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Regards croisés sur les Afro-Américains

Claude Julien

Fiction corner

Race, Newspapers and Hegemony in Banjo by Claude McKay

Stephen Casmier

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“Clearly the journalist speaks to all, for all.”
Melvin Mencher, News Reporting and Writing.

1In 1968, following a rash of devastating riots throughout African American communities in the United States, the Kerner Commission released a report on race relations that contained a chapter on the media. Its findings, Carolyn Martindale says in her book The White Press in Black America (Martindale, 1986, 3): “the media had failed to report adequately on the causes underlying the disorders and problems in race relations [...] the media had failed to convey to their white audiences what it was like to be black in America”. For hundreds of years the press not only failed to represent the lives of African Americans; it aided and abetted racism publishing slave auction advertisements and runaway slave advertisements, assisting lynch mobs, and ultimately embracing the doctrine of social Darwinism that maintained segregation and buttressed white supremacy and a white sense of identity.

2Through an analysis of Claude McKay’s novel Banjo this essay will examine how an African American novel enters into dialogue with its written counterpart —the newspaper. After all, both the newspaper and the novel play important roles in the construction of national identity, says Benedict Anderson in his book Imagined Communities. Nationalism, Anderson argues, has its roots in literary realism and the type of linear and spatial imagination produced by reading newspapers and novels. Modern nations are comprised by people who imagine themselves part of a community of others who engage in similar activities (like reading the newspaper) at similar times. Newspapers engender a sense of linear, calendrical time and a consciousness of synchronicity that are essential to this notion of nationalism.

3As an almost archetypal novel of post-World War I disillusion, Banjo displays open contempt for the type of nationalism and patriotism engendered by the daily press. This attitude is embraced by Ray, a central character of the novel who most reflects the sympathies of the author.

It seemed a most unnatural thing to him for a man to love a nation — a swarming hive of human beings bartering, competing, exploiting, lying, cheating, battling, suppressing, and killing among themselves; possessing, too, the faculty to organize their villainous rivalries into a monstrous system for plundering weaker peoples. (McKay, 1957, 137)

4Instead, through its representation of newspapers and the imbedding of actual newspaper accounts into the text, Banjo offers an unusually broad critique of the press. Banjo represents the black and white press at home and abroad as agents of a notion of progress and civilization that disguises racist hegemony. Within Banjo, the newspaper becomes a chorus that represents the larger, white community. This community (which has always done the framing) is then framed within the structure of the African American text. The novel (to use a term developed by Henry Louis Gates) “signifies” on the newspaper as it repeats and revises the iconic and formulaic stories that buttress the ideology of racial oppression, leveling them and depriving them of their power.

5As noted earlier, the newspaper presents a specific kind of discourse. Social scientists and media scholars have noted that in America, the press has worked to both script and maintain a white supremacist hegemony. David Domke in his research monograph Journalists, Framing, and Discourse About Race Relations makes this observation: “Many have theorized that the press’ selection and framing of language, news, opinion, and perceptions conveys and abets a social reality that legitimates the practices and ideas of the dominant social class, in this case the white majority” (Domke, 1997, 3). Such a legitimization of the dominating class is what is meant by hegemony, a term that is crucial to the social theory of Antonio Gramsci. Stuart Hall elaborates this notion in his essay: “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.” According to Hall:

It is the process of the coordination of the interests of a dominant group with the general interests of other groups, and the life of the state as a whole, that constitutes the ‘hegemony’ of a particular historical block [...]. It represents a degree of mastery over a whole series of different ‘positions’ at once. Mastery is not simply imposed or dominative in character. Effectively, it results from winning a substantial degree of popular consent (Hall, 1996, 423-24).

6In other words, hegemony is not the absolute domination of one homogenous class and its interests over everyone else. Instead, it is a “historic bloc” (an alliance) of interests that might be led by a minority class such as planters or industrialists. Thus, members of the press and their leaders are just two of the groups that have been “won over” and comprise a racist hegemony.

7In relationship to American newspapers, this hegemony has two eras: the ante-and post-bellum era. In the ante-bellum era, the connection between newspapers and hegemony was fairly obvious. Before the Civil War and the invention of the steam driven “penny presses,” newspapers were characterized by “pure, blinkered partisanship,” says Carl Osthaus in his book Partisans of the Southern Press ·. Editorial Spokesmen of the Nineteenth Century. They served the interests of the ruling class. During and after the Civil War, the racist, slave-holding, planter class in the South maintained a tight grip over newspapers. Southern papers adhered to “a narrowly ideological line,” (Osthaus, 1994, 9). Thus, Southern newspapers were as openly racist as their owners and publishers.

  • 1 According to Stuart Hall’s reading of Gramsci, common sense refers to the way “philosophical curre (...)

8In the North, the form of hegemony is harder to discern. For after the Civil War, Northern presses began to cater more to readership as they became more dependent on advertising and subscriptions and less dependent on political patronage. Yet, in the late 19th century, a theory known as social Darwinism became a national fad. Social Darwinism is a nefarious admixture of evolutionism and laissez faire capitalism, Thomas Gossett argues, in his book Race: The History of an Idea. According to this theory: “Races were thought to represent different stages of the evolutionary scale with the white race —or sometimes a subdivision of the white race— on top” (Gossett, 1963, 144). And, Gossett concluded: “It is, in fact, similar to that which still so largely survives in the popular mind. Its central idea is that nonwhite races are oppressed, poverty-stricken, and of an inferior social status for no other reason than their innate lack of capacity” (Ibid, 173). “In the 1880s and 1890s,” David Domke says, “Social Darwinist language became incorporated into common usage, supporting a ‘scientific’ racism that legitimated the rise of segregation and contributed to violence against African Americans” (Domke, 1997, 2). Domke then describes how newspaper editors used their papers to transform social Darwinism from a trendy theory of academic circles into the stereotypes and attitudes of a more banalized, shared ‘common sense.’1This occurred in a relentless barrage of stories representing African Americans as oversexed rapists, savage murderers, happy-go-lucky entertainers, simple-minded storytellers nostalgic about slavery and people basically unprepared for equality or to exist in society without the guidance of white benefactors. In short, newspapers were the written representation of American racism, its sign, its evidence, its script, its score, its program.

9As another form of written representation, novels such as Banjo attempt to disrupt the script and undermine the newspaper’s racist hegemony. At the very least, they teach us how to read the paper, exposing and weakening its ideology. Indeed, Banjo contains one of the most interesting responses to the press in African American literature. First, it is set in France, not the United States. It was also written during what is commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance when a significant number of African American newspapers were around to challenge white racist hegemony. Thus, Banjo not only addresses international racism, but it addresses the very nature of journalism and its ability to resist hegemony. It thus carves out a place for the novel in the struggle against racism that goes beyond protest and propaganda.

10For McKay, the novel is there to resist all forms of banality and control. As most writers of the Harlem Renaissance did, McKay exalts the artist. Yet, unlike many of these other writers, he views artists as those who resist living according to any script or program. Indeed, for him Banjo, the eponymous hero of his novel, is not just an artist because he plays the banjo; he is an artist because of his liminal lifestyle, his flair for dressing, his colorful speech and his live-for-the moment attitude. Thus, Banjo, subtitled A Novel Without a Plot, strikes out for new territory in relationship to the more realist novels of race conflict and bourgeois resentfulness that characterize much of Harlem Renaissance writing. It consists of twenty-five episodes in the life of a gang of beach boys living a hand-to-mouth existence in the port of Marseilles in France. Its main characters are Banjo, Ray (an expatriate, Haitian writer who serves as McKay’s mouthpiece), Latnah (a prostitute of mixed, “exotic” origin), Bugsy (a hot-tempered West Indian), Taloufa (an Afro-centric West African) and four other more or less similar characters from Africa and the West Indies. Its somewhat experimental form conveys a deeply structured communication between all of the peoples of the African diaspora while foregrounding mimetic renderings of black speech (with its own version of eye dialect), storytelling, black music and black dance.

