Hayden, Hurston, Jackson, Douglass, & Wright
Sounds like a pretty amazing law firm...
Frederick Douglass and the Fifteenth Amendment
Last fall, the Federalist Society interviewed me for a brief video about Frederick Douglass, and particularly Douglass’ work to obtain voting rights for the former slaves. They released it last week, and you can see it here.
Transparency and CRT
I wrote a piece for The Dispatch about efforts underway in many states to require schools to tell parents what’s being taught in classrooms. CRT ideologues are trying to portray these efforts as a kind of censorship, which is absurd. CRT is a loathsome ideology, a kind of “learned meaninglessness.” It’s only right that parents would object to it being in classrooms their tax dollars pay for—and that they would want to know about what their kids are being taught.
Robert Hayden refused to be silenced
Robert Hayden has long been one of my favorite poets; in fact, my forthcoming book, Some Notes on the Silence, is dedicated to him. I particularly admire the way he combines Auden-style intellectualism with haunting imagery and a spare and precise vocabulary. He seems to me the most American of all modern poets.
On April 22 1966, Fisk University hosted the first Black Arts Conference, where Redding and Hayden were confronted by champions of the movement, including Arna Bontemps and Melvin Tolson, both Hayden’s faculty colleagues. “One gets the idea Hayden doesn’t … exactly like that Negro thing,” Bontemps told the audience. When Hayden pleaded, “Let’s quit saying we’re black writers writing to black folks,” Tolson shouted back, “I’m a black poet, an African American poet, a Negro poet…and I don’t give a tinker’s damn what you think.” Although the audience was reportedly moved to tears when Hayden later read “Middle Passage” to them, he could never accept the demand that he subordinate his art to his race, let alone that he hate white people. He refused to attend future Fisk conferences.
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as ‘Black’ poetry,” he told an interviewer….
I also reviewed the new anthology of Zora Neale Hurston’s essays for National Review. It’s called You Don’t Know Us Negroes, and it includes her best nonfiction work, including her marvelous essay “Art and Such,” which was deemed too politically incorrect to be published by the WPA in the thirties. I’ve written about Hurston before—here’s my in-depth article for The Objective Standard—and if you haven’t read her magical Their Eyes Were Watching God or her delightful memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road, I urge you to. Actually, I recommend the audio book versions, ready by Ruby Dee and Bahni Turpin, respectively. Hurston is one of the greatest writers of individualism, and is always a joy.
Speaking of book reviews
I recently participated in a little series that the Objective Standard folks have organized, with advice for would-be writers. My contribution was on how to write book reviews. It’s behind a paywall, but worth your while, since other contributors include Virginia Postrel and my friends Debbie LaFetra and Donna Matias.
Ketanji Brown Jackson
I wrote up an article about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court, for Discourse. While she doesn’t have much of a paper trail—and, of course, it’s unlikely that Biden would have chosen her if he wasn’t sure she adhered to traditionally Democratic positions on major issues such as abortion and gun rights—I found some of her district court opinions on administrative law interesting, particularly her defense of nationwide injunctions. On these and some other issues, there may be reason for believers in freedom to be optimistic about her appointment. (Of course, there’s never any way to know for sure.)
The Price House
Christina and I got a chance to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Harold Price House (also known as “the Grandma House”) this month. Price was the owner of the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the only skyscraper Wright ever built, and while it was under construction, Wright persuaded the Prices to buy land in the Phoenix area (Paradise Valley, actually) as a winter retreat where they could spend time with their grandkids. It’s now owned by the family that owns U-Haul, and is open for tours about once a month. It’s among the last of Wright’s original designs, because by the time it was built in the 1950s, most of Wright’s projects were basically variations on Usonian themes. The Price House is also quite unique with its distinctive diagonally-edged cement columns, inspired by the ocotillo plant. Wright apparently remarked that the house has a little bit of all of his styles—the horizontals and cantilevers is his prairie style, the temple-like blockiness of his Romanza style, and the openness—combining interior and exterior—of his desert style. (No curlicues, though, so no Guggenheim style…fortunately!) Christina took some much better photos, but here are a few I took:
Coincidentally, a few days later, I passed through Frankfort, Kentucky, on my way to speak at the University of Kentucky law school, and got a glimpse of the Zeigler House, Wright’s only building in that state:
Supreme Court will hear ICWA case
It’s not a big surprise that the Supreme Court agreed yesterday to review the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, given that the states, the feds, the tribes, and the would-be adoptive parents asked it to do so. But it’s exciting nonetheless. You’ll be hearing more on this topic in the news in the coming days; if you’re interested in learning more about the many ways this law violates the Constitution and harms Indian children, your best starting place is probably the article I wrote for Regulation a few years ago. And if you want to get more in depth, check out my article from the Children’s Legal Rights Journal.