Interchange, an interview-based radio show and podcast produced by WFHB in Bloomington, Indiana, gets to the questions that have shaped how we understand ourselves. As WFHB’s longest running public affairs show, Interchange has shared conversations with hundreds of scholars and other experts on politics, religion, metaphysics, economics, history, revolution, ecology, and climate change. Today the stakes stand in stark relief, we challenge our perspectives—as individuals and communities, as thinkers and actors, as people in the world—in effort to change our course.
Interchange – Mr. Trotter, the President, and the Klan with Kerri Greenidge
Because I want to use this introduction to correct a gap in the show today - entirely of my doing - I’ll have to rush a bit to tell you what you will hear about. Here we go:
* Booker T. Washington and Racial Conservatism
* Washington’s Tuskegee Institute and his “machine politics”
* W. E. B. Du Bois and the Niagara Movement
* The 1908 white riot in Springfield, Illinois
* The NAACP as the creation of white liberal philanthropists
* Woodrow Wilson, supported by the Black community
* D. W. Griffith’s anti-black propaganda film Birth of a Nation
* Woodrow Wilson hated by the Black community
* Militant radicals Marcus Garvey and Hubert Harrison
* Cyril Briggs and the African Blood Brotherhood
* The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921
At or near the center of all of these stands William Monroe Trotter, the most important Black radical journalist and agitator you’ve never heard of - co-owner and editor of The Boston Guardian from 1901 until his death in 1934. He was 62 years old.
What you won’t hear about in what follows is the Crumpacker Resolution, but the strategy of this recurs in the book many times over about a one hundred page span, and at its heart is the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Here’s a shortened version of the 14th amendment’s second section:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers.... But when the right to vote at any election... is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in...proportion…
Recall from our show on Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican who pushed Lincoln to the left politically, that the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are called the "Reconstruction amendments" as they abolished slavery and guaranteed equal protection of the laws and the right to vote in the wake of the US Civil War. Ensuring that these amendments were in force was a major part of Monroe Trotter’s purpose in life. Adopted in 1868, the 14th amendment is still being flouted by white politicians today, as state legislatures introduce legislation that restrict the opportunity to vote and disproportionately affect Black citizens.
The Crumpacker Resolution, named for a U.S. Representative from Indiana, was introduced on January 3, 1901, in response to wide-spread white violence against black voters across the South in clear and constant violation of the 14th amendment. The most glaring and terrible example is the 1898 coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, where a group of the state's white Southern Democrats and hundreds of white businessmen, all heavily armed, stoked mob violence in order to overturn the legitimately elected local Fusionist biracial government. Black-owned property and businesses were destroyed and as many as three hundred people were killed and an estimated two thousand residents were displaced.
It’s perhaps little in the way of justice, but the Crumpacker Resolution would diminish the representative power of states perpetrating these acts. Monroe Trotter’s Guardian promoted the resolution and sponsored a rally in support of it.The resolution was defeated handily in January and then again in June, 1901, though this was a government firmly in the hands of the so-called “party of Lincoln”.
Kerri K. Greenidge, author of Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter published by Liveright, an assistant professor in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University.
Interchange – Pin Dancing: Eliot Weinberger On Angels and Saints
Angels: what do we really know about them? Where do they come from, what are they made of, how do they communicate and perceive? Today’s guest, Eliot Weinberger, has mined and deconstructed, resurrected and distilled centuries of theology into his new book, Angels & Saints. And when you’re trying to find out about angels, it’s hard to avoid the topic of saints.
In his book Weinberger offers saints’ lives retold in a series of vibrant and playful capsule biographies - and we’ll hear one of these read by Weinberger, that of Columba of Ireland who died in the year 597.
And our guide to the divine and earthly orders takes things one step farther - a speculation on the Afterlife!
Angels & Saints is published by Christine Burgin and New Directions.
But we’ll begin with politics - as Weinberger has just won the Bremerhaven Citizens' Prize for Literature, given biannually to writers who "set an example against injustice and violence, against hatred and intolerance."