11The novel is also imbedded with actual newspaper stories and presents characters that read the paper and comment on it. This enables Banjo to enter into a discussion on the relationship of newspapers (and writing in general) to the novel. This is an important discussion. Writing and Africans have a contentious history in the modern era. Writing, Walter Ong says in his book The Presence of the Word gave burgeoning empires “power and authority and control of military structures at a distance” (Ong, 1967, 85). Thus, it enabled the industrial slave trade and the European conquest of Africa. Meanwhile, theologians and philosophers published treatises on the inferiority of Africans. Newspapers, when they mentioned Africans at all, editorialized about this inferiority while publishing runaway slave advertisements and slave sale notices. Thus, Africans constantly had to confront a written double in newspapers and other documents that not only verified their inhumanity but revealed that they were the perpetual losers in the war between the races. Indeed, to many, writing itself was a veritable crucible of Darwinian race conflict. This is intimated by scholars such as Henry Louis Gates who says that “the production of literature was taken to be the central arena in which persons of African descent could, or could not, establish and redefine their status within the human community” (Gates, 1988, 129). Banjo acknowledges this history. Indeed, for its characters, writing is a suspicious, charged activity. For example, in the chapter titled “Story-Telling,” a group of Senegalese beach boys evince distrust of Ray when they discover he is a writer. They imagine “that he would write something... that would make them appear ‘uncivilized’ or inferior to American Negroes” (McKay, 1929, 114). Goosey (one of the beach boys) agrees with them. He tells Ray that “the crackers will use what you write against the race!” (Ibid, 115). In the minds of Goosey and the Senegalese beach boys, writing is a weapon directed against them in a war of the races that even extends to a struggle between African Americans and Africans.

12Banjo tackles another aspect of this discussion as it pertains to creative work (work of the imagination) and its relationship to documents, propaganda and protest literature. Ultimately, Banjo witnesses what Jean François Lyotard terms a différend between journalism and African American protest. In his book, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, Lyotard defines this type of conflict: “A case of différend between two parties takes place when the ‘regulation’ of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom” (Lyotard, 1988, 9). In other words, the “idiom” of daily journalism cannot address the atrocities of slavery, colonialism and their aftermath because newspapers are among the major culprits.

13The newspaper is inherently flawed. Despite its more recent pretensions at objectivity and fairness, the newspaper is a priori propaganda. It engenders and rallies mobs while fostering a sense of identity that is intrinsically xenophobic, it trumpets progress and civilization with an inherent though often hidden agenda that is socially Darwinist (and thus white supremacist) in nature. This is the picture that Banjo not only presents of the American press, but of the African, African American and European presses.

14One of the first consequences of the failure of these newspapers to properly represent African Americans is, in effect, to place them outside of history. The newspaper has been defined as “history in a hurry.” If this is true, then the relentless absence of African Americans in the mainstream press places them, in effect, outside of history. “Negroes are rarely mentioned in the press unless they committed some crime!” Richard Wright says in his essay “How Bigger was Born.” In fact, a glance at the Chicago Daily Tribune from 1938 (when Wright was writing Native Son) shows he is correct. During this period, one finds stories about the buildup of Nazi Germany, the invasion of Austria, Sigmund Freud fleeing to England and the Japanese bombing China. These are historic events. Meanwhile, African Americans are almost invisible among these stories of the world. They do not appear on the front page, in comic strips, in advertisements or even in classified ads. The only time an African American became a part of this document, became a part of history, is when he murdered a white woman, as in the case of Robert Nixon who inspired much of Native Son.

15None of the characters of Banjo would have made it into either the white press or the Negro press. In The African American Press, Charles Simmons says that the African American press at the turn of the century had the following agenda: “uplifting race and community consciousness, protesting against discrimination, and reporting the news of Negro life back home in the South” (Simmons, 1998, 20). And before World War II, “much of the news that covered the pages of the Negro press had emphasized crimes committed by Negroes and the violence committed against them” (Ibid, 70). None of the characters of Banjo commits a crime worth mentioning and none of them is a victim of an obvious atrocity. Nor is any character an accomplished member of Negro society and thus an example or agent of racial uplift. Nevertheless, Ginger says about his friends: “There ain’t a jack man of us that ain’t got a history to him as good as any that evah was printed” (McKay, 1929, 39). Indeed, the tension between what is and isn’t history (what is and isn’t printed) is an important aspect of a novel that pits itself against a notion of history that is grounded upon sequence, chronology, progress and development —plot. After all, the subtitle of the novel is: A Story without a Plot. This tension between the official and unofficial (written and oral testimony) also becomes apparent in the novel’s abundant discussions of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. In 1923, Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison for mail fraud. While official newspaper accounts hold Garvey responsible for his imprisonment, one character in the novel believes the unofficial, oral accounts that proclaim his innocence. According to Goosey:

Garvey is a bigger man among colored people since they jailed him. Taloufa was at Liberty Hall for the big manifestation. And all the speakers said that the British were back of Garvey catching jail (McKay, 1929, 92).

