Blogs > Liberty and Power > Alicia Keys as Philippa Schuyler

Mar 6, 2005 1:00 pm

Alicia Keys as Philippa Schuyler

Singer Alicia Keys is slated to make her movie debut playing the role of Philippa Schuyler. The producer will be Halle Berry who apparently has developed a great interest in the topic.

Philippa Schuyler was the daughter of George S. Schuyler, a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He was an accomplished author of numerous books and newspaper articles over several decades. Because of his witty and caustic style, many of his contemporaries dubbed him the “Negro H.L. Mencken.” He first rose to prominence as an independent leftist. During the 1930s, he was best known for promoting cooperatives among blacks.

During the 1940s, he became increasingly disillusioned with socialism and New Deal domestic and foreign policy. He was a backer of the America First Committee and was a consistent critic of the internment of Japanese-Americans. In 1945, he penned a devastatingly critical eulogy of Franklin D. Roosevelt who he accused of hypocrisy and manipulation. By the end of the 1940s, Schuyler had drifted into a hard-line conservatism. In 1966, he wrote about his odyssey in Black and Conservative.

Philippa Schuyler was an important figure in her own right. An accomplished concert pianist, she was also active in conservative causes as an author and lecturer. When it came to discrimination, however, her conservatism had a more radical, non-conformist edge. She was far less willing than her father, for example, to turn a blind eye to when she experienced racism.

She touted the cause of African independence leader, Moise Tshombe, a popular icon among many young libertarians and conservatives during the early 1960s and predicted (accurately) that Africa would become increasingly dominated by dictators. At the time of her untimely death in 1967 at age thirty-six, she was covering the Vietnam War for William Loeb’s Manchester Union Leader.

This could be a fascinating film if done properly. A child prodigy, Philippa Schuyler had many adventurous, romantic, and tragic experiences in locations as diverse as the Congo, Vietnam, and France. As the daughter of interracial couple, she often found it difficult to win acceptance from the white majority.

Hopefully, the film’s producers will be fair to her political ideas as well as those of her father. For more about her, see Kathryn Taladay, Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler.

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David T. Beito - 12/29/2004

The Pittsburgh Courier is pretty easy to order on microfilm via interlibrary loan. His editorials are great and include a sprited defense of the civil liberteries rightwingers who were put on trial for sedition during World War II.

Kenneth R Gregg - 12/28/2004

I was reading through his biography and he credits both Albert Jay Nock and Suzanne LaFollette in his framing of his political philosophy, as well as the leader of the cooperative movement, James Warbasse. As both the cooperative movement and the anti-statist georgism of Nock and LaFollette are progenitors of modern libertarianism, his writings are well-worth reading.

Will have to see if I can find his WWII stuff (Pittsburgh Courier?)

Take care, and happy new year!

Mark Brady - 12/23/2004

I was interested to read that some black Americans have called themselves black for some time. Booker T. Washington died in 1915 which suggests that at least he used the word in this sense a century or more ago. The Oxford English Dictionary records the first written use of the word "black" to refer to a black man or woman in 1625, but that and subsequent citations are by European authors writing about blacks.

Mark Brady - 12/23/2004

I've met Sharon Presley but Tshombe YAF rings only a very faint bell.

David T. Beito - 12/23/2004

I agree. He knew Hurston and I suspect Lane and Paterson via Isaac Levine.

He was not a conventional conservative. He was deeply suspicious of white people and regarded dependence on the state as an open invitation for racists to take advantage. His World War II columns are hard-hitting anti-FDR pieces.

Kenneth R Gregg - 12/23/2004

The more that I have thought about Schuyler, the more interesting he has become, David. He was an author of numerous novels, editor of one of the major black newspapers, and I can only think that a full biography of him would uncover numerous connections, both from the intellectual community and from the world of political activism.

Well worth looking into.

Take care.
Just Ken

David T. Beito - 12/23/2004

How about Sharon Presley, head of "Tshombe YAF?"

David T. Beito - 12/23/2004

Thanks Mark. I did that from memory and could be wrong. I will say, however, that the term "black" was used many times. Booker T. Washington used it (usually for emphasis) and, in the 1930s, blacks used it to describe the "black cabinet" of black advisors to FDR.

Mark Brady - 12/23/2004

It has just struck me that George S. Schuyler would never have been called "the black H. L. Mencken" because the word "black" wasn't used until much later. A quick search of the Internet reveals that he was indeed known as "the Negro Mencken". Check out Nicholas Stix's interesting article on Schuyler here.

Mark Brady - 12/23/2004

Oops! I should have written "Philippa", not "Phillipa".

Mark Brady - 12/23/2004

I'm old enough to remember the events surrounding the Belgian Congo gaining independence on June 30, 1960. My first venture into journalism was to publish a mimeographed school newspaper and write an editorial lambasting the Belgian colonial authorities for not doing enough to prepare the Congo for independence. (If this isn't the nuanced analysis you'd expect from a libertarian, please understand that I was only twelve at the time.) I am therefore rather puzzled by your statement "She [Phillipa Schuyler] touted the cause of African independence leader, Moise Tshombe, a popular icon among many young libertarians and conservatives during the early 1960s and predicted (accurately) that Africa would become increasingly dominated by dictators." The fact was that Moise Tshombe was himself a dictator but, unlike many African despots, sympathetic to foreign investors. Tshombe's home province was the mineral-rich Katanga. In July 1960, Tshombe, supported by white mercenaries and the Belgian mining company Union Miniere, declared Katanga independent. He was therefore an "African independence leader" by virtue of declaring his own province independent of the newly independent Congo. (And I doubt he would have tolerated secession from within Katanga.) Yes, some American conservatives championed Tshombe's stand but which "young libertarians" declared their support for the secessionist Tshombe? Indeed, I'm hard pressed to identify more than a few young libertarians during the early 1960s, let alone those who regarded Tshombe as a popular icon.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/22/2004

Very interesting, David. Phillipa Schuyler's name was vaguely familiar to me, but no more than that; and I didn't know any of these interesting elements in her life.