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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution
(1968)

Artist in an age of revolution: a symposium,   pp. [219]-[243] PDF (25.6 MB)


Page 221


by a kind of rediscovery, a refreshed
awareness, of the African background.
Karl Shapiro, the poet, has said:
"It is not a coherent picture, but one
thing is true: the urge is downward, not
up. Not up to the elites. The gravity
of American creativity is downwards,
toward 'the darker bloods,' as Lawrence
would put it. Maybe the pale white
Anglo-Saxon elite has had it."
Do you think this is to any degree true?
please comment.
Interestingly, Langston Hughes, in his
The Big Sea, speaks of a woman from
Park Avenue in the twenties who
practically made a career of supporting
young artists with her patronage and
who made a similar observation about
Negroes, American Indians and other
"darker" folk. The thesis is at least
provocative.
If true, perhaps a blending of the bloods
would be restorative.
Is there anything else you would care
to say about the particular condition of
being a Negro artist in America today?
I am enthusiastic about it. Having had the
privilege of a grandstand seat at the
cavalcade, I am unable to suppress
optimism with respect to what I see
as the trend. Despite a generally tragic
view of man on the earth, I look upon
the struggle of American Negroes for
self-expression as a hopeful aspect.
William Grant Still
Celebrated composer and conductor.
Creator of the Afro-American Symphony.
Do you think of yourself as a Negro
artist or an artist who happens to
be a Negro?
I think of myself first as an American,
then as an artist who happens to
be a Negro. After all, I have Indian,
Irish, Spanish and Scotch blood in
my veins in addition to the African -I
don't consider any one of them more
important than the other.
Do you personally feel the psychic split
that a number of Negro writers describe
so graphically: the pull, on the
one hand, toward Negro militancy,
tradition, and culture, and the pull,
on the other hand, to the white cultural
institutions and orthodoxies?
I don't recognize this so-called
"psychic" split. Instead, I feel a
fusion of influences and backgrounds
within myself. I compose as I wish to
compose: in racial idioms if they serve my
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