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Maya Angelou on con men

6 minutes

Turning the blindspots of bigots into business opportunities in the Jim Crow South

‘You use the white man’s bigotry against him.’

In this 1970 interview resurrected for PBS’s animated series Blank on Blank, the US writer and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou recalls the ‘education’ she received from her stepfather – a pool- and gambling-hall owner who ‘lived by his wits’ – and his con-man friends. Growing up at the height of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the men had few prospects for jobs in which they could use their intelligence to contribute to society. Instead, they made ends meet by running elaborate, large-scale cons on greedy white ‘marks’, who would incorrectly assume that there was no way a black man could outsmart them.

Animator: Patrick Smith

Producer: Amy Drozdowska, David Gerlach

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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