Once again, “African-American History Month” is upon us.
Of course, these four weeks of February have little to do with actual history, and everything to do with ideology. That this is all about the advancement of a decidedly leftist political agenda is borne out readily enough by the conspicuous absence of the names of once-famous blacks who refused to endorse the conventional wisdom on the “civil rights era.”
One such person is George Samuel Schuyler.
The reason is simple: Schuyler, in spite of being one of the most incisive and compelling popular writers of the twentieth century, wasn’t just black; he was black and conservative.
Born in 1895 in upstate New York, Schuyler would eventually become associated with “the Harlem Renaissance.” And from the 1920’s through the 1960’s, he wrote for and edited The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest black newspaper publications in the country. During this time, Schuyler authored what many regard as the first racially-oriented science fiction novel, Black No More. His 1966 autobiography, Black and Conservative, has been credited by no less a figure than the black Ivy League left-wing scholar Cornel West as a “‘minor classic’ in African-American letters.” The famed iconoclast H.L. Mencken, of whom Schuyler was a protégé of a sort, described the latter as perhaps the ablest writer, black or white, of his generation.
Besides being an ardent anti-communist, Schuyler also had little good to say about those of his contemporaries who lead the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Although he had been a tireless champion of racial equality for all of his life, he regarded the plans of the civil rights activists as inimical to liberty.
For instance, while it was still a bill in Congress, Schuyler argued powerfully against what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Schuyler readily concedes that the white majority’s attitude toward the black minority is “morally wrong, nonsensical, unfair, un-Christian and cruelly unjust.” Still, because “it remains the majority attitude,” the federal Civil Rights law would be but “another typically American attempt to use the force of law to compel the public to drastically change [.]”
Although race relations weren’t where Schuyler wanted for them to be at this time, he was quick to point out that they had improved markedly since slavery had ended. He was equally quick to observe that “civil rights laws, state or federal, have had little to do with” such changes. Rather, it is “custom” that “has dictated the pace of compliance” with those civil rights laws that would have otherwise remained “dormant in the law books.”
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.