Joel Augustus Rogers was born September 6, 1883 in Negril, Jamaica and emigrated to the United States in 1906 after having served in the British Army. He settled in Harlem and became part of the Harlem Renaissance, befriending such intellectuals as Hubert Harrison.
Self-taught in sociology, anthopology and history, Rogers used the social sciences to refute the pervasive racism of the era. His first book, From "Superman" to Man, takes the form of a series of dialogues between a Pullman porter and a Southern politician. It addresses themes such as innate intelligence, intermarriage and world contributions that are expanded in his later works.
Rogers was a reporter for several African American publications including the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Enterprise. He knew Marcus Garvey from Jamaica and covered Garvey's 1923 trial. He also reported on the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930 for the Amsterdam News and later that decade covered the invasion of that country by Italian forces, becoming the first African American war correspondent. In 1934 Rogers began a feature series similar in format to Ripley's Believe it or Not entitled Your History to present information from his research. It ran in African American periodicals until 1971 under several titles, including Facts about the Negro. Excerpts were published in the book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro.
Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas in World's Great Men of Color (1946). He presented the African contribution in the United States in Africa's Gift to America: The Afro-American in the Making and Saving of the United States (1959). He wrote a total of 16 books, mostly self-published.
Rogers died March 26, 1966 in New York City at the age of 85. Because of his lack of academic credentials he is not well known as a historian but was highly regarded by professionals in the field and other African American intellectuals.
"No man living has revealed so many important facts about the Negro race as has Rogers." ~ W. E. B. DuBois
"[Rogers] looked at the history of people of African origin, and showed how their history is an inseparable part of the history of mankind." ~ John Henrik Clarke