Hannah Arendt’s Reflections

In the Winter 1959 issue of DISSENT, Miss Hannah Arendt quotes in the preliminary statement to her article, “Reflections on Little Rock,” some remarks I made about Negroes being less interested in abolishing laws against miscegenation than in combatting segregation. The reader is referred to my article “Democracy and Desegregation” in The New Leader of April 13, 1958. But he will search in vain for these remarks or similar ones in my New Leader article.

She therewith provides the evidence of a scandalous abuse of the decencies of intellectual exchange.

Miss Arendt’s article was originally sent to me by the Editors of Commentary with a request to discuss the theme with special reference to her position. I consented, after much urging, because of the crucial importance of the subject. My article was set up in galleys and a copy sent to Miss Arendt. After she read my reply she withdrew her piece from Commentary. It is false to assert, as do the Editors of DISSENT, that “an earlier opportunity to print her views had been withdrawn.” Nor does Miss Arendt herself make this claim. Whatever the course of her previous negotiations with the Editors of Commentary may have been, at the time she withdrew her article it was ready for publication together with mine, for the March 1958 issue of Commentary.

I was shocked when informed that Miss Arendt had withdrawn her piece from publication after she saw the galleys of my critical reply. She had been apprised that I would be invited to comment and had agreed. I telephoned her and tried to persuade her to reconsider. Knowing that she had had some difficulties with the Editors of Commentary about the editing of her article, I proposed that her article and mine be published in the Partisan Review or any other magazine she suggested. She said she regretted I had been put to the trouble of replying to her but that she did not wish to publish her article in Commentary or anywhere else because the subject was no longer topical. Segregation in education was topical in December, 1957 (when I was first approached) but not in February, 1958 (when she withdrew it)!