Not race but culture dominates the character of Americans of all colors—so argues a writer who is young, black, and the Pulitzer prizewinning author of Elbow Room.
“. . . every human being’s life in this world is inevitably mixed with every other life and, no matter what laws we pass, no matter what precautions we take, unless the people we meet are kindly and decent and human and liberty-loving, then there is no liberty. Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.”
His admiration for Ralph Ellison led James Alan McPherson into this remarkable dialogue, a combination of conversations and correspondence that says powerful things to Americans and about Americans.
There is one lawyer for every 637 persons in the United States, but only one black lawyer for every 7000 blacks. Many changes —in attitudes, in curricula, in objectives— need to come before that blatant inequity is reduced. The author earned a law degree from Harvard, taught at the University of Iowa, and toured Southern campuses for qualified black law-school candidates to accumulate the facts and impressions that make up this singular study of the tough choices that face the blacks who need the law and the whites who run the machinery that produces lawyers.
Last month Mr. McPherson described how a group of black Chicago street gangs evolved into the controversial "Ranger Nation," funded by the Poverty Program, investigated by the Senate, and hunted by the police. Here he completes his report and explains why—as a onetime Chicago policeman puts it—the Rangers "started as kids, but with all the pressures, they don't even know themselves now."
Are the Blackstone Rangers a corrupt, exploitive street gang? Or a constructive engine of community black power?