“Rac(e)ing to the Right is a great read and brings overdue attention to one of the most popular and controversial African American writers in history. . . . These writings reveal both the presence and the limits of conservatism in the African American intellectual tradition.”—Jeffrey A. Tucker, University of Rochester
From the 1920s to the 1970s, George S. Schuyler was one of the country’s most prolific—and controversial—observers of African American life. As journalist, socialist, novelist, right-wing conservative, and, finally, political outcast, his thought was rife with insight and contradiction. Until now, only Schuyler’s fiction has found its way back into print. Rac(e)ing to the Right is the first collection of his political and cultural criticism.
The essays gathered by Jeffrey Leak encompass three key periods of Schuyler’s development. The first section follows his literary evolution in the 1920s and 1930s, during which time he deserted the U.S. Army and briefly became a member of the Socialist Party. Part II reveals his shift toward political conservatism in response to World War II and the perceived threat of Communism. Part III covers the civil rights movement of the 1960s—an era that prompted some of his most extreme and volatile critiques of black leadership and liberal ideology. The book includes many essays that are not well known as well as pieces that have never before been published. One notable example is the first printed transcript of Schuyler’s 1961 debate on the Black Muslims with Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and C. Eric Lincoln.
Because African American experience is more often than not associated with liberalism and the left, the idea of a black conservative strikes many as an anomaly. Schuyler’s writings, however, force us to broaden and rethink our political and cultural conceptions. At times misguided, at times prophetic, his work expands our understanding of black intellectual thought in the twentieth century.
The Editor: Jeffrey B. Leak is assistant professor of African American literature at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has published articles and reviews in Callaloo, African American Review, and The Oxford Companion to African American Literature.