George Schuyler

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George Samuel Schuyler
George Schuyler.jpg
George S. Schuyler photo taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1941
Born (1895-02-25)February 25, 1895
Providence, Rhode Island, US
Died August 31, 1977(1977-08-31) (aged 82)
New York City

George Samuel Schuyler (/ˈsklər/; February 25, 1895 – August 31, 1977) was an African-American author, journalist and social commentator known for his conservative views.

Early life[edit]

George Samuel Schuyler was born in Providence, Rhode Island, to George Francis (a chef) and Eliza Jane (Fischer) Schuyler. Schuyler's paternal great-grandfather was believed to be a black soldier who worked for Philip Schuyler, whose surname the soldier adopted. Schuyler's maternal great-grandmother was a Malagasy servant who married a ship captain from Saxe-Coburg in Bavaria.[1] Schuyler's father died when he was young. George spent his early years in Syracuse, New York, where his mother moved their family after she remarried. In 1912, Schuyler, at age seventeen, enlisted in the U.S. Army and was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, serving in Seattle and Hawaii. He went AWOL after a Greek immigrant, who was tasked to shine his shoes, refused to do so because of Schuyler's skin color. After turning himself in, Schuyler was convicted by a military court and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after nine months as a model prisoner.

Socialist beginnings[edit]

After his discharge, Schuyler moved to New York City, where he worked as a handyman, doing odd jobs. During this period, he read many books which sparked his interest in socialism. He lived for a period in the Phyllis Wheatley Hotel, run by black separatist Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and attended UNIA meetings. Schuyler dissented from Garvey's philosophy and began writing about his perspectives.

Although not fully comfortable with socialist thought, Schuyler engaged himself in a circle of socialist friends, including the black socialist group Friends of Negro Freedom. This connection led to Schuyler's employment by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen's magazine, The Messenger, the group's journal. Schuyler's column, Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire, came to the attention of Ira F. Lewis, manager of the Pittsburgh Courier. In 1924, Schuyler accepted an offer from the Courier to author a weekly column.

Early journalist days[edit]

By the mid-1920s, Schuyler had come to disdain socialism, believing that socialists were frauds who actually cared very little about negroes. Schuyler's writing caught the eye of journalist/social critic H. L. Mencken, who wrote, "I am more and more convinced that [Schuyler] is the most competent editorial writer now in practice in this great free republic." Schuyler contributed ten articles[2] to the American Mercury during Mencken's tenure as editor, all dealing with Black issues, and all notable for Schuyler's wit and incisive analysis. Because of his close association with Mencken, as well as their compatible ideologies and sharp use of satire, Schuyler during this period was often referred to as "the Black Mencken."

In 1926, the Courier sent Schuyler on an editorial assignment to the South, where he developed his journalistic protocol: ride with a cab driver, then chat with a local barber, bellboy, landlord, and policeman. These encounters would precede interviews with local town officials. In 1926, Schuyler became the Chief Editorial Writer at the Courier. That year, he published a controversial article entitled "The Negro-Art Hokum" in The Nation. (Langston Hughes's "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," a response to Schuyler's piece, appeared in the same magazine.) Schuyler objected to the segregation of art by race, writing about a decade after his "Negro-Art Hokum" article, "All of this hullabaloo about the Negro Renaissance in art and literature did stimulate the writing of some literature of importance which will live. The amount, however, is very small, but such as it is, it is meritorious because it is literature and not Negro literature. It is judged by literary and not by racial standards, which is as it should be."[3]

In 1929, Schuyler's pamphlet, Racial Inter-Marriage in the United States, called for solving the country's race problem through miscegenation, which was then illegal in most states.

In 1931, Schuyler published Black No More, which tells the story of a scientist who develops a process that turns black people to white, a book that has since been reprinted twice. Two of Schuyler's targets in the book were Christianity and organized religion, reflecting his innate skepticism of both. His mother had been religious but not a regular churchgoer. As Schuyler aged, he held both white and black churches in contempt. Both, in his mind, contained ignorant, conniving preachers who exploited their listeners for personal gain. White Christianity was viewed by Schuyler as pro-slavery and pro-racism.[4] In an article for the American Mercury entitled "Black America Begins to Doubt", Schuyler wrote: "On the horizon loom a growing number of iconoclasts and Atheists, young black men and women who can read think and ask questions; and who imperdiently demand to know why Negroes should revere a god that permits them to be lynched, Jim-Crowed, and disenfranchised."[5] He also positively reviewed Georg Brandes' book Jesus: A Myth in an article called "Disrobing Superstition."[6]

Between 1936 and 1938 he published in the Pittsburgh Courier a weekly serial, which he later collected and published as a novel entitled Black Empire. Schuyler also published the highly controversial book Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, a novel about the slave trade created by freed American slaves who settled Liberia in the 1820s.

In the 1930s, Schuyler published scores of short stories in the Pittsburgh Courier under various pseudonyms. He was published in many prestigious black journals, including Negro Digest, The Messenger, and W.E.B. Du Bois's The Crisis. Schuyler's journalism also appeared in such mainstream magazines as The Nation and Common Ground[disambiguation needed], and in such newspapers as The Washington Post and The New York Evening Post (forerunner of the New York Post).

