On the 132nd Anniversary of Pioneering Black Radical Hubert Henry Harrison’s Birth…

hubert-henry-harrison01The same folks who’d have us believe politics is just Republicans and Democrats, and that the current black political class is the culmination of black history have tried to erase the history of black giants like socialist Hubert Henry Harrison, whom historian Joel A. Rogers called “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” and who was a mentor to Marcus Garvey.

Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) is a true giant of Black, Caribbean, Diasporic African, and U.S. radical history. He was a brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist who was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color, as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time” and by A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.”

Harrison was born to an immigrant mother from Barbados and a formerly enslaved Crucian father on Estate Concordia in St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands), on April 27, 1883. On St. Croix he lived amongst immigrant and native-born working people, learned customs rooted in African communal systems, and grew with an affinity for the poor and with the belief that he was equal to any other. He also learned of the Crucian people’s rich history of direct-action mass struggle including the 1848 enslaved-led emancipation victory; the 1878 island-wide “Great Fireburn” rebellion in which women played prominent roles; and the October 1879 general strike.

After arriving in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900 Harrison made his mark over the next twenty-seven years by struggling against class and racial oppression and by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among those he affectionately referred to as “the common people.” He played unique, signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro Movement”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s. His talks before large crowds at Wall and Broad Streets (on Socialism) and in Harlem after the 1917 pogrom against the East St. Louis African-American community (East St. Louis is less than 12 miles from Ferguson) were precursors to recent “Occupy” and “Black Lives Matter” movements.

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  1. Blogs Jeffrey B. Perry’s blog

Independent Engineer Report Supports Dismantling the Harlem Watchtower

largerHARLEM — An independent report on the structural integrity of the watchtower atop Marcus Garvey Park supports the Parks Department’s claim that the tower needs to be taken down as soon as possible.

Preservationists called for the report after finding out that an emergency contract to take down the tower did not mention anything about the restoration process.

Both the Parks Department and the Department of Buildings cited a 2009 report by Thornton Tomasetti when saying the tower needed to come down immediately.

The new independent report, released in October, states that the 157-year-old tower’s “major structural components are deteriorated, in some cases severely.”

“The approaches described by Thornton Tomasetti remain valid and the preferred option seems to be the optimal solution,” the report by Robert Silman Associates states.

While preservationists agree that the tower must be disassembled, they want to ensure that priority is given to the restoration process.

The tower, which will begin to be taken down by the end of the month, is expected to be restored by 2017, according to the Parks Department.

“The concern has always been that the cast iron components of the historically significant and landmarked fire watchtower should not linger in storage during a lengthy drawn out procurement process,” said Connie Lee of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

During an October community board meeting, concerned locals pointed to an unfinished club house near the park’s baseball diamond as a sign that the Parks Department does not get projects done in time.

Last week, Parks Department Manhattan Chief of Staff Steve Simon answered the “unfair” criticism by pointing out that the department has completed eight projects at Marcus Garvey Park since 2002.

Those projects include installing a safety surface for the playground, restoring the paths and staircase leading up to the top of the park, reconstructing the amphitheater and renovating the east side of the park by adding a spray shower, benches and chess tables.

“Removing the tower should be thought of as the first step in the restoration process,” he said.

The Parks Department added an additional $2 million to the $4 million previously raised by preservationists, elected officials and other groups, he added.

By Gustavo Solis on November 20, 2014 2:26pm


Augusta Savage at the 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair

Augusta Savage, Artist   Photographs and Prints Division,  Schomburg Center for Research in  Black Culture

Augusta Savage, Artist
Photographs and Prints Division,
Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture

Augusta Savage was born in Green Cove Springs, Florida in 1892 and began sculpting as a child. She received formal training in 1921 at Cooper Union in New York City. She gained recognition for her busts of prominent Black leaders, such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, while also making her mark as an art teacher and mentor for art students. Savage was politically active in the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and throughout the 1930s and 1940s maintained a teaching studio in Harlem. She ran many of her classes at the 135th Street Library of the New York Public Library, now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She won a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for her first important work, Gamin, a plaster model of her nephew Ellis Ford. Savage founded the Savage Studio for Arts and Crafts (1932), was one of the founders of the Harlem Artists Guild (1935), and was the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center (1937). In these and other positions she influenced the careers of many now-celebrated artists, including Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and the photographers Morgan and Marvin Smith.

