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George S. Schuyler Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University


Finding aid created by: Honor Conklin
Date: 1988



Biographical History

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 Africirca 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.


Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Schuyler Papers is divided into four series. Correspondence (1916-1968, undated) contains miscellaneous correspondence and correspondence relating to American Opinion, American Opinion Speaker's Bureau, and Monrovia, Liberia. An index to selected correspondence is provided for some of the more notable correspondents. The correspondence is primarily of a business nature as Schuyler explained in his December 19,1966 letter to Syracuse University Manuscripts Librarian Howard Applegate, "A great deal of my correspondence has been destroyed and most of it consisted of letters in the course of business. I have been much too busy during my lifetime to enjoy the luxury of prolonged and leisurely correspondence". One letter of note in a lighter vein is from Amelia Earhart whom Schuyler met the day her fiance, George P. Putnam, hired him to investigate slave trading in Liberia. In the letter she states that on her transatlantic flight she did indeed wear the elephant toe bracelet which he had brought back from Liberia for her.

Memorabilia contains awards, cards and letters, invitations and announcements, artwork by Schuyler's daughter Philippa. Much of this material was previously contained in the 29 scrapbooks which were disassembled in 1988 (see below).

Printed Material (1928-1973) consists of miscellaneous citations, Monrovia, Liberia documents, the newsletter "The Westchester Spotlight", and programs from various dinners and seminars.

Writings (1912-1976) make up the bulk of the papers. This section includes primarily published monographs, newspaper articles, periodical articles, news releases, and typescripts of writings by or about George S. Schuyler, his wife Josephine, and their daughter Philippa. It also includes publications such as National News which Schuyler edited. In some instances these are the only extant copies of materials, notably the Mississippi and other regional editions of the Pittsburgh Courier. Where several publications are bound together, the volumes are listed under the title of the first periodical (for example, see The American Parade 1932-1947). Writings also includes transcripts of interviews and typescripts of speeches given by George Schuyler.

Writings originally included 29 scrapbooks which consisted mostly of clipped columns and short stories by Schuyler and articles regarding civil rights, race relations, and interracial marriage which he found of special interest. A few of the earlier scrapbooks included correspondence, memorabilia, and photographs of Schuyler, his wife Josephine, and early friends. These scrapbooks were disassembled in 1988 for microfilming and their contents distributed throughout the collection; much of it was placed in Memorabilia.


Arrangement of the Collection

Note: As a result of microfilming and of removing some published material for cataloging in Rare Books, Boxes 2 and 3 have been combined into a single box labelled "2/3," and Boxes 4 and 5 and Oversize Packages 1, 2 and 4 are now empty. The scrapbooks originally in Boxes 4 and 5 and Oversize Packages 1-4 were disassembled and their contents distributed throughout the collection.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically in four groups: Miscellaneous, American Opinion, American Opinion Speaker's Bureau, and Monrovia, Liberia. Memorabilia is arranged alphabetically by type. Printed material is organized alphabetically by type of material. Writings are divided first by type, for example monographs, newspapers, news releases, periodicals, transcripts and interviews, and typescripts. Periodicals are further subdivided by title of publication. Individual items within these divisions are arranged chronologically.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.


Related Material

22 items -- 20 monographs by or about George or Josephine Schuyler and 2 periodicals -- have been removed from the collection and transferred to Rare Books for separate cataloging. These items can be located through the Classic Catalog .

Related collections include the George S. Schuyler Typescript, which contains a manuscript of his "A Fond Farewell to Carlo" (about Carl Van Vechten), and the Philippa Schuyler Papers.

In 1988, the 29 scrapbooks in the collection were microfilmed. The microfilm breakdown is as follows.


Subject Headings

Persons

Caldwell, Erskine, 1903-1987.
Cowley, Malcolm, 1898-1989.
Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963.
Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937.
Ellison, Ralph.
Farmer, James, 1920-1999.
Hoffer, Eric.
Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956.
Nelson, Alice Dunbar, 1875-1935.
Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.
Schlafly, Phyllis.
Schuyler, George S. (George Samuel), 1895-1977.
Schuyler, Josephine.
Schuyler, Philippa, 1932-1967.
Smith, Lillian Eugenia, 1897-1966.
Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964.
Welch, Robert, 1899-1985.
Weyl, Nathaniel, 1910-2005.
Wilkins, Roy, 1901-1981.
Young, Whitney M.

Subjects

African American journalists.
African Americans -- Biography.
African Americans -- Civil rights.
African Americans -- Intellectual life.
African Americans in the newspaper industry.
Anti-communist movements -- United States -- Sources.
Authors, American.
Civil rights movements -- United States.
Conservatism in the press.

Places

United States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
United States -- Race relations.

Genres and Forms

Articles.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Correspondence.
Newspaper columns.
Photographs.
Scrapbooks.
Speeches (documents)

Occupations

Authors.
Journalists.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George S. Schuyler Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries


Table of Contents

Correspondence

Memorabilia

Printed material

Writings

Selected index to correspondence


Inventory


Selected index to correspondence