Political views and later years[edit]

From 1937 to 1944, Schuyler was the business manager of the NAACP. During the McCarthy Era, Schuyler moved sharply to the political right and contributed to American Opinion, the journal of the John Birch Society. In 1947, he published The Communist Conspiracy against the Negroes. Schuyler's conservatism was a counterpoint to the predominant liberal philosophy of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1964, while working for the Pittsburgh Courier, Schuyler expressed opposition to Martin Luther King Jr.'s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, writing, "Dr. King's principal contribution to world peace has been to roam the country like some sable Typhoid Mary, infecting the mentally disturbed with perversions of Christian doctrine, and grabbing fat lecture fees from the shallow-pated."[7] The Courier editor, Robert L. Vann, refused to publish the essay and subsequently dismissed Schuyler from the paper.

Outlets for Schuyler's written work diminished until he was an obscure figure at the time of his death in 1977. As the liberal black writer Ishmael Reed notes in his introduction to a 1999 republication of Black No More, Schuyler's 1931 race satire, in the final years of Schuyler's life it was considered taboo in black circles to even interview the aging writer.

He wrote a syndicated column (1965–77) for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Schuyler's autobiography, Black and Conservative, was published in 1966.

Family[edit]

In 1928, Schuyler married Josephine Lewis Cogdell, a liberal white Texan heiress. Their daughter, Philippa Schuyler (1931–1967), was a child prodigy and noted concert pianist, who later followed her father's footsteps and embarked on a career in journalism. In 1967 Phillipa was killed on an assignment in Vietnam for Loeb's publication. His wife died two years later.


Selected writings[edit]

  • Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, 1931
  • Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free A.D. 1933–1940, 1931
  • Devil Town: An Enthralling Story of Tropical Africa (novella; published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier, June–July 1933)
  • Golden Gods: A Story of Love, Intrigue and Adventure in African Jungles (novella; published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier, December 1933 – February 1934)
  • The Beast of Bradhurst Avenue: A Gripping Tale of Adventure in the Heart of Harlem (novella; published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier, March–May 1934)
  • Strange Valley (novella; published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier, August–November 1934)
  • Black Empire, 1936–1938, 1993 (originally published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier in serial form as two separate works under the titles The Black Internationale and Black Empire) Google Books
  • Ethiopian Stories, 1995 (originally published pseudonymously in the Pittsburgh Courier in serial form as two separate works under the title The Ethiopian Murder Mystery and Revolt in Ethiopia) Google Books
  • Black and Conservative: the Autobiography of George Schuyler, Arlington House, 1966. ASIN: B000O66XD8
  • Rac(e)ing to the Right: Selected Essays of George S. Schuyler, 2001

References[edit]

  1. ^ Williams (2007), pp. 4–5.
  2. ^ *George S. Schuyler, “Our White Folks,” American Mercury, v. 22, no. 48 (December 1927), 385–392. Lead article.
    *George S. Schuyler, “Keeping the Negro in His Place,” American Mercury, v. 17, no. 68 (August 1929), 469–476.
    *George S. Schuyler, “A Negro Looks Ahead,” American Mercury, v. 17, no. 74 (February 1930), 212–220.
    *George S. Schuyler, “Traveling Jim Crow,” American Mercury, v. 20, no. 80 (August 1930), 423–432.
    *“George S. Schuyler,” in "Editorial Notes,” American Mercury, v. 20, no. 80 (August 1930), xx–xxii. Illustration, account of his military service, accomplishments.
    *George S. Schuyler, “Black Warriors,” American Mercury, v. 21, no. 83 (November 1930), 288–297.
    *George S. Schuyler, "Memoirs of a Pearl Diver," American Mercury, v. 22, no. 88 (April 1931), 487–496.
    *George S. Schuyler, "Black America Begins to Doubt," American Mercury, v. 25, no. 100 (April 1932), 423–430.
    *George S. Schuyler, “Black Art,” American Mercury, v. 27, no. 107 (November 1932), 335–342.
    *George S. Schuyler, “Uncle Sam's Black Step-Child,” American Mercury, v. 29, no. 114 (June 1933), 147–156. “Liberia is at once the hope and the despair of all race-conscious Negroes and friendly whites. In its early years it seemed a glorious vindication of the black race's capacity for self-government, but today only the lunatic fringe of Garveyite Aframaniacs remains deluded.”
  3. ^ "Forgotten One," by Nicholas Stix, National Review Weekend, February 3–4, 2001
  4. ^ Williams, Oscar Renal. George S. Schuyler: portrait of a Black conservative. 
  5. ^ "Famous Black Freethinkers". 
  6. ^ "The Black Atheists of the Harlem Renassiance". www.atheists.org. 
  7. ^ "Forgotten One," by Nicholas Stix, National Review Weekend, February 3–4, 2001.

Further reading[edit]

  • Andrew Buni, Robert L. Vann of the Pittsburgh Courier: Politics and Black Journalism (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974), Digital Edition
  • Charles Scruggs, The Sage in Harlem: H. L. Mencken and the Black Writers of the 1920s (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), ISBN 0-8018-3000-1
  • Jeffrey Ferguson, The Sage of Sugar Hill: George S. Schuyler and the Harlem Renaissance, Yale University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-300-10901-6, ISBN 978-0-300-10901-6
  • Oscar R. Williams, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative, University of Tennessee Press, 2007. ISBN 1-57233-581-5, ISBN 978-1-57233-581-3

External links[edit]

See also[edit]