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It was very important to me that I went to China for the third time in September;  

that Maryemma Graham and I could  celebrate the publication of The Cambridge History

of African American Literature; that I could celebrate also the fact that Howard Rambsy II ,

one of my former students, published his first book, The Black Arts Enterprise

and the Production of African American Poetry  . . .



Brief Record of Getting on with Emancipation

By Jerry Ward, Jr.


Dear Friends,   For the ending days of 2011, I wish God’s blessings and the magic of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year to you and your families.   Despite the sorrow of witnessing the transition of many brilliant artists and thinkers and the ongoing series of tragedies major and minor on our planet, I was fortunate to escape the forms of illness that stress and age can deliver; the listing of professional activities below is a brief record of my getting on with living.  Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

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Professional Activities 2011

February 1

June 16—Guest Editor, Journal of Ethnic American Literature, Vol. 1, No. 1

February 18—“Richard Wright and Our Contemporary Situation,” Mississippi Philological Association, Jackson State University

February 24-27—Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, Natchez, MS

February 26—Recipient, Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award

March 27—“On the Unveiling of a Portrait of Richard Wright.” Dedication of the portrait of Richard Wright To the Hall of Fame of the State of  Mississippi.  Old Capitol Museum.  Jackson, MS

April 1

May 24—Juror, Lillian Smith Book Awards

April 7-9—College Language Association, Spartanburg, SC

April 8—Moderator, “Creating or Celebrating a New History of Black Writing for the 21st Century” Project on the History of Black Writing Roundtable on The Cambridge History of African American Literature

April 14—“Understanding the U.S. Department of Education Workshop,” University of New Orleans

April 14—“A Conversation with Dr. Jerry Ward,” African and African Diaspora Studies, Tulane University

April 16—Moderator, WRIGHT CONNECTION Virtual Seminar with Jennifer Jensen Wallach,  University of Kansas

May 19—Featured Reader, 17 Poets Series, Gold Mine Saloon, New Orleans, LA

June 13-15—Manuscript evaluation for the Mississippi Quarterly

June 27—Director, “Autobiographical Acts: Dancing with Pronouns to (Re)present Your Self/Selves” Workshop for the Greater New Orleans Writing Project, University of  New Orleans

September 19-30—“Famous Overseas Professor Activities,”  China

     September 20—“Richard Wright: On Urbanization and Consequences,” Central China Normal University, Wuhan

     September 21—“Richard Wright and the American South,” Central China Normal University, Wuhan

     September 22—“Richard Wright: Perspectives on Cultures and Politics,” Central China Normal University, Wuhan

     September 26—Informal Discussions with M.A. and Ph.D. graduate students, Central China Normal University, Wuhan

     September 27—“Directions in the Study of Richard Wright,” University of International Business and Economics, Beijing

     September 28—“Tradition and Acknowledgement in Combat Zones,” Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing

     September 30—Co-chair, “African American Poetry I” panel,  “Dialog on Poetry and Poetics: The 1st Convention of Chinese/American Association for Poetry and Poetics,” Central China Normal University, Wuhan “The Tonal Drawings of Asili Ya Nadhiri: Temporality and Musicality,” Keynote address for Plenary Session 4

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Poetry Reading

October 18-19—Manuscript evaluation for African American Review

October 22—Poetry reading, Fatoush Restaurant, New Orleans Healing Center

November 16—“Richard Wright and Questions of the 21st Century Tougaloo College Honors Program Lecture, Tougaloo , MS

November 19—Moderator, Artists’ Panel, The Invisible Man Exhibit: Artist Talk & Tea Tasting, The George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, New Orleans, LA

November 21-27—Manuscript evaluations for UNO Press, Engaged Writers Series

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The Cambridge History of African American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Co-edited with Maryemma Graham

“Comment: Of India, Indians, and –Indians –“. Black Magnolias 4.4 (2011): 64-65. 

Guest editor. Journal of Ethnic American Literature. Issue 1 (2011).

