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LLOYD L.

BROWN
TALKS TO MARY HELEN
WASHINGTON
Writing The
Collective Narrative
Route One Interview
On Thursday, February 22, 1996, novelist, literary historian, and political activist Lloyd L.
Brown was invited to the University of Maryland at College Park as a Black History Month
speaker. Brown, whose 1951 novel Iron City has been seen as a revolutionary response to
Richard Wright's Native Son, addressed "Race and the Un-American Renaissance: Rethinking
Cold War Cultural History."
Born in 1911 in St. Paul, Minn., Brown became active in the Young Communist League (YCL)
in 1929, the year of the Stock Market Crash and the onset of the Great Depression. He visited the
Soviet Union in 1933-34 and moved to the East Coast to work as an organizer for the Congress
of Industrial Organizations in Pittsburgh. During World War II, he served for three years in a
segregated squadron of the Army Air Corps.
In his work as a novelist and essayist, Brown was a major radical voice in the 1950s when the
House Un-American Activities Committee was actively prosecuting individuals with suspected
communist ties. He challenged members of the African-American community to adopt a more
militant stand against the oppressive racism of the time, while also attacking widespread class
oppression. His literary criticism at this time strongly challenged the work of writers such as
Wright, Chester Himes and Ralph Ellison, which Brown felt demonized African Americans in
order to communicate their message regarding the effects of racism.
Brown's novel Iron City is based upon his experiences when imprisoned in Pittsburgh because of
his work as a union organizer there. The novel depicts three African-American communists, in
jail because of their political activities, who work to help free a fellow inmate who has been
wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The novel is a scathing account of the
injustices of racism and political intolerance, and shows how, through the work of the imprisoned
communists, collective political action can effect social change.
Iron City was originally published by Masses and Mainstream, a Communist journal, and went
through three printings despite being sold only through direct marketing and word of mouth.
Although it was praised and compared to the work of authors such as Langston Hughes, Iron
City never received wide public support and was out of print for more than forty years until it
was reissued in 1994 by Northeastern University Press.
Brown continued his work in revolutionary politics through the 1940s, during which time he
became the managing editor of the Communist Party weekly New Masses and associate editor

of Masses and Mainstream. After leaving the Communist Party in 1952, he worked with singer,
actor, writer, and pro-Communist activist Paul Robeson, writing speeches and columns, and
assisting Robeson with his book,Here I Stand. Brown's latest book, to be published this fall, is a
biography of Robeson.
This interview with Brown took place in College Park on Friday, February 22. Brown was
interviewed by Mary Helen Washington, a professor of African American literature in the
English Department of the University of Maryland who is currently writing a book on black
writers and the left, "Radical Integration: African American Writing, Music, and Dance in the
1950s."
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: I know you as a political activist and a writer. Are those two
roles compatible? How have you managed to integrate them?
LLOYD L. BROWN:
I think that being a radical activist obviously influenced my writing.

The things that I thought were good would be expressed as good in my writing, things that
I thought were evilin other words, I never wrote anything other than what I believe in. I
couldn't possibly, let's say write something for a publication that I didn't believe in. So, whatever
I wrote, in that respect, I was a free man.
I wrote what I felt and what I thought.
And in that respect I think I was in a tradition of literature going way back, certainly, let's say, to
Mark Twain [and] Thoreau in this country, Emerson, and in England, let's say Dickens. Dickens
was a reformer . . . Hugo was a reformer.

He hated oppression and [in] anything he wrote . . . his feelings about society came out. He didn't
do it intentionally.

Let's say Harriet Beecher Stowehers was a propaganda piece. She wanted to appeal to
people's sentiments.
She did it and of course very successfullyit was a best-seller in America. But that was a little
different, that was almost like a pamphlet in a sense. It was not really a creative piece of work.
She didn't know what she was writing aboutshe didn't know the slaves. It was all
make-believe, but effective. Like a soap opera in a sense, in literature. But other writers wrote
actually how they felt. You can tell how they felt by what they wrote about. So that's where I feel

my views; I think I feel the same, I belong to the same group as let's say Shelley. He felt that
way, he wrote that way, I belong to his party. I belong to Robert Burns, a man's a man for
all that and what the world will be like when man to man the world shall brothers be as far
as I'm concerned. As far as I'm concerned, he was a communist in the sense that I think of that
term.
Not as a narrow political movement.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: So you don't feel as though being a communist dominated
your writing or forced you to write certain kinds of things, forced you to write 'politically
correct' for a party member?
LLOYD L. BROWN: No, it's quite the opposite.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON:

