Portrait of a Black Conservative

Article excerpt

Oscar R. Williams. George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative. University of Tennessee Press, 2007, pp. 207.

Historian Oscar L. Williams has written an overdue biography of African American journalist, George S. Schuyler. A leading journalist, polemicist, and conservative commentator of his day, Schuyler - who wrote primarily for the Pittsburgh Courier - pilloried political and cultural figures in the African American community from the Harlem Renaissance, in the 1920s, to civil rights leaders and the movement itself during the 1950s and '60s. Recently published by the University of Tennessee Press, George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative breaks new ground, and proposes that conservative figures such as Booker T. Washington were not as rare as the scholarly conventional wisdom suggests.

Williams, a professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York at Albany, traces the early years of Schuyler from the influence of the self-help ethos of his grandmother and single mother, to his years in the segregated US military after dropping out of high school. While in the military, Schuyler wrote satirical pieces in a military magazine, skills that he put to use (after military service) after arriving in Harlem in the 1920s, first writing for A. Philip Randolph's The Messenger and later, as the New York correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier. It is within the intellectual milieu of the Harlem Renaissance that the autodidact Schuyler "opposed the idea that the Harlem Renaissance was a definitive moment for all African Americans." According to Williams, Schuyler skewered literary and intellectual luminaries such as Jessie Fauset, W.E.B. DuBois, and Langston Hughes, both for their literary pretentiousness, and as self-proclaimed arbiters of "the race. …