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Former CAAS director says survival will be new Black movement

The forecast for the Black movement is not gradual progress like it was in the 1960s, but rather one of mere survival in the face of a pending world crisis, said one of the leading Black writers and thinkers of the 20th century.
(Photo by John Woodson, News Service)

Harold Cruse, former director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS), returned to campus Feb. 6 as part of Black History Month to accept a tribute from his former department. Cruse, who also signed copies of his new book, "The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader" (2002), said the 21st century will not be one of organized protests, but rather survival in the new world that is to come.

"We will not escape the effects of the worldwide conflict between the haves and the have-nots, the advanced world and the rest of the world," Cruse said. "What is going to happen to us, we don't know. But we are going to suffer the bad effects of the coming world struggle. Out goal is survival in the hostile world.

"The 21st century has been ushered in by a world-shaking conflict," he said. "It will shake up America and the Blacks in it, and it is going to alter the basis of the Black relationship to the United States."

Survival will be different than the Black movement 35 years ago, Cruse said, when most Blacks felt their organizational forms of protest eventually would help them to rise up. Cruse said he felt the same way but did not think it would come easily.

Cruse said he was critical of the Black movement when he came to U-M in 1968; he thought Blacks talked loudly and made a lot of noise and action, "but to what end?" The movement created more problems than it solved, he said, and was full of "pygmies in thought, imagination and intellectual comprehension."

Cruse, who served four years in the Army, published his influential book, "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual," in 1967. He was acting director of CAAS from 1972-73. During his time at U-M, Cruse said he found it difficult to teach students he thought could not relate to his experiences.

Cruse also wrote "Rebellion or Revolution" (1968) and "Plural but Equal: A Critical Study of Blacks and Minorities and America's Plural Society" (1987).

"I told myself the Black movement was not going to happen like we thought it would. That was the driving ideal behind what I wrote," Cruse said. "I really did not think what I wrote would carry such a long-range impact. It was hard for me to appreciate how it struck other people. I am glad it struck them, but heck, it wasn't that good."

An overflow crowd in the CAAS conference room in Haven Hall chuckled. Earlier, the crowd, which included many of his former students, applauded one of the program's founders after he was presented a certificate of appreciation for 35 years of service to the University.

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