New documentary looks at shifting U.S. black culture

Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:32pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Even as the United States has the opportunity to elect its first black president, prominent American author Toni Morrison says black college students today are not as focused on racial issues as their predecessors.

"In racial division, they are not interested. They are sort of bored with it," said Morrison, the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and a Princeton University lecturer. "They don't even want to talk about it."

Morrison and other leading black Americans talk about black culture in a new HBO documentary airing on U.S. television this week, called "The Black List Vol.1," featuring interviews with 23 successful black Americans from varied backgrounds.

The documentary, coming in a week when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is set to secure the Democratic nomination to run for the White House, centers on what it means to be black in America and how that has evolved since the civil rights movement to abolish racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s.

The film's director, portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, said Obama's candidacy has brought about "the most open discussion of race since the civil rights movement in many ways ... that is a wonderful moment."

Morrison, 77, told Reuters some older African Americans found it hard to accept that times had changed since the civil rights movement as the country moves closer to equality.

The older generation "are sometimes reluctant to see what they worked for come to fruition, which is a nonracist society -- because they really want that to happen -- but it is very difficult to give up on," she said.

Morrison and others interviewed in the film, including Colin Powell, said America was yet to reach full racial equality. Powell cites people questioning his appointment as U.S. Secretary of State due to his race and ongoing problems with young black children receiving quality education.   Continued...

<p>Author Toni Morrison smiles as she arrives at Rolex's Mentor and Protege gala, November 10, 2003 in New York. REUTERS/Stephen Chernin</p>