Augusta Savage at work on The Harp   Manuscripts and Archives Division,  Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Augusta Savage at work on The Harp
Manuscripts and Archives Division,
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

In 1937, Savage was commissioned by the World’s Fair to create a work that was to commemorate and symbolize the musical contributions of African Americans. She chose the national Black anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with words by James Weldon Johnson and music by J. Rosamond Johnson, as her inspiration. Her work would become the famed sculpture, The Harp . The strings were represented by Black Americans and the soundboard was the arm and hand of God. The Harp was one of the most popular works of art at the Fair; unfortunately, it was destroyed after the Fair closed because Augusta Savage did not have funds to have it cast in bronze, or to move and store the piece.

Three divisions of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture have holdings related to Augusta Savage. The Art and Artifacts Division has a small bronze version of the original sculpture of The Harp as well as selections of her other sculptures. The Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division has her personal papers, and additional portraits and photographs of her at work are also available in the Photographs and Prints Division.

Click here to learn more about the Schomburg Center’s Black History Month programs and events.

Marcus Garvey Park – Harlem Travel Guide – iPhone, iPad, and iPod

Host to “The Black Woodstock” in the summer of 1969

Marcus Garvey Park, one of the oldest parks in New York City, is located between 120th and 124th Streets between Fifth and Madison Avenues, and is approximately 20 acres in size. In approximately 1835, the park’s land was acquired and the park opened in 1840. Originally named Mount Morris Park (for which the surrounding neighborhood’s historic district is named), in 1973 the park was renamed in honor of Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), who was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and crusader for Black Nationalism and who, in 1919, established the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The park is home to the only surviving fire watchtower, which was designed by Julius Kroehl and erected in 1855-1857. It was declared a landmark in 1967 because of its unique post-and-lintel cast-iron construction, which provided the prototype framing for the modern-day skyscraper, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The Watchtower serves as an important community landmark. In an effort to contain fires in NYC an elaborate reservoir system was constructed which included the Watchtower and the Croton Aqueduct. The park is also home to the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, which contains a state-of-the-art physical fitness center, a 1,700-seat amphitheater (which was a gift from Broadway musical giant Richard Rodgers, who grew up across from the park in the early 1900s), and the Harlem Little League, which won the Mid-Atlantic Championship in 2002. The Amphitheater is the site for two popular annual events—the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in late August and the two-day Dance Harlem Festival in September.

Facilities: Basketball courts, two dog runs, Olympic-size pool, playgrounds, recreation center that houses a fitness center containing cardiovascular equipment and a weight room, baseball field, barbecue area, African drumming circle, senior citizen program, computer resource center, and amphitheater where summer cultural events are staged.

Check out the unique brownstone at 4 West 123rd Street, which was “dressed up” by it owners in 1885 with an elaborate cast-iron fence and gate and a stamped, galvanized tin oriel window. Then stop by the Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church and checkout one of the only three copper domes in New York.

Transportation: Bus—M1, M7, M60, M100, M101, M102, M104, BX15. Subway—A, B, C, D, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Metro North to 125th St.

Enjoy the show


  • More than 360 entries with over 2000 photographs
  • This visually rich app consists of detailed New York City visitor’s information from visitor centers, tourist websites, weather, news, holidays, sales tax, smoking rules, tipping and transportation to and from airports and in the city
  • Detailed descriptions which include uncommonly known cultural and historical facts, websites, phone numbers, hours of operation, prices, menus and hyperlinks that link entries and lead to websites for additional historical and factual information.
  • Entries sorted by name, category, distance, price, and neighborhood
  • Once click to websites, phones, online ordering, online reservations, current menus and more
  • Live calendar
  • Ability to share user comments and mark and save favorites
  • Ask the authors questions through in-app comments to get personalized feedback at your finger tips
  • YouTube videos
  • GPS enabled Google maps with walking, driving and mass transit directions
  • Access offline content anytime
  • Free upgrades for life

