This clip from the final scenes of Spike Lee’s biopic Malcolm X (available in its entirety here) addresses some of our current concerns in both Humanities of the Americas and American Autobiography. 455 students might note the emphasis of Ossie Davis’s eulogy on the social identity of Afro-American– a term Davis says he claimed because the category of Negro was “too puny.” 470 students might consider the role of gender in that eulogy– specifically Davis’s assertion that Malcolm represents “our living black manhood”– in light of our discussion on Thursday about slave narratives and masculinity.
Along the lines of a tradition within Latin American literature and social analysis here is a short version of Malcolm X’s famous “Field Negro” speech.
Recall that Aime Cesaire, the West Indian poet, rewrote The Tempest and portrayed Caliban and Ariel as slaves of Prospero. In his formulation Ariel was the equivalent of a house slave, while Caliban took the role of the field slave. The exchange between them is interesting for what it can tell us about the effects of colonialism, specifically the degree to which the colonized (or the enslaved) are often divided among themselves. Cesaire’s play, written in 1969, also gestures at the difference between the tactics of liberation, a distinction we might, in a US context, call the “King or X” dichotomy– i.e. reform or revolt. Consider the following excerpt from Cesaire’s A Tempest: