Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"The Man Who Cried I Am"

University of Chicago professor Michael Dawson helps advance and refine our search for fiction that might illuminate the understanding of "structural racism."
Mosley's work sorta works, although it's better at showing inter-personal racism backed by state and other forms of power. Maybe John A. Williams’ novels (The Man Who Cried I Am, etc). If you're willing to include plays and short stories it opens up the field quite a bit.
Although I would prefer novels, I am willing to consider other fiction--whatever helps advance our understanding. 

The Man Who Cried I Am, Williams' third (or fourth) novel, was published in 1967 to wide acclaim. Twenty years later he told an interviewer that readers were shocked by the novel's description of a plan for a final solution to the ''Negro problem.''

What I wrote then reflected what I saw happening in the 60's--that the problems and violence of those years were being blamed on America's black people. There was general feeling that blacks were superfluous, that if there were no blacks, there'd be no troubles.
Before retiring in the early 1990s, Williams was a professor of English and journalism at Rutgers University in Newark, and had written more than 20 books.

In 1981 Gabriel Motola, professor of English literature at the City University, told the New York Times:
John is in the same class as Kurt Vonnegut, John Cheever and Arthur Miller, those who deal with the social issues and how they affect the individual, the social issues that tend to restrict people from moving up the economic and social ladders and restrict their very basic freedoms. John is one of the few writers of today who is worth paying attention to....
Michael Dawson, one of the nation’s leading experts on race and politics, is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies and Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics. He also is the author of numerous articles on African-American political behavior and race and American politics.

William Julius Wilson called Black Visions "the most comprehensive and definitive study of African-American political thought ever published."

Thanks to Michael Dawson for the suggestion and input.

For previous entries on this theme, see Andrew Grant-Thomas raises an issue, "Arthur & George", and Walter Mosley.

--Marshal Zeringue