Hubert Henry Harrison

April 27, 1883 — December 17, 1927

Harlem Renaissance speaker, scholar, labor activist, and educator

Hubert Henry Harrison

A fierce intellect and political voice of the Harlem Renaissance, Hubert Henry Harrison came to the United States from St. Croix as a child in 1900 and immediately delved into a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, devoting his intellectual prowess to civil rights and labor activism; he was a leading organizer of the Socialist Party of America and a founding father of Harlem radicalism.1 Harrison founded the Liberty League and the newspaper The Voice, both of which sought social change with a focus on race consciousness, internationalism, and the use of literature and the arts as political influences. His powerful oratory skill and profound knowledge of history, economics, and sociology made him a sought-after lecturer and writer.

An outspoken freethinker, Harrison advocated for birth control, separation of church and state, and the teaching of evolution and regarded religion as a force of oppression. “Show me a population that is deeply religious,” he said, “and I will show you a servile population, content with whips and chains, contumely and the gibbet, content to eat the bread of sorrow and drink the waters of affliction.”2 Though he drew controversy, at times to the point of fending off attacks, his gifts as a speaker allowed him to present unpopular viewpoints with eloquence and earn widespread respect.

  1. J.A. Rogers. “Hubert H. Harrison: Intellectual Giant and Freelance Educator,” in African-American Humanism: an Anthology, ed. Normal Allen Jr. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991) , 40–49.

  2. Hubert Henry Harrison, “On a Certain Conservativism in Negroes,” in By These Hands: a Documentary History of African American Humanism, ed. Anthony B. Pinn (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 166–167.