Seattle Post-Intelligencer Review
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Negroes on Tape
WHO SPEAKS FOR THE NEGRO? by Robert Penn Warren. Random House, $5.95.
Book of the Day
Perhaps it takes an intellectual with Warren’s background to go a little beyond the news release-type of statements the general public receives on the current Negro Revolution. This book, and his credentials as a transplanted Southerner, would lead one to believe there is a little more dignity and purpose in the civil rights movement than we have so far read in newspapers and magazines.
Warren has proven his ability at writing novels of significance dealing with the South, and many of his better poems have been explorations of the South’s legacy. Now he shows he is a better – than – average reporter.
His technique here is to interview the major and lesser Negro leaders with a tape recorder, and to transcribe the tapes to paper and let the person interviewed check the transcript for errors. Any newsman will tell you that is asking for trouble, but Warren had one advantage: his questions were phrased in such a manner that the person interviewed would be glad they were asked. Warren knew how far to draw from them the basic desires and the spirit of the revolution.
Each leader gives a slightly different version of what the revolution should accomplish, but they eventually home in on one point: every one of them has a hope that someday Negroes will be treated simply as another person. None of the leaders seemed particularly interested in being able to marry a white woman, or running for president, or even taking over the state government. They want to be people.
Warren may have been too conscientious by editing the interviews too little, but it is a unique approach to the situation.
14 Sun., Sept. 12, 1965
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