A Review of Wendell Berry's "The Need to Be Whole"
A reflection on Wendell Berry's new book

A Review of Wendell Berry's "The Need to Be Whole"

Over a half century ago and in reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., a young Wendell Berry penned a very personal essay on race relations in American history entitled The Hidden Wound. His central argument was that the institution of black slavery had fractured and distorted American whites as well as blacks, if in different ways. Berry has now returned to the question of America’s racial past in the much larger and more ambitious volume The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice.

As expected, Berry cuts his own path of historical interpretation. On the one hand, he accepts in a way the key premise of The New York Times’s “1619 Project” which places black slavery and its consequences at the very center of American consciousness and history. However, he gives this focus a twist, locating the primal American sin in a somewhat different place. On the other hand, he agrees in a manner with the report of the presidential “1776 Commission,” released in the waning days of the Donald Trump administration, holding that white racism is not the major source of national woes. All the same, he condemns the American project for another sort of systemic subversion of its ideals of both liberty and equality.

Read all of "Patriotic Work: Wendell Berry’s The Need to be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice" by Allan Carlson at Front Porch Republic.


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