Penguin Press Author Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Literary Freedom as an Essential Human Right

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This week The New York Times published an essay, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Literary Freedom as an Essential Human Right. It was adapted from remarks the Penguin Press author delivered at PEN America’s annual literary gala on October 5, when Mr. Gates was presented with the 2021 PEN/Audible Literary Service Award.

An excerpt from Mr. Gates’s essay:

“’The freedom to write’: PEN America’s always resonant motto has a special resonance for Black authors, because for so many of them, that freedom was one they fought hard for. ‘Liberation’ and ‘literacy’ were inextricable. ‘For the horrors of the American Negro’s life there has been almost no language,’ as James Baldwin once noted. Recall, first, that in many states it was illegal for an enslaved person even to learn how to read and how to write. Then the barbarities of the slave trade, the Middle Passage and cradle-to-grave bondage, were followed by another century of lynching, Jim Crow segregation, disenfranchisement and officially sanctioned forms of violence. Does the English language fail us, Baldwin wonders, in the face of racist terror? No, he decides; we must embrace it, occupy it, refashion it in our images, speak it in our own voices. We must deploy it to redress this terror. ”

To read Mr. Gates’s complete essay, click here,

Posted: October 15, 2021