Because that is one of the things that Richard Wright said, that he had to leave the communist
party because he felt they were trying to coerce him into writing certain things.
LLOYD L. BROWN:

Yes, well, no I never felt any pressure to write in a certain way. No one told me what to write and
sometimes I even sort of wrote against the stream. For example, I wrote an article called "Words
and White Chauvinism."
In that article I was attacking something that was going on in the communist movement: The
branding of people for so-called racist words which were not racist at all. For instance, the word
"black" was a bad word . . . to everyone in the communist movement and among our own people
far as that goes. "You black so-and-so." Right? Alright, so now they had this big drive on against
white chauvinism, like a witch-hunt, and people were being brought up on charges and expelled.
One case, a person referred to somebody as having "African features" and was expelled. They
didn't use the word racist; they used the term white chauvinist. So I attacked that. My editor was
very worried when I wrote that piece.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: Did you write that piece for Masses and Mainstream?
LLOYD L. BROWN: Masses and Mainstream I prefaced it and I covered myself by showing
that there are racist words. In fact my very first line was 'Jim Crow is a talking bird.' And then I
go on to show how words are a part of racism, how racism is expressed in words. But then I went
into another area in which I discussed the concept of light and dark as ancient, and as natural, as
day and night. And to say the word 'dark' is racist, as compared to 'light.' I gave an example from
the Negro National Anthem: 'Out of our dark past'that's slavery, right'toward the rising sun

of our new day begun.' It's a concept, it has nothing to do with race. It's a universal. But in the
left wing there was that extreme. We've had it lately in this 'political correctness.' You know, I
said somebody's handicapped. 'Oh why did you say they're handicapped?' Because they are. They
said, 'You can't say that, you have to say 'movement deprived' or . . .
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: Or disabled or physically challenged.
LLOYD L. BROWN: Jeez, something. But I'm saying it's my meaning, don't attack me for what
I'm saying. Think of the meaning of it. I gave examples of black. I said we've got a paper
called The Black Dispatch. Well, if a person can be expelled for using the word black talking
about black people, how can you explain a newspaper The Black Dispatch? We've got it. So I had
a big attack on this, now they were worried about should they print that or not. Is this against the
party line? So, I wasn't going to withdraw it and if they hadn't printed it I would have left
because Id never met that situation before where something that Id write now has to be taken up
with officials. So they sent me up to Harlem. [Doxie] Wilkerson was then the editor of The
People's Voice, after Adam Powell. So [Doxie] was embarrassed for me. He said, 'Oh Lord, you,
really?' I said, 'they want you to okay this.' So he did and it was printed and then people thought
it was wonderful. And then later on the chairman of the party commended me for writing that
piece.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: So essentially what you said in the piece was that what they
were calling racism was not necessarily racism.
LLOYD L. BROWN: That's right. For instance, some . . .
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON:
So you were attacking their attack on white chauvinism.
LLOYD L. BROWN: That's right. On the grounds that it was . . . that you're not hitting the
enemy. You're battling now words. You're making your fellow traveler's wordshis wordsto
attack him. But he's on your side.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: But what about legitimate forms of white racism in the
party?
LLOYD L. BROWN:
Oh, [there] was no argument about that.
That was consistently attacked. In other words, any instances that I ever saw or heard of were
absolutely barred, I'd say from about 1930.
When I first joined there were some old people, one of them was named Mother Bloor and she
was talking about the Gastonia strike in North Carolina and she says, 'they have [palegra]

