Albert Murray, the unsung critic who did not see a Black or White race in the U.S.

Stephen Nartey November 03, 2022
Albert Murray, Essayist and Critic/Photo credit: Oxford American

He is known for his writings that sought to level the thorny subject of race in American society. In his world view, the United States was not a land for either White or Black people, but, one people tied to a common destiny.

Albert Murray had a bumpy early life from birth to when he was 11 years old. He was adopted in a brief period after he was born on May 12, 1916, at Nokomis, Escambia County, a sprawling community overlooking the Florida-Alabama border. His new family, Hugh and Mattie Murray, migrated from Nokomis to Magazine Point, a suburb on the outskirts of Mobile.

Many say Murray wrote about his early life in his novel ‘Train Whistle Guitar’ where the main character is given out on adoption to a young family who are ever present in each stage of his life, according to Encyclopedia of Alabama. He learned that he had no biological connection with his immediate family at age 11 as he described in his book.

Murray was an outstanding student and that earned him a scholarship to attend the Tuskegee Institute after completing Mobile County Training School. He nurtured his love for jazz music, literature and writing at the Institute. This had a major influence on his writings which reflected the everyday challenges that confronted the African-American community.

He believed that the American society had no barriers irrespective of its dark past of slavery, racial injustice and segregation. Murray painted a positive view of the United States which held many opportunities for African Americans and their culture.

He maintained that the notion that there was a community for Black and White people in America was wrong. He often referred to himself as an American instead of African American. He stressed that color was only blind so long as one sets their mind off who is Black or White. He explained many a time in his writing that, even in segregated states, what he saw was a multicolored community that would soon find its common destiny.

The Essayist and critic tend to look at the unity and diversity of culture where African Americans and America merged together. Murray’s style of writing dwelled on African themes such as the black southern speech, cultural heroes, jazz, blues and linguistics to tell his stories. By this, he erased the stereotypes many in the United States had of the African-American community and race.  

He pioneered a new way of how race should be perceived by speaking down on what separates the people at any given opportunity, as reported by CNN. Murray is sometimes described as a militant integrationist because of his strong views on racial equality in American society.

He wrote a book titled ‘The Omni-Americans’ in the 1970s and dedicated the pages to lashing out at campaigners of segregationists, stressing that it was only a matter of time before people will realize that America did not either have Black or White person but a nation with one common destiny.

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