Black History Month is a good time to give outstanding American writers the recognition they deserve. Consider, for example, Stanley Crouch, who passed away last September. Crouch is the author of Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker, the great saxophonist who got little recognition on the 100th anniversary of his birth last year.
Crouch (pictured above) is one of the few jazz critics worth reading, but he’s not just about music. He authored All-American Skin Game, or Decoy of Race, Notes of a Hanging Judge and was also noted for his tough-minded journalism. Consider, for example, Crouch’s “Nationalism of Fools,” a Village Voice essay on Louis Farrakhan’s October 7, 1985, address at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In the view the Nation of Islam, Crouch wrote, “the white man was a devil ‘grafted’ from black people in an evil genetic experiment by a mad, pumpkin-headed scientist named Yacub. That experiment took place 6000 years ago. Now the white man was doomed, sentenced to destruction by Allah.”
The Nation of Islam, “proclaimed that the black man was the original man, the angel, and that since the first devils to roll off Yacub’s assembly line were the Jews, the idea of their being the chosen was a lot of baloney.” When Farrakhan wasn’t talking about himself, Crouch observed, “he most frequently baited Jews,” bringing “screams and shouts” from members of the audience.
At a gathering of black journalists, Crouch once asked for a show of hands from those who believe Yacub created white people as part of an experiment 6,000 years ago. Whatever their self-image, Crouch explained, these people have to understand that they are racists, just like the Alabama redneck who believes that black people are subhuman and should go back to Africa.
Such candor with NOI is not politically correct, but Stanley Crouch is hardly the only prominent African American to be ignored. Consider the experience of Robert Robinson, author of Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union.
Robinson observed the Communist system “not as a white idealist but as a black man who had been well trained by racism in America to judge the sincerity of a person’s words and deeds. I can say as an expert that one of the greatest myths ever launched by the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus is that Soviet society is free from racism.” That was the contention of Frank Marshall Davis, author of Livin’ the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet, who spent most of his life defending the USSR’s all-white Communist dictatorship.
Davis died in 1987 but in 1995 he showed up as the happy-drunk poet “Frank” in Dreams from My Father. As David Garrow explained in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, that book was a novel, not an autobiography, and the author a “composite character.” At a Congressional Black Caucus event in 2005, the Dreams author posed for a photo with Louis Farrakhan. After 2008, nobody in the establishment media asked the composite character if he believed Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci or Larry Bird were the result of Yacub’s experiment.
Like Frank, many on the left are fond of comparing the United States with Nazi Germany. On that theme check out Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans Massaquoi. As he wrote, “the Nazis and Commies were virtually indistinguishable. Both were totalitarians, ever ready to brutalize to crush resistance to their respective ideologies.”
After the war, Massaquoi came to America and joined the U.S. Army where “we black recruits got on well with our white comrades, and many interracial friendships formed.” In a military band, “we and our white buddies were like peas in a pod” and “our new integrated band not only looked like one harmonious ensemble, but it sounded better than either of the two groups had sounded alone.”
Massaquoi encountered racism but never equated the United States and Nazi Germany. Authors like Massaquoi, Robinson and Crouch should be recognized year-round, not confined to a single month. Recall that back in 2009, actor Morgan Freeman told Mike Wallace Black History Month was “ridiculous.”
“You are going to relegate my history to a month?” Freeman said. “Black history is American history.” A startled Wallace asked, “how are we going to get rid of racism?” Freeman shot back, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” Freeman was on to something, but nobody was listening.
In 2021 people talk endlessly about how the United States, a bastion of freedom and opportunity, is nothing more than a cauldron of racism, and worse than Nazi Germany. In 2021, only Black Lives Matter, and those who don’t agree get canceled. Black history remains segregated into one month, and some of America’s best writers and artists still don’t get the recognition they deserve.