As for the Pulitzer salute to the
Klan, when Duke heard this incredible confession of lynch mentality
by the Pulitzerwaffe, his rejoinder was, "I guess the Lord didn't
want be to get famous too young!"
Ellington's 2000 registered compositions,
his leadership of the Ellington orchestra for over 40! Years, without
a break, continuing even when the Basie band broke up, by hook and
with a crook (Mills) is another testament to Ellington's real (as
distinct from legendary) Ducality.
The national character of Duke Ellington's
work, African American and American, the very nature of what Duke
combines to produce his great body of composition, makes it seem
as if Duke was, himselfm the most gloriously aestheticized paradigm
of Du Bois' (his spiritual father) description of the "twoness"
of the Afro-American people. The "double consciousness", which we
have been taken aback considering but yet not quite understood,
is the actual configuration of Afro-American social, psychological
and cultural sensibility.
Are we Black or Americans?, the distressed
Afro-American prototype consciousness tortures itself asking. The
fact is we are both, but that "two ness" is the basis of schizophrenia
only if we cannot realize both aspects of our Western experience.
This is the same "twoness" we must arm ourselves with politically,
that is, to fight for democracy and equal citizenship rights, but
at the same time to assert our right to self-determination, because
it is only to the extent that we do self-organize and project our
own historically confirmed summation of the tasks and methods facing
us in forwarding the overall struggle, that we will be able to advance
the "other side" of this twinned struggle successfully.
We need not be almost "torn in two",
as Du Bois lamented, by the contradictions of being Black in the
national chauvinist fiction called "White America". We are both,
Black and American, and I hope I scandalize Black cultural nationalists
into near sanity by repeating, Yes, Black people are Black and Americans,
and this is our double-edged sword.
This is the dichotomy, the dialectic,
of our fully conscious Black selves, not a schizo-paranoia, but
the fuller recognition of our own history and experience. This is
the powerful perception, given philosophical and aesthetic dimension
(rationale) through his understanding of the historic parameters
and existent continuum and paradigm Ellington drew upon to inspire
his USE of the concept that Black People are African And American
and we can authentically draw upon the entire range of psycho-cultural
aesthetic choices with which to express ourselves. For to be an
American we must be shaped (even if we are not aware of this) by
three cultures: The African, The Native Peoples, The European, at
their deepest incursion re-organized as American culture.