Everyone has a novel they’d suggest for a group discussion during Black History Month. I’d select George Schuyler’s Slaves Today, published in 1931.
Schuyler was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on February 25, 1895, and raised in Syracuse, New York. At 17, he joined the army. Schuyler eventually went AWOL due to the military’s mistreatment of black soldiers. He did nine months of a five-year sentence for desertion. He was dishonorably discharged in 1919.
Since Schuyler was an autodidact with a flair for writing, he embarked on a journalism career and became one of the most controversial social commentators of the 20th century. He condemned Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement, questioned the character of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the methods of Martin Luther King Jr., and the leadership of Malcolm X.
Schuyler also lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.
In 1964 Schuyler ran against Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. as the nominee of the newly formed and short-lived Conservative Party and published his autobiography Black and Conservative in 1966.
He died in 1977 at the age of 82.
Schuyler wrote in his autobiography, “Toward the end of 1930, I got a call from George Palmer Putnam, the publisher. He was much disturbed about the conditions in Liberia, where a League of Nations mission had rendered its frightening report on the selling of “boys” to the Spanish Plantations on the island of Fernando Po off the coast of Nigeria and on the deep involvement of the President and highest officials of Liberia.
They were getting fifty dollars for each “boy” recruited and this was being split three ways; one-third to the district commissioner who “recruited” the laborers with his armed forces, one-third to the President, and one-third to the Spanish consul, also a Liberian.
The usual method, it seemed, was to surround a village before dawn, fire rifles, pick out the “boys” wanted as they rushed out of their huts, and then march them tethered to a coast warehouse to await the Spanish vessel which would transport them to the island.