Vital Signs

The Black Nationalism of George S. Schuyler

Decisions, decisions. Such is the life of a black man in America today. Whether to be a black nationalist, a black Muslim, an Afrocentrist, or simply a color-blind Christian—a.k.a. an "Oreo," a traitor to the black race. Such choices are not new; they were made by black Americans in earlier generations, dramatically in the ease of George S. Schuyler.

Now largely forgotten, Schuyler had more influence on black readers than any other black journalist in his time or since, and only W.E.B. DuBois (who was far less prolific as a journalist) could match him for talent. Soldier, journalist, satirist, pulp-fiction writer, editor, intellectual—the "black Mencken" (as Schuyler was known) was one of America's most gifted observers. A radical individualist, Schuyler made a career of lampooning "race men," many of whom he accused of secretly desiring to be white. And yet, at times, he wrote as a virulent race man, speaking approvingly "as a military man" of a coming racial conflagration. He spent most of his career (1924-1966) writing for the Pittsburgh Courier, long America's most popular national weekly Negro newspaper, written for colored people who did not mix with whites, but in 1928 he married a white woman, the former Josephine Cogdell.

Schuyler, the son of a chef, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and raised in Syracuse, New York. Schuyler's Syracuse...

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