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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II

Killens, John Oliver
Editorial comment: the black writer and the revolution,   pp. 395-[400] PDF (6.0 MB)

Page 396

396      reflecting his black perspective, his
black consciousness, look upon this nation's
past? How does he evaluate its present?
And what kind of future does he envision
for this nation and the world. And make no
mistake about it. There simply is no
hiding place on earth from the American
significance. What black men do to change
this nation has significance for the entire
universe. Every nook and corner of this
earth is affected by what we do in Detroit,
in Harlem, in the District of Columbia,
and all over these United State of America.
In a very real sense, African-Americans
are the freedom-fighters for the world.
There is this story of the days of slavery
of a slave named Andrew. Now Andrew
was an industrious and ambitious slave,
greatly admired by his kindly master.
Indeed, it was a kind of mutual admiration
society between this "loyal slave" and
this "kindly master." As you have already
guessed, Andrew was a house slave.
He related to his master more than to
his black brothers and sisters deep down
in the cotton patches. And it must be said,
in terms of giving the devil his due (even
though I haven't the vaguest notion why
this devil should be given his due), but
giving him his due nevertheless, he was
extremely fond of Andrew, so much so that
he let him work once in a while away
from the old plantation and earn a little
money for himself. One day Andrew
played the lottery and won a thousand
dollars. He didn't stop running until he
reached the Big House. "How much
money am I worth?" Andrew asked ol'
Mass'r. "Why, what do you mean, Andrew?
I wouldn't think of selling you down the
river." Andrew came back with: "But
peace, Mass'r, I mean I want to buy my
own self. How much will you sell me to me
for?" The master answered, "In that case,
Andrew, it would cost you nine hundred
and ninety nine dollars." Whereupon
Andrew said, "Thank you very much."
And beat a hasty retreat. One of his
signifying brothers, a field slave, having
overheard the dialogue, said to Andrew,
"Man, why didn't you buy your freedom?
You just won a thousand dollars." Andrew
replied, "Negroes too expensive right long
in here. I'm going to wait till they gits
cheaper." Irony? Paradox? Tragic-humor?
In the latter third of the Twentieth
Century, many many black folk have decided
that no price is too dear to pay for
freedom. Question number one: What price
is the black writer prepared to pay to
liberate his people and this bloody nation?
For make no mistake about it, the truth
comes at an exhorbitant price, and pays
very small immediate dividends. It is
the vision that counts, never the immediate
dividends. A vision not unlike, in depth
and scope, the vision of black writer and
prophet William Edward Burghardt DuBois.
He paid a dear price for the truth he told.
Put in handcuffs like a common criminal
when he was in his eighties, this gentle
giant, distinguished and respected
throughout the earth, America's greatest
intellectual, was persecuted by the power
structure of this nation, and very few
black men came to his defense.
One lesson to learn from this is that we
black folk must choose our own leaders,
our own spokesmen, and must never
turn against them when the power structure
does. The magnificent Paul Robeson also
paid the price for telling black truths to
the nation and the world, as did Brother
Malcolm and finally Brother Martin, the
latter day Messiah. As we walked a
few weeks ago in Atlanta in Brother
Martin's funeral, many of us in the black
artists contingent took solemn oaths that
this was the last funeral of a black
beloved assassinated leader that we would
march in - peacefully, sorrowful and
crying and singing freedom songs. No
more! No more weeping! This was the
last time we would flood this heartless
nation with all those black tears of
compassion. God gave Noah the rainbow
sign. No more water, THE FIRE NEXT
TIME! Well, of course, we all know, there
was a tiny bit of fire this time.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century,
Dr. W. E. B. DuBois put the Western World
on notice that the problem of the Twentieth
Century was the problem of the color
line, the relationship of the Western World
with the peoples of color in Africa and
Asia and the Islands of the seas. Years
later, the same man wrote, with even
greater certainty: "Most men in the world
are colored. A belief in humanity means
a belief in colored men. The future world
will, in all reasonable possibility, be what
colored men make it." In 1955, the late
Pan-Africanist George Padmore, wrote,
in comment on the DuBois prophecy: "This
is the inescapable challenge of the second

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