Matthiessen Calls Tolerance A Necessity for Democracy
Professor Will Lead HLU Forum Tonight
"We can not have anything like an adequate democracy unless we have racial equality," Francis O. Matthiessen, professor of History and Literature, stated yesterday, as he prepared for tonight's speech before the Harvard Liberal Union and the Radcliffe League for Democracy.
Professor Matthiessen will lead the forum-entitled "Democracy in The Harvard Community," which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 o'clock in the Lowell House Junior Common Room. "Democracy begins at home," he points out, in calling for liberalism in the college as well as in America. "Race prejudice, lack of tolerance--all these can exist in a college community."
Realism in Literature
Appraising the contribution of literature to the liberal cause in America, Professor Matthiessen commented on the advance of realism since 1900.
"The dominant movement of our time," he explains, "has been the realistic novel. It has given us a greater understanding of America."
"But the people in the community concerned with freedom of speech are concerned when a book dealing seriously with contemporary social history is confused with ostensibly obscene literature. In the case of "Strange Fruit," he added, "certainly the fact that it was an argument against racial prejudice has caused some people to disapprove of it. If we are not careful, Massachusetts is going to be increasingly difficult for adult, intelligent books."
Active in Test Case
Professor Matthiessen is chairman of the Committee against Censorship of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, and he played an important role in the fight against the banning of "Strange Fruit." Although it has been a losing battle so far, Professor Matthiessen adds that "the fight has been valuable in serving to crystalize public opinion," and he reveals that the case is being appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.