What’s inside

  • Nightlife and entertainment from jazz, Latin salsa, opera to classical music;
  • Theatre, dance, spoken word and more;
  • Restaurants featuring soul food to French cuisine and everything in between;
  • Unique ethnic retail shops;
  • Museums that celebrate various cultures;
  • Fine art galleries;
  • Majestic churches and gospel music;
  • Amazing landmarks;
  • Parks and free recreational activities;
  • Guest accommodations;
  • Free internet access and Wi-fi locations;
  • Authentic tours of Harlem;
  • Annual events and festivals;
  • Sales & Deals

   Literally a guide in my pocket

Posted by Max on 13th Jan 2012

I can only subscribe to what other people already have told about the guide. It’s just great that I can read a place description, actually give a call its manager, find it on a map and even hook up on its Twitter channel to keep my eye on it. Very smart!

Harlem Travel Guide is available in App Store for $2.99!

Follow Welcome to Harlem on:

Website www.welcometoharlem.com  Yelphttp://www.yelp.com/biz/welcome-to-harlem-new-york Trip Advisorhttp://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d1977036-Reviews-Welcome_to_Harlem-New_York_City_New_York.html


Due to the great number of Black atheists that have come out of Harlem, I have decided to blog about them. My last posting focused on some of the women. Now I will focus on some of the men.

Claude McKay was one of the leading poets of the humanistic arts and literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s-1940s. He was raised a Catholic. However, he was exposed to atheism, freethought, and rationalism at an early age during his childhood in Jamaica. His older brother, U. Theo, was a freethinker and embraced Fabian socialism. U. Theo had contacts with influential British humanists, and he became a member of Britain’s Rationalist Association. He read widely on rationalism. Eventually, young Claude founded an agnostics group composed of boys his age.

McKay’s best-known poem is “If We Must Die.” McKay was motivated to write the poem in response to deadly violence against Blacks by White supremacists. He called upon Black people to defend themselves rather than die “like hogs.” Winston Churchill read the poem aloud (without properly accrediting McKay) to rally his people against the Germans during W.W. II.

Though McKay had been a nonbeliever for several years, he again embraced Catholicism near the end of his life.

Langston Hughes was widely regarded as Black America’s poet laureate. His poetry influenced Martin Luther King, Lorraine Hansberry and numerous other prominent African Americans. His writings were wildly popular among the Black masses, from whom he drew his strength. He, too, was a major poet during the Harlem Renaissance.

In “Salvation” from his autobiography The Big Sea, Hughes discussed a negative experience with religion when he was about 13. He asked Jesus to come into his life and save him from sin. However, nothing happened, and he was devastated.

As an adult, Hughes wrote some works deemed blashpemous by critics. Two poems, “Goodbye Chrsist,” and “Christ in Alabama,” were strong targets of religious critics. Hughes’s leading biographer, noted scholar Arnold Rampersad, wrote that Hughes was “secular to the bone.” However, he loved the drama and passion of religion, such as the singing.

In personal correspondence to humanist writer Warren Allen Smith, Hughes stated that he was certainly nonreligious. However, he rejected the term “humanist,” even though the term could certainly describe his life stance. Like Claude McKay, Hughes became increasingly religious in his later years.

Jean Toomer wrote what is widely regarded as the greatest masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance, Cane. The novel features non-religious characters that critique religion’s hold upon African Americans. One character, Kabnis, refers to Blacks as “a preacher-ridden race.”

Toomer attended lectures on atheism, science and numerous other topics. He was familiar with the work of Clarence Darrow and other agnostics of his day. He was very well-read in history, religion, and many other subjects, and drew upon his vast knowledge to add depth to his writing.

Carlos Cooks was the leader of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement in Harlem during the 1960s. Cooks and other members of the group spoke on the streets of Harlem. They displayed red, black and green flags at their rallies and called for Black self-determination. They promoted atheism. However, the group was essentially reactionary, and they made homophobic comments and assumed other reactionary positions.