In 2004 in the London Review of Books, Weinberger published his now famous essay, “What I Heard About Iraq,” a montage of facts, sound bites, and testimonies, that were spouted out of the mouths of the agents and cheerleaders of war. This piece launched a career he’s better known for in Europe and Latin America than in the US, that of a commentator highly critical of US politics and foreign policy. We’ll hear a selection from a more recent piece - “Advice to Washington from Ancient China,” also from the London Review of Books, from February of 2018.
We’ll close the show with a backwards glance at the child who is father to the artist and essayist and author of many collections including The Ghosts of Birds, An Elemental Thing, Oranges & Peanuts for Sale, and Works on Paper, to name only a handful... all of which are published by New Directions.
Eliot Weinberger is an essayist, political commentator, translator, and editor. His books of avant-gardist literary essays include Karmic Traces and An Elemental Thing (named by the Village Voice as one of the “20 Best Books of the Year”). His political articles are collected in What I Heard About Iraq—called by the Guardian the one antiwar “classic” of the Iraq war—and What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles. The author of a study of Chinese poetry translation, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, he is the translator of the poetry of Bei Dao, and the editor of The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. Among his translations of Latin American poetry and prose are the Collected Poems 1957–1987 of Octavio Paz, Vicente Huidbro’s Altazor, and Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions, which received the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism. He was born in New York City, where he still lives.
The World at Large: Eliot Weinberger On Everything (Interchange)
Advice to Washington from Ancient China by Eliot Weinberger (London Review of Books)
From Angels & Saints by Eliot Weinberger (BOMB)
Medieval Pattern Po...
Interchange – Pushing Lincoln Left: Thaddeus Stevens as Revolutionary
Born in poverty in rural Vermont, the Pennsylvania politician, Thaddeus Stevens, was among the first to see the Civil War as an opportunity for a second American revolution—a chance to remake the country as a true democracy which meant equal suffrage for all and more importantly the necessity of being a landowner.
One of the foremost abolitionists in Congress in the years leading up to the war, he was a leader of the young Republican Party’s radical wing, fighting for anti-slavery and anti-racist policies long before party colleagues like Abraham Lincoln endorsed them.
During the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, Stevens demanded equal civil and political rights for black Americans, rights eventually embodied in the 14th and 15th amendments. But while Stevens in many ways pushed his party, and public opinion, towards equality, his radical notion to confiscate all large plantation property and give it to the formerly enslaved, was a bridge too far for the United States of Private Property.
In what follows we point up the contradictions inherent in certain economic doctrines, particularly that of the yeoman farmer as the backbone of an egalitarian nations, and the assertion that industrialization was the key to economic prosperity - No one’s a freeholder who works in a factory. Our guest, Bruce Levine, happily sets the antebellum political and economic stage for us.
Our first segment might seem secondary to the program proper - but it seeks to place the discipline, practice, and publication of history in political context. Our example is the backlash to the 1960s and early 70s in the United States in which Bruce Levine plays a small but important part. Our focus is on the near universal acclaim (and promotion) of the book Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery by the economists Robert Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman published in 1974, and the almost immediate critique of the book by Herbert Gutman titled Slavery and the Numbers Game which highlights its myriad errors and false assumptions regarding empirical data.
Bruce Levine is professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois and the bestselling author of four books on the Civil War era, including The Fall of the House of Dixie and Confederate Emancipation and The Spirit of 1848: German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War. His new book, and our primary text for today’s conversation is Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice, published by Simon & Schuster.
Thaddeus Stevens by Peter Carlson
The Radicalism of Thaddeus Stevens (book review)
Thaddeus Stevens review: the Radical Republican America should remember (book review)
The Urgency of a Third Reconstruction by Robert Greene
MUSIC - Charles Ives
Though Charles Ives was one of the great composers of the early 20th century, and his Concord Sonata is well known and highly regarded, it was as a pioneer in the insurance business that many of his own friends and family knew him.
"Variations on 'America'" performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra (Eugene Ormandy)
"Putnam’s Camp, Redding, Connecticut" performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra (E...
