October 23, 2008 - Issue 296
The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual Revisited
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill, PhD
One of our great ancestors, Harold Cruse wrote a book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual which was published in 1967, at the height of the Black Power Movement. This insightful book stirred up a spirited conversation in the African Liberation Movement. That conversation revolves around the weaknesses of our movement, the direction of our movement, and inability of some of the leaders and thinkers of our movement to understand what Brother Cruse calls “The Great American Ideal.” This problem continues to linger with us today.
spent most of his activist and organizing days in
This year, 2008 marks the forty-first year of the publication of The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual . Its importance to our movement has still not received the attention it deserves, primarily because Brother Cruse was so honest in his criticisms of our movement and many of its well-known leaders. Therefore, the book was blocked in many circles from receiving the kind of legitimacy its substance deserved.
However, a small group of scholar/activists have discussed and debated Brother Cruse’s ideas during this forty-one year period and have organized study groups form time to time that have aided in understanding the ideas that Cruse presents in his book.
When we use the term intellectual, we are talking about people who struggle around ideas - writers, poets, scholars, researchers, teachers, students, and activists. Intellectuals are people who grapple with ideas and who function in the cultural, political, educational, and economic domains of the society. As Dr. Anderson Thompson always says, “Ideas are weapons of war.”
With this definition, let us review briefly some of the ideas and concepts that Brother Cruse presented in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual . One of the major points Cruse makes is the African American intellectuals are pathological in their approach to the choices available to them. It is Cruse’s observation that they appear to adopt the values of the dominant group, which he describes as the white Anglo Saxon Protestant.
It was in the
first chapter of The
Crisis of the Negro Intellectual
that Cruse raised this question of the problem of identity of the
Cruse illustrated this in his book when he described the following:
Cruse continued on this point:
Cruse addresses is that the African in
From the point
of view of Brother Cruse, the African in
Cruse, the crisis was whether the African in
[see also The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual from Its Origins to the Present and The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Failure of Black Leadership (New York Review Books Classics). -ed]