down there,'malnutrition'they have [palegra],' and she says, and not just the little . . . the
nigger children, but the white children too suffer from that. And this was [laughs] at a meeting.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON:
She actually used that term at a meeting?
LLOYD L. BROWN:
Yeah, at a public meeting and I was the speaker at the meeting. In fact I was the chairman of this
open-air rally. She was speaking on behalf of the Gastonia strikers. A friend of mine who was
there, he still remembers it. I walked out. I said, I'm going home. I'm not going to have
anything to do with people who use that kind of word around me. So I was on my way out
and Gil Green come running after me and brought her to apologize. And she was old then.
And when she was in her 90s she saw me one time and she said to me, 'Oh yes,' she says, 'I
remember you,' she says, 'I recruited you in Minnesota.' She remembered the incident. But
naturally she's denied in her mind what happened. She was an old socialist. And the socialists
were not at all conscious of this 'Negro question.' . . . They were workers and that's all. But
they would, a guy like Debs, a wonderful human being, a great leader, but he would tell jokes
about a darkie preacher just like any white man of his time would. But he was no different than
the Democrats on that.
The communists had to learn better than that.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: How, why? Why did they learn better?
LLOYD L. BROWN:
Well they learned better because they began to get the idea that blacks are not just to be
considered workers, they've got an extra oppression on them. It's the result of slavery which still
persists. And in fact, not only that, but you have to look at them like a repressed national
minority. As distinct with rights of their own, even and including the right of setting up their own
homeland. This is a concept I never believed in, but this was a belief. In other words, that in the
Black Belt you would have self-determination for the Black Belt. They could determine how
they lived the same as any other people. They could remain a part of the country if they want,
they could be separate if they want, but it's up to them. They have the right to determine what
they're going to be.
And so as a national minority, you have to recognize them as a national minority. Therefore, you
have to have special demands for them. Equal wages is not good enough for them, because
everybody knows they are not included in 'equal.' Therefore you've got to make special demands
all the time. You've got to think of things that apply specifically to blacks. So they did adopt this.
And then they did start expelling people.
There was a famous case, in the early 1930s.

It was a Finnish club house in Harlem. Finnish workers all. And this particular communist a
Finn. Couldn't speak English hardly at all. They had a swimming pool and he objected to black
party members coming in and using the swimming pool. He said, 'That's wrong' [laughs]. That's
what he thought. So they had a big trial. Public trial, was in the newspaper, they put him on trial
and they expelled him, took action against him, he apologized. And they gave him certain, let's
say like community work to do, to learn better and to make up for it.
So that particular trialit was in about 1930somebody once said that that trial alerted
the party so that in 1931 [and] the Scottsboro case, they immediately reacted to that. Saving
the boys made an international human cry about it. So that educated a lot of the whites as
to what are the conditions of the Souththe white members.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: As you know the re-publication of your 1951 novel Iron
City is stimulating new discussion of that text as an example of resistance to Cold War
ideologies.

Tell me what motivated you to write such a novel in the midst of Cold War hostilities when you
knew almost certainly that its politics would be rejected.
LLOYD L. BROWN:
Oh I thought about it for years and years. And, don't forget, the experience was in 1941. And then
I thought about the experience all that timeuntil I starting writing it. I took a leave of absence
from my job in 19. . .50, I guess, to write it. It was published in '51. I took off for a year.
Scrounged up the moneyI didn't have any advance. And just decided I'm going to write this
story but I wouldn't have been able to write it had I not learned how to write. I had the feeling. I
had the idea. But I did not know how to write. I learned to write by being an editor and working
on the magazine with men who were highly competent writers and editors and when I would
write something they would go over and show me, 'Boy this is no good, that's no good, this is
junk, this is a cliche' and I began to feel that writing a cliche, you know, was like committing a
crime [laughs]. Id better not use any, you know, cliches. Dead against that.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: One of the most powerful aspects of Iron City is its
collective protagonistthe three men, Faulcon, Paul, and Zachconstitute the main narrative
point of view. Tell me how you came to create these characters.
LLOYD L. BROWN: Two of them are close to being what I described them and that's Zach and
Faulcon. Zach was Mac McCullough, a southern fireman who came north, a steelworker. And
Zach, as I depicted him, you'd think he's a deacon in a church. Very straight, respectful, you'd
never use a bad word in his presence. He was appalled at the language he heard, he said, 'These
people are ignorant.' Anyway, so he's a real person and Henry Faulcon, his name was William
Thornton. He's a real guy, his philosophy, his ideas, his being a race man at all times. He had a
theoryI didn't use it in the bookhe had a theory that the strength of our people came from
black-eyed peas. And he wrote and published a poem. He wrote from the jail, and published a

