Why Does Black History Month Ignore the Author of ‘The Most Talked About Column in Negro America’? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Why Does Black History Month Ignore the Author of ‘The Most Talked About Column in Negro America’?
Portrait of George S. Schuyler, 1941 (Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

Each Black History Month seems to focus less on black Americans who made good, and more on the followers of Karl Marx.

The forefather of this tradition is W.E.B. Du Bois, who in his late years joined the Communist Party USA, renounced his American citizenship, and moved to Ghana, a guest of Marxist dictator Kwame Nkrumah, a development promoted by the National Endowment for the Humanities educational site.

Du Bois inspired Stalinist Angela Davis, a fugitive in 1970 for providing the gun that killed a judge in the case of fellow Black Panther prison guard murderer George Jackson. A PBS lesson teaches how Davis became an admirable symbol of “Black Power” via the FBI “wanted” poster. Barnes & Noble recommends her autobiography, about a “life of activism,” for Black History Month.

The bookstore also promotes the discredited 1619 Project books, last month made into a documentary. The classroom “viewing guide” for the episode “Capitalism” blames capitalism for slavery.

Even the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which originated Black History Week in 1926 under the leadership of historian Carter Woodson, has strayed from such themes as “Significant Achievements of the Negro” (1930) and “Negro History: A Foundation for a Proud America” (1959). This year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” features a photo of Angela Davis and a presentation on “Black Liberation Theology.” Here and elsewhere the communist clenched fist dominates.

Schuyler revealed the alliance between communists and fascists, the sabotaging of reform movements, the similarities in “The Red Klan, the White Klan and the Black [Nationalist] Klan.”

Nowhere, however, is there a mention of George S. Schuyler (1895–1977), a promoter of Woodson’s project of teaching black history in what was described in the December 1933 American Mercury by the poet Melvin Tolson as “the most discussed column in Negro America” — “Views and Reviews” in the Pittsburgh Courier. Tolson said about Schuyler, “I have heard his opinions attacked and defended in barbershops, Jim Crow cars, pool rooms, classrooms, churches, and drawing-rooms.” After his trip to Liberia in 1931, Schuyler became the first black international correspondent for a major newspaper. His novel Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia offered the “first attempt at a realistic assessment of Africa by a black writer,” and Black No More the first full-length satire.

This once famous, trailblazing writer has been memory holed because he sounded the alarm about communists from the time he first began working for a publication, the black socialist monthly the Messenger, in 1923. In 1936, Schuyler commented on “Chatwood Hall,” who had sung the praises of the new Soviet constitution in the NAACP’s Crisis.

“Mr. Chatwood Hall is an expatriate Aframerican parked on the Soviet payroll in Russia,” Schuyler informed readers. “His job is to beat out fantastic stories about the Bolshevist Valhalla for circulation in the Aframerican press.” With Du Bois, who had traveled to Russia in 1926 and was on his way there again, in mind, Schuyler wrote: “Let some vacationing Aframerican professor be greeted as cordially in Leningrad as he would be in Munich and Comrade Hall tosses red nosegays all over the place. The inference always is that Communist Russia treats Negroes better than capitalist America.” The self-described Olde Cynic, and disenfranchised blacks, knew that constitutions without enforcement were meaningless. Still:

Badly off as are peons in Mississippi, they are not hustled off to the prison farm at Parchman if they fail to shout hosannas every time the name of “The Man” Bilbo is mentioned. Negroes in Florida and Texas have loudly and persistently fought in the courts and complained in their newspapers and conferences against various acts and policies of their respective governments, and survived to continue the battle. Such action in Russia would bring the OGPU down on them like a hailstorm and the next thing they knew they would be in … northern Siberia.

On Feb. 13, 1937, Schuyler described Soviet Russia’s draconian punishments, show trials, and concentration camps for “counter-revolutionaries.” Schuyler pointedly quoted this sentence: “The status of the peasant … is comparable with that of the sharecroppers, with an all-powerful State as landlord, telling them what and how much they must plant.” He concluded, “Under these conditions, I would like to ask these Red Uncle Toms, who glibly condone murder, calculated famine, torture and denial of elementary liberties, what difference it makes what the new Soviet Constitution says?”

