If you're African-American, as I am, you can't read Margaret Mitchell's stupendous novel - or see the movie - without giving thanks for how far we've come. From a black point of view, it's terribly racist, but what does one expect? It's a document written during segregation by a Southern white woman about a time when the entire south was chained down by the institution of slavery. Though she would amend her views after the book was published, I'm happy Mitchell (born this day in 1900) filled her famous novel with unreconstructed attitudes and perceptions. Others disagree, but I want to know where we've come from, and I'm grateful for documents that provide some glimpse of that.
We live in times when there's so much that's counterfeit about human interaction. Everyone knows you can't be openly racist these days. But attitudes passed on from one generation to the next die hard. You can't separate the artist from her work, but it's interesting to note that Mitchell, confronted with her novel's racism after the fact, secretly gave money to Dr. Benjamin Mays in support of Morehouse College, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like many other black leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, did his undergraduate work. We are all connected, and sometimes a negative gives rise to a positive. Here's a nicely edited clip showing scenes from Gone with the Wind. A link to the PBS documentary on Mitchell's life is here.
Few have done more to counter the negative stereotypes found in Mitchell's novel that Alfre Woodard, who was born this day in 1961. Here she is reading Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman." Happy Birthday, Alfre.
TAGS: Famous Birthdays, Historical Figures & Events
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