16And like the often-discredited oral history describing the affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, recent scholarship by people such as Robert Hill has shown that the rumors about Garvey were at least partially correct. He was the victim of a FBI vendetta orchestrated by J. Edgar Hoover.

17This foregrounds the traditional distrust that African Americans have for newspapers, their history and what becomes the official (written) version of events. Within the world of Banjo, newspapers (and writers, as noted earlier) are inherently suspect. They exist to give rise to particular identities that are menacing for the characters. The novel constantly shows Ray, buying, reading and discussing French and international papers. Ultimately, he blames these papers for fomenting the type of nationalism and jingoism that he so detests. For example, he blames a mob incident in Marseilles, “the most international place in the country” on the manipulations of the French press that “had been doping the unthinking literate mob” with praise for peace and the English —followed by war talk and charges that the Anglo-Saxon nations were destroying the French economy. The result: a “theater crowd” nearly lynches an Englishwoman for squeezing her way through a line “while talking English” (Ibid, 135). The press has a similar effect on the crowd presented in Ray’s discussion of Dr. Bougrat, a man who had been tried and convicted for murdering a cashier and hiding his body. According to Ray, the “newspapers tried the doctor and called him a murderer and a thief and charged him with every criminal activity.” Then, in a scene that anticipates the coroner’s inquest in Native Son, an “army of touts and prostitutes” gathers outside the doctor’s office on the day that the court reenacts the crime and shouts “Lynch him! Lynch him!” (Ibid, 266). Meanwhile, the novel constantly represents its protagonists as victims of similar mobs and police violence.

18The novel does not, however, accept the notion that an African American press could solve the problem. Instead, it asserts that in both cases the newspapers serve to construct unacceptable identities, replacing one mob, one unthinking reader, with another. For example, race conflict propaganda is as much a part of the African American press as it is the white press. In a discussion of sex between the races, Ray rejects the notion that African American women are inherently victims of white men. “But that is newspaper truth and no more real than the crackers shouting that white women live in fear and trembling of black rapists” (Ibid, 206). On both sides, such “newspaper truth” gives rise to a false sense of identity that only leads to more violence and hatred.

19Ray also rejects the myths essential to respectability and the notion of racial uplift that dominate the newspapers and literature of the early Harlem Renaissance. He does not treat the “uplift the race” writing of the Negro press as an antidote to white racist hegemony. Quite the contrary, at one point, he criticizes another character for talking “like a nigger newspaper”. “A nigger newspaper”, says Ray, “is nothing more than a nigger newspaper... That’s why we — you — the race — can’t get beyond the nigger newspaper in the printed word. That’s why an intelligent man reads it only for the comic” (Ibid, 183). Such papers are ill equipped to resist hegemony. Indeed, with their emphasis on racial uplift they emphasize respectability and actually aim towards integration into the hegemony that oppresses them.

20Indeed, the African American press fighting for justice typifies the type of différend discussed by Lyotard. The African American press does not depart from the Darwin tainted “idiom” of the oppressor. This is expressed toward the end of the novel when Ray explains that he prefers the company of the “beach boys” because they refuse a framing that inherently devalues them. They literally reject the idiom of their oppressor, reinventing language with an “unconscious artistic capacity for eliminating the rotten-dead stock words of the proletariat and replacing them with startling new ones” (Ibid, 321).

Ray had felt buttressed by the boys with a rough strength and sureness that gave him spiritual passion and pride to be his human self in an inhumanly alien world. They lived healthily far beyond the influence of the colored press whose racial dope was characterized by pungent “bleach-out,” “kink-no-more,” skin-whitening, hair straightening, and innumerable processes for Negro culture, most of them manufactured by white men’s firms in the cracker states. And thereby they possessed more potential power for racial salvation than the Negro literati, whose poverty of mind and purpose showed never any signs of enrichment, even though inflated above the common level and given an appearance of superiority (Ibid, 322).

21Thus, the language of the African American press (and the Negro literati) still expresses an unhealthy preoccupation with indelible notions of race and race conflict. The African American, within this discourse, is still struggling towards civilization and society.

