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New Negro - Locke

Dispensa per il corso di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America del prof. Daniele Fiorentino. Trattasi del saggio del filosofo americano Alain Locke dal titolo "The New Negro" pubblicato nel 1925, all'interno del quale l'autore analizza la mutata condizione della minoranza afro-americana, ed in particolare delle nuove generazioni, all'interno della società... Vedi di più

Esame di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America docente Prof. D. Fiorentino




where tutelage, even of the most interested and well-intentioned sort, must give place to new

relationships, where positive self-direction must be reckoned with in ever increasing measure. The

American mind must reckon with a fundamentally changed Negro.

The Negro too, for his part, has idols of the tribe to smash. If on the one hand the white

man has erred in making the Negro appear to be that which would excuse or extenuate his

treatment of him, the Negro, in turn, has too often unnecessarily excused himself because of the

way he has been treated. The intelligent Negro of to-day is resolved not to make discrimination an

extenuation for his shortcomings in performance, individual or collective; he is trying to hold

himself at par, neither inflated by sentimental allowances nor depreciated by current social

discounts. For this he must know himself and be known for precisely what he is, and for that

reason he welcomes the new scientific rather than the old sentimental interest. Sentimental interest

in the Negro has ebbed. We used to lament this as the falling off of our friends; now we rejoice

and pray to be delivered both from self-pity and condescension. The mind of each racial group has

had a bitter weaning, apathy or hatred on one side matching disillusionment or resentment on the

other; but they face each other to-day with the possibility at least of entirely new mutual attitudes.

It does not follow that if the Negro were better known, he would be better liked or better

treated. But mutual understanding is basic for any subsequent coöperation and adjustment. The

effort toward this will at least have the effect of remedying in large part what has been the most

unsatisfactory feature of our present stage of race relationships in America, namely the fact that

the more intelligent and representative elements of the two race groups have at so many points

got quite out of vital touch with one another.

The fiction is that the life of the races is separate, and increasingly so. The fact is that they

have touched too closely at the unfavorable and too lightly at the favorable levels.

While inter-racial councils have sprung up in the South, drawing on forward elements of

both races, in the Northern cities manual laborers may brush elbows in their everyday work, but

the community and business leaders have experienced no such interplay or far too little of it.

These segments must achieve contact or the race situation in America becomes desperate.

Fortunately this is happening. There is a growing realization that in social effort the co-operative

basis must supplant long-distance philanthropy, and that the only safeguard for mass relations in

the future must be provided in the carefully maintained contacts of the enlightened minorities of

both race groups. In the intellectual realm a renewed and keen curiosity is replacing the recent

apathy; the Negro is being carefully studied, not just talked about and discussed. In art and letters,

instead of being wholly caricatured, he is being seriously portrayed and painted.

To all of this the New Negro is keenly responsive as an augury of a new democracy in

American culture. He is contributing his share to the new social understanding. But the desire to

be understood would never in itself have been sufficient to have opened so completely the

protectively closed portals of the thinking Negro's mind. There is still too much possibility of

being snubbed or patronized for that. It was rather the necessity for fuller, truer self-expression,

the realization of the unwisdom of allowing social discrimination to segregate him mentally, and a

counter-attitude to cramp and fetter his own living—and so the "spite-wall" that the intellectuals

built over the "color-line" has happily been taken down. Much of this reopening of intellectual

contacts has centered in New York and has been richly fruitful not merely in the enlarging of

personal experience, but in the definite enrichment of American art and letters and in the clarifying

of our common vision of the social tasks ahead. 5

The particular significance in the re-establishment of contact between the more advanced

and representative classes is that it promises to offset some of the unfavorable reactions of the

past, or at least to re-surface race contacts somewhat for the future. Subtly the conditions that are

molding a New Negro are molding a new American attitude.

However, this new phase of things is delicate; it will call for less charity but more justice;

less help, but infinitely closer understanding. This is indeed a critical stage of race relationships

because of the likelihood, if the new temper is not understood, of engendering sharp group

antagonism and a second crop of more calculated prejudice. In some quarters, it has already done

so. Having weaned the Negro, public opinion cannot continue to paternalize. The Negro to-day is

inevitably moving forward under the control largely of his own objectives. What are these

objectives? Those of his outer life are happily already well and finally formulated, for they are

none other than the ideals of American institutions and democracy. Those of his inner life are yet

in process of formation, for the new psychology at present is more of a consensus of feeling than

of opinion, of attitude rather than of program. Still some points seem to have crystallized.

