Compiled By NAN News Editor
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Feb. 16, 2018: There is no denying that black Caribbean immigrants brought their revolutionary, pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit to the US from way back in 1700s and that spirit lives on to today. Here are six radical West Indians in US black history you may not know:
1: Founder Of The First Black Owned And Operated Newspaper In The United States
The first black newspaper in the US was founded by Jamaican immigrant John Russwurm in collaboration with Delaware-born Samuel Cornish. Freedom’s Journal began on March 16, 1827 in New York City as weekly four column publication printed every Friday. The newspaper contained both foreign and domestic news, editorials, biographies, births and deaths in the local African-American community, and advertisements. Editorials deriding slavery, racial discrimination, and other injustices against African Americans were aimed at providing a counterweight to many of the white newspapers of the time, which openly supported slavery and racial bias.
2: The Father Of The “Harlem Radicalism” and “The Black Socrates”
St. Croix-born Hubert Henry Harrison has been described by activist A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem radicalism” and by the historian Joel Augustus Rogers as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” John G. Jackson of American Atheists also described him as “The Black Socrates.”
Harrison immigrated to the US at age 17 and went on to become a writer, orator, educator, critic, and race and class conscious political activist and radical internationalist based in Harlem, New York. Harrison played significant roles in the largest radical class and race movements in the United States. In 1912-14 he was the leading Black organizer in the Socialist Party of America and in 1917 he founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper of the race-conscious “New Negro” movement. He died on the operating table during a surgery for appendicitis at the age of 44.
3: Founder And Chairman Of The Negro Labor Committee
Also born in St. Croix was Frank R. Crosswaith, who went on to become the founder and chairman of the Negro Labor Committee after serving as a long-time socialist politician, activist and trade union organizer in New York City. Crosswaith immigrated to the US in his teens and went on to found an organization called the Trade Union Committee for Organizing Negro Workers in 1925. But this work went by the wayside when Crosswaith accepted a position as an organizer for the fledgling Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. In 1924, he ran on the Socialist ticket for Secretary of State of New York, and in 1936 for Congressman-at-large. He ran also for the New York City Council in 1939 on the American Labor ticket. Crosswaith was elected to the governing executive committee of the American Labor Party in New York in 1924. He also worked with A. Philip Randolph during World War II in organizing the March on Washington Movement, which was called off when President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to sign Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination in defense industries. Crosswaith died in 1965 at age 73.
4: Founder Of The African Blood Brotherhood And Publisher Of The Crusader
Nevis-born Cyril V. Briggs was the founder of the African Blood Brotherhood, a small but historically important radical organization dedicated to advancing the cause of Pan-Africanism; and publisher of The Crusader, a seminal New York magazine of the New Negro Movement of the 1920s. Briggs’ father was a white plantation overseer and his mother, was of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity. In accord with the racial caste system in colonial Nevis, the bi-racial Briggs was regarded as “coloured” despite his extremely light complexion. He moved to the US in July 1905 to join his mother, who had already emigrated here. In 1917, shortly after Hubert Harrison founded the Liberty League and The Voice, Briggs founded the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), to stop lynching and racial discrimination, and ensure voting and civil rights for African Americans in the South.
Briggs saw American White-Black racism as a form of “hatred of the unlike” that draws “its virulence from the firm conviction in the white man’s mind of the inequality of races—the belief that there are superior and inferior races and that the former are marked with a white skin and the latter with dark skin and that only the former are capable and virtuous and therefore alone fit to vote, rule and inherit the earth.”
Briggs reminded his readers that racial antipathy is a two-way street and that “the Negro dislikes the white man almost as much as the latter dislikes the Negro.” Briggs died on October 18, 1966 in Los Angeles, California at age 88.
5: Founder Of The Emancipator
Of similar ilk was W. A. Domingo, the Jamaican-born publisher of The Emancipator. Domingo was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the youngest son of a Jamaican mother and a Spanish father. In 1912, he left Jamaica for the United States, settling initially in Boston before moving to New York. Having first met Marcus Garvey in Kingston, Domingo became the founding editor of Garvey’s newspaper the Negro World.Through this role, he gained the attention of Alain Locke during the Harlem Renaissance. Domingo was a contributor to Locke’s anthology The New Negro. Domingo’s essay “The Gift of the Black Tropics” gave an account of the sudden immigration of foreign-born Africans of the West Indies to Harlem during the early 1920s. He later joined with Richard Moore to launch The Emancipator, a magazine devoted to Marxism as the liberating ideology for African America. In 1925, the magazine advocated openly for the use of guns to rid black people of white oppression.
6: Founder of the Frederick Douglass Book Center in Harlem
Barbados-born Richard Benjamin Moore was the founder of the Frederick Douglass Book Center in Harlem. He was born in Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados, on August 9, 1893 and moved to the US with his family on July 4, 1909. His family became some of the earliest blacks to settle in Harlem, New York. By 22, Moore became a follower of Socialist and fellow West Indian émigré Hubert Henry Harrison. He also became active in the 21st Assembly District Socialist Club in Harlem in 1915 and became so radical that he was one named by the U.S. Justice Department as a possible candidate for deportation in 1920. Nonetheless, he and partner Domingo launched The Emancipator and two years later become the first African American to join the American Communist Party. In 1942, Moore turned his attention to his second passion, the collection and distribution of books on worldwide black history and culture and soon opened the Frederick Douglass Book Center in Harlem which soon became regionally known for carrying rare texts on black people, previously considered extinct. Moore died on August 18, 1978, in Hastings, Christ Church, the place of his birth. He was 85.