John Henrik Clarke was a major Afrocentric historian. He was the man behind Malcolm X: The Man and His Times, and other excellent books. He wrote the introduction, commentary, and bibliographic notes for the 1972 edition of anthropologist J.A. Rogers’s World’s Great Men of Color (2 volumes).

Clarke seemed to have believed in some vague concept of God. However, he was a strong critic of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He was highly critical of the late Libyan dictator Mu’ammer Gaddafi and Louis Farrakhan, calling them “fakers.” He accused Gaddafi of using his oil money to buy African leaders. He said that Farrakhan is a theocrat, and that only a fool wants to live in a “religious” society. He was especially furious over Farrakhan’s support of the slave-owning regime of mass murderers in North Sudan. Prior to the first Million Man March, Clarke said that as long as Farrakhan supported the regime in Khartoum, “I’m not marching anywhere with Farrakhan.”

Joel Augustus Rogers spent over 50 years researching history and uncovering little-known facts about Black people throughout the world. He traveled to 60 nations and won numerous awards. He spoke at rallies organized by the Black nationalist Marcus Garvey. As an atheist, he believed that Black people should read more Nietzsche and less Jesus. He believed that Christianity did a great deal of harm to people of African descent. However, he generally thought highly of Islam.

Rogers’s books include Africa’s Gift to America, As Nature Leads, Nature Knows No Color Line, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, Your History: From the Beginning of Time to the Present, The Ku Klux Spirit, The Real Facts About Ethiopia, and Sex and Race (Three Volumes).

James Baldwin was one of the greatest essayists in U.S. history. His best-known work is The Fire Next Time. He wrote movingly and shockingly about race relations. During his youth, Baldwin was a preacher. He came to the conclusion that religion was phony at an early age. He was highly critical of Christianity. However, though he rejected the racial dogma of the Nation of Islam, he had a great deal of respect for its leaders, particularly Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X.

Last but not least, Hubert Henry Harrison was one of the leading intellectuals of the early part of the 20th century. He was originally from St. Croix, a Caribbean island. He supported women’s rights and human rights struggles throughout the world. He became an agnostic during his first ten years in New York City, and he was skeptical of paranormal claims.

According to Harrison’s leading biographer, Jeffrey B. Perry, Harrison’s New Negro Movement paved the way for Alain Locke’s 1925 highly influential publication of The New Negro. Harrison’s movement was embraced by the ordinary people and was political. Conversely, Locke’s movement was not political, and it was embraced primarily by the middle class.

Harrison argued for the taxation of churches and in defense of the separation of church and state. He defended evolution and wondered how Black people could worship a White Jesus. He viewed Christianity as a major weapon used in the war against the poor. In Harlem, he sold books containing speeches of the 19th century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll.

Harrison greatly influenced Marcus Garvey. He devised the first tripartite colored flag for unity. (Garvey would later develop the red, black and green flag.) Harrison promoted the idea of “Negro First” when he discovered that the socialists of his day put the interests of Whites before class interests. Harrison advocated armed self-defense against White supremacists. (Garvey would later popularize the expression, “The New Negro is ready for the Klan.”)

Perry summed up Harrison well by stating that he “was the most class conscious of the race radicals, and the most race conscious of the class radicals. ” (Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, (Vol. 1).

These are just some of the great Black atheist men of Harlem. Harlem has been home to groups of nontheists such as the Harlem Atheist Association and the Center for Inquiry/Harlem group. Harlem has hosted debates on the role of religion in the Black community and other important issues. Influential people from this community have long provided strong evidence that not all Black people embrace the God concept.

(For more information on great Black atheists of Harlem, see my first book African-American Humanism: An Anthology.) 

Harlem’s New Renaissance

125th Street and Lenox Avenue.

For much of the 20th century, private developers ignored Harlem, deterred by its high crime rate, profusion of subsidized housing, and long trek from Midtown. During the malaise of the 1970s, the city owned well over half of the real estate in this storied neighborhood, long regarded as the nation’s black cultural capital.

