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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 02:33 pm: ||
George S. Schuyler: Black Conservative, Intellectual, and Iconoclast
by Troy Kickler
A former socialist turned champion of capitalism and individual liberty, an opponent of Roosevelt’s New Deal, an ardent anti-communist and supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy, a critic of W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, the Brown decision, and the Montgomery bus boycotts, and even a member of the John Birch Society, George S. Schuyler will never be the poster-boy for Black History Month. But his life and writings should be remembered (and not just in February), for they serve as a reminder that scholars have erroneously lumped African-Americans into a social category and that – no matter our sex, race, or class – we are all individuals capable of independent thought.
As a child and a young man, George S. Schuyler experienced the sting of racism in his hometown of Syracuse, New York and developed an aversion to all things Southern. An optimistic Schuyler joined the U.S. Army in 1912 to escape the discrimination of Syracuse, but experiences in the military increased his cynicism. In his African-American regiment, the New Yorker found that he had little in common with his Southern comrades: "They came from all areas where the mores were different from those of my area," Schuyler recalled, "and the fact that we were all colored was somewhat beside the point." He described his existence as "lonesome."
During World War I, Schuyler’s wartime experiences were especially troublesome. No matter where he was stationed he was called "." In Lawton, Oklahoma, a white woman wrongly (and maybe purposefully) identified him as a rapist. When a Greek immigrant in Des Moines refused to shine his shoes, Schuyler decided that he would no longer serve a nation in which he was considered a second-class citizen. Found in Chicago, he was soon imprisoned for desertion.
After his prison sentence ended in 1919 and following a series of odd jobs, Schuyler joined the Socialist Party in 1921 and started working as a journalist in 1923. In his columns for the Messenger and Pittsburgh Courier, no one escaped scrutiny and criticism: Klan members, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, and even artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance. His sociological study of southern communities and his criticism of Garvey and the Harlem Renaissance launched him into the national spotlight. Schuyler rightly described Garvey’s Back-to-Africa movement as a scam, and he denounced many black writers for overemphasizing supposed racial characteristics. In "The Negro Art-Hokum," Schuyler wrote, "Aside from his color, . . . your American Negro is just plain American." In another column, he argued that the intricate rhythm of blues, for instance, was not popular in Africa and the Caribbean because American blacks were "products of a certain American environment: the South." In short, Schuyler did not overlook the racial discrimination that abounded in early-twentieth century America, but he emerged as one of the nation’s foremost critics of African-American culture.
In the early 1930s Schuyler published two novels, Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933–1940 (considered the first science fiction written by an African American) and Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia. In the former he presented race leaders as charlatans, ridiculed black and white supremacists, denounced Christian ministers for perpetuating racism, and promoted interracial love. In the latter he debunked pan-Africanism by turning past news reports dealing with domestic slavery in Liberia into a story with fictitious characters. In both he emphasized the similarities between the races.
Starting in the late 1920s, Schuyler had contributed to H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury and had started arguing that capitalism, not socialism, offered freedom for African-Americans. Although Mencken was not color-blind, he decided to mentor Schuyler because the two had three things in common: respect for the middle class, a loathing for socialism, and a dislike for the South. Mencken, in particular, encouraged Schuyler to make full use of his wit. With an evolving caustic style and under Mencken’s tutelage, Schuyler continued denouncing American racism while discrediting African-Americans who he believed shamed the race.
During the 1930s, Schuyler started fearing the involvement of Communists in American racial matters. Still a member of the NAACP, Schuyler wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier the following concerning the Scottsboro case: "Communists in the United States are more of a menace than a promise to Negroes. Their policy is to make political capital out of the race problem . . . . They care nothing for the individual unfortunate Negroes they appear so eager to defend." And he wrote later that "like his white brother in the U.S.A., the American Negro is a proletarian by compulsion and not by choice. His [the black man] consuming ambition is to become a bourgeois himself . . ." He even criticized the New Deal. In his Pittsburgh Courier columns he sardonically explained that the National Recovery Administration’s acronym (NRA) stood for "Negroes Robbed Again," and he criticized the Social Security Act: "[It] not only takes the Aframerican for a ride," he argued, but it also perpetuated blacks’ inferior status and entrenched them at "the bottom of the ladder of life."
When World War II came, Schuyler had an ambivalent response. He lamented the bombing of Pearl Harbor but feared that African-American servicemen would still be treated as second-class citizens. So he discouraged blacks from enlisting, and for his views some labeled Schuyler "pro-Japanese." The journalist later endorsed African-American enlistment, however. (Some speculate that the FBI and other government agencies persuaded him to do so, while others contend that Schuyler understood that the remnants of American capitalism needed to be preserved.)
