Hubert Henry Harrison: "The Black Socrates"
Hubert Henry Harrison was born April 27, 1883 in Estate Concordia, St. Croix. As a child and adolescent Harrison was no stranger to poverty, but his mental disposition was very much molded by the rebellious culture of St. Croix. He learned much of African customs and the direct actions that Cruzians took toward racial oppression. D. Hamilton Jackson, another prominent Virgin Islands activist, was his schoolmate and life long friend. Later in life Harrison would work with many more Virgin Islands born activists.
Harrison moved to the mainland in 1900. He joined his older sister in New York and attended night school while working various service jobs. He had never encountered racial oppression to the level the United States perpetuated. Despite all of this, The World, a local New York Newspaper described Harrison as a 'genius'. In 1903, the New York Times published an early letter written by Harrison. Before the United States bought the Danish West Indies, later know as the United States Virgin Islands, Harrison naturalized himself and became a citizen of the US.
Within the fist ten years Harrison continued to write letters the New York Times and began lecturing around New York. He worked with many other activists in the area and eventually became interested in the Free Thought Movement. This movement encouraged scientific method, reason, and thought processes apart form theistic dogma.
In 1907 Harrison started work at the United States Post Office. He became an outspoken critic of the Republican Party and Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, as well as Booker T. Washington, a prominent black leader. His opposition to Washington however lost him his Post Office position. After being fired from the USPS he joined the socialist movement, but then later left.
In 1917 Harrison became especially active in Virgin Island causes after the United States purchase of the Danish West Indies. The abuses that they suffered from the U.S. Navy's occupation were foreign to them under Danish rule.
Later he teamed up with Marcus Garvey and his United Negro Improvement Association by writing for the Negro World, UNIA's newpaper, although he never formally joined UNIA. He brought the Negro World to the height of its publication, but later became critical of Garvey's tactics and ceased work. It was during these years and those following that he became known as the Black Socrates, for his association with the Free Thought Movement, and his ideas on class and race relations.
Due to complications of an appendectomy, Hubert Henry Harrison died in New York at the age of 44, on December 17, 1927.
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