Pedro

  • Penny Von Eschen’s Race Against Empire had my mind racing. Von Eschen’s descriptions of both the 1955 Asian-African Conference at Bandung and the 1956 Congress of Colored Writers and Artists in Paris were e […]

  • When I started Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones I was astounded by how close I lived to locations mentioned in the book. I live in Bed-Stuy, where the book takes place, and I decided that as I read the […]

    • Pedro, I love this. I was also very struck by the familiarity of the geography, as I once lived quite close to the Utica Avenue station. Your articulation of the invisibility of individuals of triply-oppressed positions is expertly juxtaposed with the archive of black history at Ma-n-Pa’s and readily speaks to the imperative felt by brown and black communities to be their own historians.

      • Also, if you ever get a chance, I recommend a visit to the Tip Top Bar and Grill on Franklin Avenue, as the owners have committed themselves to chronicling and archiving the community efforts of Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill while framing them within the context of black leadership locally and nationally.

  • Time and time again throughout this class I am reminded of Simone Browne’s phrase about the “absented presence” of blackness. Tyler Schmidt approximates the Browne’s language in his White Pervert piece, only with […]

    • This is a brilliant blog post, Pedro, and I want to recommend everyone read it. With great adeptness, you link Browne’s concept of “absented presence” to critical readings and, interestingly, to Tan Confessions. If you are interested in developing this blog into a final paper for the course, it has the possibility to be publishing. I’m sure Prof Eversley and I would both be willing to help with this if this is one of your goals.

      One thing your blog post made me think about: audience. If one considers an audience to be “raced” in a certain way (such as the audience of Tan Confessions, putatively “Black”), then the author can “erace” any racial markers. Is there any clearer testimony to racial segregation and hierarchy than that? There is no law or rule or institution marking readership–and readership is assumed to be segregated racially, so much so that racial markers are unnecessary.

      I’ll be thinking about this a long time, Pedro. Thank you for these insights. I hope you will bring this up in class tonight if I fail to. So crucial to what we are discussing this semester. –Cathy Davidson

    • Hi Pedro. Indeed it is worth thinking about cultural politics when thinking about a “racial” audience, or even a “racial” character. For instance, the more socially conservative–and mainstream–black intellectuals of at the height of the blacklisting era would have celebrated “universal” characters and “universal” literature and racially “unspecific,” more evolved, and for them, thankfully celebrated as a complete break from (black) protest fiction. for some, the promise of integration meant that black literature–even black characters–were less necessary. The special Issue of Phylon, “The Negro in Literature” (1950), which was edited by Alain Locke, takes this position. The same year, when Gwendolyn Brooks wins the Pulitzer Prize (a first for an African American), the supportive reviews celebrated her book Annie Allen for its ability to seem “non-racial.” More recently, Professor Kenneth Warren, has argued that African American literature is less necessary or useful since its traditional commitment to black freedoms would be less relevant after legal integration.

      It may be that, at least in the 1950s context, this turn toward more “universality” in writing by African Americans could help render a writer’s work as mainstream and save her from being associated with the left.

    • Pedro,

      You wrote: “Thinking back to when I read pieces from Tan Confessions, I was shocked at how my mind was attempting to attach racial characteristics to the characters in those pieces and yet there is nothing particularly black about the pieces I have been exposed to.” This is interesting – I think about also Chester Himes’ Yesterday Will Make You Cry and his decision to write the main character as white, while not attributing racial characteristics to the character immediately upon the introduction of the character. How do we attach these characteristics when we read a novel, and does the author change the way that we read the story?

      Charlene

  • “‘You ain’t ready,’ someone would snap…’You aren’t ready for integration.’ Mary Helen Washington’s The Other Blacklist begins with the author’s reminiscing on her growing up in the 1950s, wherein she “imbibed a v […]

  • In the current day, government surveillance and accompanying social anxiety have become almost commonplace in the popular American imagination, if current meme trends can be indicators of anything. I reference a […]

    • Thanks for highlighting the “Why Is the FBI Here” in the context of this reading. The obscene policing of Black activists illuminated by many of the readings in Blacklisted is ongoing today, with Black Lives Matter being on the FBI list and with the Trump Administration’s new term for black activists, “Black Identity Extremists.”

    • Pedro, this post and your mention of “the absurd and almost comical” nature of the FBI’s gaze brought to mind the book I came across while looking at (and around) Baldwin’s file:

      A Quarter Century of Un-Americana, 1938-1963: A Tragico-Comical Memorabilia of HUAC by Charlotte Pomerantz, H.H. Wilson, and James Baldwin.

      I haven’t looked through a copy myself, but I’d be curious to see how those under surveillance re-interpreted or satirized the absurdity of physically and psychically violent surveillance as a means of “looking back” at the surveillant gaze.

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