Black Socrates Toni-Lee Maitland AFS4935 December 3, 2013 Hubert Harrison and the Problem of Religion
Who Was Hubert Harrison? • Hubert Henry Harrison was and is “one of America’s greatest minds” • Referred to by peers as the “Black Socrates” • Father of Black Radicalism • Influenced other black radical leaders including Marcus Garvey and A. Philip Randolph • Editor of the Negro World publication • Black leader of the Socialist Party in New York • Leader of “New Negro” movement
Early Life Born on April 27, 1883 to Cecilia Elizabeth Haines; his father was Adolphus Harrison Born in Concordia, St. Croix in Danish West Indies Family was part of the working class; compulsory education in his childhood Excelled academically
Conversion and Life in the U.S. • Moved to New York in 1900 after his mother’s death • Lived with his sister Mary in lower Manhattan • Attended night school and worked as an elevator operator during the day • Broke away from Christianity around1901 • Journal entry recounted this experience • Became agnostic • “ refuse[d] to put faith in that which does not rest on sufficient evidence.”
Problem of Religion • Harrison thought that Christianity was a convenient way for whites to promote servility and a slave mentality amongst blacks • Christianity was used as tool in slavery to control the slaves whom whites thought were “savages” and “heathens” • Explore this aspect of Hubert Harrison’s intellectual contribution and its evolution throughout his rather short life • Contrasts with black people and their movements being deeply rooted in the Christian Church
Relevance Today • “Show me a population that is deeply religious, 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.” • - Hubert Harrison, “On a Certain Conservatism in Negroes”
SOurce • Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).