Schuyler, George S. (George Samuel), 1895-1977

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1895-02-25
Death 1977-08-31
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

African American writer and journalist; author of the satirical fantasy "Black no more."

From the description of Papers of George Samuel Schuyler [manuscript], 1932-1966. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647833639

Author, journalist; interviewee d.1977.

From the description of Reminiscences of George Samuel Schuyler : oral history, 1960. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309724720

George S. Schuyler (1895-1977) was a conservative African-American journalist, satirist, author and editor.

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was an American writer and photographer and a patron of the Harlem Renaissance.

From the guide to the George S. Schuyler Typescript, 1964, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

George S. Schuyler (1895-1977) was a conservative black journalist, satirist, author and editor. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island on February 25,1895 to George Francis Schuyler, a chef, and Eliza (Fischer) Schuyler. The Schuyler family was from the Albany-Troy area, a great grandfather having served under General Philip Schuyler, and his racially mixed maternal line was from the New York/New Jersey area. Schuyler grew up in Syracuse, New York and when not traveling for his career, spent most of his adult life in New York City.

Seeing few opportunities for an education or a career upon graduation from high school, Schuyler served in the United States Army from 1912-1918, becoming a first lieutenant. Most of his military career was spent in Hawaii, where he began writing satire in 1916 for The Service . After his military service Schuyler returned to Syracuse for a time where he worked as a handyman and construction worker. It was there, in November 1921, that he joined the Socialist Party of America in his search for intellectual stimulation.

In 1922, Schuyler rented a room at the Phyllis Wheatley Hotel in New York City, then operated by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was headed by Marcus Garvey. Schuyler attended UNIA meetings but grew dissatisfied with the racist overtone of the Back-to-Africa Movement. He also attended meetings of other black groups including the socialist Friends of Negro Freedom run by Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph, both of whom were also critics of the Back-to-Africa Movement.

From 1923-1928 Schuyler worked at The Messenger, first in the office and then writing a column for The Pittsburgh Courier, a black weekly newspaper. For eight months, from 1925-1926, he traveled around the south soliciting agents for circulation and writing on his observations of the relationship between the white and black communities. In 1926 he was asked to write the paper's editorials which he continued to do until 1969. During the mid 1920s, he also began publishing in The Nation, a Fabian socialist periodical, and other left wing publications. In 1927, at the invitation of H. L. Mencken, Schuyler published "Our White Folks" in The American Mercury which won him widespread attention.

Schuyler attributed his shift to conservative politics to his observations of the South during the 1925-1926 tour for The Pittsburgh Courier . It became his belief that the American black could only succeed by working in cooperation with whites within the democratic system toward mutual economic gain, a view he described as "economic self-help through consumers cooperation". In 1930 he attempted to implement this theory by establishing Young Negroes' Cooperation League. His work began appearing in The Freeman and other publications that he felt best expressed his new leanings. In addition, his work was published in literary anthologies.

In 1931 Schuyler's first book, Black No More, was published, a satiric novel in which blacks, through the use of science, become white and blend into mainstream society causing an upturn in the social and economic structure of the country. The early half of 1931 was spent editing The National News, a small newspaper for the United Colored Democracy, a Harlem based Democratic Party club, even though Schuyler for much of his life voted Republican. That same year, at the invitation of publisher George P. Putnam, Schuyler was sent to Liberia to investigate reports of modern day slave trading of Liberians to Spanish plantations off the coast of western Africa. Accounts of the trip were published in his newspaper column and in The American Mercury and The Globe .

The Scottsboro trial in 1931 led Schuyler to make a pledge to himself to devote much of his writing to the cause of exposing what he saw as communist infiltration of black civil rights movements. In 1935, James V. Spadea began a national syndication of anti-communist articles which included George Schuyler's column, "For the Record."

Schuyler joined Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1932 to investigate the working conditions of black laborers employed by the Mississippi Flood Control Project. For a few years Schuyler joined the NAACP publicity department which resulted in an eighteen-article history of the organization, and from 1937 to 1944, Schuyler acted as business manager for NAACP's organ The Crisis .

In 1935 The Pittsburgh Courier renewed its efforts to secure agents in every county of Mississippi and Schuyler was asked to accomplish this goal while sending back news items on his interviews and experiences. In 1937 he traveled throughout the country for an assignment on black labor and unions, and in 1939 he joined the Committee for Cultural Freedom, which dedicated itself to the promotion of international intellectual freedom. Their publication was a bulletin entitled Cultural Freedom .

Schuyler wrote for various publications (in some cases becoming their first Africa-American freelance contributor) in the early 1940s on World War II, Japanese internment, and problems caused by the mass influx of southern laborers to northern factories. An appeal was sent out to form the Association for Tolerance in America, aimed at white audiences for a mass education on race relations and the promotion of equality. The promotion, in the form of posters, newspaper advertisements, and brochures called on Americans to create an environment of equality for the black soldiers to come home to. The program came at a time of great urban unrest but Schuyler continued to believe that progressive education was the means to win equal rights and respect, and his efforts helped spur the eventual integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.

In 1944, The Pittsburgh Courier gave Schuyler the post of editor of their New York edition and he strove to express an international view on communism, race relations, and politics. From 1947 to 1950 Schuyler was a contributing editor to Plain Talk, an anti-communist periodical, and during this same period (1947-1948) he went on his third investigative tour for The Pittsburgh Courier, interviewing people across the country on the availability and condition of schools, accomodations, and work for blacks. This was followed by a profile on Harlem and in 1948 a tour of Latin America assessing racial conditions there.

At the end of June 1950, Schuyler attended and spoke at the first international conference for the Congress of Cultural Freedom in Berlin, held to counter communism. His paper "The Negro Question Without Propaganda" was subsequently published as Congress Paper number 23. A condensed version, retitled "The Phantom American Negro" was published in The Freeman and reprinted on a large scale including Reader's Digest and their international editions. During this European trip Schuyler visited Norway to cover the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Ralph Bunche.

By the 1960s Schuyler's views were out of step with the growing civil rights movement. He believed that the mass media's attention to the problems within the black community and their standing in society did an injustice to the progress that had been made and hindered future gains. (He was also in favour of the United States' involvement in Vietnam.) He denounced rioting and marching alike as communist-inspired, made light of the "Black is Beautiful" promotion of African hair and clothing styles, and stated in an editorial that Martin Luther King was undeserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Pittsburgh Courier refused to publish the latter editorial and distanced itself from Schuyler's viewpoints by publicly stressing that he was not an associate editor, while The Crisis represented his views as outmoded. In 1965 Schuyler became affiliated as writer and lecturer with the American Opinion, edited by Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society) and with the American Opinion Speaker's Bureau. Much of Schuyler's work was published and aired through these two vehicles until 1970.

In 1969 Schuyler lost his wife, Josephine E. Lewis Schuyler (Josephine Cogdell Schuyler according to Schuyler's autobiography). Prior to her marriage in 1928, Texas-born Josephine had been an actress, model, dancer, and painter; later, their interracial marriage served as a subject for articles by both. Their daughter, Philippa Duke Schuyler, born in 1931, was a child prodigy. She knew six languages and at a very early age was an accomplished pianist, composer, orchestrator, and author. She travelled extensively in Europe, the West Indies, Africa, and Southeast Asia as a journalist, writing books and articles on world affairs as well as music. She was a foreign correspondent for the Manchester Union at the time of her death in 1967, in a helicopter accident while evacuating children from Hue to Da Nang.

The main outlets for Schuyler's writing during the 1970s were the conservative Manchester Union, where he was literary editor, and his "The Arts" column for Review of the News . George S. Schuyler died on August 31, 1977 in New York.

[Contemporary Authors, volumes 81-84, Detroit: Gale Research, 1979.]

Obituaries: New York Times, September 7,1977, p. D25; Washington Post, September 9,1977, p. C6; Schuyler, George S. Black and Conservative: The Autobiography of George S. Schuyler . New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1966.

From the guide to the George S. Schuyler Papers, 1912-1976., (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

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Subjects:

  • Civil rights movements--United States
  • African American journalists--Interviews
  • Conservatism in the press
  • Anti-communist movements, United States, Sources
  • African American authors
  • Cabinet officers
  • African American newspapers
  • African American soldiers
  • African Americans--Biography
  • African Americans
  • African Americans--Civil rights
  • Journalism
  • World War, 1939-1945--African Americans
  • African Americans in the newspaper industry
  • African American journalists
  • Cannibalism
  • African Americans--Social conditions
  • African Americans--Intellectual life
  • African American authors--Interviews
  • Authors, American
  • Werewolves
  • Literature--American Fiction

Occupations:

  • Writer
  • Journalists
  • Authors

Places:

  • United States, Intellectual life, 20th century. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Syracuse (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • United States, Race relations. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)