About the Book

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.


About the Author

Poet, novelist, critic, and teacher Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was born in Guthrie, Kentucky.  A summa cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University in 1925, Warren went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of California (1927) and studied at Yale University (1927-28) and at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (B.Litt, 1930).  A prolific writer and scholar, Warren published sixteen volumes of poetry, ten books of fiction, a book of short stories, twelve books of nonfiction (including Who Speaks for the Negro in 1965), several textbooks, and two selections of essays.  He served as professor of English at Louisiana State University, at the University of Minnesota, and finally at Yale University, where he retired in 1973.

About the Website

The Who Speaks for the Negro?  website is a digital archive of materials related to the book of the same name published by Robert Penn Warren in 1965.  The original materials are held at the University of Kentucky and Yale University Libraries.  We are indebted to both of these institutions for their willingness to share their collections in order to create a full digital record of Warren’s research for the book.  Robert Penn Warren’s children, Gabriel Warren and Rosanna Warren, have generously given their permission for this material to be made available publicly.

The archive consists of digitized versions of the original reel-to-reel recordings that Warren compiled for each of his interviewees as well as print materials related to the project.  All of the print materials appear on the website in two versions: an image of the original document which is not searchable and a re-transcribed document which is searchable.  When a search is implemented, the searched word or phrase will be highlighted within the re-typed document; the user will need to scroll through the document to find the highlighted search term.


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