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George B. Leonard, "Midnight Plane to Alabama," The Nation
May 10, 1965

When the wind was right, a peculiar odor spread over the towns that lay near the great crematoria at Auschwitz, Belsen, Dachau. The good people who lived there learned to ignore the stench. They ate, drank, sang, prayed, gave moral instruction to their children. To deny reality, however, is no simple actà The people who lived near the gas ovens taught their noses to lie.

Americans, too, have learned to deceive their senses. Sermons have been preached, crusades launched, books on ethics written, systems of morality devised, with no mention whatsoever of how American Negroes are treated. When the senses lie, the conscience is sure to sleep. The chief function, then, of the current Negro movement has been to awaken a nation's conscience, which is to say its ability to smell, see, hear and feel..

Selected from the Library of America anthology.  See  Reporting  Civil  Rights:  American Journalism 1963-1973.