He emphasized this pragmatism and found clear opponents among other black Americans whom he criticized for defining himself racially and who reduced the broader black experience to one of victims. He told gangsta rap as “‘Birth of the Nation’ with a setback”, pastor Al Sharpton as a “buffoon”, Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “insane”, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison “as American as PT Barnum” and Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” as “opportunistic.”
In contrast, he honored his intellectual mentors James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray, who by his light looked beyond the conventions of race and ideology while viewing the contributions of black people as an integral part of the American experience.
Sir. Crouch said he had largely taught himself to write by devouring books as a child and then drawing on an innate lyrical sensitivity that he expressed in poetry as well as in prose. He wrote about jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie:
He rose from the position of a strange fisherman to a star surfer who rode on the high, high curved water in a trend, sank into the position of the miracles taken for granted, but returned at regular intervals and dripped with new wisdoms, waved as others followed him on the thin boards of art and entertainment that those who make their name in jazz must ride, on top of the roller coaster of public taste and swing all our blues in an unstable brine where they are always in danger. ”
Sir. Crouch attended two community colleges, although he was never educated, but his stature as a writer led to teaching positions at Pomona, Pitzer, and Claremont Colleges, all in Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles, where he was known as a charismatic poet and teacher in English and theater in the late 1960s and early 70s. (At Pomona, one of his students was George C. Wolfe, who became artistic director of the Public Theater in New York.)