Robinson’s Republicanism, coupled with the fact that he was a high-performance athlete who believed in objective measures of merit and the validity of competition, explain why he hated the idea of lowering standards for Blacks. In this regard he is not different from Wynton Marsalis, Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison, and the late Stanley Crouch.
Opera aficionados and many St. Louisans already knew about her. Somehow, I did not. Being in Bumbry’s presence magnified my own desires to pursue the creative arts, travel the globe, and know more than one language. Very much like another famous St. Louisan Josephine Baker, Grace Bumbry’s life and story shattered the limitations of what is possible for Black Americans.
Mothers sewed these quilts when everyone else was asleep, so there was no time to fuss over the details. For batting, they beat the dirt out of trash cotton or swept the floor of the cotton gin. Quilts were women’s work, therefore practical and unquestioned. How were these women to know, tucked into a paper-clip curve of the Alabama River with scant access to the rest of the world, that their quilts echoed the best and most daring modern art?
This photo, like so many of those in Michael Eastman’s beautiful, moving, beguiling, maddening collection, transmutes history into timelessness. The house stands alone outside of time. It is a token of the past detached from its actual and ongoing social history.
The deep-seated cause of this feeling of hostility does not spring from the actions of Americans who go to Latin-America but from the treatment accorded to Latin-Americans who come to the United States. In truth, the whole question is involved in our own national and local Negro problem.
Appropriation art has not only outraged artists over the unauthorized and lucrative exploitation of their artwork but has been the subject of high-stakes lawsuits for decades. Appropriation artists defiantly operate under the flag of “fair use,” which some have described as a copyright lawyer’s full-employment act.
As the father of a ten-year-old, I find myself talking constantly with teachers and therapists, joining autism groups, attending school board meetings, speaking out against the censorship of school library books. I taught Vance to hold a fork; he taught me how to stay connected with the rest of humanity.
How did our bland city become a hot spot for national ad campaigns? Overhead was low, flights were easy in any direction, and smart, creative talent was abundant. Between the two world wars, Winston Churchill himself, speaking at an international advertising conference, pronounced the St. Louis Ad Club “far ahead of other cities.” By midcentury, the Midwest was the obvious place to study middle America.
Who is winning the old nature-versus-nature debate? Which of these influencers has the upper hand? Are we mostly preprogrammed, acting out what has been inside us since Day One, or do we go in the direction life blows us?
Might this be a way of coming to terms with feeling so unmoored from my birth country: journeying on a cultural tugboat up the largely English comedy river in search of the TV shows and comedians that had once influenced and shaped me? If I dipped my toe in the dimly remembered comedies of my childhood and youth, would I discover who I once had been?