Writer who explored the role of black culture in what he called ‘omni-American’ lifeThe writings of Albert Murray, who has died aged 97, expressed his impatience with the modern stereotype of the African American as victim. Murray was equally suspicious of the chic status sometimes bestowed on black people and black culture by mainstream white society. In fact, Murray, who did not publish his first book until he was 54, disliked even the frequently shifting terminology. “I am not African,” he said. “I am an American.” His word for the branch of culture that he represented and wrote about was “Negro”, a preference shared by Murray’s close friend the novelist Ralph Ellison.That first book – the first in a profusion – was The Omni-Americans (1970), in which Murray staked his ground well apart from the current favourites of black intellectual life by criticising James Baldwin’s transformation from artist to civil rights polemicist (the pair remained friends). He dedicated his energy to outlining ways in which “omni-American” culture and identity is dependent on the black presence.To the fore in this analysis was music, the music of slaves and their descendants, through which vast numbers of New World citizens interpret their personal …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books