Interchange – Writing Radicals: Mike Gold, Ann Petry, and Thomas McGrath
Today's show is a somewhat altered version of a program that first aired on November 3rd, 2015, called Tracking Subversives with the noted scholar of the "literary Left," Alan Wald. According to Wald, the aim of the literary radical is “to endow history with meaning.”
Wald has published a trilogy of books brought out by the University of North Carolina Press comprised of Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth Century Literary Left; Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left and the Antifascist Crusade; and most recently, American Night: The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War.
Though hundreds of radicals are detailed in Wald’s books we’ll focus on just three: Communist Party polemicist Mike Gold, African American novelist Ann Petry, and radical poet Thomas McGrath.
The art ideals of the capitalistic world isolated each artist as in a solitary cell, there to brood and suffer silently and go mad. We artists of the people will not face Life and Eternity alone. We will face it among the people.
-Mike Gold, "Towards a Proletarian Art"
Mike Gold was communist, a novelist, and literary critic. His semi-autobiographical novel Jews Without Money from 1930 was a bestseller. During the 30s and 40s Gold was considered the preeminent author and editor of U.S. proletarian literature.
Ann Petry was an American novelist who became the first Black woman writer with book sales topping a million copies for her novel The Street. But Wald declares The Narrows her masterpiece...on a level with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. In some ways she’s more typical of the literary left than Mike Gold, in the sense that her Communist identity was not public or known and is somewhat elusive.
Thomas McGrath was a celebrated American poet. McGrath produced a prolific array of titles, in several genres but he is best known for his long poem “Letter to an Imaginary Friend,” published in sections between 1957 and 1985 and as a single poem in 1997 by Copper Canyon Press. He was very open about his Communist politics and was actually quite dogmatic.
Alan M. Wald is the Emeritus H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor of English Literature and American Culture at the University of Michigan. In addition to his Literary Left trilogy, he’s the author of several other books including Writing From the Left and The Responsibility of Intellectuals.
Interchange – Out of a Brick Throat: How Poets and Poetry Matter
Interchange – Five Days in Spain: Muriel Rukeyser and the Revolutionary Muse
Interchange – The Unknown Knowns of Cultural Diplomacy
Interchange – Writing Red: Joshua Clover on Strikes and Riots
The Movie at the End of the World: Thomas McGrath (YouTube)
Writers on the Left, by Daniel Aaron, review in the Harvard Crimson, March 14, 1962.
Alan Wald (2011)
"Bella Ciao" performed by Savage Rose
Interchange – Of Her Kind: Radcliffe’s Messy Experiment in Women’s Liberation (May 19, 2020)
(Original air date: May 19, 2020)
In the United States of the 1950s there was a struggle over the very idea of what it would mean to be an American. After World War II, an American could ride high on military power and new technologies. But the Cold War and Nuclear Anxiety undermined the very real economic prosperity being experienced by the growing numbers of the so-called “middle class.” Anxiety and Supremacy yielded a national double-consciousness: While the clarion called for progress, the bell tolled against difference. And along with a fear of homosexuality and communism, those so-called lavender and red menaces, there was a fear that an educated woman might destroy the Great American Family. I’m not sure what color feminism is.
One such “dangerous experiment” in women’s liberation was the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, a program that offered paid fellowships to women with a PhD or “the equivalent” in artistic achievement.
In her book, The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, published by Knopf, Maggie Doherty, tells the story of how five women who received fellowships–poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen–formed deep bonds with one another that would inspire and sustain their most ambitious work. They called themselves “the Equivalents.”
The fulcrum of the book is Anne Sexton who shot to fame during her time at the Institute. Sexton believed she should be committed to home and hearth, husband and children, and yet everything about domesticity frustrated her ambitions. In her poem “Housewife,” she writes,
Some women marry houses.
It’s another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That’s the main thing.
Sexton wanted to achieve literary greatness in what was (and is) demonstrably a man’s world. The Institute would give her what she needed to be a great poet: time and friendship; a room and community of her own.
