On Monday, History News Network published “The Growing Interest in Hubert Harrison,” by Jeffrey Perry, author of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918.
Perry begins the essay discussing Harrison’s relevance at the dawn of the administration of America’s first Black president, and his place in African American history:
Considered more race conscious than [A. Philip] Randolph and more class conscious than [Marcus] Garvey, Harrison is a key link in the ideological unity of the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement—the labor and civil rights emphasis associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr., and the race and nationalist emphasis associated with Garvey and Malcolm X.
Harrison’s legacy, Perry suggests, can already be seen in Obama:
Obama has already responded positively to two economic struggles that Harrison would have supported: the 240 (mostly Black and Latin) UE workers who sat in at a factory in Chicago and the 4,800 (mostly Black and Latin) workers at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, who won a hard-fought, fifteen-year struggle to be represented by the UFCW. Obama is now planning to spend billions of dollars on job creation to counter the deepening economic crisis, and he will hopefully do so with a Harrison-like anti-white-supremacist-antenna and in light of the historical research of scholars like Ira Katznelson (When Affirmative Action Was White) and others who critically depict the discriminatory, white-supremacist shaping of FDR’s “New Deal” programs and policies.