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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Robert Hayden on American History

Some wisdom from Robert Hayden for the Fourth of July:
Robert Hayden, the first African-American
Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress

"The past is for most Americans, unfortunately, rather meaningless. But some of us are aware of it as a long, tortuous, and often bloody process of becoming, of psychic evolution -- a process continuing today and, as a result of worldwide stress, gaining in momentum. And it has required, in almost every generation, a clarification, a redefinition of the concepts, principles, abtractions, if you will, which we have believed essential to our development as a nation. The concepts of freedom and democracy, the concepts of the individual and individual rights, even the definition of "human" are different now from what they were two hundred years ago. Slaves and Indians in the eighteenth century, for example, were hardly regarded as human. Consider also the status of women then. We, in our times, are obligated to go on with the process of redefinition. We are still struggling with the evils of our past, but we have also inherited ideals which we are obligated to clarify and implement." Robert Hayden (1975)