Review of A Father’s Law by Richard Wright.  African American Review 43.2-3 (Summer/Fall 2009): 519-521.

“Two Research Notes on Richard Wright.” The Southern Quarterly 47.2 (2011): 75-86.

“New Orleans: A Crossroad of Axes.” Entrepôt 1.1 (2011): 1.

“On the Study of African American Literature: The Obligations of Literary History.” In a Global Context: Essay of the International Symposium on African American Literature. Ed. John Zheng and Luo Lianggong. Wuhan: Central China Normal University Press, 2011. 3-10.

“This River.” (poem). Program book for “Dialog on Poetry and Poetics: The 1st Convention of Chinese/American Association for Poetry and Poetics” (Central China Normal University, September 29-30, 2011), page 176.

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 Publications (Online)

 Unless otherwise noted, the online publications appear in the Project on the History of Black Writing

“Lament: Haiti, Our Name Is Pain.” Poems of Solidarity for Haiti (2011): 121. Ed. Alice Lovelace.17 February 2011

“One Function of Speculation in African American Literary History,” March 16, 2011

“Richard Wright and Philosophy,” March 23, 2011

“Comments on James Baldwin’s The Cross of Redemption,” March 23, 2011

“ ‘Thank-You’ Note to American Presidents,” March 30, 2011 [poem]

“30 Books for the ‘Cruelest Month’,” April 11, 2011

“Tradition and Acknowledgement in Combat Zones,” May 4, 2011

“Of Literature and Humanity, May 11, 2011

“Entering Another World,” May 18, 2011

“Death and Life of Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) Death takes you to an unfamiliar place, to narrative knowing and the science of the human,” June 9, 2011

“Provocative Fictions,” June 15, 2011

“Digging Amiri Baraka,” July 7, 2011

“Ishmael Reed and Multiculturalism.” ChickenBones: A Journal. July 11, 2011

“Notes on John Edgar Wideman’s Fanon”,  July 12, 2011

“Ishmael Reed and Multiculturalism,” July 18, 2011

“A Meaningful Life: I Chose to Teach at HBCUs.” ChickenBones: A Journal, August 1, 2011

“Playing in the Sunlight: Colors of Imagination, or Toni Morrison Revisited,” September 13, 2011

“Professor Jerry Ward on Nikky Finney’s Heartwood,” November 25, 2011

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It was very important to me that I went to China for the third time in September;  that Maryemma Graham and I could celebrate the publication of The Cambridge History of African American Literature; that I could celebrate also the fact that Howard Rambsy II , one of my former students, published his first book, The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry (University of Michigan Press); that Kalamu ya Salaam and I have weekly dinner and conversation to keep me on the right side of sanity; that Wilfred Samuels came to visit and to celebrate my birthday; that Chakula cha Jua and I faithfully try to polish our rusty souls at 4:00 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturdays; that I have a large, diverse number of friends who are indeed friends rather than dubious shadows on Facebook.

I shall emancipate myself from teaching full-time at Dillard University in May 2012 and promptly begin life as an independent scholar.  The idea of being “free at last” is most appealing, especially if what I detailed in my letter earlier this month to my friend Bettye Parker Smith becomes a reality. (See letter below)

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

1928 Gentilly Blvd.

New Orleans, LA 70119-2002

China II Report  / Making the Wright Connections

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December 6, 2011

Dr. Bettye Parker Smith

Office of the Provost

Tougaloo College

Tougaloo, Mississippi 39174


Dear Dr. Parker Smith:

Several weeks ago, you requested that I identify three or four things I might want to do as part of a special association with Tougaloo College.  After my retirement, or as I prefer my “emancipation,” from full-time teaching in May 2012, my priorities must focus on my being a Distinguished Overseas Professor at Central China Normal University (Wuhan) and on my research projects that pertain to literature and race, Richard Wright, questions of literary and cultural theory, and Ishmael Reed.  These priorities shall be boundaries for any other activities.

