ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I had forgotten how to pray. It seems I forced myself  even to forget the Lord’s Prayer and even

the 23rd Psalm, both which I had learned as a child. I still have not fully recovered from this loss of memory.

The source of this forgetfulness, I suppose, was my rebellion against Daddy and religion . . .



Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)


Letter 57


January 31 1992

R 1 Box 302

Jarratt Va 23867

Dear Doc,

I receive your letter also the Check. Thank you very much. I was wondering how I was going to pay my Dental Bill. So now I Can. The Lord so good I thank you again.

I also I thank you For your Concern about the land. I know what you saying is true I went to the lawyer he told me if I had all my receipts Bring them to him. I Could make them pay all my money that I spent. Now I dont have the receipts.*

This was Before Susie and Bunk had this Deed draw up. You see Sister Sign hers over to Bunk and Lucinda Sign her Over to Susie. It was Signed by notary public Essie Owens and it down at Court house. They haven paid the man For Making deed out. So I never talked to you about it. So let it Be as it is Because they all signed it. Lucinda, Grover Sistuh, and Bustuh. I dont want to go over that again. I diden want to put a phone Bill on you So that why I riten.

Doc it not But one thing. I want you to Save your money So we Can get a Survey of the land down home I giving you. So you wont have to go through no hassle when I dead and gone. And dont worry about this place. The lawyer told me I got one third of this and I not giving it up. They Say What they please. I hope you Can under stand What I mean and What I am saying. I trust you do. I diden want any Body to get at you about the land. I know how you Feel Please dont worry. So much For that.

Mother love you

PS Rite me when you can. I hope you have a good Success in your work. Love Mother


* Again, a problem with the land. It was all becoming so tiresome. I  threw up my hands. I was done with it. I was tired of it as I had become tired of failed relationships. But we Southern people, at least we Southern Virginians are so crazy about land, of continuing our tie to the land and to family, for our entire identity is tied to the land and ancestry–in a sense, they are one and the same. 

I had forgotten how to pray. It seems I forced myself  even to forget the Lord’s Prayer and even the 23rd Psalm, both which I had learned as a child. I still have not fully recovered from this loss of memory. The source of this forgetfulness, I suppose, was my rebellion against Daddy and religion, which I believed were one and the same. But actually what I observed as a child was his struggle with his limited knowledge of religion. Of course, he possessed a faith that was much larger and greater and finer than his inherited views.

Daddy prayed and at festive meals he usually prayed long. And when his heart was troubled, he would get up in the middle of the night and pray aloud. As a sensitive child, his ardent prayers wracked my entire being and frightened me and gave me a sense of an appending doom. At New Shiloh, I again learned how to pray, to call on God, and he blessed me. But I stopped my sessions of fellowship there and reverted back to my solitary nature. I found out that it was not indeed the place for me. It was a personal phase that I was going through. After it was resolved I left Shiloh.

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

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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

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update 30 December 2011




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