Revisiting 1968’s Classic Ossie Davis Documentary ‘Inside the Negr0 Middle Class’

First off, gotta give it up to the late Ossie Davis for having the perfect voiceover voice for this documentary. On top of that, the production team did a great job with the 1960s era jazz soundtrack. I very much enjoyed watching it.

But why is this particular all black documentary so important? It uses the term “middle class” loosely. It should actually be called “Inside the Negr0 Middle and Upper Middle Class” because it covered both. Far from being a celebration of boujee (or bourgeois) blacks, it covered a diverse set of the black militant mindset from a class-centric standpoint. Less fortunate brothas and sistas saw these “uppity” ones as out of touch with them. For those of us who are very successful and affluent, we have encountered brothas and sistas who felt the same way.

I know I certainly have, despite the fact that those who thought that way of me had no clue of how many things I’ve done to help our people. One educated brotha in this clip did a great job describing his conflict as he was born into a well-to-do black family on the east coast. They were far removed from the lower class brothas and sistas, so he never felt like one of “them” when he was growing up. But after he became an adult, and experienced racism despite the fact he grew up with a lot of whites, he gradually felt more of a connection with “his people” like never before. He became more militant, in a boujee way.

Another, younger academic brotha at Howard University described a scenario where he proposed a project where he would research white people the same way bigger universities got grants to study black people. Howard University, at that point very nervous due to their getting lots of government money, turned him down. He then noted that not long after that, Stanford and Harvard went on to get big grants to yet again study blacks, and if I recall correctly, he said Howard then jumped on the bandwagon to get grants to study, not whites, but blacks like the other universities. In other words, he was saying that Howard and other HBCUs at the time feared groundbreaking research, opting instead to follow the lead of white universities.

In another scene, another very interesting discussion about black women’s hair came up. Surprisingly, or probably not, there was a disagreement about embracing black women going natural. Pro-black sistas were all about that natural hairstyle, but sistas who owned black hair care related businesses, especially the ones that offered blond hairstyles and wigs at the time, vehemently opposed it because it would cost them revenue. I know, very interesting, right?

Finally, a millionaire brotha at about the 35:00 mark brings up a great observation of whites in the 1960s that’s still true for a lot today: the majority of them don’t have goodwill towards brothas and sistas. It’s ironic because most of them consider themselves Christians, yet don’t do what Jesus did, which was to associate with Samaritans (gentiles, or someone of another race) at a time ancient Jews did not associate with gentiles. Jesus said His father is no respecter of persons (aka no “racist”), yet a lot of whites, Christian and other,  today are “respecter” (aka racist) towards others. 

For the younger brothas and sistas who seem to think all blacks back then were docile and obedient to racial supremacists, this documentary will prove them wrong. Just like now, younger people back then criticized the older generation were not doing enough to fight racism and they were determined to promote pro black beauty and resist white authority at every chance. if you go back to the 1870s, right after the Civil War was over, younger blacks said similar about their slave era parents.

Take a moment to watch this excellent documentary. In my opinion, all black history classes at the high school and college level should be showing this one, even to white students. It’s a great study in racism from the standpoint of not only poor brothas and sistas, but financially successful ones, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.