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Audio recordings of 1964 interviews with Civil Rights activists
July 5, 2013 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Robert Penn Warren's book Who Speaks for the Negro? was a collection of interviews with various men and women involved in the Civil Rights Movement published in 1965. Vanderbilt University has made all the interviews available as audio and transcripts, taken from the original reel-to-reel recordings. Among the interviewees were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ralph Ellison, Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. On the page for each interview there are links to related documents, such as letters, photos and contemporary news articles.
posted by Kattullus (13 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Substitute "negro" with "John Doe" and one more or less gets the 99%, regardless of skin color. That's pretty much actual.
posted by elpapacito at 6:41 PM on July 5, 2013


This is a fantastic resource, Katullus - can't do it justice right now, but I will. Thank you for posting it.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:01 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Substitute "negro" with "John Doe" and one more or less gets the 99%, regardless of skin color. That's pretty much actual.

N-no? I can't stress how much I disagree with this.

Here, from the James Baldwin interview, is one of what I know are many excerpts that suggest that that's fallacious:

"Any Negro born in this country spends a great deal of time trying to be accepted, trying to find a way to operate within the culture and to – not to be made to suffer so much by it but nothing you do works. No matter how many showers you take, no matter what you do, these Western values simply – absolutely resist and reject you. So that inevitably at some point you turn away from them or you re-examine them. I think first you turn away, then perhaps you re-examine them. Because there’s something that slaves in you and the masters haven’t found it out yet but the slaves who, you know, who adopted the bloody cross, did know one thing, they knew the masters could not – those masters could not be Christians because Christians couldn’t have treated them that way. You know what I mean – this rejection has been at the very heart of the American Negro psyche from the beginning."
posted by liketitanic at 7:06 PM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wow. Thank you. This is why I'm here -- I never would have found this on my own and my life is so greatly enriched by it.t
posted by janey47 at 7:23 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is completely tangential to the topic itself, but I'm always struck by the way people in the 50s and 60s spoke to the media or, really, any time they thought they were speaking to posterity. They are so measured, specific, accurate, carefully-spoken and formal. I remark this just about every time I view or read something from the "man on the street" at the time, but you can see it so well in the Jackson State College student interviews.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is awesome. I did some critical work on RPW back in the day and read the book while surveying all his written output. Warren's background as a peripheral figure with the Fugitive and Agrarian poets (who were some of them pretty unreconstructed) earlier in his career made this pretty brave work for him. This book made me understand that conservatives from upbringing who were serious and geniuses could become something more, and made him a standout for social justice in his generation.
posted by LucretiusJones at 8:00 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks! Wow, how serendipitous. I've just spent the last week posting every single Malcolm X speech I've been able to get my hands on over the years (about 50 in total) including the RPW interview, but I've never heard the audio before. Thanks again!


[Very sorry if this violates the self-link rules. Mods can feel free to remove if this offends.]
posted by antihostile at 8:12 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm proud to live in part of the town he was from (Guthrie is now very close to an odd suburb of the larger town I live in.) There's not a lot to be proud of in this town, but I'm proud of that. We just renamed a lovely block of historic apartments near the university "The Penn Warren" in his honor.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:37 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


whoa
posted by eustatic at 5:47 AM on July 6, 2013


This is incredible - thanks for sharing. Relatedly, NPR recently did a piece on the news coverage of the civil rights movement in Birmingham in 1963.
posted by mellophone at 7:27 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've only listened to the first half of the Stokely Carmichael interview, but there is some great stuff there -- some musings on authenticity which sound very current, and the treadmill of fighting to get hired, fighting to get treated equally, fighting to get raises. It's fascinating but also depressing -- 50 years, and this could be being recorded today.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:17 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy crap. The second half of the Carmichael interview is well worth a listen.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:03 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, this is beautiful. So moving. I just fell in love with the internet all over again. Thank you!
posted by nacho fries at 6:13 PM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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