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ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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No serious history of the development of the African American novel

from the 1950s onward can be written without reference to John

Oliver Killens. A two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and

founding chairman of the legendary Harlem Writers Guild

 

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Books by John Oliver Killens

 

 Youngblood  /  And Then We Heard the Thunder  /  The Cotillion  /  The Great Black Russian

 

A Man-Aint-Nothin But A Man Adventures of John Henry  /  Slaves  / Sippi A Novel Black-SouthernVoices: An Anthology 

 

Great-Gittin-Up-Morning: A Biography of Denmark Vesey

 

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Books by Keith Gilyard

 

V

oices of the Self: A Study of Language Competence (1991) Poemographics (2001)

 

Let’s Flip the Script: An African American Discourse on Language, Literature, and Learning (1996)

 

Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (1997) / Race, Rhetoric, and Composition (1999)

 

Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens

 

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Liberation Memories

The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens

By Keith Gilyard

Reviews

 

No serious history of the development of the African American novel from the 1950s onward can be written without reference to John Oliver Killens. A two-time nominee for the Pulitzer prize and founding chairman of the legendary Harlem Writers Guild, Killens was regarded by many as a spiritual father who inspired a generation of African American novelists with his politically charged works. And yet today he rarely receives proper critical attention. Seeking to strengthen our understanding of this important literary figure, Keith Gilyard departs from standard critical framework to reveal Killen’s novels as artful renderings of rich African American rhetorical forms and verbal traditions.

Gilyard finds that many critics, adhering to ideals of art for art’s sake or narrative conciseness, are ill-equipped to appreciate the many ways in which Killen’s fiction succeeds. rejecting the ‘pre art” position, Killens sought to articulate Black heroism particularly within a family or community context, offering a set of values he deemed liberatory. he focused on rendering noble and polemical characters, and his work represents a distinguished fusion of sociopolitical persuasion (rhetoric) and literary artifact (poetics).

To help illumine such novels as Youngblood (1954), And Then We Heard the Thunder (1962), and The Cotillion (1971), Gilyard examines Killens’ work as an essayist and cultural organizer, highlighting his activism. His life and literary production can be partly characterized, Gilyard suggests, by the African American jeremiad–a major rhetorical form in the Black intellectual tradition expressing faith that America’s destiny is to become an authentic, pluralistic democracy.

–Wayne State University Press 

This first book-length study of John Oliver Killens aims to help secure his place in literary history and explores his creation of an inspiring Black vernacular art – one that ennobles people of African descent and urges their political liberation.

No serious history of the development of the African American novel from the 1950s onward can be written without reference to John Oliver Killens. A two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and founding chairman of the legendary Harlem Writers Guild, Killens was regarded by many as a spiritual father who inspired a generation of African American novelists with his politically charged works. Seeking to strengthen our understanding of this important literary figure, Keith Gilyard departs from standard critical frameworks to reveal Killens’s novels as artful renderings of rich African American rhetorical forms and verbal traditions. Rejecting the “pure art” position, Killens sought to articulate Black heroism particularly within a family or community context, offering a set of values he deemed liberatory. He focused on rendering noble and polemical characters, and his work represents a distinguished fusion of sociopolitical persuasion (rhetoric) and literary artifact (poetics).

Reviews

This excellent and long overdue introduction to the work of an important writer and literary activist allows us to carefully reevaluate John Oliver Killens’s place in the history of postwar American and African American literature. Keith Gilyard’s thoughtful and informed study is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the vibrant, controversial-and often deliberately misinterpreted-Black Arts Movement.”—Lorenzo Thomas, University of Houston-Downtown

Gilyard’s holistic approach to Killen’s–as novelist, essayist, teacher, sociopolitical activist and organizer of literary conferences–posits him as heir to the likes of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois, for the latter’s insistence on the compatibility of aesthetics and propaganda in particular. Gilyard underscores the literary distinction and integrity Killens achieves through a deft, at times unique adaptation of African American vernacular art forms and modes of expression to the aesthetic uses of his fiction.

–Alvin Aubert, Wayne State University

A masterwork by a master scholar. An important reappraisal of John Oliver Killens, a literary visionary whose influence on African American letters is both unprecedented and unsung. In Liberation Memories, Keith Gilyard has produced a visionary work worthy of its subject.

–Arthur Flowers, Syracuse University

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Contents

 

Keith Gilyard, Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens (2003)

 

acknowledgments

ix

introduction

1

Chapter 1 Southern Exposure

9

Chapter 2 Solomon, Highly Literate

37

Chapter 3 Patriots and Radicals

59

Chapter 4

Cultural Heroes

79

Chapter 5 More Heroes

95

Chapter 6 Ideology and Writers’ Conferences

113

Conclusion

139

Notes

143

Bibliography

157

Index

169

Liberation Memories Published May 2003 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit Michigan 48201-1309  

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Keith Gilyard — born and raised in New York City — earned graduate degrees from Columbia University and NYU. Following stints at several campuses, including Medgar Evers College-CUNY and Syracuse University, he is Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Gilyard has long been active in professional, cultural, and community organization, and he has lectured widely on language, literature, and education. He also has read his poetry at numerous venues. 

Author of numerous publications, his books include Voices of the Self: A Study of Language Competence (1991), Let’s Flip the Script: An African American Discourse on Language, Literature, and Learning (1996) Poemographics (2001), and Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens (2003). I

n addition, he edited Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (1997) and Race, Rhetoric, and Composition (1999).

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John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism

By Keith Gilyard

“I congratulate Keith Gilyard for bringing to life, in the pages of this absorbing book, a figure of genuine importance who certainly deserves a full-scale biography.”—Arnold Rampersad, author of Ralph Ellison: A Biography

John Oliver Killens is a genius of the South, and Keith Gilyard has honored this youngblood, civil rights and union activist, novelist, dramatist, and screenwriter in a superb biography. Gilyard’s engaging written voice draws us into a dramatic and important life, and his deep commitment to the highest standards of research inspires our trust and admiration. John Oliver Killens ably documents and brings to life the yearnings and accomplishments of a major figure in our national literature.—Rudolph P. Byrd, Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies, Emory University

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AALBC.com’s 25 Best Selling Books

 

Fiction

#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

“Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Shadows of Youth

The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation

By Andrew B. Lewis

With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement.

The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned. Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.—Publishers Weekly

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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Enjoy!

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 20 June 2012

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Home   Louis Reyes Rivera Table  John Oliver Killens Table

Related files:   Interview with Keith Gilyard   Killens “Literary Heroes”       Lest We Forget Killens    Killens, Fort Bliss, & Korea  (Kalamu)   Coal, Charcoal, and Chocolate Comedy    

John Oliver Killens: A Life

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