A Friend, An Enemy

1960s: Days of Rage


“On April Fool’s Day, 1965, Amiri Baraka (known then as LeRoi Jones) sent a postcard to the poet Kenneth Koch. The image on the front of the postcard is racist: three alligators chase a Black man, who looks up to heaven with tears streaming down his face. A four-line poem presents his ‘prayer’: Dese gater looked so feary / And yet dey ‘peered so tame / But now that I done met ’em / I’ll neber be de same. According to the Newberry Library, the Curt Teich Company began producing postcards with this image in 1940. But Teich produced similar postcards as early as 1918, and the ‘alligator bait’ stereotype has a much longer history. On the back of the postcard, Baraka writes: Dear Kenneth,  Better start saying your prayers, if you think you can spend your time playing chess while millions struggle!  Love, LeRoi 2X  The postcard was sent…

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