poem in The Daily Worker, I should get it some time, called "Ode to the Black-eyed Pea" in
which he's exalting our strength.
But he was, as I said, a communist and a race man at the same time. To him both went together;
he wanted his people to be equal, but at the same time he liked them the way they were. He felt
that they were better in so many ways, their lives were richer, they were juicier, they had . . . he
liked them, he liked everything about them better than he did white people. He felt that white
people had to learn to relax and be more like Negroes [laughs]. So he was absolute.
Now, the other one, Paul Harper, is a mixture of maybe two or three people. Physically, he is
exactly, well, he did look like this Willy Jones. Same height, age, color and so on. But he was
very much like a young man named James Ashford who died young. A kid from Arkansas. A
young communist leader who conceived the idea of the Southern Negro Youth Congress. And he
says there was a white one, American Youth Congress, a very broad organization that the young
communists were active in. But he said that we've gotta have one for our people in the South.
And so he conceived the idea, he raised money for it, he got me to write a call for the founding
convention of it. This was a forerunner of the later student movement and, uh, he did conceive it.
He was a brilliant organizer; too much of a ladies' man. Very popular with women, girls.
Anyway, so he, I would think, he was mostly this character.
Partly my experiences came in because I was the head of the inside committee and my wife was
the contact. So that aspect of the story was me; also the activity that was done outside was me
like the campaign for the teachers, the campaign to get into swimming poolsthe local issues
that we were fighting on, those were things that Id been involved in.
But mostly the character of Harper comes from this friend of mine, James Ashford. I once was
upset because Freedomways published an article which didn't mention Ashford in it. Now,
Ashford's dead and gone. I don't like the idea that somebody's dead and gone and then you don't
remember what they did. I like to be a witness to that. So I wrote an article
for Freedomways telling about the role that James Ashford played in this idea of having a
Southern Negro Youth Congress. Now, when he did that, that went against the grain of many
white radicals who couldn't see the idea, 'why do you need a separate youth organization in the
South?' But he fought for it, I backed him up on that, so did another guy named Ed Strong, a
young black communist came out of Chicago, a preacher's son. He was a big shot in the
American Youth Congress but he supported this idea that we've got to have a black one in the
South. And so that was built, they had a convention in Richmond. DuBois spoke at the founding
convention in Richmond that was established, I forget the year. So this guy Ashford, he was the
brains, he was a great organizer, so I was thinking of him more than anybody in the character of
Harper; but obviously in terms of the background, imagination comes in as to . . . let's say Zach
as a fireman. I brought in the campaign to kill the fireman through him. This incident of the
shooting hadn't happened to him but a lot worse . . . and somehow nobody seemed to notice that
during the De . . . it was during the Depression, you seeand the whites wanted those jobs. They
hadn't had them ever since the Civil War.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: Now, you know, one of the things, now that I've taught this
book a couple times, that always intrigues me is that it's such a religious book. I don't know if

you were aware of that, it was a highly religious book. For example, Zach's time in solitary
confinementlike Christ in the tombbecause the prelude to redemptive acts. One of the other
prisoners, as a result of Zach's sacrifice, is motivated to help smuggle out a letter, so that Zach's
suffering becomes redemptive, as all suffering does in the text.
LLOYD L. BROWN: Yes. His resistance inspires somebody to resist who has no use for
resistance at all. At first, Slim felt, "To Hell with you people! I'm going to learn Spanish and get
out of this country. I don't want to be here!" So he had left the race, he had left everything but he
sees what this guy has done. And that inspires him to smuggle the letter out.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: I'm wondering if you've ever thought about how religious
this book [Browns novel Iron City] is despite the fact that you wrote it as a communist?
LLOYD L. BROWN: I tell you, that comes not from my own religiosity. I am not religious
except culturally. Culturally I am in a sense and . . . if I am an Afro-American therefore I have to
be moved by, lets say gospel; when there's a gospel program on I tape it. Im inspired by gospel.
It moves me. And so its religious, but it is a humanistic religion. . .
I once discussed with Paul Robeson the song Little Jesus Boy that Mahalia sings. They didnt
know who you are, they treated you like they treat me is in the songshe humanizes Jesus.
Makes him like one of us. One of our own people, she makes him. So it is, in that respect, the
Afro-American religion is very earthy, its down-to-earth. Its very real. And therefore if Im
trying to write how they are I have to have them come into it. The role of the preacher in this
thing, who became the head of the committee, the church, well that was his role, you see. Rev.
Bruford. So, to me, you cannot write about our people and leave out their spirituality. To me, I
see it as cultural rather than ideological.
I think of it as, well, like in the spiritual. See now some of the Reds used to say that
they werent spiritual; that they meant follow the drinking gourd means escapethey made
everything into practical; steal away to Jesus that meant escape from slavery. I said, No, no,
theyre talking about both. Theyre talking about stealing away. Yes. But theyre also, theyre
also looking to heaven because they dont have anything here. Its not just the North. Theyre
going to have to . . . get away! To get on board. Come on children, theres room for many or
more. The escape was a big part of it, but it was both spiritual and, and thats what made it so
good. Because it was not, you know, some abstract hymn. This was their own lives they were
talking about, they were singing about their own lives, thats what gave them.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: As I'm listening to you, it seems so easy to be radical to
accept radicalism. But I'm thinking about how difficult it was to be a radical in the 1950s when
the government responded with such repression and there was such outlawing and discrediting of
radicalism. What gave you permission to go against the status quo, against the government, to go
against everything that would have made you a more acceptable person in this country? What
allowed you to take on that position that, that in so many ways made you a non-acceptable
person in this society?

