"You know, we've never had a boy in this school like you be-
fore" he said. "… But, listen, take this speech and say it. I
know what's best for you. You can't afford to just say anything
before those white people that night."
—RICHARD WRIGHT, BLACK BOY
"Prepared for the Exercise of These Privileges"
A New Negro and the End of Democracy
You CAN look out upon a river and know with a positive certainty that it has ever been and ever will be thus: elements of earth and water, rock and wood, combining to form a definite and concrete thing, a tableau captured in a painting or reproduced in a photograph. Such frozen certainty, however, wholly depends upon placement and perspective: on where you are in relation to the river; on how far your field of vision extends, even on the temporal intersection of your observing with a moment in the life of the river. Back there, the river finds its modest origins, betraying nothing of its glory downstream in waterfalls and whitewater. Here, the river rolls along in rapids, with no intimation of other aspects of its meandering course through space and time; in another season it might become but a shadow of itself, strangled down into a trickle bleeding through a dry and dusty bed. Up close, an eddy might be taken to be the