Gil Scott-Heron’s "The Nigger Factory": A Review

The Nigger Factory brings you back in time; a time when American college students rebelled against those that sent them to die in military conflict, and against those that controlled their schooling.  Gil Scott-Heron brings you back to the time of militant black activism.  A time when Angela Davis was being released from prison, and the world was seemingly in The First Minute of a New Day for humanity.
 The Nigger Factory Angela Davis Gil Scott-Heron

Earl Thomas is student body president at Sutton University, a black college in a predominantly black suburban town in Virginia.  Earl won his campaign on promises to fix a litany of problems faced by the students as a whole.  His constituents won’t wait for him to lead them.

A radical group of student activists donning dashikis have stolen Thomas’s research on the problems.  These rebel activists, calling themselves MJUMBE (Swahili for messenger), essentially emasculate Earl with a  bloodless coup, having him present their list of demands to the head nigger, the tough university president Ogden Calhoun.  

 

 

Gloria Calhoun to Ogden Calhoun (Sutton University President) wrote:

The Nigger Factory is mainly a portrait of Earl Thomas, who toils for what he feels is right.  He works as best he can after the coup to keep his head above turbulent water as the situation evolves.  He’s not in it alone, however.  “The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood,” said Mary McLeod Bethune.  The strong and good female characters in this GSH universe have enabled Earl Thomas to develop as a person to be able to face his problems head-on.  

It is perhaps no surprise that the same is true of Ogden Calhoun, when his wife Gloria tries to correct the presidents aberrant behavior (or at least to mitigate the damages caused by his decisions) which is illustrated in the following monologue:

“I know that there are boys out there ready to die for what they believe in.  Boys that are takin’ a stand that you would have taken when you were their age.  But, God that must have been a long time ago.  And they have to face this, this death, because you’re an old man.  Not really old.  Not too old to see as I see, but all you have been able to see for a long time has been yourself. Any idea that wasn’t conceived by Ogden Calhoun is not a good idea.

For nine years I’ve watched you fool people and lie to yourself, using Sutton University as an example to show everyone that the same tough man who was fired for speaking his mind about Black psychology is still as tough and as hard to overpower as ever.  All I’ve red about is the history of collective thought you’ve been in favor of here at Sutton.  That’s another lie!  Everything that you have here that wasn’t your idea has been used and publicized as though you had conceived it.  Threatening students.  ‘My way or the Highway Calhoun” …  I feel sorry for you Ogden.  And me too... Because I never said anything though I saw it all happening a long time ago.  But I thought you knew you were acting. I never suspected that you believed that liberal faced that you exposed and the talk about being on the students side.  I thought you knew that you were on your side.  I’m leaving,” Mrs. Calhoun said turning for the door.  “Good-bye.”

 

The Nigger Factory was selected by freedombookclub.com as the Book of the Month for July 2011, shortly after the author's death.  We hope that you’ll consider purchasing the book or the album Real Eyes, which contains the song we overdubbed with the audio edition of this review.  The song is called A Legend In His Own Mind.  
Peace be upon you Gil Scott-Heron.

If you like what you have read, then please pay me.

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