After World War II, Schuyler evolved into an iconoclastic conservative, or so Oscar R. Williams argues in George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative, although he never defines conservatism and leaves readers with the impression that post-war conservatism is strictly nationalism and the resistance to integration, or some combination of both. Whatever it is – and I must interject that the current president’s spending habits and foreign policy and use of emergency powers has necessitated a definition of conservatism – Schuyler’s loathing of communism and his criticism of the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American community intensified. Schuyler advocated racial integration (he married a white woman with whom he had an interracial daughter), but he preferred gradual social change. To him, a communist state in America would stamp out the influence of all religious, social, and educational institutions – black and white – and he feared that any association blacks had with communist leaders would anger white Americans and ruin any chance for racial reconciliation. Instead, Schuyler promoted capitalism as the solution to African-American problems and endorsed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade. In fact, Schuyler attacked the American Committee for Cultural Freedom (members included James Burnham, Irving Kristol, John Dos Passos, and Daniel Bell) as being too soft on Communism, and he, like James Burnham in 1954, severed ties with ACCF for disparaging McCarthy’s tactics.
But his criticism of the Civil Rights Movement may have been what most endeared him to some and alienated him from others. To Schuyler, the Civil Rights Movement undermined any programs among African Americans that might foster what he had advocated since the 1930s: self-help capitalism. Much like Booker T. Washington, Schuyler had encouraged blacks to start businesses not only to provide services to the African-American community but also to gain the respect and business of whites. He also criticized Civil Rights Movement leaders as charlatans as he had portrayed race leaders in Black No More (Schuyler’s atheism had always fostered doubts regarding ministers’ sincerity). He also believed the Civil Rights Movement fostered a dependency on the government to solve all financial and societal problems. Here is an excerpt from Schuyler’s typically controversial Pittsburgh Courier column in which he harshly criticized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization in which Martin Luther King, Jr., played a vital role: "What sort of image has been presented by the organized rowdies, with their deceitful hymn-singing and praying, and indictments to civil disobedience and Hitlerian street-fighting? These tactics led to golden opportunities for Southern cops to manhandle, mistreat and jail thousands of Negroes who should have been in school, learning how to make a decent living."
For his identification with cultural and nationalistic conservatives, for his critique of the Civil Rights Movement, and in particular the Brown decision, and for his endorsement of Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid, Schuyler lost his job at the Pittsburgh Courier yet grew in favor among those on the Right. Robert Welch asked him to join the John Birch Society, and Arlington House Publishers, a publishing arm of conservatism, asked him to write his biography, Black and Conservative.
Schuyler may have been an iconoclast, but he was not alone. Everyone in the middle, on the extremes, and even outside the boundaries of Left and Right would benefit from remembering black intellectuals such as George S. Schuyler – if only as a reminder that we should treat people as individuals instead of members of man-made social categories. Although Oscar R. Williams suggests that Schuyler purposefully sought to be contentious and to be included in the mainstream of the conservative intelligentsia, the assistant professor of Africana studies at the University of Albany in his recently published University of Tennessee Press publication, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative (2007), thankfully calls for scholars to study the "complexity and diversity of American and African American intellectual history." Very few, I fear, will answer the call.
All citations taken from Oscar R. Williams, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007).
See also Jeffrey B. Leak, ed., Rac(e)ing to the Right: Selected Essays of George S. Schuyler (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001).
February 27, 2007
Troy Kickler, Ph.D. [send him mail], is Director of the North Carolina History Project, a special project of the John Locke Foundation, and editor of northcarolinahistory.org.
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com
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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 03:10 pm: ||
Let's add some other stuff.
He was a drunk and a red baiter who sold himself out to bigots and arch conservatives at the end of his life when his talent was gone and he was an embittered old man.
Also he married a white woman--they had a child, Phillippa who they made some sort of experiment and drove crazy.
Philllipa was killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam.
The white woman wound up committing suicide.
He died abandoned by his conservative allies (he was just using them for a paycheck anyway) and alone.
He started out a committed journalist who exposed a lot of stuff about discrimination and lynching in the South and wound up a simp.
By the way, I notice that most of the racist dogs who trumpet him these days don't mention his novel Black Empire, where this Black Doctor raises money by pimping and killing white women and selling dope, uses it to finance an Army by which he drives the colonial powers out of Africa and then uses biological warfare to exterminate the Italians, among others.
He was quite certainly mad.
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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 03:18 pm: ||
"He was quite certainly mad."
I don't know if this article was written to honor him in some way, but at the very least he seemed confused.
