Gerald Horne is an African-American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He received his PhD from Columbia University and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a frequent contributor to Political Affairs magazine.
A prolific author, Horne has published on W. E. B. Du Bois and has written books on a wide range of neglected but by no means marginal or minor episodes of world history. He specialises in illuminating previously obscure or misrepresented struggles of humanity for social justice, in particular communist struggles and struggles against imperialism, colonialism, fascism and racism. Individuals whose lives his work has highlighted in their historical contexts have included the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter John Howard Lawson, Ferdinand Smith (Jamaican-born communist, sailor, labor leader), the perplexing Lawrence Dennis, an African-American fascist and racist who passed for white, and the feminist, anti-colonialist, internationalist intellectual Shirley Graham DuBois whose own career was overshadowed by that of her famous husband. While many of Horne's books use a celebrated, intriguing or politically engaged individual as a prism to inspect the historical forces of their times, Horne has also produced broad canvas chronicles of infrequently examined periods and aspects of the history of white supremacy and imperialism such as the post-civil war involvement of the US ruling class—newly dispossessed of human chattels—with slavery in Brazil, which was not legally abolished until 1888, or the attempts by Japanese imperialists in the mid-20th century to appear as the leaders of a global war against white supremacy, thus allies and instruments of liberation for people of color oppressed by Anglo-American Empire.
Historiography in and for the radical tradition
Gerald Horne is an uncomprisingly committed Marxist with an accessible writing style, a gift for clarity in his lectures and a dry wit. At the afternoon devoted to Shirley Graham Du Bois at the conference on Black Women and the Radical Tradition (held at Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education), Horne said:
The purpose of my brief remarks this afternoon is to use the life and times of Shirley Graham Du Bois as a vehicle for trying to understand how and why we need to think about revitalizing the radical tradition through the means of revisioning and rewriting our history, our past. I argue in these remarks that like other historians - for Shirley Graham Du Bois was among other things an historian - she tended to stress in her history writing, like most of the writers of her generation, the "Crispus Attucks" aspect of our history, I'm sure you're familiar with Crispus Attucks, he goes down in history as the first person to be slain in the uprising against British rule in then-British North America and a symbol of how black people have shed their blood to help to construct this country. Which of course is true and is accurate. But it only begins to tell part of the story, as I'll try to elaborate on in my remarks. I think today it's particularly important to talk about revitalizing our past so that we can reinvigorate the radical tradition in light of this precipitous downturn that we see in the capitalist economy. Newsweek has been amongst the many journals that have told us "We're All Socialists Now", which some might be surprised to hear. In Latin America, certainly in the most recent election in El Salvador, and in Latin American generally, one can easily espy a shift to the left. The quipsters are suggesting that the recently departed President George W. Bush entered office in 2001 as a social conservative but then after being compelled to nationalize various enterprises he leaves office as a conservative socialist. When you note that in South Africa you have a Communist Party minister sitting in office in Pretoria, and perhaps the same will take place in New Delhi, after the elections that take place in the late spring, it's time to revive that aspect it seems to me reality is shouting at us, time to revitalize that aspect of black history that stresses our ancestors who as early as the 18th century were actually trying to overthrow the government of the United States of America, as opposed to shedding their blood to help to create the government of the United States of America.
In a speech given at an event marking the depositing of the Communist Party USA archives at the Tamiment Library at New York University, Horne remarked at length on the writing of history, its importance, and the grievous proliferation of propagandistic historiography in the US:
Now it is often said that every generation has to rewrite history. For example, at one time there was a prevalent "moonlight and magnolias" version of slavery and Reconstruction that fundamentally portrayed "happy Negroes" during the slave era and portrayed the period following slavery as a dastardly period of Negro misrule and corruption. This began to change in the 1930s with the publication of Du Bois’ magisterial ‘Black Reconstruction’ and changed decisively with the publication of Eric Foner’s ‘Reconstruction.’"
One of the reasons why I personally – and I daresay future generations – are so pleased by the depositing of these CPUSA archives is because it is painfully obvious that the history of the Communist movement in this nation is long overdue for a massive rewriting and these archives will prove indispensable in that process.
It is easy to see why future generations will be displeased with much of the present history that has been written to this point about the Communist Party because it has been incredibly biased, one-sided, deeply influenced by the conservative drift of the nation – not unlike pre-Du Bois histories of Reconstruction – and, fundamentally, anticommunist.
- Black and red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American response to the Cold War. SUNY Press (1986)
- Black Liberation/Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party. University of Delaware Press (1994)
- Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising And The 1960s. Da Capo Press (1997)
- From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980. University of North Carolina Press (2000)
- Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950 : Moguls, Mobsters, Stars, Reds and Trade Unionists. University of Texas Press (2001)
- Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois. NYU Press (2002)
- Black and Brown: African Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920. NYU Press (2005)
- Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire. NYU Press (2005)
- The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten. University of California Press (2006)
- The White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas After the Civil War. University of Hawaii Press (2007)
- The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade. NYU Press (2007)
- Blows Against the Empire: U.S. Imperialism in Crisis. International Publishers (2008)
- Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica. NYU Press (2009)
- Mau Mau in Harlem?: The U.S. and the Liberation of Kenya. Palgrave MacMillan (2009)
- The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States. NYU Press (2009)
- W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography. Greenwood (2009)
- The End of Empires: African Americans and India. Temple University Press (2009)
- Younge, Gary, "The Fascist who 'passed' for white" (review), The Guardian, 4 April 2007.
- Video: http://vimeo.com/10364725
- Recorded speeches and interviews
- On The Global Civil Rights Struggle at the conference, The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories, given by the Southern Oral History Program, April 2–4, 2009 (Video)
- On Shirley Graham Dubois at the Graduate Center for Worker Education at Brooklyn College (Video)
- On the Redscare and the Hollywood Blacklist on NPR