Chatwood Hall was Homer Smith. In 1932, at the age of 22, he had moved to Moscow. But like many American expatriates, he could not leave. Finally, in 1946, he escaped to Ethiopia. In 1958, he and his Russian-born wife and two children were admitted to the United States. On March 15, 1958, Schuyler discussed Smith, who, in “the vanguard of Senegambians,” had “flocked to the Communist ‘paradise’ after becoming disillusioned by the U.S. economic depression and the sad plight of Uncle Tom’s children.” But they became “far worse off than their relatives in Georgia and Mississippi.” Several had “disappeared.” Gullible people had “avidly swallowed and spewed out the Communist’s Moscow-made propaganda, and swore by Benjamin Davis, Jr., Paul Robeson, Doxey Wilkerson, W.E.B. DuBois and a hundred others I could name.”

In his 1964 book Black Man in Red Russia, Smith described meeting the First Black Communist, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, former drama critic for the Messenger, who was working in Russia as a teacher — and zealous organizer and propagandist. In 1924, Fort-Whiteman had been the first African American to attend a Comintern training school in Moscow. He was sent back to the U.S. to recruit. One success was James Ford.

But for his dedication, Fort-Whiteman met an early, horrific death in one of the worst gulags in Siberia. Collaborating in his grisly fate were two black communists, William Patterson and James Ford, Fort-Whiteman’s own recruit.

Schuyler had warned readers, beginning in his very first column. He revealed the alliance between communists and fascists, the sabotaging of reform movements, the similarities in “The Red Klan, the White Klan and the Black [Nationalist] Klan.” He quipped that “Negro Communist comrades” would not get a “square deal” in the millions of dollars “shipped from Russia to bring about the revolution.” (As the Soviet archives, opened in the 1990s, confirmed, “Moscow Gold” was real.) In his Oct. 10, 1925, column, Schuyler wrote: “The latest joke to come out of Chicago is the statement by Mr. Lovett Fort Whiteman, head of the Negro Labor Congress, that the ‘Reds do not control the movement.’ Of course they don’t; they only furnished the money to make the movement possible!”

From Moscow also came orders — to employ “tactics” of agitation with “placards, platform prancing and processions” — that put the lives of African Americans, such as the Scottsboro Boys accused of rape, at risk.

Throughout the 1930s, Schuyler, while inveighing against “the methods of the old Russian Okhrana,” expressed hope in an Americanized “sensible evolutionary program of socialism” that would assure “private property and economic opportunity for all.”

But Schuyler was disabused of this idea by the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency, under which the state did, indeed, tell farmers “what and how much they must plant”! After World War II, Schuyler emerged as a defender of constitutionalism, states’ rights, and entrepreneurship. In 1947, he declared, “[T]he primary struggle today is between collectivism and individualism as represented by the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.”

By the 1960s, Schuyler became persona non grata in black publications, including the Pittsburgh Courier. Schuyler began writing more for such publications as the Manchester Union Leader, American Opinion, and Human Events. In 1966, the Pittsburgh Courier was sold, and Schuyler’s 42-year association was ended.

In his autobiography Black and Conservative (1966), Schuyler continued his lifelong campaign of promoting black history. On Oct. 9, 1937, Schuyler had called “the general ignorance of the part colored people have played in the history of this and other countries” a “tragedy.”

But “black studies,” first instituted in 1969 at San Francisco State University after a “strike” by students, was not black history. Writing in Human Events, Schuyler blasted the capitulation to the “belligerent demands of black militants and assorted prospective teachers of these arcana.” It was “indoctrination in black racial mythology,” intended to “flatter frustrated Negro youth … while at the same time brainwashing white students.” Schuyler pointed to the ASALH’s Journal of Negro History and Negro History Bulletin as among the means by which to learn real black history.

Schuyler, in his reporting, offered stories about countless successful black American entrepreneurs, farmers, and professionals that defied the communist narrative. It’s time to give these people, and Schuyler, their due.

Mary Grabar, a former professor of English, now resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, is completing her biography of George Schuyler and is the author of Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (2019) and Debunking The 1619 Project: Exposing the Plan to Divide America (2021).

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