The White Negro  

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"Our search for the rebels of the generation led us to the hipster. The hipster is an enfant terrible turned inside out. In character with his time, he is trying to get back at the conformists by lying low ... You can't interview a hipster because his main goal is to keep out of a society which, he thinks, is trying to make everyone over in its own image. He takes marijuana because it supplies him with experiences that can't be shared with "squares." He may affect a broad-brimmed hat or a zoot suit, but usually he prefers to skulk unmarked. The hipster may be a jazz musician; he is rarely an artist, almost never a writer. He may earn his living as a petty criminal, a hobo, a carnival roustabout or a freelance moving man in Greenwich Village, but some hipsters have found a safe refuge in the upper income brackets as television comics or movie actors. (The late James Dean, for one, was a hipster hero.) ... It is tempting to describe the hipster in psychiatric terms as infantile, but the style of his infantilism is a sign of the times. He does not try to enforce his will on others, Napoleon-fashion, but contents himself with a magical omnipotence never disproved because never tested. . . . As the only extreme nonconformist of his generation, he exercises a powerful if underground appeal for conformists, through newspaper accounts of his delinquencies, his structureless jazz, and his emotive grunt words." -- "Born 1930: The Unlost Generation" by Caroline Bird, Harper's Bazaar, Feb. 1957, Mailer's essay "The White Negro" (1958) has it as an epigraph

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster" is an essay by Norman Mailer that recorded a wave of young white people in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s who liked jazz and swing music so much that they adopted black culture as their own.

The essay was first published in Dissent magazine in 1956, and was reprinted in Advertisements for Myself in 1959. The so-called white negroes enshrouded themselves in black clothing styles, black jive language, and black music. They mainly associated with black people, distancing themselves from white society. One of the early figures in the white negro phenomenon was Mezz Mezzrow, an American Jew born in 1899 who had declared himself a "voluntary negro" by the 1920s. This movement influenced the hipsters of the 1940s, the beats of the 1950s, the mods of the 1960s, and the wigger of later decades.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The White Negro" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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