BLACK VOICES

New Book By Skip Gates Looks At African-American Icons

12/20/2011 12:57 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012

Considering the cynicism many of us feel about the current state of American education, at least with the curriculum there is one vast improvement from the past: its diversity. In the excellent public schools I attended in Iowa in the 1940s and 50s, I learned absolutely noting about our country's diversity--unless Pocahontas is supposed to count. Though I concentrated on American literature for both my BA and MA, I never once encountered an African American writer. It pains me to admit this because I took several courses in American literature from a distinguished professor, who was a Negro, to use the racial designation of the time. He even directed my MA thesis on William Faulkner, but it was not until after I graduated that I discovered that he had one of the finest private collections of works by African American writers in the United States. But never a mention of any of those books, or their writers, while I was enrolled in his courses.

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