Ralph Ellison, Irving Howe and the Imagined Civil Rights Movement
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In March of 1964, the novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren, then working on his essential and yet under-appreciated oral history Who Speaks for the Negro, interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. Warren was especially interested in where King thought things were headed. The Civil Rights Bill was then working its way to the Senate, and the major protests and marches of the previous year were memories of relatively recent vintage. So Warren asked King what the next phase of the movement would be. The civil rights leader observed that once desegregation by means of nonviolent direct action, the courts, and the legislative process was accomplished, the task of “actual integration” would have to begin.
To achieve “genuine inter-group, interpersonal living,” King surmised, Americans would have to “grapple” with the “methods” necessary to achieve a “thoroughly integrated society.” King pointed to the continuing social and economic disparities between white and black communities, and insisted that...
KeywordsBlack People Liberal Imagination Black Artist American Intellectual Black Life
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