Then, in the past decade, everything changed. As property values in other Manhattan districts soared, Harlem became the new development frontier. City leaders helped spur the transformation, cracking down on crime and rezoning key arteries such as 125th Street to make them more developer-friendly. Meanwhile, nonprofit groups, like the Harlem Children’s Zone, continued to invest in the community.

New additions to Harlem include the modern Parc Standard located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard

The effects have been striking. Luxury condo buildings, bougie shops, and a surge of new residents have appeared. According to census figures, whites went from 2 percent of Harlem’s population to 9.8 percent between 2000 and 2010. People of all ethnicities and income levels now consider Harlem when hunting for a Manhattan home, due largely to its real estate bargains. The average sale price of a two-bedroom unit here is $694,000; in SoHo, it’s $2.1 million. “Harlem has become a viable alternative to markets in the south,” says Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraiser Miller Samuel.

But with change inevitably comes conflict. And perhaps no urban metamorphosis is more incendiary than the one taking place in Harlem, where Duke Ellington took the “A” train, Langston Hughes wrote racially charged poems, and Marcus Garvey launched his “Back to Africa” campaign. Tied to these memories is Harlem’s milieu: housing projects, stately brownstones, soul-food restaurants, jazz lounges, hair-braiding shops, and churches large and small. With gentrification in full swing, Harlem residents don’t just fear losing their homes; they fear losing their history, their culture.

Architecture plays a role in this saga. “It’s starting to look like downtown,” says Jaylene Clark, a young Harlem native who critiques the neighborhood’s gentrification in her new play, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale. A mile-long stretch of Frederick Douglass Boulevard reveals how quickly redevelopment can take hold. In recent years, more than a dozen condo developments, plus a chichi hotel and bevy of fashionable stores and eateries, have cropped up in the area, rebranded as SoHa (South Harlem). Architecturally, some recent structures refer to the existing buildings — mostly brick tenements rising five to eight stories. Others, however, contrast with their 19th-century counterparts in terms of scale and aesthetics. The Parc Standard, a modern, charcoal gray mid-rise designed by Architects Studio with Gene Kaufman, juts high above the roofline of two flanking buildings. The 28-unit Parc, with condos listed from $375,000 to $790,000, sold out within 11 months.

Surprisingly, Michael Henry Adams, a staunch local preservationist and author of Harlem: Lost and Found, is pleased with the new additions on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. For the most part, they “are quiet buildings that recede into the background and become good neighbors,” he says. “As a whole, it’s remarkably harmonious, particularly given what could have been there.” Once pockmarked with vacant lots, the area was rezoned in 2003 to promote residential and commercial growth. The new land-use regulations specified contextual design and capped building heights, preventing an invasion of glistening glass towers.

“You have to balance this need to develop properties and manage growth with a sensitivity toward what Harlem used to be, and what Harlem is to longtime residents. It’s not easy,” says Paimaan Lodhi, the district manager for Community Board 10, which covers central Harlem. The revitalization of Frederick Douglass Boulevard is a major success, he says, noting that crime has dropped 16.5 percent in 10 years and many of the new residential buildings contain affordable units. To critics of the redevelopment, he asks: “What’s the alternative? Vacant lots? Prostitutes and crack peddlers? We have a vibrancy there that we haven’t seen in decades.”

Even Clark acknowledges gentrification’s benefits. “I do feel safer,” the playwright says. But as for her preference for the old or new Harlem, there’s no simple answer. “In an ideal world,” she says, “I’d take elements of both and put them together.”

Little-Known Black History Fact: Manning Marable and the Power of Harlem

Manning Marable (above) was a leading historian of black history and author of a long-awaited biography on Malcolm X.

Manning Marable was a leading historian of black history and author of “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” a long-awaited biography on Malcolm X released this year. In one of his writings called “Anything’s Possible,” Marable examines the history of Harlem and its evolution to an African-American mecca.

Dating back to 1914 and the migration of blacks from the south, Harlem was home to over 50,000 blacks. By 1930, that number had grown to well over 200,000. With the growing number of people came the establishment and migration of churches, like the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The associations that came to Harlem gathered around West 135th and 125th streets, even though businesses in the area were not black-owned at the time.

Major political movements spread through Harlem, building a spirit of empowerment. Among those was Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Over 25,000 blacks marched down Harlem streets in 1920 in African colors to uphold Garvey’s message. Also with the movement came the tradition of soapboxing. Marable wrote that black socialist and orator Hubert H. Harrison began this tradition. On 135th or 125th, you could find a passionate standing on a soapbox or ladder, preaching their political agenda. Many were followers of the Nation of Islam. Following Harrison was A. Phillip Randolph, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Marcus Garvey.
Marable stressed the birth of political mobilization and the Harlem tradition of empowering blacks to take action in the community. Though Harlem is no longer the largest black city in New York, its power through political culture and activism reaches beyond other cities. Launching leaders like former famor David Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rev. Calvin Butts and Malcolm X, Harlem linked the rest of the world to the black power movement.

According to the late, great Manning Marable, Harlem is where differences are negotiated.

By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show

Malcolm X: bigMINORITY

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Norton Little, was a homemaker occupied with the family’s eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Earl’s civil rights activism prompted death threats from the white supremacist organization Black Legion, forcing the family to relocate twice before Malcolm’s fourth birthday.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Klu Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home… Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out.”

Regardless of the Little’s efforts to elude the Legion, in 1929 their Lansing, Michigan home was burned to the ground. Two years later, Earl’s body was found lying across the town’s trolley tracks. Police ruled both incidents as accidents, but the Little’s were certain that members of the Black Legion were responsible. Louise suffered emotional breakdown several years after the death of her husband and was committed to a mental institution. Her children were split up amongst various foster homes and orphanages.

Growing up

Malcolm was a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,” Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings.

“…Early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”

Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis, moved back to Boston. In 1946 they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges, and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (He was paroled after serving seven years.) Recalling his days in school, he used the time to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm’s brother Reginald would visit and discuss his recent conversion to the Muslim religion. Reginald belonged to the religious organization the Nation of Islam (NOI).

Intrigued, Malcolm began to study the teachings of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the NOI fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname “X.” (He considered “Little” a slave name and chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name.)

A born leader

Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed as a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, as well as radio and television to communicate the NOI’s message across the United States. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.

The crowds and controversy surrounding Malcolm made him a media magnet. He was featured in a week-long television special with Mike Wallace in 1959, called “The Hate That Hate Produced.” The program explored the fundamentals of the NOI, and tracked Malcolm’s emergence as one of its most important leaders. After the special, Malcolm was faced with the uncomfortable reality that his fame had eclipsed that of his mentor Elijah Muhammad.

Racial tensions ran increasingly high during the early 1960s. In addition to the media, Malcolm’s vivid personality had captured the government’s attention. As membership in the NOI continued to grow, FBI agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted as Malcolm’s bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps, cameras and other surveillance equipment to monitor the group’s activities.

A test of faith

Malcolm’s faith was dealt a crushing blow at the height of the civil rights movement in 1963. He learned that his mentor and leader, Elijah Muhammad, was secretly having relations with as many as six women within the Nation of Islam organization. As if that were not enough, Malcolm found out that some of these relationships had resulted in children.

“I am not educated, nor am I an expert in any particular field… but I am sincere and my sincerity is my credential.”

Since joining the NOI, Malcolm had strictly adhered to the teachings of Muhammad – which included remaining celibate until his marriage to Betty Shabazz in 1958. Malcolm refused Muhammad’s request to help cover up the affairs and subsequent children. He was deeply hurt by the deception of Muhammad, whom he had considered a living prophet. Malcolm also felt guilty about the masses he had led to join the NOI, which he now felt was a fraudulent organization built on too many lies to ignore.

Shortly after his shocking discovery, Malcolm received criticism for a comment he made regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon,” said Malcolm. After the statement, Elijah Muhammad “silenced” Malcolm for 90 days. Malcolm, however, suspected he was silenced for another reason. In March 1964 Malcolm terminated his relationship with the NOI. Unable to look past Muhammad’s deception, Malcolm decided to found his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque, Inc.