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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 03:29 pm: ||
Here's what he wrote before white folks broke him down
Product Description Of BLACK EMPIRE
From Library Journal
Samuel I. Brooks was actually a pseudonym for George Samuel Schuyler, noted black satirist of the early 20th century. This book is an intricate tale of black nationalism, science fiction, and incredible feats of derring-do intended to bolster black pride and accomplishment in the uneasy years before World War II. The book originally ran as weekly serialized fiction in the Philadelphia Courier from 1936 to 1938. Principal character Dr. Henry Belsidus is obsessed with releasing blacks from the crushing tyranny of racism and poverty, and he plans to take over the world and enlists black intellectuals to help him. Underlying the story is an attempt to resolve the philosophical, economic, and cultural chasms between blacks and whites. The book reflects the hope and despair felt by blacks during this time. A fascinating and worthwhile addition to general collections; essential for black history collections. Highly recommended.
- Kevin M. Roddy, Oakland P . L . , Cal.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
The first appearance in book form of the serialized fiction of the late black satirist and journalist Schuyler that ran, between 1936 and 1938, in the Pittsburgh Courier under the pen-name of ``Samuel I. Brooks.'' Divided into two parts--Black Internationale: A Story of Black Genius Against the World and Black Empire: An Imaginative Story of a Great New Civilization in Modern Africa--the book is part utopian in vision, part satirical, and part an eloquent indictment of white racism. Written in brief chapters for immediate publication, the whole story of the Black Empire--both parts--is told by one Carl Slater, a promising black journalist who is kidnapped in Harlem by the charismatic but satanic genius Dr. Belsidus. The doctor has been quietly forming a Black Internationale throughout the world that, when the time is ripe, will create dissension in Europe and the US and that, in the ensuing chaos, will reclaim Africa for blacks. As well as masterminding the financial backing, Belsidus has enlisted the best and brightest blacks to create new weapons; health systems; and technology that anticipates such inventions as the fax machine and hydroponic farming. To lighten the story, beautiful Pat Givens, ace aviator and loyal Belsidus follower, falls in love with Slater, and the two marry once the conquest of Africa is achieved. Meanwhile, black brilliance is vindicated; the Black Empire is a success but at some cost. Europe is torn apart by war and disease, all fomented by the Internationale; dissidence within the Empire is punished with death; and euthanasia is regarded as a primary part of medical treatment. Often quite intentionally sensational in style and content, and reflecting all the limits of instant publication, but, still, a remarkable portrait of an era--and a work of considerable imaginative force. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 03:39 pm: ||
George Schuyler was what some people today would call a "self-loathing negro". But as the article attests to, he was an independent intellectual thinker who loved himself very much. The only negro he loathed was one who didn't agree with his point of view. During the civil rights movement, his conservative reputation was such an anathema to mainstream blacks that any commentary attributed to him was immediately dismissed whether it had merit or not. His daughter, however, was treated a little kinder. Phyllippa Duke Schuyler was a pretty little curly-haired child piano prodigy who many young black girls aspired to be like and who was a source of pride for the black artistic community during the 1940s and early 50s. Her biography revealed her to life to have been rather lonely and confused, mainly because she was rejected by her white mother's side of the family and she died in her 30s in an accidental drowning. A movie of her life is supposedly in development by Halle Berry's production company with Alicia Keys slated to play the lead.
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|Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 03:52 pm: ||
George Schuyler was what some people today would call a "self-loathing negro"
(I'm going to surprise you, Cynique. I would NOT call Schuyler a self loathing Negro...
I'm pausing a moment to allow you to get up off the floor.
He indeed thought a lot of himself--his gut, his sexual appetites, his clothes, his mind, etc.
His act was calculated--
You know, I can give an unconsciously self loathing Negro a pass. He or she thinks the whole thing his her idea.
But Schuyler knew better. It was all for the bucks.
just like when Thurgood Marshall prosecuted Muhammad Ali.
During the civil rights movement, his conservative reputation was such an anathema to mainstream blacks that any commentary attributed to him was immediately dismissed whether it had merit or not
(It was the savage glee he took in going after MLK mostly did it, including exulting after the man was gunned down. That was over the line)
Her biography revealed her to life to have been rather lonely and confused, mainly because she was rejected by her white mother's side of the family and she died in her 30s in an accidental drown
(Those two sick f**** who were her parents tortured her to death, making her practice hours at the piano and putting her on weird diets and restricting her access to others.
She was not a child to them, but some kind of experiment to prove that interracial children were superior.
George was not a father or a husband, being mostly gone from home and as faithful as a rabbit.
If you can call going down in a helicopter in a warzone in Vietnam an accident, I don't know.
I hope Alicia Keys stays away from this star crossed project about a poor pitiful tortured little nut.
By the time she was in her 20's she could hardly stand the sight of a piano.
Her parents were guilty of child abuse.