Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. Sociology Dept.
Introduction: "The Problem of the Twentieth Century" In a full page interview in the New York Times on May 29, 1912, the Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl G. Jung told the American people, "It seems to me that you are about to discover yourselves. You have discovered everything else-all the land of this continent; all the resources, all the hidden things of nature."Jung used the interview to address the American people, at a moment which he somehow recognized as crucial in the development of human civilization. America, the "tragic" country which he struggled to comprehend, would soon become the harbinger of the modern era. In a city unlike any other, Jung was addressing a country, and a world, on the cusp of a new age. The two decades following Jung's interview saw some of the most rapid and dramatic changes in the history of mankind. America gave birth to all the elements of the modem world: the mass-produced automobile, the airplane, the skyscraper, chain stores, mass communication, practically all the things that define our lives to this day. But beyond this material transformation, Jung recognized a change in the culture's conception of itself. Most importantly the self discovery that Jung referred to was inextricably tied to America's racial dynamics: In America the Indians do not influence you now; they have fallen back before your power, and they are very few. They influenced your ancestors. You, today, are influenced by the Negro race, which not so long ago had to call you master. In the North the Negro's present influence is not great. In the South, where they are not given opportunities equal to white race, their influence is very great. They are really in control. I notice that your Southerners speak with the Negro accent; your women are coming to walk more and more like the Negro... The Southerners treat one another very courteously, but they treat the Negro as they would treat their own unconscious mind if they knew what was in it. When I see a man in a savage rage with something outside himself, I know that he is, in reality, wanting to be savage toward his own unconscious self. In the two decades following the interview, the influence that Jung discussed would rise to the forefront of American culture. Jung maintained in 1912 that the importance of African Americans in the North was not yet substantial, but, as I will elucidate in this study of popular cinema, the presence of blacks in the North during the decades of the 1920's and 1930's became essential to the way in which white Northerners understood their own cultural existence.
African Americans in motion pictures, United States civilization African American influence, Popular culture -- United States -- History -- 20th century
Recommended CitationFarr, Lincoln, "Celluloid blackness : race, modernity, and the conflicted roots of American cinema (1915-1939)" (1997). Honors Theses. Paper 80.
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