We begin with the founder of the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, Mary Ingraham Bunting, scientist, wife, and mother of four who perhaps assumed that her life was a useful model for women to replicate. But “the Equivalents,” especially Sexton and Tillie Olsen, radicalized the notion of what all kinds of women might want for a fulfilling life beyond the idealized family.
All of our music for the show comes from jazz pianist Jutta Hipp. Born in 1925 in Germany, Jutta Hipp studied painting and listened to jazz in secret, as it was not approved of by the Nazi authorities. After the war she became a touring pianist to support herself. She moved to New York in 1955 and played at the Hickory House in 1956 where she recorded two albums for Blue Note. A studio album with Zoot Sims followed in July of the same year and was her final recording. She dropped out of music, returned to painting, and worked as a seamstress for thirty-five years. She died in Queens in 2003.
Maggie Doherty is a literary scholar, historian, and critic based at Harvard, where she earned her PhD in English and where she currently teaches writing, literature, and history. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, n+1, and The Nation. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Interchange – Fixing the Stars: Sylvia Plath at the Edge of Sight
Interchange – Fixing the Stars: Sylvia Plath at the Edge of Sight
Our opening song is “Stardust,” a song written by Indiana native Hoagy Carmichael and here performed by Dave Brubeck off the live album Jazz at Oberlin recorded in May of 1953.
In June of that same year Sylvia Plath would find herself in New York as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine. In August she would attempt to end her life by swallowing sleeping pills, hiding herself away in the crawlspace under her house in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She had already been the recipient of electroshock therapy.
Sylvia Plath matters in many ways: first as a poet, but also as a lens through which to see and critique her times and ours. Her life in the mid-20th century is chronicled as fully in her own words as it is by the biographers to come, by those who would solve the problem of her death, and by those who would see her death as the value proposition for her work.
Sylvia Plath died by suicide on February 11, 1963, at the age of thirty, and in doing so bequeathed the literary and academic world a separate entity, an industry even: a case to work on, a subject to investigate, a wound to bandage or make bleed again.
Plath suffered from depression and suicidal ideation from very early in her life. Her death is often all one knows about her - head in an oven, her two children in bed, probably awake. She took great pains to be sure they were not harmed and that they would be found and cared for on that day. One cannot read her work without casting an eye at every phrase as if it reveals the death to come.
We may read in Plath’s life a chapter in the history of psychiatry. And it is a tale of woe and misogyny - made most explicit in Plath’s one published novel, The Bell Jar. But there is no dearth of literature and reportage detailing the harrowing treatments on offer by this so-called scientific profession. During this period electroshock therapy was done as often by itinerant practitioners, “shock artists," as by established and regulated doctors. Our guest today stresses that Plath’s fear of institutionalization and more shock therapy in 1963 was surely one motivation for her final act.
Sylvia Plath worked with intense dedication to be heard in a world that often has no ears to hear women. But, Plath was a woman who wrote many times of her disdain for women, for being a woman, and in her journals she often wrote of the women who might be her competition. Of men, they were her peers and she would count their opinions and assistance as most relevant to her. And, we must see this, at least on one level, as pragmatic. Men did, and do, hold the cards and pull the strings.
Heather Clark, a professor of contemporary poetry at the University of Huddersfield and author of the new biography, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, published by Knopf. She’s also the author of The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (Oxford, 2011).
POEMS read by Plath (musical bed)
"Lady Lazarus" ("Variants on a Theme of Thelonious Monk (Criss Cross) : Variant III," John Lewis Presents Jazz Abstractions)
"Mushrooms" ("The Oracle," Dave Holland Quartet, Extensions)
"The Applicant" ("Brötzmann," Peter Brötzmann, 3 Points and a Mountain)
On Sylvia Plath’s Creative Breakthrough at the Yaddo Artists’ Colony by Heather Clark
'Only Did What Poetry Told Us to Do:' A Portrait of Sylvia Plath on Honeymoon With Ted Hughes by Heather Clark
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