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As if we had not strained the voting and digestive calibre of American Democracy to the utmost for the last fifty years with the millions of ignorant foreigners, we have now infused a powerful percentage of blacks, with about as much intellect and calibre (in the mass) as so many baboons. But we stood the former trial— solved it— and, though this is much harder, will, I doubt not, triumphantly solve this.”
—Walt Whitman, from “Christmas Garland in Prose & Verse” (1874)

For more, or less, see Democratic Vistas, preferably in the Ed Folsom edition published by University of Iowa Press. Do ya’ll think I’m being pique? Our Hero of American Studies, Alan Trachtenberg might think otherwise.

“By an extraordinary feat of scholarship and interpretation, Ed Folsom’s new edition of Democratic Vistas presents this difficult work, troubled yet ecstatic, as something of great significance to our own times. With its historical notes and annotated bibliography and the important new scholarship in the introduction, this edition offers both context and tools for analytical interpretation. Folsom has the courage and the scholarly wherewithal to pose the essay’s ringing affirmations of equality and freedom against its shocking failure even so much as to mention the nation’s black population, especially the masses of newly freed ex-slaves. The omission of African Americans from this otherwise eloquent screed on behalf of democracy by the nation’s ‘poet of democracy’ leaves a gaping hole. Scholars and other readers have typically closed their eyes to the implication of this absence, the unavoidable implication of racism; Folsom’s introduction now makes it impossible to ignore this negative moment within the agonized dialectic of Whitman’s thought. Forthright recognition of this deep failure, as Folsom lucidly and humanely shows, makes this work of the era of Reconstruction (also unmentioned by Whitman) all the more cogent and vital for readers today.”—Alan Trachtenberg, Yale University

I believe this, the single greatest musical scene in pre-World War II American cinema (from A Day At The Races (1937)), features, among others Walt Whitman wished would not vote, and whose suffrage he never endorsed, nor celebrated includes the members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra with Ivie Anderson on vocals; the Dandridge Sisters (Dorothy, Vivian and Etta Jones); Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers; and the awesome Troy Brown— ”320 pounds of fun”!

Also, speaking of black suffrage, our good friend, writer and filmmaker Dallas Penn is in Chocolate City this weekend; stay tuned for his triumphant return.— Caz Dolowicz

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