The first sound bite below is a 9-minute speech Faulkner delivered to the Raven, Jefferson and ODK Societies at UVA on 20 February 1958. The immediate context for his remarks was established by the growing challenge that the Civil Rights Movement was mounting to the long-standing rule of Jim Crow segregation in the South (by 1958, for example, the Supreme Court had ruled in Brown v Board of Education (when the man in the audience in the last clip here asks him for his views on "the Supreme Court decision," he doesn't have to specify which one he means — "Brown" was on every Southerner's mind at this moment), Rosa Parks had provided a launch point for Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and President Eisenhower had sent U.S. troops to Little Rock to protect the black students who were entering the previously all-white high school from the threat of racial violence by white protestors). Except for the last two, the questions and answers that follow all come from that same event. (The last clip comes from Faulkner's appearance at Washington & Lee in May 1858, so the audience you can hear reacting with consternation to the question about the Court's decision is in Lexington.) There were, of course, no African Americans in any of the audiences Faulkner addressed. And it's important to remember that Faulkner's comments here were made a decade after the last novel we read this semester.
Faulkner's "Word to Virginians"
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Q: If Virginia did integrate, wouldn't the rest of the South lose their respect for Virginians as Southerners, and classify them as Northerners?
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Q: Do you believe that integration as defined by the Supreme Court will come to Mississippi any time in the near future, or future?
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Q: Will the South ever take the Negro into society?
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Q: What about the current Governor of Mississippi [James Coleman], who promises to stand by segregation to his last dying breath, but do all that he can to improve the colored folk?
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Q: Do you believe that half a dozen Negro fiction writers could do a world of good for the segregation problem?
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Q: Throughout your works there seems to be a curse upon the South. What is it, and is there any chance for the South to escape?
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Q: Sir, as a southerner and a man who writes about the South, can you give us your views of the Supreme Court decision?
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