“Black and White” (Three Dog Night)

Written in in response to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and later recorded by Three Dog Night in the aftermath of the school busing case, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), this trax seems to be straightforwardly liberal in orientation, emphasizing literacy and integration in equal measure. Most important, perhaps, is the trax’s triumphal relation to Supreme Court decisions and their enforcement in every town, burb, and city in America (“this I the law of ALL the land”). But let’s take a closer look at the scene of inscription: “The ink is black, the page is white, together we learn to read and write.” Songwriter Earl Robinson’s original recording had a later, counterbalancing verse (“The slate is black, the chalk is white, the words stand out so clear and bright”), but Three Dog Night removed it. So the message, on balance, is not quite color-blind: instead, it charts a power reversal grounded in a historical overcoming. Our future, here, involves blackness writing its own story onto the parchment remnants of white supremacy.

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