Schuyler, George S.
Schuyler, George S.
February 25, 1895
August 31, 1977
The journalist George Samuel Schuyler, often considered a political gadfly because of his move from young radical socialist to arch-conservative later in life, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1895. Raised in Syracuse, New York, he attended school until he was seventeen, when he dropped out to enter the U.S. Army. He spent seven years in the service and saw action as a first lieutenant in France during World War I.
After leaving the service, Schuyler was active in the labor movement, sometimes moving between Syracuse and New York City. He finally settled in New York as the Harlem Renaissance began. Although never a star of the Renaissance, he served as its goad. It was Schuyler's essay, "The Negro-Art Hokum," for example, that spurred Langston Hughes's now classic 1926 response, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." Both essays appeared in the Nation. In 1923 Schuyler joined A. Philip Randolph's Messenger as a columnist and assistant editor, and he later became its managing editor. The publication was considered so fiery that several southern members of Congress brought it under House investigation.
Schuyler moved on to do publicity for the NAACP, whose publication The Crisis, under the editorship of W. E. B. Du Bois, had opposed the radicalism of Randolph, Schuyler, and others. Schuyler's first book, Racial Intermarriage in the United States, was published in 1929.
In 1931 Schuyler published two novels—Black No More and Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia. The first is a scathing satire in which black people are able to ingest a certain chemical that causes them to vanish from Harlem and reappear elsewhere as whites. Slaves Today describes the slavelike labor conditions in Liberia. A third novel, Black Empire, assembled from fiction serialized from 1936 through mid-1937 in the Pittsburgh Courier, a black weekly newspaper, was posthumously published in book form in 1991. The novel tells of a black elite, headed by a fascistlike black genius, that revenges wrongs done by whites in the United States, gathers an army and air force, and heads to Africa, where the genius of black scientists carves out a black empire that defeats all incursions by European whites. Schuyler wrote this work under the pen name of Samuel I. Brooks. (He also used Brooks and other pseudonyms until 1939 while publishing fiction in the Courier.)
From 1927 to 1933, Schuyler published nine essays in H. L. Mencken's American Mercur y. Eugene Gordon, a black communist of the period, wrote in 1934 in Nancy Cunard's Negro that Schuyler was "an opportunist of the most odious sort," which indicates that to some he had already distanced himself from socialism. Shortly thereafter, Schuyler began a forty-year sojourn with the Courier. While he published furiously, he noted that his primary interest was in "having enough money to live on properly." He supplemented his sixty-dollar weekly Courier salary by publishing in several white-owned journals, including the Nation, Plain Talk, and Common Ground.
During his prime, Schuyler was considered to be one of the best journalists working. His satire was called Rabelaisian, and he frequently played devil's advocate. He and his wife, Josephine, had a daughter, Philippa, in 1931. A prodigy who had grown to become a noted concert pianist, she was killed in 1967, at age thirty-five, in a helicopter crash while on tour in Vietnam. Schuyler died in 1977.
Peplow, Michael W., George S. Schuyler, New York: Twayne, 1980.
Schuyler, George S. Black and Conservative: The Autobiography of George S. Schuyler. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1966.
john a. williams (1996)