LLOYD L. BROWN: Because, from my childhood, the injustices that I saw in childhood. A
child can see things better than most people can; they know right from wrong, they see it. I saw
hunger, I suffered hunger, but I saw other people suffering from hunger. I saw what racism was. I
thought that this society was rotten. And nobody taught me that. I just saw it. And that, I must
not ever become a part of this evil thing. I must be different. If everybody's going to be that way
I'm gonna be something different, I'm not gonna be like that.
In grade school they told us about this Sir Philip Sydney, a noble man, I think he was a boyfriend
of the Queen of England, he was wounded and dying on the battlefield and there was a soldier
therean ordinary little guyand they brought Sir Philip some water and he says 'No, give it to
him, his need is greater than mine.' So I thought to myself 'That's cool, that's beautiful. That's,
that's . . . that's what I call a good person. See, here's a noble man.'
So then later on I read something Fred Douglass said and it thrills me 'cause I'd been believing
that for a long time where he said that about this state of things, 'What man can look upon this
state of things and not resolve to cast his influence with those elements that are going to come
down and dash this state of things to atoms!' That's what he said about the slaves. 'What man can
look upon this and not resolve to do this all.' But I had done that, you see, already, as a child. I
came to that thought. That you can't, you just can't turn away, you've got to be involved; so when
I met some people when I was sixteen years old who seemed to have that idea, believe that idea,
they were young communistsI joined right up with them. But I was already radicalized by life.
Life.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: When you joined the Communist Party was it considered as
threatening and subversive as it became during the 1950s?
LLOYD L. BROWN: Well, it was not popular, but it wasn't considered significant until the
Depression. The Depression came, the party grew enormously. Started leading masses of people.
Hugetens of thousands of people at demonstrations and hunger marches. But still they weren't
considered a menace, really, generally speaking, so it was later on, when Russia became a
super-power, then things changed. When Russia was poor and broke and so on it didn't matter
what, what you were, but once they became a super power then they're the enemy therefore the
people who share their ideas are enemies too.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: You know, it's interesting that here you are working in the
Communist Party and I'm assuming working in a very integrated community of people and yet
you write a book in which the only two significant white characters, or maybe three, are Crazy
Peterson . . . Winkle . . . Cox . . . And that's it. The two lawyers and the crazy man are the two
representatives of white . . .
LLOYD L. BROWN: Because the others, the others are not on the scene. Except, the guards are
there. The chief guard, and the yard guards, they're all there. But the others, I deliberately did not
include any. I could have had some of them be in the same group, on the same tier if I wanted to,
you see? But it would have been impossible for me to do what I wanted to do because I wanted
my story to be blackresistance. The blacks are being oppressed. But the main thing of it is the
resistance. Under any circumstances you have to resist.

MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: So you keep your white characters, the ones who are
supporting this resistance movement, off on the margins, but they're there.
LLOYD L. BROWN: Yes, but I was criticized for that by communists. They did feel that 'Well
Lloyd, you know, you've got this, it's fine, but aren't you now lending yourself to some kind of a
nationalism where you're separating yourself from the Communist Party?' I said, 'Well I'm just
making it out to be what it is in life. That's how it is in life. Now we, as an organization, we're
not characteristic of life. We are integrated, we are interracial, but that's not the way life is. That's
not the country.' So, if I was going to write about America they way we are, then it would be
utterly sectarian. There wouldn't be any real people in it. Because we're not real people in that
sense of, we're like any sect that lives off by themselves somewhere, no relation to the rest of the
world, eat certain food, practice a certain customs. But I said, 'We are different from everybody
else. True! But, I said, I can't write about the real world and make the real world like us that way
where it doesn't make any difference what color you are, this or that!
Because, see, in the movement I frequently held positions of leadership over whites and nobody
thought anything strange about that. When I was district organizer of the Young Communist
League in Pittsburgh or in Connecticut all the, everybody, all the others were whites. That was
considered perfectly normal. When I was the editor of The Young Worker, the weekly newspaper
of the Young Communist League, I was the chief editor, I was a Negro first (because we were
having a lot of those in those days) but it was perfectly acceptable, my race was never
discriminated against. In fact, sometimes even unworthy blacks were appointed to positions,
which I objected to as paternalistic. He can't speakwe'll write his speech for him. He's got this
or that, maybe he drinks too muchwe'll overlook it for him because, you know, he's black and
we've got to make allowances I didn't like that.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: Well, were you saying something with Crazy Peterson being
the only white man in the text who really is unconscious of color?
LLOYD L. BROWN: Racism is irrational. He is irrational. He is, he is by our standards
irrational. But he does not accept in his irrationality our irrationality, society's irrationality. He
doesn't understand and Lonnie is even upset with him that he doesn't understand the difference,
what difference the skin color makes. But in that respect, Crazy Peterson, is actually . . . innocent
of racism. He's like a four year old kid, he plays with another kid, he doesn't know the color of
this other kid. Children are innocent when it comes to that because they haven't yet learned. They
see, they're bright, they understand everything but they don't understand racial differences until
they learn it some . . . some kind of way; it's not natural.
So Crazy Peterson served me in that respect just to make that pointand also, I wanted to have
somebody explain who these Reds are in the book. I didn't want to do it as the author. I like it to
come out of the action. In other words, so Lonnie tells Peterson about these Reds. He says, you
didn't hear about them? They tried to overthrow the government. They didn't get away with it. It
doesn't bother him that they didn't. But he tells Peterson that that's what they're in there for, they
tried to overthrow the government. So that gave me a chance to tell, and in this distorted way that
the public knew it, through Lonnie what they were in jail for. Later on you might find out that's
not what they were in jail for but he believes it. So he explains it.

I learned this from Chekhov, Chekhov's notebooks. He says, 'Don't say that the moon, that when
you went out in the garden the moon was shining,' say, A piece of glass reflected the moonlight.
Now you know, if you say the moonlight was shining you really don't know whether it is or not.
But if it's reflected off a piece of glass then the reader says, Of course. He accepts the fact that
there is a moonlight. See, I learned that, that's one of the things I learned from reading and from
Chekhov's "Notes of a Writer" on how do you convey a thought, try to connect, rather than just
say 'it's a dark moonlit night' you show it. If it wasn't a moonlit night then there wouldn't be any
moonlight shining off a piece of glass, right? So that was, that's what I tried to do throughout
without making statements.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: I wanted you to say something about Faulcon's speech at the
end because I see that as really the end of the text. The most dramatic and powerful scene is the
one Faulcon creates in his utopian vision of the world. And you don't end with Lonnie's
execution.
LLOYD L. BROWN: No, because I want to show the struggle goes on. In other words, it is
true, that in this case it ended that way. But since it's a systemic problem, it can't be resolved.
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON: It ends with this vision that's not in the jail even though men
are still in prison at the end of the novel.
LLOYD L. BROWN: That's right. That, that's his idea of the future. This is an Afro-American
communist's idea of what he's fighting for. That's the kind of world that he wants. That he wants,
he wants his world, and you notice he plays the leading role in it.
I mean, he's the main speaker, and he calls upon the preacher to hit the book. And it's not the
preacher, it's, who is it? John Henry comes in. All of his heroes are part of his story because this
is an Afro-American view of Iron City, and he assumes charge. And he tells the people where to
sit, he moves the rich white folks out of there, because he believes they should be. He tells the
people to come together, but he doesn't want his people to get lost. And he doesn't like the
exclusion of the women in the whole thing. So this is really his idea of the new day, and of
course when that great day comes Zach is going to be driving his locomotive all across America
and all America is going to be saying 'Hooray.' Zach, what does he do, he's driving a locomotive,
free; liberation, in that image, has come; equality, he's achieved it, he's made it. How'd he make it
he's not president but he's driving this engine . . .

SOURCE: Lloyd L. Brown Talks to Mary Helen Washington: Writing the Collective Narrative
(Route One Interview), Route One [University of Maryland, College Park], vol. 1, no. 1, Spring
1996, pp. 64-78.

African American / Black Autodidacticism, Education, Intellectual Life (Bibliography in Progress)


Richard Wright Study Guide

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe Study Guide


Black / African-American / African Atheism (part of atheism web guide)
Black Freethinkers & Other Intellectuals (external links)
Marx and Marxism Web Guide
"Ligoj de Frateco" [Bonds of Brotherhood]
by Paul Robeson, translated by R. Dumain
Offsite:
Lloyd L. Brown on black cultural religiosity
(excerpt from this interview)

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