American studies

In 1965, during the struggles for civil rights, James Baldwin echoed many of these ideas when he wrote: It comes as a great shock to discover that the country which is your birthplace and to which you owe your life and identity has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you… I was taught in American history books that Africa had no history and neither did I. I was a savage about whom the least said the better…You belonged where white people put you. (Baldwin 1985:404) Baldwin’s own writings sought to construct a place in America for the black man and to defy being positioned by ‘challenging the white world’s assumptions’ (Baldwin 1963:31): the truth about a black man, as a historical entity and as a human being, has been hidden from him, deliberately and cruelly; the power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world’s definitions. (ibid.: 62) Similarly, the increased political demands for Black Power in the 1960s followed this argument, claiming that any movement ‘must speak in the tone of that community…[so that] black people are going to use the words they want to use— not just the words whites want to hear’ (Carmichael 1966:5).

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