By Daniel Matlin
In July 1964, after a decade of severe media specialise in civil rights protest within the Jim Crow South, a insurrection in Harlem by surprise shifted consciousness to the city difficulty embroiling America's northern towns. On the Corner revisits the risky second whilst African American intellectuals have been thrust into the highlight as indigenous interpreters of black city lifestyles to white the United States, and examines how 3 figures--Kenneth B. Clark, Amiri Baraka, and Romare Bearden--wrestled with the possibilities and dilemmas their heightened public statures entailed. Daniel Matlin locates within the Sixties a brand new dynamic that has endured to form African American highbrow perform to the current day, as black city groups grew to become the executive gadgets of black intellectuals' perceived social obligations.
Black students and artists provided sharply contrasting representations of black city existence and vied to set up their authority as indigenous interpreters. As a psychologist, Clark positioned his religion within the skill of the social sciences to diagnose the wear attributable to racism and poverty. Baraka sought to channel black fury and violence into essays, poems, and performs. in the meantime, Bearden wanted his collages to contest portrayals of black city existence as ruled by means of distress, anger, and dysfunction.
In time, each one of those figures concluded that their position as interpreters for white the United States put risky constraints on black highbrow perform. The situation of access into the general public sphere for African American intellectuals within the post-civil rights period has been confinement to what Clark known as "the subject that's reserved for blacks."
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Extra info for On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis
Clark embraced the role of indigenous interpreter wholeheartedly. At a moment when the riots threatened to diminish white support for further civil rights reforms, he resolved to expose the sources of frustration and alienation that underlay the violence, and to promote the urban crisis as the next frontier of the civil rights struggle. Interpreting black urban life to white audiences was, for Clark, a means to the larger end of transforming conditions in black urban communities. ” In pressing his case for a huge injection of money and resources into those neighborhoods, Clark placed heavy emphasis on what he believed to be the damaging effects of racism and poverty on the social and psychological fabric of black urban communities.
He could “never be fully detached as a scholar or participant,” he wrote in the book’s introduction, for more than forty years of his life had been lived within the neighborhood: I started school in the Harlem public schools. I fi rst learned about people, about love, about cruelty, about sacrifice, about cowardice, about courage, about bombast in Harlem. For many years before I Ghettos of the Mind 43 returned as an “involved observer,” Harlem had been my home. My family moved from house to house, and from neighborhood to neighborhood within the walls of the ghetto in a desperate attempt to escape its creeping blight.
However, the disillusionment that provoked his extraordinary address in 1971 was aggravated by his increasingly negative view of the possibilities afforded by black intellectual life in America. Notwithstanding his ascent to the symbolic leadership of his profession, Clark’s assessment of his predicament as a black intellectual could scarcely have been more damning. For thirty years, he had directed his talent and energy to the pursuit of racial equality. Yet he was more and more vexed by his sense that America’s obdurate racism had placed such an obligation upon him, and had caused him to foreclose other intellectual opportunities along the way.