Lovecraft and his racism
As the organizers of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Portland Horror Film Festival, we fully support the Black Lives Matter movement, viewing it not as a political issue but a human rights issue.
We acknowledge that H. P. Lovecraft is a problematic literary figure. We embrace his contributions to the genre, the bleakness of his horror, the coolness of his monsters, but we firmly reject his racist ideologies. We showcase his literary legacy through film, particularly the genres of Cosmic Horror and the Weird Tale that he helped create. However, we do not condone or espouse his racist beliefs. We also believe it is important to study his vast body of correspondence to better understand the kind of racism prevalent in America in the 1920s and 30s which allowed Jim Crow laws to continue for several more decades, as well as the ingrained and systemic racism that is still part of the US today. As much as his fiction, that window into the real beliefs of an American in the 20s and 30s is also an important, if ugly, contribution that sheds a light on the real attitudes of what we think of as an enlightened country during a time that it had believed it conquered these problems - much like today. Along with many notable figures in American history, like Thomas Jefferson or Woodrow Wilson, Lovecraft made worthwhile contributions during his life, but also held beliefs about black people, Jewish people, homosexuals, women, and even European migrants, that were decidedly repugnant.
The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival frequently features guests and speakers who are men, women, queer, transgender, non-binary, and people of color to discuss both the fandom in general and the complexities of being a fan of the works of a man with reprehensible views. People of all skin colors, faiths, genders, and beliefs are welcome at the HPLFF and encouraged to be part of the ongoing discussion.
Our primary mission is to encourage new voices that expand on the cosmic horror genre in new and interesting ways, such as Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country and Victor LaValle’s Ballad of Black Tom, and an integral part of our programming is highlighting the works of cosmic horror by modern BIPOC creators. At the festival, we regularly discuss Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia, the times he lived in that embraced the pseudo-science of eugenics, and even the geography of his life, including the state of Rhode Island, which hosted the largest KKK rally on the East Coast in the '20s, as a way to understand both why he held these views and the difficulties in separating art we love from the artist who created it. We also hope to reckon his views, and the views of a generation of Americans, with the ongoing racial injustice and economic disparity in our country.
Now more than ever it’s important for us to examine our fandom with eyes wide open, and we intend to keep this dialogue open.
If you'd like to know more, or get another point of view, these are articles are worth taking the time to consider. We'll add to this list as we see fit.
Nnedi Okorafor's thoughtful piece on her internal conflict of being a black author who is both a Lovecraft fan and the recipient of a World Fantasy Award, which at the time was a bust of Lovecraft's face, is required reading to understand how it's not okay to dismiss his racism because he's long-gone. Read it here: http://nnedi.blogspot.com/2011/12/lovecrafts-racism-world-fantasy-award.html
You could also read the latest LA Times article by Meredith Blake, who references several authors and takes the time for a detailed discussion of both Lovecraft's importance and his failings: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-08-13/lovecraft-country-hbo-hp-lovecraft-racism-explained
Knowing about the systemic and overt racism prevalent in Rhode Island during the age of Lovecraft helps to highlight why he may have harbored some of his beliefs: https://upriseri.com/2020-06-24-phil-eil/
We believe it is okay to be a fan of Lovecraft's works and his literary legacy while rejecting his personal beliefs, but if you'd like to help fight the kind of systemic racism that is still an integral part of the US today, as the result of generations of Americans who held views similar to his, consider donating to one of the following organizations: