thumbnail of World of the Paperback; "Three Negro Classics"
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The world of the paperback. The University of Chicago invites you to join us for this series of 15 minute programs dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and the review of significant paper Belen books. Each weekly program will bring to the microphone a different author authority or educator with his particular viewpoint towards the topic for discussion. The book selected for today's discussion is three Negro classics. Our guest is the editor of this collection John Hope Franklin professor of history at the University of Chicago. Here is your discussion host from the University of Chicago Robert C. Albrecht in this book published by Avon library called three Negro classics. The three novels are three books are from slavery the Souls of Black Folk and the Autobiography of an ax colored man. Defined on wire these three books brought together under the general title three Negro classics. Well Peter made the house and I have discussed this many
months ago and we felt that these three classics represented three different approaches to life three different approaches to the problem of the negro in the United States and represented three different kinds of persons who were the authors and we thought to bring them together within one book would itself be a contribution to persons who were looking for a variety of approaches to the problem of being a Negro in America and I think that Booker Washington and maybe devours and James Weldon Johnson the authors of these three works certainly represent a variety which viewpoint our position when you say that Booker Washington represents and the approach to the problem of being integral in America I think he represents what might be regarded as the most conservative of the three approaches that is to say that. Washington was not interested in
pressing for a political or social or civil rights for any rows. That is not say either that he was opposed to the US but in his scale of priorities he was of the opinion that the economic stability of the negro was much more importantly thought this could be achieved by the negroes working hard to develop a trade or becoming proficient as a farmer or engaging in a specific economic activity that there was value to the community. And Washington felt that if the negro did vis And at the same time was law abiding and peaceful and that he would win the respect of the larger community on that and these other rights would would naturally come to him as he won this respect. Well would it be accurate to say that Washington represents a kind of 900 century approach or is that too broad a generalization and too slick a calculus too
broad a generalization because he there were those who didn't agree with it even in the 19th century. Certainly Frederick Douglass a leading role abolitionist and then later a quieter leader in political and social life in this country. I would not have agreed with him a tall. And there were many others who were not even in the 1903 so that I think that perhaps that. Something of a of an overgeneralization to say this it is not though I think it accurate to say that it represents a remarkable acculturation on the part of Booker Washington. He had become assimilated in the route to a remarkable degree and he in this process of assimilation had taken on the general point of view an approach to life that was so characteristic of Americans in the 19th century it was the gospel of wealth that was the it was the gospel of progress it was the notion that if you start at the bottom and work hard you finally work your way up to the top. This is the end through
Carnegie approach and the approach of some of the others. And in that sense it was very very American and very very characteristic of the late 19th century America. But which of the other two authors perhaps most opposed to the Washington approach and position of course that would be doable is although one hastens to add to that as well as Johnson who would also be quite opposed but the voices opposition was much more categorical much more forthright much more. Directly against a the the the Washington approach so that one usually thinks of him as representing the movie. The other poll from Washington up from slavery Washington's book is usually described as an autobiography and I think it was about the Souls of Black Folk I would how should one describe that.
Well there's a good deal of autobiography in it but it is certainly not an autobiography as such the up from slavery the Washington autobiography which appeared just after the turn of the century. Now it's regarded as one of the classic American buyout autobiographies that one would not cite it was another Benjamin Franklin but it certainly I think has had an enormous appeal to boys was not to write an autobiography as such until much later in the 1940s when his dusk of dawn came up which is what he called his autobiography. But he has and there are many of his writings that are autobiographical and certainly a portion of the Souls of Black Folk. It's autobiographical. Telling of his experiences in the Southie was born in Massachusetts and he grew up there until he went away to college. He went to Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee.
He tells us some of these experiences he tells of the fight that he had not seen the large number of negroes until he went to Tennessee. He did not know how beautiful a negro girl could be until he got down there and saw it. He tells of his experiences too in working in the summers and the small schools in Georgia and elsewhere. So to that extent it's not about graphical. There are also a series of social and educational essays such as the one which is called Mr. Booker T Washington and others and essays which have to do with various phases or aspects of Negro life and the real problems of what. So it's a kind of combination. I usually think of it as a series of essays some of which are autobiographical and some which are not. I notice in your introduction you you called the third book The Autobiography the next a colored man a novel. As you know it's titled The Autobiography. Would Johnson agree with you that it is a novel rather than an autobiography.
Oh yes it's definitely fiction. And once more just as the Souls of Black Folk contains a good deal of autobiographical material I don't think there's any question about the Autobiography of an excellent man being in part some of the life experiences of James Weldon Johnson it's part to a kind of response to Washington's up from slavery isn't it. I think so. He heads as much as he and one of two places. It's not that it has to be the fiction. And you see James Weldon Johnson although what one would call a light skinned Negro was not white tall such as the principal character in The Autobiography of an excellent man that is he his complection was such that he could not possibly have quote passed unquote for white. And so that it becomes fiction on that very fact that no other. But the experience of living in Jacksonville Florida and going to
college and at last and of having these various experiences both at home and abroad in a dabbling in music and writing and so forth. These experiences correspond rather well to the actual experiences that James Weldon Johnson had and which he describes with such force and live in this in his own autobiography entitled along this way which was published in the 1930s. When you put these three works together what did you hope that an audience might gain from a person might gain from reading these three letters of range of experience are they to be exposed to it. Well the first place let me say a wide range of experience here are three negroes who came up in different parts of the United States whose experiences themselves were quite different. Here are three negroes who were every almost every way different from each other.
One would hope then that these three works by these three different people would indicate to the general American public the richness and the variety of experience that Negroes have in American life would indicate Also the vast differences that lie among Negroes themselves. There can be no stereotype of a negro if one reads these three books. If he comes away from these three works knowing that negroes are not all alike and knowing also that educated Anglos are not all alike for the sort of three men of considerable education and yet they are vastly different in their orientation in their. Approach and their philosophy of life and the way in which they want to solve the basic problem which they face which faces all of them namely the problem of how to be a Negro and how to live as a Negro in American society.
Is that the original intention originally of the authors of these books. The audience they were writing to someone different than the audience for which this book is compiled. Yes yes and yet I think that doing what one realizes here as one reads these books is that in much the same way that there were different approaches let's say 40 or 50 years ago. There are different approaches to that. There can be no monolithic unit unanimous approach to the problem of being a Negro in America in 1965. And and and I think this is suggestive of the fact that the problem one is a continuing one and two that it invites in different ways to look at it in different approaches to its solution. Well do any or any of the three approaches and positions here reflected by those of later writers such as Baldwin Wright and so forth. Or is not the case. Well I think that there is a very sharp line between any recent writer and book at Washington
whose views generally have been up and repudiated the line would not be quite so sharp between say the present writers and. And Bebe Dubois is after all as we're going to be in many quarters today is kind of patron saint of the civil rights revolution. There would be differences with James Weldon Johnson some feeling that his approach was much too eclectic perhaps and certainly. Much less direct and forceful. But there would be others who would feel that the approach was not one that would should not be entertained today. But if one selected one of the three that seemed to be mourning a lot with that dance today I think one would have to a select. The Souls of Black Folk by the BBT borders. Well you know I would gather to that what one finds here then is in
a way in introduction to more recent books by Wright and others of this this be the case. Yes I think it would be the case when one reads for example of the experiences that that James Weldon Johnson perhaps had when he went to college at last. Or when one reads of the experiences that the boys had many with the first one cannot forget that the problem was raised in both instances are some of the problems raised by James Ellison in invisible man Ralph Ellison's are in Invisible Man. And when one reads The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin when one thinks of the way in which he looks at the problem of being a negro. One is reminded not merely in terms of its eloquence but
also in terms of the vigor with which he advances his views. One thinks of the boys and souls of black folk. The guest for today's discussion of three Negro classics was the editor of the collection John Hope Franklin professor of history at the University of Chicago. Your host for the world of the paperback is Robert C. Albrecht assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago next week author and publisher James drought discusses one of his most recent novels gypsy moths and explains why the mechanics of the publishing business forced him to open his own publishing house to get his novels in print. The world of the paperback is produced for a national educational radio by the University of Chicago in cooperation with W A I T. This is the national educational radio network.
World of the Paperback
"Three Negro Classics"
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-8w384b7x).
Episode Description
This program features "Three Negro Classics" and its editor, John Hope Franklin.
Series Description
This series is dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and of the publication of significant paperbound books.
Broadcast Date
Talk Show
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Franklin, John Hope, 1915-2009
Host: Albrecht, Robert C.
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-23-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:26
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “World of the Paperback; "Three Negro Classics",” 1966-07-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “World of the Paperback; "Three Negro Classics".” 1966-07-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: World of the Paperback; "Three Negro Classics". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from