What has been most depressing, and at times downright infuriating, about the recent discussions of the problem of integration is that the terms of discourse tend increasingly to be those of the Southern enemies of equality for the Negroes. And this has been true even for many liberals who sincerely think of themselves as opponents of segregation.
A major social and political revolution is taking place in the South. The Negroes are making unprecedented gains in political and economic power —partly as the result of a belated industrialization which, in its need for skilled and literate labor, tends to break down caste lines; partly as a result of the political needs of the United States in the cold war, which makes it mandatory that some genuine improvements be made in the conditions of Negroes; partly as a result of the decades of effort by those very Northern radicals and liberals who (one increasingly hears) are constitutionally incapable of understanding “Southern institutions,” and even more, by the effort of the Negro organizations that have fought and suffered in and out of public notice.
What is happening is of extraordinary importance to our entire national life, and I wish merely to indicate it here, without even pretending to a rounded analysis: the Southern Negroes, after decades of humiliation, are finding their political and social voice; they are acquiring new self-confidence and coherence; they have become or are on the verge of becoming an independent political force in the South....
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