Courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives.
In 1965, Random House published Robert Penn Warren’s book titled Who Speaks for the Negro? In preparation for writing the volume, Warren traveled throughout the United States in early 1964 and spoke with large numbers of men and women who were involved in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. He interviewed nationally-known figures as well as people working in the trenches of the movement whose names might otherwise be lost to history. In each case, he recorded their conversations on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The published volume contains sections of transcripts from these conversations as well as Warren’s reflections on the individuals he interviewed and his thoughts on the state of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. The Who Speaks for the Negro? Archive contains digitized versions of the original reel-to-reel recordings, as well as copies of the correspondence, transcripts, and other print materials related to his research for the provocatively-titled book.
Warren states in the forward to the volume: “I have written this book because I wanted to find out something, first hand, about the people, some of them anyway, who are making the Negro Revolution what it is—one of the dramatic events of the American Story. This book is not a history, a sociological analysis, an anthropological study, or a Who’s Who of the Negro Revolution. It is a record of my attempt to find out what I could find out. It is primarily a transcript of conversation, with settings and commentaries.”
Who Speaks for the Negro? was a groundbreaking volume in 1965; the book and its related materials remain a valuable resource for studying the history of race and of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Warren had hoped that his book would allow readers the opportunity to “see, hear, and feel as immediately as possible what I saw, heard, and felt.” The digital archive allows users an even greater opportunity to share in Warren’s experiences with the extraordinary men and women whom he interviewed during this turbulent time in United States history.
Letter about the carbon copy of the manuscript for Who Speaks
Clarifying the date of RPW's return and his availability for a Q&A period
References research on the psychology of student protestors
Comments on portrayal of Adam Clayton Powell and Martin Luther King Jr. and the "Conversation Piece" chapter in Who Speaks
Request for a book to be sent to J.H. Silversmith, Jr., President of the National Jewish Hospital
Seeking permissions from Adam Clayton Powell regarding excerpts of his biography
Requests permission to quote from Clarence Graham letter originally printed in the Student Voice
Notes about tapes of interviews with Clark, Roy Wilkins, and Ralph Ellison
Initial request for permission to quote from a Marlene Nadle article
Signed permission request allowing quote from a Marlene Nadle article
Searching for information about Reverend Joe Carter's voter registration process.
Seeking information regarding voter registration of Reverend Joe Carter.
Seeking information about lawsuit related to Aunt Jemima Pancake House.
Seeking information about a lawsuit regarding Aunt Jemima Pancake House.
Discusses SNCC screening policies for voter registration workers and mentions David Halberstram, Bruce Hanson, and Robert Moses
Letters back and forth regarding questions about southern newspaper ownership.
Requesting financial support for a community newspaper in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Explains the delay in his response because of the absence of Howard University President Nabrit
Comments on the spiritual and social nature of demonstrations
Comments on the connection between automation and demonstrations, social unrest, and economics
Discusses racism and responds to Du Bois's concept of split personality
Describes the difference between positive and negative nonviolence and applies this to the demonstrations
Discusses black demonstrations as related to America's image in the rest of the world
Specifications for the printer on how to print the pages of Who Speaks
Sioux City Journal article announcing an award Warren won for Who Speaks
Vanderbilt Magazine article about James Lawson and the Vanderbilt Divinity School.
A copy of an advertisement for Who Speaks printed in the New York Times
Lists additions to the spring book lists and changes in dates of publication (including the date for Who Speaks)
Childhood recollections of RPW's work to write the book (traveling in secret, receiving visits from civil rights leaders, getting death threats)
Handwritten list in two columns of words and phrases related to Who Speaks
Shows the changes in the back cover reviews from the 1st printing and the 2nd printing of Who Speaks
RPW disputes the description of his own viewpoint as one of a paternalistic "moderate"