| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
George Samuel Schuyler
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Schuyler received
a public school education in Syracuse, New York, before enlisting in the army
at age 17. During World War I, he produced satirical sketches for The Service,
a military publication. When he mustered out as a first lieutenant in 1919, he
began his long career as a professional journalist and wrote satirical columns
for a series of black newspapers, including The Messenger (New York City) and
the Pittsburgh Courier, the publication with which he was longest associated.
At the same time he published essays, sketches, and satirical pieces in
influential magazines such as The Nation, The American Mercury, and Reader’s
Digest. Schuyler also traveled overseas, especially to West Africa and Latin
America, as a foreign correspondent. In his later years he moved away from his
earlier socialistic bent to become a conservative anti-Communist, joining the
John Birch Society and writing for William Loeb’s Manchester (New Hampshire) Union
known for the stinging satires he published in the 1920s and 1930s, he
ridiculed the “colorphobia” of both black and white Americans in articles such
as “The Negro-Art Hokum” (1926), “Blessed Are the Sons of Ham” (1927), and “Our
White Folks” (1927). Black No More, the first full-length satiric novel by a
black American, hypothesizes an America in which a black doctor discovers a
formula that makes blacks white. Chaos results as whites try to become as black
as possible to distinguish themselves from their (formerly) black
brethren. Schuyler’s next novel, Slaves Today, savagely attacked the slave
trade in Liberia in the 1920s. His autobiographical Black and Conservative,
besides containing a wealth of information on just about every political,
social, literary, and journalistic black personality of the first half of the
century, is a shrill anti-Communist tract.
he maintained there was essentially no difference between black and white
Americans except in color (“the Aframerican is merely a lampblacked
Anglo-Saxon,” he once wrote), and because he ridiculed black leaders from
W.E.B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King, Schuyler was labeled in the heat of the
1960s as an “assimilationist” or “Uncle Tom” who thought “white” and sold out
to the establishment. It was an unfair assessment; during his long career
Schuyler demonstrated pride in his black heritage—a fact his critics too often
ignored, mistaking his iconoclastic stance as race hatred.
course Schuyler was perversely proud of his reputation as a shatterer of idols.
Such an attitude placed him in the company of several journalistic satirists of
last century—Ambrose Bierce, for example, and H. L. Mencken, who befriended him
and published some of his articles in the
American Mercury. The NAACP’s newspaper, The Crisis—in which he had once
been praised by its founder, W.E.B. Du Bois—lamented in 1965 that Schuyler had
become “a veteran dissenter and incurable iconoclast” who “dips his pen in his
ever-handy bottle of acid.” “The Negro Art-Hokum” appeared in the Nation in
1926 and is noteworthy because it constitutes yet another of Schuyler’s
sarcastic assaults on claims that there exist fundamental differences between
blacks and whites. The essay also elicted from Langston Hughes one of the most
important critical statements on black art of the time—“The Negro Artist and
the Racial Mountain.”
Greatest Gift to America” was first published in Ebony and Topaz in 1927 and
reprinted in V. F. Calverton’s Anthology of American Negro Literature (1929).
As a period piece, Schuyler’s essay presents a dismal view of the racial
situation in the 1920s. Its ironic, even savage, tone makes it uncomfortable
reading. Slashing Juvenalian satire usually is. Yet underlying the attack is a
more optimistic appeal to reason. In this as in his other works Schuyler seems
to say, “If Americans would only realize how absurd their colorphobia is, then
perhaps they would put it aside and behave like human beings.” It is a message
as relevant today as it was in 1927.
the 1930s, Schuyler published a number of non-satirical pieces, some of them
pseudonymously. These included eight African novellas, which were serialized in
the Pittsburgh Courier. Two of them were innovative pieces of science fiction,
“The Black Internationale” and “Black Empire,” and were published together in
1991 as Black Empire. Two more novellas, a murder mystery (“The Ethiopian
Murder Mystery”), and an international adventure story (“Revolt in Ethiopia”)
were collected under the title Ethiopian Stories in 1994.
Michael W. Peplow|
In the Heath Anthology
The Negro-Art Hokum
Our Greatest Gift to America
Black No More
Fifty Years of Progress in Negro Journalism
Black and Conservative
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A Research and Reference Guide
A bibliography of primary and secondary materials from the Perspectives in American Literature Project.
Peter M. and Mort N. Bergman, The Chronological History of the Negro in America, 1969
A.P. Davis and Michael W. Peplow, comps, The New Negro Renaissance, 1975
Nickieann Fleener, "George S. Schuyler," Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 29: American Newspaper Journalists, 1926-1950, 1984
Nathan I. Huggins, ed., Voices from the Harlem Renaissance, 1976
Norma R. Jones, "George Samuel Schuyler," Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 51: Afro-American Writers from the Harlem Renaissance to 1940, 1987
Michael W. Peplow, George Schuyler, 1980