A new awakening

That same year, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The trip proved life altering. For the first time, Malcolm shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures, and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive. When he returned, Malcolm said he had met “blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers.” He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration and a new hope for the future. This time when Malcolm spoke, instead of just preaching to African-Americans, he had a message for all races.

“Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth.”

After Malcolm resigned his position in the Nation of Islam and renounced Elijah Muhammad, relations between the two had become increasingly volatile. FBI informants working undercover in the NOI warned officials that Malcolm had been marked for assassination. (One undercover officer had even been ordered to help plant a bomb in Malcolm’s car).

After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965 the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was firebombed. Luckily, the family escaped physical injury.

The legacy of “X”

One week later, however, Malcolm’s enemies were successful in their ruthless attempt. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

“Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm’s funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child’s Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). After the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves.

Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.

Malcolm’s assassins, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam.

The legacy of Malcolm X has moved through generations as the subject of numerous documentaries, books and movies. A tremendous resurgence of interest occurred in 1992 when director Spike Lee released the acclaimed movie, Malcolm X. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Costume Design.

Malcolm X is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Metropolitan’s Sixth Annual Living Literature Features Harlem Renaissance Fest

Metropolitan Playhouse hosts The Harlem Renaissance Festival, the theater’s sixth annual Living Literature Festival of performances inspired by the lives and works of American authors. The Festival is a collection of seven new works by artists and companies from near and far taking their inspiration from The Harlem Renaissance. Performances take place daily from January 17 to 30 at Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 East Fourth Street.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.metropolitanplayhouse.org, or by phone at 212 995 5302.

The Harlem Renaissance Festival includes musical, poetic, one-act and full-length plays ranging from adaptations to biographical fantasy. Rather than an exhaustive survey of the literature of the period, The Harlem Renaissance Festival is a deep exploration of several well- and lesser-known artists and their oeuvre. All in all each new work is presented four times over the festival. (Project descriptions and schedule follow.)
Artists and figures featured include poets Langston Hughes, Georgia Doulas Johnson, Countee Cullen, Angelina Grimke, and Paul Laurence Dunbar; composers Duke Ellington, Fats Waller; journalist and activist Marcus Garvey, as well as surprising personages such as enterprising purveyer of good eats, Pig Foot Mary, and librarian Belle da Costa Greene-first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library.

Additional events include readings of salient works, and discussions with contemporary artists and scholars.

Artist participants in the festival include Danny Ashkenasi (beTwixt, beTween & be TWAIN “Evocative and exciting … gorgeous … beautiful … A musical voice that commands attention” – nytheatre.com” ); Leah Maddrie (O’Neill Conference semi-finalist, EST Sloan Foundation commission); Daniel Carlton (Artistic Director of Committed Artists of Color); students from the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy; David Lally (Little Edie and the Marble Faun “[a] touching examination of memory and loss.” – Backstage); Juliane Hiam (writer-in-residence at MassMOCA; A Tanglewood Tale – Melvilapalooza); and Xoregos Performing Company.

Previous years’ festivals were the Poefest (2006), Twainathon (2007), Hawthornucopia (2008-“exhilarating”–nytheatre.com), and Melvillapalooza (2009 “divine…. put the life and works of Melville in a new light” – New Theatre Corps), and Another Sky (2010). Metropolitan Playhouse explores America’s theatrical and cultural moment. Metropolitan has earned accolades from The New York Times, The Village Voice, BackStage, and nytheatre.com. Recent noted productions include Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Drunkard, Dodsworth, The Return of Peter Grimm, Year One of the Empire, The Pioneer: 5 plays by Eugene O’Neill, Denial and The Melting Pot.

