ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Letters from the

Archives of Marcus Bruce Christian

From & To Friends, Colleagues, & Wife




Books by Marcus Bruce Christian

Song of the Black Valiants: Marching Tempo / High Ground: A Collection of Poems  / Negro soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans

I am New Orleans: A Poem / Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900 /  The Liberty Monument

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Letter 25

Arna Bontemps Acknowledges Receipt 

of Documents for his Yale Collection


703 E. 50th Place

Chicago, Illinois 

23 March ’43 


Dear Christian: 

Just a quick one. I am trying to clear my desk before leaving for the eastern jaunt–Rutland, Vermont, New York City and Washington. By the time you receive this I expect to be on my way. I must, however, take a moment to thank you for the materials for the YALE collection. They arrived yesterday, and I have had a good time reading the poems. I was also interested in the Schomberg letters. The whole batch is being relayed to Carl Van Vechten today. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to talk to him about the gift in New York.

Meanwhile, that translation of Desdunes would still be most welcome. Also the Randolph Edmonds manuscript and autographed book!

My trip to Fisk was very pleasant, but it left me still waiting for the coin to flip. In other words, no final settlement has been made.

Incidentally, I know a terrific secret. Use your imagination if you wish. Perhaps it will violate no confidence if I simply say that it bodes no ill for you.

Ever sincerely, 


P.S. Did you get that copy of Vail, De la literature et des hommes de lettres des Etats-Unis (Paris, 1841) mentioned in Veith’s letter to you. He says that pages 321-34 treat Negro authors, and that sounds fascinating, considering the date. What are chances of having a look at the volume? Or is the material interesting enough to bother with?

<<—Previous    Next–26->>

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Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973) — born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Creole parents —  was one of the more prolific writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He was the author of over 25 books of poetry, history, biography, fiction and anthologies. Bontemps was a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Bontemps served as head librarian at Fisk University from 1969 to 1972. He was also curator of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University.  In 1923, Bontemps received his B.A. from Pacific Union College in Angwin. In 1924, his poetry appeared in Crisis magazine, the NACCP periodical edited by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.

In 1926 “Golgotha Is a Mountain” won the Alexander Pushkin Award and in 1927 “Nocturne at Bethesdaachieved first honors in the Crisis poetry contest. Personals, a collection of poetry was published in 1963.



Bontemps then turned to prose. In the decade of the thirties, he wrote three acclaimed novels God Sends Sunday (1931); Black Thunder (1936); and Drums at Dusk (1939). Frustrated in his ability to reach his own generation Bontemps to literature for children and young graders. In 1937 he published the Sad-Faced Boy; and others for  young audience included We Have Tomorrow (1945) Slappy Hopper (1946) and Story of the Negro (1948).

Bontemps was involved in the publication of at least three anthologies: Golden Slippers: An Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers (1941);  with Langston Hughes, The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949 (1949);  and Bontemps, American Negro Poetry (1963 & 1974 rev.). Bontemps was gracious enough to include Christian’s poems in all his anthologies.

Bontemps’ beautiful short story “A Summer Tragedy” is found often in anthologies. It is indeed a treat. His poems “A Black Man Thinks of Reaping,” “Southern Mansion,” and “Nocturne at Bethesda” are often anthologized. But such poems as “My Heart Has Known Its Winter” and “Day Breakers” are also found in anthologies.

Early in his career Bontemps had wanted to get a Ph.D. in English but with his marriage in 1926 and the coming of six children he had to work. He taught for awhile at an Alabama junior college. With the coming of the Depression he worked for the Illinois WPA and supervised and assisted in the writing of a history of the Negro in Illinois. In 1943 he completed a degree in library science and served as librarian at Fisk University and developed an archive of African American cultural materials that is a major resource for study in this field.

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Anyplace But Here  / Arna Wendell Bontemps : A Bibliography


Robert E Fleming.  James Weldon Johnson and Arna Wendell Bontemps: A reference guide. G. K. Hall, 1978

Kirkland C. Jones. Man from Louisiana; A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps.. Greenwood Press, 1992.

Sterling Brown “Arna Bontemps: Co-worker, Comrade.” Black World 22:11 (September 1973): 92-98.


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Selected Letters  Selected Diary Notes

Memories of Marcus B. Christian (CainsChristian’s BioBibliographical Record    Introduction to I AM NEW ORLEANS 

A Theory of a Black Aesthetic   Magpies, Goddesses, & Black Male Identity

Activist Works on Next Level of Change   Intro to I Am New Orleans   Letter from Dillard University

A Labor of Genuine Love  Letter of Gift of Photos   Letters from LSU and Skip Gates

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#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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Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900

By Marcus Bruce Christian


Study of the blacksmith tradition and New Orleans famous lace balconies and fences.

Acclaimed during his life as the unofficial poet laureate of the New Orleans African-American community, Marcus Christian recorded a distinguished career as historian, journalist, and literary scholar. He was a contributor to Pelican’s Gumbo Ya Ya, and also wrote many articles that appeared in numerous newspapers, journals, and general-interest publications.

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Drums at Dusk

By Arna Bontemps

A story of love, violence, and race set at the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, African American writer Arna Bontemps’s Drums at Dusk immerses readers in the opulent and brutal–yet also very fragile–society of France’s richest colony, Saint Domingue.

First published in 1939, this novel explores the complex web of tensions connecting wealthy plantation owners, poor whites, free people of color, and the slaves who stunned the colony and the globe by uniting in a carefully planned uprising.

The novel’s hero, Diron Desautels, a white Creole born in Saint Domingue who belongs to the French antislavery group Société des Amis des Noirs, attempts to spread his message of “liberty, equality, fraternity” in a world fraught with conflict.

Imaginatively inhabiting a wide spectrum of Haitian voices, including those of white indentured servants, female slaves, and Toussaint L’Ouverture, who later emerged as the revolution’s best-known hero, Bontemps’s work reflects not only the intricacies of Haitian society on the eve of the revolution, but also a black artist’s vision of Haiti in the twentieth century, during the U.S. Marines’ occupation and at the brink of war in Europe. A new introduction by Michael P. Bibler and Jessica Adams reveals how Drums at Dusk–even seventy years after its original publication–contributes to contemporary studies of the American South as part of the larger plantation region of the Caribbean, and inspires a reevaluation of assumptions about revolution, race, and nationalism.

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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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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

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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

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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 1 May 2009



Home   Selected Diary Notes  Selected Letters   Selected Poems   Marcus Bruce Christian   Langston Hughes Table

Related files: A Black Man Thinks of Reaping   Southern Mansion  Illinois WPA — Arna Bontemps  Arna Bontemps Advises Christian on a Rosenwald Fellowship  

Arna Bontemps Acknowledges Documents from Christian  Fifty Influential Figures