Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918
Unsung history
By Jonathan Gramling

Part 1 of 2

      When one thinks of the Harlem Renaissance — also
referred to as the New Negro Movement — that refers roughly
to the period between 1917 and the mid 1930s, one thinks of
Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Robeson, James
Weldon Johnson and Marcus Garvey. But author Jeffrey Perry
would argue vociferously that contributions of one intellectual
giant of the Harlem Renaissance have been purposely
excluded from mainstream history. That man is Hubert
Harrison.
      Hubert who?
      Over coffee, Perry, the author of “Hubert Harrison: The
Voice of Harlem Radicalism 1883-1918,” explained who
Harrison was. “Hubert Harrison lived from 1883-1927,” Perry
said. “He died young at 44 years old. He’s a brilliant
intellectual and activist. He’s a writer and orator and  
theoretician. He was born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies. He came to New York in 1900 as a 17-year-old orphan. He died of an
appendicitis-related condition unexpectedly in Bellevue Hospital in 1927. His mother is from Barbados. His father is born enslaved in St.
Croix as were his grandparents. So in St. Croix, he lives in the poorest elements of society on plantations. But through his mother, he is an
immigrant in part in St. Croix. He is an immigrant when he comes to the U.S. Later on, when he self-identifies himself, he describes
himself as a radical internationalist.”
     It is Perry’s thesis that Harrison was one of the major intellectual spark plugs of Harlem Renaissance, but that he has been excluded
from mainstream history books because of his radicalism.
    
 Next issue: The life of Hubert Harrison
Jeffrey Perry (above) published a biography
about Hubert Harrison (right), a Harlem
community activist during the time of Marcus
Garvey.