ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The last I heard from her she had married a white man who worked at the same car plant that

she worked. She was a good woman. I didn’t do right by her and I am sorry about it. So

I wasn’t really sanctimonious about the problem with the credit card. Maybe it was her

way of paying me back, of getting even, for all the problems I had put her through . . .



Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)

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Letter 44

January 5, 1987


Dear Son,

Just a note to let you hear From me. I doing better I had that Flue. I was so disappointed you diden Come home. You Could have Wrote told me if you wasnt Coming. You Know how much I Worry When I dont hear From you.*

It was nice Xmas. Quiet But nice. I coulden Enjoy Because I thinking of you. Well in Case you rite me send it to Lucinda address. I be up there For 3 or 4 weeks I guess. Her address is 4420 Cedar Garden Road Baltimore MD 21229.

I hope you had a nice Xmas. I rite More When I hear From you. All send love. Hope to hear From you soon.

Love Mother

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*These were lonely times for me. I don’t recall what I did that Christmas. In January of 1987, I was still in Baton Rouge at LSU. I do not believe I saw anyone during that holiday — neither Mona Lisa nor Ella Jean. I am sure I was very depressed, just holding out. I had made no real friends at LSU. I am sure, however, that I was busy with the Christian material. I had just completed my first semester at LSU and wrote a paper on the idioms used by Christian in his poems and the paper didn’t go over very well with one of my professors. I didn’t like the fellow, though he is quite well-known among scholars of black literature. I think he might have become Mona Lisa’s dissertation advisor. He was quite fond of black women writers, like Zoa Neale Hurston and Alice Walker. I believe, as a white professor, he was quite uneasy around black males.

I don’t know whether I ever saw Ella Jean again or not. I recall I made her a loan of money before I left New Orleans to get her house fixed up. She sent me photos of every room in the house. It was very pretty. I did not really expect the money back and it didn’t matter. I am sure I talked to her again on the phone December of 1987 or January of 1988 after I returned to Baltimore. For she had committed credit card fraud. She had faked my name and pretended she was my wife and had run up an $1800 bill. I didn’t find out about it until I returned to Baltimore.

My buddy Fred Mason was then working for Archway Ford as a salesman and I had gotten a job with 1199 again. The officers at 1199 thought my Volkswagon bug wasn’t the appropriate kind of car for a union organizer. Fred decided to sell me one of his Fords, a brand new one (more or less, a salesman had used it). When my credit was checked, Jean’s fraud was discovered. The success of what she had done made have been assisted because Mama’s name was Ella Lewis and she was exceedingly punctilious in paying her debts. Ella Jean sent me some money and said she would take care of the problem. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. It really didn’t matter ultimately, for truly I was in her debt despite what she had done. She had been kind to me. Very sweet. In a way, I betrayed her trust.

The last I heard from her she had married a white man who worked at the same car plant that she worked. She was a good woman. I didn’t do right by her and I am sorry about it. So I wasn’t really sanctimonious about the problem with the credit card. Maybe it was her way of paying me back, of getting even, for all the problems I had put her through. She was just someone looking for love, as they say, in all the wrong places. That is the situation for most of us. I bought an Escort GT. I was then thirty-nine. It was the first time I had ever bought anything on credit. 

My friends thought my going in debt would stabilize me, pin me down to one place. Little did they know. I had no intent to be bonded to anything other than righteousness. I desired to be no man’s slave, no man’s flunky. It has always been my personal ethic I would not do anything for money. I would prefer to do without. As the blues man sang, I’ll sleep in a hollow log, drink muddy water, before I let somebody make a fool out of me. Fortunately, God has spared me that complication.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#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 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


#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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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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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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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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update 30 December 2011





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