Up to the present one may adequately describe the Negro's "inner objectives" as an

attempt to repair a damaged group psychology and reshape a warped social perspective. Their

realization has required a new mentality for the American Negro. And as it matures we begin to

see its effects; at first, negative, iconoclastic, and then positive and constructive. In this new group

psychology we note the lapse of sentimental appeal, then the development of a more positive self-

respect and self-reliance; the repudiation of social dependence, and then the gradual recovery

from hyper-sensitiveness and "touchy" nerves, the repudiation of the double standard of judgment

with its special philanthropic allowances and then the sturdier desire for objective and scientific

appraisal; and finally the rise from social disillusionment to race pride, from the sense of social

debt to the responsibilities of social contribution, and offsetting the necessary working and

commonsense acceptance of restricted conditions, the belief in ultimate esteem and recognition.

Therefore the Negro to-day wishes to be known for what he is, even in his faults and

shortcomings, and scorns a craven and precarious survival at the price of seeming to be what he is

not. He resents being spoken of as a social ward or minor, even by his own, and to being regarded

a chronic patient for the sociological clinic, the sick man of American Democracy. For the same

reasons, he himself is through with those social nostrums and panaceas, the so-called "solutions"

of his "problem," with which he and the country have been so liberally dosed in the past. Religion,

freedom, education" money—in turn, he has ardently hoped for and peculiarly trusted these

things; he still believes in them, but not in blind trust that they alone will solve his life-problem.

Each generation, however, will have its creed, and that of the present is the belief in the

efficacy of collective effort, in race co-operation. This deep feeling of race is at present the

mainspring of Negro life. It seems to be the outcome of the reaction to proscription and prejudice;

an attempt, fairly successful on the whole, to convert a defensive into an offensive position, a

handicap into an incentive. It is radical in tone, but not in purpose and only the most stupid forms

of opposition, misunderstanding or persecution could make it otherwise. Of course, the thinking

Negro has shifted a little toward the left with the world-trend, and there is an increasing group

who affiliate with radical and liberal movements. But fundamentally for the present the Negro is

radical on race matters, conservative on others, in other words, a "forced radical," a social

protestant rather than a genuine radical. Yet under further pressure and injustice iconoclastic

thought and motives will inevitably increase. Harlem's quixotic radicalisms call for their ounce of

democracy to-day lest to-morrow they be beyond cure.


The Negro mind reaches out as yet to nothing but American wants, American ideas. But

this forced attempt to build his Americanism on race values is a unique social experiment, and its

ultimate success is impossible except through the fullest sharing of American culture and

institutions. There should be no delusion about this. American nerves in sections unstrung with

race hysteria are often fed the opiate that the trend of Negro advance is wholly separatist, and that

the effect of its operation will be to encyst the Negro as a benign foreign body in the body politic.

This cannot be—even if it were desirable. The racialism of the Negro is no limitation or

reservation with respect to American life; it is only a constructive effort to build the obstructions

in the stream of his progress into an efficient dam of social energy and power. Democracy itself is

obstructed and stagnated to the extent that any of its channels are dosed. Indeed they cannot be

selectively dosed. So the choice is not between one way for the Negro and another way for the

rest, but between American institutions frustrated on the one hand and American ideals

progressively fulfilled and realized on the other.

There is, of course, a warrantably comfortable feeling in being on the right side of the

country's professed ideals. We realize that we cannot be undone without America's undoing. It is

within the gamut of this attitude that the thinking Negro faces America, but with variations of

mood that are if anything more significant than the attitude itself. Sometimes we have it taken

with the defiant ironic challenge of McKay:

Mine is the future grinding down to-day

Like a great landslip moving to the sea,

Bearing its freight of débris far away

Where the green hungry waters restlessly

Heave mammoth pyramids, and break and roar

Their eerie challenge to the crumbling shore.

Sometimes, perhaps more frequently as yet, it is taken in the fervent and almost filial

appeal and counsel of Weldon Johnson's:

O Southland, dear Southland!

Then why do you still cling

To in idle age and a musty page,

To a dead and useless thing?

But between defiance and appeal, midway almost between cynicism and hope, the

prevailing mind stands in the mood of the same author's To America, an attitude of sober query

and stoical challenge:

How would you have us, as we are?

Or sinking 'neath the load we bear,

Our eyes fixed forward on a star,

Or gazing empty at despair?

Rising or falling? Men or things?

With dragging pace or footsteps fleet?

Strong, willing sinews in your wings,

Or tightening chains about your feet?




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Dispensa per il corso di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America del prof. Daniele Fiorentino. Trattasi del saggio del filosofo americano Alain Locke dal titolo "The New Negro" pubblicato nel 1925, all'interno del quale l'autore analizza la mutata condizione della minoranza afro-americana, ed in particolare delle nuove generazioni, all'interno della società statunitense.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Storia degli Stati Uniti d'America e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Fiorentino Daniele.

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Altri appunti di Storia degli stati uniti d'america

I have a dream - M. L. King
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Speech on Race - Barack Obama, 2008
Democracy vs. the Melting Pot - Kallen