Rogers came from Jamaica in the West Indies. He settled in
Chicago. He eventually took a job as a Pullman porter so he
could visit different cities and libraries and do research. & in
a lot of large cities a lot of libraries were for whites only.
Black people weren't permitted to go into them. So Rogers had to
pay the Pullman conductor to go to the libraries and take out
books from them. The conductor said, "Rogers, I believe you're a
damn fool. But if you want to throw away your money that way,
I'm willing to cooperate." (Prof. John Jackson)
He had been told when he was a child in Sunday School that God
had cursed the black man and made him inferior. Rogers wanted to
prove that the black man was not inferior.
A. Rogers is the most interesting and dynamic black historian
and social commentator of modern times. He spent over fifty
years writing, researching and publishing the contribution and
inter-connection of black people to world history. Between the
1920s and the 1960s Rogers single-handedly, through his
newspaper columns and publications, made black history a subject
of popular interest in America for the first time.
He taught himself French, German, Spanish and Italian and
travelled extensively around the world in search of facts,
pictures and artefacts with no foundational support. A
prodigious and meticulous detective, Rogers undertook massive,
primary research into the global history of African people.
However in America he was seen as a controversial figure by both
black and white academics for his research on the delicate issue
of race and sex. He sought to identify the historical
intermixing of black and white people and to promote black
identity through particular biographical achievements.
of his own personal struggle was dealing with his own mixed
parentage, identity and skin color. His fifty years spent
writing about black history were integral to his personal,
coming-to-terms with the issues of racial identity, race mixing
and self-esteem. He firmly believed that intermixing was
essential for the survival of the human race and that no one
racial group was superior to the other.
JA Rogers' life experiences spanned the pivotal events of black
history in the 20th century and it is against the backdrop of
these events that his life comes into relief: born in Jamaica in
1880 as slavery was just coming to an end in Brazil, Rogers
moved to Chicago and then to New York where he became actively
involved in the 'Harlem Renaissance' of the 1920s.
Rogers had known Marcus Garvey from their youth in Jamaica and
in 1923, he covered the Marcus Garvey trial. Although never a
member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, of which
Garvey was founder and President-General, Rogers wrote regularly
for the UNIA's weekly newspaper, the Negro World, and lectured
to local UNIA chapters.
In 1935, dissatisfied with the mainstream reporting of the
Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Rogers became the first black war
correspondent when he reported on Mussolini's campaign for the
Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. After returning to the United
States in 1936 he published a highly popular, illustrated
pamphlet entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia.