civil rights and to forge a new global partnership with the world's people. This is a ghost that needs to be listened to.

Manning Marable
Hubert Harrison was one of the most gifted and creative intellectuals in the American Left and within black America in the twentieth century. Jeffrey B. Perry's book presents a comprehensive analysis of the first phase of Harrison's remarkable public career. Before Marcus Garvey came to Harlem in 1916, Harrison had blazed the trail as the leading voice of black radicalism. He founded the New Negro Movement and was a central antiwar leader during WWI. Perry captures Harrison's brilliance, energy, and leadership during a remarkable period in African-American history. The outstanding scholarship of his study will reawaken popular interest in this remarkable figure.

Portia James
One of the most significant 20th century African American philosophers, Jeff Perry finally accords Harrison his place among the forebears of modern African American political and cultural thought, and also suggests the sweeping scope of Harrison's life and achievement.

Amiri Baraka
Jeffrey B. Perry's Hubert Harrison breaks open long-sealed tomes of information about the militant aspect of the Harlem Renaissance.

David Levering Lewis
Jeffrey Perry's significant biography lives up to the promise of its title. Finally, the voice of this major Harlem Renaissance progressive is to be heard again loud and clear.

Cornel West
Hubert Harrison is the most significant black democratic socialist of early twentieth-century America. Jeffrey B. Perry has brought his thought and practice to life in a powerful and persuasive manner.

Winston James
Hubert Harrison is a historic work of scholarship. It is also an act of restitution- belated but generous-for the crime of historical neglect. For as Jeffrey B. Perry makes abundantly clear, Hubert Harrison's contemporaries, from the Harlem radicals of the 1920s (most notably Claude McKay and A. Philip Randolph), to Henry Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Charlie Chaplin, recognized Harrison's genius and enormous contribution in a variety of fields, yet eighty years after his death he has not been honored with a biography. Perry's effort to make good this lack is a stupendous success. His book is exhaustively researched, richly detailed, beautifully written in a spare and restrained style, and succeeds in capturing the brilliance, wit, and astonishing political and intellectual courage of Harrison. It is a fine and magisterial portrait.

David Roediger
In rescuing a very particular hero and genius from what E. P. Thompson once called the 'enormous condescension of posterity,' this monumental and acute biography becomes the best point of entry into the whole history of modern radicalism in the United States.

Bill Fletcher
Jeffrey B. Perry has made a significant contribution to the history of Black radicalism through his biography of Hubert Harrison. With thorough research and compelling analysis, Perry offers the reader insight into a brilliant and under-studied activist and intellectual who played a major role in helping to shape the Black radical tradition. Hubert Harrison reads with a draw like that of a study of a long lost city, rediscovered and offering answers to an incomplete history.

Joyce Moore Turner
For decades a brilliant and critical voice of the Harlem Renaissance has been practically ignored by historians. At last that serious gap will be filled by Jeffrey B. Perry who has thoroughly researched and carefully crafted a two-part definitive biography of the "Father of Harlem Radicalism," Hubert H. Harrison. These volumes, along with his previously published collection of Harrison's writings, are a significant contribution because they reveal in rich detail and masterful treatment the life of one of the most unique and influential African American thinkers of that time. The people of Harlem flocked to Harrison's "university level" street orations on a wide range of topics but few knew of his numerous journal articles on society, science and socialism. Perry was driven to conduct extensive research when he discovered Harrison's clarity of writing and perceptiveness of analysis. Surely his own clarity of writing, meticulous attention to events and other activists, and masterful analysis will prove in time to be an essential classic for understanding the political movements of the period.

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Meet the Author

Jeffrey B. Perry is an independent scholar of the working class formally educated at Princeton, Harvard, Rutgers, and Columbia University. Perry preserved and inventoried the Hubert H. Harrison papers (now at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library) and is the editor of A Hubert Harrison Reader. He is also literary executor for Theodore W. Allen and edited and introduced Allen's Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race.

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