Hubert Harrison was born in St. Croix of the Virgin Islands in 1883. At the age of seventeen he travelled to New York City where he worked as a bellhop and an elevator operator. He also attended night school and studied sociology, science, psychology, literature, and drama.
Harrison’s studies radicalized him and he became a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. He joined the Socialist party, but was expelled in 1914 on account of his participation with Bill Haywood, Carlo Tresca, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in the campaign during the Paterson Silk Industry Strike in 1913.
He wrote in many newspapers, including the New York Times, but also the Truth-Seeker, theadvocate of free-thought and atheism.
On October 13, 1914, he participated in the fifth commemoration of the death of Francisco Ferrer, with Leonard D. Abbott, president of the association, and anarchists Alexander Berkman and Harry Kelly. Towards the end of that year and in 1915, he taught comparative religion at the Ferrer’s Association Modern School, which was then located 63 East 107th Street East Harlem. He lectured to Saturday-night adult classes. His course discussed the natural history of religion and, in 1915, he taught comparative religion, covering paganism, christianity, Islam and the main Eastern religions. He also covered the relation of religion and science, religion and culture, religion and the proletariat.
He opposed American participation in World War I, and this caused him to break with William E. B. Du Bois.
His ideas on integral education, his attention to world events, his determination to reach Black people incited him to move away from his white audience and reach the African American community.
A street corner orator, in 1922 he would draw crowds of over 10,000 people .