A 2004 poem titled “A Black American” by Smokey Robinson recently resurfaced when a teacher animated the poem for Black History Month. Amid the newfound traction, the Motown Records’ hitmaker spoke to his resentment towards the term “African-American” and the poem’s impact in correlation to the Black experience on The View.
“I think that when you [use the term African-American], you’re disclaiming all the contributions that Black people have made to America. I consider myself to be a Black American, and I enjoy being called Black, and Black has been so negativized as a color down throughout history by those who wanted to negativize it. And so, it spilled over into the Black community and to the Black people. And even Black people back in the day calling each other Black was a sign for a fight […] Like Black was so negative,” the 82-year-old crooner stated.
Robinson went on to gift each host a copy of Walter Milton and Joel Freeman’s Black History 365: An Inclusive Account Of American History. He also spoke on Black Americans in the armed forces not dying for African countries but instead dying in states like Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. “We’ve contributed so much to America that it should be acknowledged […] That’s how I feel about being Black and I’m proud to call [myself] a Black American,” he exclaimed.
The original piece (see 2020 version above) was written for the season three finale of Def Poetry Jam. Watch Smokey Robinson’s full interview on The View below.