African American Thought, African American Culture, African American History, Black History, Black Intellectuals, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Colorism as Racism: Garvey, Du Bois and the Other Color Line – Black Perspectives One hundred years ago this month, Marcus Mosiah Garvey and thirteen associates gathered in a Harlem basement to found the New York branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

When the stocky and dark-skinned Garvey arrived in the United States in 1916, he had no plans to stay. He intended to raise funds for a school in Jamaica, modeled after Booker T. Washington’s world-renowned Tuskegee Institute.

With Washington dead, Garvey sought out W.E.B Du Bois at the New York office of the NAACP. Du Bois was absent, and Garvey said he was “unable to tell whether he was in a white office or that of the NAACP.” The plethora of White and light-skinned people on the NAACP’s staff, and all the light-skinned Black people in desirable positions in Black America, no doubt contributed to Garvey’s decision to remain in Harlem and establish his UNIA chapter there in 1917.

Scholars were also taking note of these light-skinned people. Two years after Garvey’s jarring visit to the NAACP’s headquarters, sociologist and eugenicist Edward Byron Reuter finished The Mulatto in the United States (1918). From his base at the University of Iowa, Reuter made a name for himself arguing that anything Black people achieved was in fact the achievement of biracial, light-skinned people. He situated biracial, light-skinned people as a sort of racial middle class, below superior Whites, above inferior “full Blacks.”

Reuter was the latest in a long line of racist ideologues of colorism in the United States, an ideological line that begins with towering Princeton theologian Samuel Stanhope Smith

African American Thought, African American Culture, African American History, Black History, Black Intellectuals, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

African American Thought, African American Culture, African American History, Black History, Black Intellectuals, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

African American Thought, African American Culture, African American History, Black History, Black Intellectuals, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN


Black Perspectives is the leading online platform for public scholarship on global black thought, history, and culture. As engaged scholars, we are deeply committed to producing and disseminating cutting-edge research that is accessible to the public and is oriented towards advancing the lives of people of African descent and humanity. Formerly referred to as the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) Blog, Black Perspectives serves as the medium to advance these critical goals. Although many of the writers are historians, we provide a crucial online space for scholars working in various academic fields. (Website).