Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who Speaks for the Negro?

 In 1965 Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Penn Warren published Who Speaks for the Negro? Warren, a white southerner, interviewed a few dozen people influential in the struggle for civil rights and published the interviews in the book. His tapes of the interviews, recorded on his reel-to-reel tape recorder, are now available digitally from Vanderbilt University. They are no less than fascinating. Here are Martin Luther King, Robert Moses and Adam Clayton Powell speaking  in offices or living rooms--not from the pulpit or stage. Here are James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison speaking in conversation rather than from the pages of their books. And Warren is no slouch himself. Listen to him spar with Malcolm X on the culpability of individual White people (however well-meaning) for the oppression of Blacks. (And listen too, to James Farmer's put down of Malcolm as a talker, not a doer.) The interviewees include-- in addition to the who's who of top leaders--rank and file activists, women, and white sympathizers.If you have any interest at all in the Civil Rights Movement in the US, you will surely appreciate these recordings.(Thanks to the ResearchBuzz blog for the recommendation.)

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