"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who was Hubert Harrison? And why we should care!

An important story (lessons we can learn from his experience) for many reasons, among them are Harrison's
  • influence on A Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey (the need for black political and economic independence)
  • experience with socialists (they are white first and class second -- which dooms their success in the U.S.)
  • understanding of the importance of the arts (nourishes and reveals the soul -- crucial to the success of a movement)
  • internationalist perspective (necessary to understand the history of African Americans in the U.S.)
Why don't we know about Harrison?  He was black listed by Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Machine; and was to the left of Du Bois.  In other words, he was way ahead of his time, it seems.  He also died at age 44 of complications with appendicitis.  Tragic.

From the INTRODUCTION to Jeffrey Perry's book -- Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
By late 1916, [Harrison's] experiences with white supremacy within the socialist and labor movements convinced him of the need for a "race-first" political perspective for Black Americans. The final 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 race and offered a glimpse of "the Negro’s soul as modified by his social environment." With his new "race-first" approach Harrison served over the next few years as the founder and intellectual guiding light of the "New Negro Manhood Movement," better known as the "New Negro Movement"—the race-conscious, internationalist, mass-based, autonomous, militantly assertive movement for "political equality, social justice, civic opportunity, and economic power," which laid the basis for the Garvey movement and contributed so significantly (especially with his book reviews and "poetry for the people") to the social and literary climate leading to the 1925 publication of Alain Locke’s well-known The New Negro. Harrison’s mass-based political movement, however, was qualitatively different from the more middle-class, arts-based, apolitical movement associated with Locke.

In 1917, as the "Great War" raged abroad, along with race riots, lynching, 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," and they were soon followed by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen’s Messenger, Cyril Briggs’s Crusader, and Marcus Garvey’s Negro World. The Liberty League was called into being, Harrison explained, by "the need for a more radical policy" than that of existing civil rights organizations such as the W. E. B. Du Bois–influenced National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He felt that the NAACP too often limited itself to paper protests and repeatedly stumbled over the problem of what to do "if these [‘white’] minds at which you are aiming remain unaffected" and refuse "to grant guarantees of life and liberty."

In contrast to the NAACP, the Liberty League was not dependent on white supporters, and it 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 antilynching legislation, enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, labor organizing, support of socialist and anti-imperialist causes, political independence, and armed self-defense in the face of white-supremacist attacks. It stressed that new Black leadership would emerge from the masses, and it was "under [the Liberty League’s] banner [that] the West Indians and American Negroes first cooper­ated on anything like a large scale."

thanks Jeffrey!!!!

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