Joel Augustus Rogers was a Jamaican-American author and journalist, and a leading black historian. He was born in Sheffield, Westmoreland, Jamaica on September 7th 1880 to Samuel John Rogers and his wife Emily Henrietta (Johnson). He had a multi-racial background, that is, with a white father who was a Wesleyan teacher. Rogers had ten siblings, some from his father’s second marriage after his mother died. His parents placed emphasis on learning and Rogers himself claimed to have had a “good basic education.”
Joel Augustus Rogers left Jamaica in 1906 to live in Chicago, United States and later became a naturalized citizen. He then moved and took up residence in Harlem, New York. Rogers self-published his first book titled From Superman to Man in 1917. In his book, he discussed and debated the ignorance that feeds racism. At the heart of this story is the debate between a Pullman porter and a politician from the South who is a white racist. He went on to publish twenty-four more books.
Rogers never went to University but what he did was to travel extensively.
Long before CNN and Fox News, this Jamaican author, Rogers, used his book From Superman to Man to talk about and discuss his views on racism and to give reasons that tore to pieces the idea that blacks were inferior to white people. The ‘porter’ gives reasons to support his theory from a white perspective that whites are superior using various sources, from history, anthropology to biology.
Rogers hammers away at these sources and theories, bringing substance to the argument by citing the lack of scientific support for the idea of race; the fact that black history is told from a white man’s perspective and not from a black man’s; the fact that blacks have been married to people from different races throughout history.
This great Jamaican, of whom many are unaware, devoted much of his time and his professional life to meticulously researching and finding factual information about black people of African ancestry that would refute racist beliefs that black people are inferior. He was involved in the Harlem Renaissance in New York in the 1920s and was also involved in the Negritude movement in Paris. In addition, he was involved in discussions with Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Dubois, and others. Even J Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, acknowledged the impact of Rogers’ work and had the FBI monitoring Roger’s articles.
While Marcus Garvey (August 17, 1887-Jun 10, 1940) is known for advancing black Nationalism, Activism and Africanism, and Martin Luther King Jr., who came along in the 1950’s and was the leader of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, many people are unaware of who and what Joel Augustus Rogers stood for and what his contributions are to black history.
Rogers contention was that the colour of your skin did not contribute to how intelligent you were and believed strongly that Africans had made more contributions to the world than were acknowledged or made public. He did not regurgitate the same old stories or tales about black history but instead publicized the fact that there had been flourishing and great black civilizations in Africa before white people decided they owned the world and influenced history. He believed that many African civilizations influenced and molded what is now known as Western Civilization and culture.
Considering the reach of Roger’s work, it is important that we, America as well as the Jamaican Government, acknowledge the contributions of his research and publications to our history. His work helped in the fight for our emancipation from what prevents us from being free, and not merely emancipated.
Check out the video by Jamel Wade, From Superman to Man, The Stage Play.