by Paul Kengor | February 21, 2023

A column by historian Mary Grabar in The American Spectator asks an excellent question, namely QUOTE: “Why does Black History Month ignore the author of ‘the most talked about column in Negro America?’” UNQUOTE

Grabar is certainly qualified to ask. For years she has worked on a major biography of George Schuyler, who in his day (he wrote from the 1930s through the 1970s) was dubbed the author of the most talked about column in (in the parlance of the day) Negro America.

Who was Schuyler, and why has he been forgotten?

States Grabar: “This once famous, trailblazing writer has been memory holed.”

Sadly, Schuyler has been memory holed for political-ideological reasons, because Schuyler was a prominent black conservative. He was also a stalwart anti-communist who spent much time calling out black and white leftists sympathetic to Marxism-Leninism—an ideology that once nearly enticed Schuyler himself, but that he thoroughly repudiated and brilliantly dissected. Grabar writes of Schuyler QUOTE: “He sounded the alarm about communists from the time he first began working for a publication, the black socialist monthly the Messenger, in 1923.” UNQUOTE

Once he landed at the great Pittsburgh Courier, arguably America’s leading black newspaper, Schuyler was more outspoken. So much so that even the Courier got nervous.

“By the 1960s,” writes Grabar, “Schuyler became persona non grata in black publications, including the Pittsburgh Courier. Schuyler began writing more for such [conservative] publications as the Manchester Union LeaderAmerican Opinion, and Human Events. In 1966, the Pittsburgh Courier was sold, and Schuyler’s 42-year association was ended.”

I appreciate Grabar’s interest in Schuyler. In fact, in September 2017, I wrote a long tribute piece on Schuyler for the 40th anniversary of his death.

My recollection and Grabar’s are especially apt this time of year, i.e., Black History Month. It greatly troubles us that always on short lists of prominent black Americans hailed this month are Marxists such as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson, who was a literal Stalinist.

Langston Hughes declared QUOTE: “Put one more ‘S’ in the USA to make it Soviet. The USA when we take control will be the USSA.” In one poem, Hughes put it this way: “Goodbye Christ, Lord Jehovah; Beat it on away from here, make way for a new guy with no religion at all; A real guy named Marx, Communism, Lenin, Peasant, Stalin, worker, me.”

That was Langston Hughes.

To George Schuyler, that was outrageous. It was less poetry than sophistry. Worse, it was tragically wrong thinking about a lethal ideology responsible for the deaths of countless millions.

And yet, today, it is the writings of Langston Hughes that are required reading in public schools, not George Schuyler’s. Stalinist Paul Robeson is celebrated, including with a Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Penn State University, among other things named for him in our universities. They’re conveniently disassociated from that odious ideological baggage. When historians like me bring it up, we’re portrayed as the bad guys—as conservative reprobates.

As for George Schuyler, not only was he never suckered by these deadly ideologies, but he sounded the alarm against them. He took on the likes of DuBois and Hughes and Robeson. It was a key reason why he was indeed once the most influential black columnist in the country.

So, why is Schuyler not remembered during Black History Month? The reason is prejudice: that is, political prejudice. He is, in effect, discriminated against by liberal historians and educators because he was a black conservative Republican. And that is a shame. George Schuyler was a great American and a great talent.

For American Radio Journal, I’m Paul Kengor. Thanks for listening.