Tickets are $18.00 per show. Student and senior discounts are $15.00. Children under 18 $10.00. TDF vouchers are accepted. Visit http://www.metropolitanplayhouse.org for more information and to purchase tickets online or call 212 995 5302
Read more: http://offbroadway.broadwayworld.com/article/Metropolitans_Sixth_Annual_Living_Literature_Fest_Features_Harlem_Renaissance_20101227#ixzz19KelFeXy


Historian to Direct Schomburg Center in Harlem

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a history professor at Indiana University, has been named the new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to begin in July. New York Public Library officials made the announcement on Wednesday, ending a sometimes contentious search.

Dr. Muhammad, 38, will succeed Howard Dodson Jr., 71, who in April announced his plan to retire after leading the Schomburg, a research library within the city public library system, since 1984. Under Mr. Dodson’s leadership the Schomburg’s holdings of artifacts related to the global black experience doubled to 10 million items from 5 million. Mostly recently the center acquired the papers of Maya Angelou, a collection that joined treasures like a rare recording of a Marcus Garvey speech and documents signed by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Under Mr. Dodson visitors to the Schomburg Center, at 515 Lenox Avenue, at 135th Street, in Harlem, tripled to about 120,000 people annually.

In Dr. Muhammad, a Chicago native, the library has chosen a scholar with an interest in race relations to face one of the biggest challenges confronting all libraries in the Internet age: posting materials online while also luring people away from their computers and into library buildings.

Dr. Muhammad, who has been at Indiana University since 2005, is the author of “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America” (Harvard University Press, 2010), a well-received exploration of how notions of black criminality were crucial to the creation of urban centers. On his Indiana University Web site, Dr. Muhammad lists research interests that include the racial politics of criminal law, policing, juvenile delinquency and punishment, as well as immigration and social reform.

Leading the Schomburg is “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Dr. Muhammad said in an interview on Wednesday. He plans to continue his scholarly work, he said, and use the Schomburg as a bully pulpit to move black history to the center of American public discourse.

“I’m a person who’s passionately committed to the voices of black people and in making sure those voices are part of the historical record and continue to inform the conversation about race, the meaning of race and the legacy of racism in this country,” Dr. Muhammad said.

A married father of three young children, he said his goals for the Schomburg included making it more appealing to children, perhaps using the model of children’s museums with interactive displays.

As a member of the hip-hop generation, he said he planned to be active in acquiring the papers of a new generation of black achievers, including entertainers, scholars and athletes. “Maybe not President Obama, but perhaps Michelle Obama,” he said.

And as the Schomburg Center continues to digitize its holdings and think strategically about how to present itself on the Internet, Dr. Muhammad said scholars might play a role in translating their work to a wider audience.

Dr. Muhammad majored in economics at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a doctorate in American history from Rutgers. He was a fellow in the New York office of the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit criminal-justice reform organization. He is a great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, a prominent leader in the Nation of Islam, and the son of Ozier Muhammad, a photographer for The New York Times.

Selecting a successor to Mr. Dodson was at times a bumpy process. Soon after Mr. Dodson announced his retirement plans, rumors began that he had been forced out and that the Schomburg’s holdings would be moved to the library’s main home at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

The speculation became so intense that on July 15 Mr. Dodson posted a memo on the Schomburg Web site to dispel those rumors. At the end of July library officials held what they called a “community conversation” at the Schomburg to set the record straight. Mr. Dodson reassured the crowd that the Schomburg would not close, that it would not leave Harlem, and that he certainly had not been forced out.

Some vocal audience members that night, including City Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn, said they would fight hard to see the position go to Molefi Kete Asante, a professor of African American Studies at Temple University. Dr. Asante is one of the most widely published scholars in black studies, his supporters said, and is known for his Afro-centric perspective on history. The nine-member search committee charged with finding Mr. Dodson’s successor chose Dr. Muhammad from among 200 applicants.

On Wednesday Mr. Dodson called his successor “an excellent choice.”

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and a member of the search committee, said he expected Dr. Muhammad to have a “great” relationship with the Harlem community and beyond.

Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, who made the appointment after the search committee’s unanimous recommendation, said of Dr. Muhammad on Wednesday,

“What we get in him is a kind of intellectual and personal vigor, even charisma, that’s captivating.”