By Contributor on June 28, 2010

By Ed Rampell

Q: During Hollywood’s Golden Age, your father, John Cromwell, directed such movies as Of Human Bondage, Algiers, and Abe Lincoln in Illinois. But from 1951 to 1958 he didn’t direct anything. Why?

James Cromwell: My father was blacklisted during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. He testified; he had nothing to say. . . .My father was devastated by the blacklist. Nobody would talk to him. He was a pariah; he wasn’t getting any projects. . . .

Q: Tell us about your political background and how you got involved with the Panthers.

Cromwell: I’m not a liberal; I’m a radical progressive. The Black Panthers were the subject of an action by the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which was going after Panthers on both coasts, and using as a cover the disagreement between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey [Newton]. The Panther 13 were accused of wanting to take over Abercrombie & Fitch, and the Botanical Gardens, and they were arrested. We were part of an organization called the Committee to Defend the Panthers. We’d raise money, get the Panthers out, then they’d skip bail and go to Algeria, where Eldridge was. When I went to Algeria, I actually met Eldridge; he wanted to see who I was and what my politics were. I always believed the goals of the Panthers were misunderstood by the majority of people. They saw the guns, and didn’t see what was in Huey’s other hand: a law book. The Panthers had a school lunch program, a shoe factory. They were organizing within the black community. Had they been allowed to go forward, we probably wouldn’t have the numbers of young people we have in jails now.

Q: What was your involvement with the Freedom Riders?

Cromwell: I went down South in 1964 as part of the Free Southern Theater, which toured under the auspices of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I was in Mississippi when Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were taken; we didn’t know they had been killed. I played football and went to high school with Mickey Schwerner.

This is but a small excerpt from Ed Rampell’s interview with James Cromwell in the July issue of The Progressive To read the entire interview, subscribe now for only $14.97and you’ll get access to the July issue, along with the rest of your one-year subscription.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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