H. P. Lovecraft was born on August 20th, 1890 and died on March 15th, 1937. He was born in a country that two decades ago was coming out of a Reconstruction, a country that three decades ago still had stated that exercised slavery. A country where half of it practiced Jim Crow laws because black and whites sharing the same space was seen as abhorrent. A country in the midst of a massive political change that required military intervention. Which is why I’m not surprised that H. P. Lovecraft was a bigot.
But Lovecraft was born in Rhode Island, a state that abolished segregation in 1866. A state that was open to the inflow of blacks during the Great Migration. He should’ve known better. That I do agree with, but even though the North was much more tolerant and accepting of blacks do not pretend that they did not face discrimination. In 1920’s, Rhode Island experienced a surge of Ku Klux Klan memberships in reaction to the migrants. The Klan is believed to be responsible for the Watchman Institute burning, a school that was opened to African-American students. The racism and bigotry was still present and strong in the America that Lovecraft was born in. I wonder if he would’ve been such a narrow-minded racist if he had been born in a different time. Under this consideration I would say that Lovecraft was a product of the time and political climate he lived in. He held ideals that were popular but were on the wrong side of history. He bought into the racism and bigotry. But remember, this is the same country that did not ban racial discrimination in the workplace until 1963 with the Civil Rights Act.
Because of this, it’s really not surprising that H. P. Lovecraft wrote a poem in 1912 titled On The Creation of Niggers, a poem that claims that blacks are not human but beasts.
Does that bother me? Honestly, judging based on what I’ve read about him, Lovecraft seems like a bitter jaded figure that would’ve been annoying to be around. He’s also a person that holds views that I would agree with or even support. With that said, I do very much enjoy his work. The Rats in the Walls, The Re-Animator, Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow Over Innsmouth are still interesting stories and have inspired a lot of notable talent.
Do we throw away the art because the artist of then holds views that are not tolerated today? Do I have to like the guy or even agree with his political views to like his work?
That’s a topic for a different time.