22Characters in the novel also discuss the international black press such as Marcus Garvey’s Negro World. At one point they read articles from Garan Kouyaté’s paper La Race Nègre. Kouyaté was an important architect of Negritude. Like articles from African American newspapers of the period, the article contains a list of atrocities committed against Africans under French colonialism:

Of native women insulted and their husband humiliated before them.
Of flagellation.
Of youths castrated for theft.
Of native chiefs punished by mutilation. (Ibid, 76)

23By imbedding these excerpts from a French paper, the novel shows the inherent weakness of such accounts while foregrounding the difference between itself and the black press. For example, at one point, Banjo completely forgoes prose and lapses into poetry as it tries to transform print into both music and dance: “Play that thing! One movement of the thousand movements of the eternal life-flow. Shake that thing! In the face of the shadow of Death. Treacherous hand of murderous Death, lurking in sinister alleys, where the shadows of life dance, nevertheless, to their music of life”, (Ibid 57). Within this context of a nascent negritude, the excerpts from the Negro world appear as mere lifeless pieces of script from the man’s program. Indeed, they say more about the Europeans than they say about the people whose victimization they describe.

24Throughout the novel, Ray uses representations of the French Press to accuse France of embracing the same type of social Darwinist ideology as had become stylish in America. Indeed, it seems that McKay had written Banjo to correct many of the myths about France that had taken root since the end of the First World War when African American soldiers fought under the French flag and France welcomed African American jazz musicians and entertainers. For example, at one point, Ray argues with a French student over which newspaper he should read —the ironically named (for Ray) L’Humanité, L’Action Française, Le Petit Parisien or Le Journal. The student “had been in Paris and had heard black jazz players, and... liked the jazz musicians and Josephine Baker” (Ibid, 273). In his discussion with Ray, he reveals that his negrophilism is intrinsic to his patriotism. Indeed, he tries to convince Ray that France is “especially tolerant to colored people. We treat them better than the Anglo-Saxon nations because we are the most civilized nation in the world” (Ibid, 274). Ray disparages this idea as mere propaganda saying that “newspapers were full of it, and certain clever writers insisted that Paris was the paradise of the Aframerican” (Ibid, 275). For Ray, accounts of France’s beneficence towards African Americans were just more propaganda that had less to do with the equality of the races than with a rivalry between nations.

  • 2 During the next eighty years, artists would radically transform and stylize the picture with the s (...)

25Finally, McKay gives the novel the feel of a Romare Bearden collage (or a rap single), as he slaps a large, untranslated portion of a French, leftist newspaper onto the text. Unlike little snippets of italicized quotes in French, this page-long “sample” has the effect of addressing itself directly to either a French or bilingual audience. The quote describes a “tirailleur sénégalais” who commits some sort of massacre in Toulon. Ultimately, the quote serves to close the door on the argument that France differs from America in its attitude towards Africans (and by extension African Americans). Indeed, the very notion of a tirailleur sénégalais is packed with dubious associations. First of all, Sénégalais (Senegalese) is used here as a generic term to refer to all of the men from the French West African colonies who were conscripted to fight for France during World War I. Also, the term not only refers to a fighting man and undifferentiated colonial subject, but it also refers to a type of domesticated Uncle Tom figure who, beginning in 1915 appeared on boxes of a breakfast preparation called Banania. This box displays a uniformed (wearing a distinguishing red fez and loose-fitting pantaloons), yet harmless soldier (only the stock of his rifle is apparent) sitting in the grass, gesticulating with a spoon, holding a bowl of Banania and smiling.2 Beneath the picture are the Caribbean Creole words “Y’a bon.” The imbedded excerpt presents an interesting gloss on this image of the transplanted, benevolent, protective native of the colonies. Indeed, it openly uses social Darwinist theory to transform this figure from a smiling Uncle Tom into an uneducable murderer. The excerpt tells us that no level of civilization can really take the jungle out of the African. For the African, it says: “civilization is a wine that is too strong”:

Sous les bananiers originels, Yssima était sans doute un brave noir, en perfaite hannonie avec la morale de sa race et les lois de la nature. Transplanté, déraciné, il est devenu un fou sanguinaire. (Ibid, 278)

26According to the excerpt (which seems to summarize many of the same tenets of Plessy vs. Ferguson and the Booker T. Washington Atlanta Exposition Speech that concretized American segregation), the Senegalese Yssima is not ready for civilization. He cannot understand its subtleties, which require that he know the difference between murder and killing in war.

