Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), presented a paper on the conservative African American intellectual George Schuyler on June 8 at the Policy History Conference, organized by Donald Critchlow. The biennial conference offers an interdisciplinary forum for academy scholars, independent scholars, and graduate students to discuss policy history topics and recent policy history research. The conference is co-sponsored by the Institute for Political History, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational foundation; the Journal of Policy History; and the Center for American Institutions at Arizona State University. This year’s conference was held in Columbus, Ohio, from June 7 to 9.
Dr. Grabar is writing a book on Schuyler. Her paper, “George S. Schuyler, Star Columnist of Harlem,” traced the development of his thought, who in the 1930s, according to an article by poet Melvin Tolson in the American Mercury, was publishing “the most discussed column in Negro America.” Schuyler’s “Views and Reviews” column in the Pittsburgh Courier propelled the newspaper to first place among the hundreds of black weekly newspapers in circulation in the 1930s and 1940s. But by the 1960s, because of his transition from socialism to conservativism, Schuyler was effectively banished from “Negro America.”
Dr. Grabar argued against a common explanation for Schuyler’s ideological shift, which was based on opportunism and abandonment of black civil rights. She showed that the seeds of Schuyler’s conservatism were evident in his socialist years in his condemnation of violent Communist strategies that made African Americans the “spearhead of the revolution,” his bourgeois values and belief in orderly reform, his concern for promoting access to the middle class for African Americans, and his anti-statist, “anarchistic” beliefs that allied with those of Albert J. Nock, an inspirational figure for the post-World War II conservative movement.
The major precipitating factor was the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Schuyler’s hopes for a “sensible evolutionary program of socialism” that would provide a level playing field for jobs under the National Recovery Act were soon shattered when the New Deal programs proved to be costly to and discriminatory against black Americans. Schuyler’s ideological conversion was bolstered by his associations in the 1930s with such conservatives as Suzanne La Follette, an editor at Nock’s The Freeman and fellow member of the Executive Committee of the Writers League against Lynching, and Congressman Hamilton Fish, who had introduced three military equality bills in 1938. Both these, and other civil rights efforts, were rejected by Roosevelt.
On Saturday, June 10, Dr. Grabar also appeared as a guest during a Twitter spaces event hosted by Deb Fillman to counter the Zinn Education Project’s “Teach Truth Day of Action.” On Tuesday, June 13, she appeared on Terry Maxwell’s program on KNZR in Bakersfield, California, to discuss Debunking Howard Zinn.