27Imbedding the newspaper story also has the effect of upsetting the différend and turning the tables on the journalistic frame that has thus far reserved the right to define and devalue black subjects. It also allows McKay to use one of the novel’s most powerful weapons against the hegemonic discourse of the newspaper — irony. Indeed, Ray says he clipped and kept the article because it “was such an amusing revelation of civilized logic.” Moreover, “he was in tacit agreement with the thesis” (Ibid, 277). This first leads one to question how Ray could agree with such a piece of racist propaganda. Was he following in the footsteps of his countryman Marcus Garvey who met with the Ku Klux Klan? Perhaps. But it must be admitted that Garvey’s ill-fated gesture was laden with irony, as is Ray’s embrace of the newspaper excerpt. Ray may agree with the article’s author, or he may really agree with Yssima who rejects a civilization that would distinguish between different types of murder. The excerpt allows McKay to interject an element of indeterminacy in his text that reflects back on the act of reading. Indeed, he does this at another juncture through an act that seems to definitively sever the novel’s ties with realism and journalism. At one point, Ray encounters a man he calls “Home to Harlem JakeHome to Harlem refers to a 1928 novel by McKay with Jake and Ray as characters. Referring to another novel for its referents of time and space upsets both the epistemological and the ontological assumptions of the text. It interjects an element of impossibility (if not amateurish artifice) into the text. The effect is to jar the reader out of the type of complacency fostered by the pre-scripted, iconic stories and propaganda of realist documents and newspaper journalism. Banjo resists being a piece of journalism. Its uneven sense of time and characterization and its relentless emphasis of the poetic over the prosaic also help it to resist being a novel.

28All of this allows the novel to challenge hegemony as it upsets traditional notions of identity as located in specified notions of time and space. Banjo invokes a sense of fluid, emergent, inchoate identity. This is why it chooses a port as its setting, an archetypal liminal space that resists being any one thing. Ray rhapsodizes about this aspect of the docks of Marseilles:

The eternal harvest of the world on the docks. African hard wood, African rubber, African ivory, African skins. Asia’s gifts of crisp fragrant leaves and the fabled old spices with grain and oil and iron. All floated through the oceans into this warm Western harbor where, waiting to be floated back again, were the Occident’s gifts. Immense crates, barrels, cases of automobiles, pianos, player-pianos, furniture; sand-papered, spliced, and varnished wood; calico print, artificial silk; pretty shoes and boots; French wines, British whiskeys, and a thousand little salesmen-made goods. Composite essence of the soil of all lands. (Ibid, 307)

29Banjo is thus a novel that strives to foment a sense of identity that goes beyond that of the lynch mob engendered and fostered by newspapers of all types. Instead, it aches to produce an identity based on movement, difference and ultimately acceptance.


Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict, 1991. Imagined Communities ·. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of nationalism. New York: Verso.

Domke, David. “Journalists, Framing, and Discourse About Race Relations.” Journalism & Mass Communication Monographs, 164, December 1997.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., 1988. Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York, Oxford University Press.

Gossett, Thomas F, 1997. Race: The History of an Idea in America. 1963. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hall, Stuart, 1996. “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.” Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural studies. Eds. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen. London; New York: Routledge.

Hill, Robert A. Ed, 1983. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume II, 27 August 1919-31 August 1920. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Lyotard, Jean-François, 1988 (—1983). The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. 1983. Trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Martindale, Carolyn, 1986. The White Press and Black America. New York: Greenwood Press.

McKay, Claude, 1957 (—1929). Banjo: A Story without a Plot. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Mencher, Melvin, 1987. News Reporting and Writing. Dubuque, WCB, 1987.

Ong, Walter, 1967. The Presence of the Word. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Osthaus, Carl, 1994. Partisans of the Southern Press: Editorial Spokesmen of the Nineteenth Century. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky.

Simmons, Charles A, 1998. The African American Press: A History of News Coverage During the National Crises with Special Reference to Four Black Newspapers, 1827-1965. Jefferson, N. C.: McFarland & Co.

Wright, Richard, 1989 (—1940). “How Bigger was Born.” Native Son. New York: Harper Perennial


1 According to Stuart Hall’s reading of Gramsci, common sense refers to the way “philosophical currents enter into, modify and transform the practical everyday consciousness or popular thought of the masses”. It is ultimately an ideological position (Hall, 1996, 431).

2 During the next eighty years, artists would radically transform and stylize the picture with the smile being its only constant.


University of Saint Louis

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