One of my academic gifts to my alma mater is strictly contingent on the College’s having a well-defined Honors Program, one which clearly articulates the concept of honors level work and the College’s rationale for and commitment to sustaining such a program.  Moreover, it would need to be very clear that in any involvement with the Honors Program I would be directly accountable to the Office of the Provost rather than to the Director of Honors.  Unless this stipulation is operative, I would not have the flexibility to help students identify and use their potential to be excellent.  One of the conditions that must obtain in my being an independent scholar is freedom in selecting how to position my allegiance to an academic institution.

For the first-year honors students, I would be willing to offer a credit/no credit seminar under the title MAKING CONNECTIONS.  I believe that honors students should be taught to explore knowledge broadly and to formulate questions that expose the artificiality of boundaries among academic disciplines. Genuine knowledge is not predicated on segregating what must be learned in mastering the sciences and the humanities from the interdisciplinary choices one makes in the conduct of everyday life.  MAKING CONNECTIONS would concentrate on the dedicated reading of such texts as Machiavelli’s The Prince, Werner Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science, Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark, E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, James Gleick’s Chaos: Making a New Science,  and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract

The objective of a close reading of such texts is making contextual connections and critical assessments of human thought. One underlying concern of the enterprise would be obtaining a better understanding of what the buzzword “globalization” does or does not entail.  The seminar must be limited to fifteen students, because I would also use the seminar for the purposes of mentoring students who should begin planning meaningful careers.  It would probably need to be offered in both the fall and spring semesters.

My second contribution would be initiating an Alumni Lecture Series to be sponsored jointly by the Office of Academic Affairs and the Tougaloo College National Alumni Association.  The purpose of the series would be 1) to enable Tougaloo College graduates to inspire currently enrolled students, 2) to create a forum for civil discourse among members of the Tougaloo family and the public in Jackson, Mississippi, and 3) to establish an activity that might be good for public relations and fund-raising. I wish to explore how “prophets” (my fellow alumni) can be honored in their own country (Tougaloo College). Alumni who participate would offer formal or informal lectures and have conversations with the audience.  I would model the series in part on the forums Ernst Borinski maintained for many years and the book review series I conducted during my years as a member of the Tougaloo College faculty.

My third activity would be presenting two public lectures each academic year that reflect my research interests.  And should the Department of English approve, I would be willing to teach English 440: Seminar in Literary Topics.  I would like to have senior English majors benefit from my insights about American and African American literature, the digital humanities, the importance of archival research, and the pragmatic connections between studies of language and literature and ongoing research in cognitive sciences.

Should what I propose be of interest to you, please note that it would need to be coordinated with my work in China from 2012 to 2014. It would also be coterminous with your tenure as Provost.  I would also request that Tougaloo College provide on-campus housing, because I do plan to maintain residence in New Orleans.  Perhaps we can formalize an agreement by mid-April 2012.


Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Professor of English

Dillard University

posted 26 December 2011

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The coming year shall bring to an end my rich, personally rewarding career as a teacher at HBCUs and shall mark the beginning of pre-future adventures. Peace, love, and friendship



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Not Gone With the Wind Voices of Slavery—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—9 February 2003—Unchained Memories, an HBO documentary that makes its debut tomorrow night, provides a powerful answer to that question. It gives us, through the faces and voices of African-American actors, an introduction to a vast undertaking that took place in the 1930’s: the collection and preservation of the testimonies of thousands of aged former slaves in an archive known as the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers’ Project. This archive unlocked the brutal secrets of slavery by using the voices of average slaves as the key, exposing the everyday life of the slave community. Rosa Starke, a slave from South Carolina, for example, told of how class divisions among the slaves were quite pronounced:

”Dere was just two classes to de white folks, buckra slave owners and poor white folks dat didn’t own no slaves. Dere was more classes ‘mongst de slaves. De fust class was de house servants. Dese was de butler, de maids, de nurses, chambermaids, and de cooks. De nex’ class was de carriage drivers and de gardeners, de carpenters, de barber and de stable men. Then come de nex’ class, de wheelwright, wagoners, blacksmiths and slave foremen. De nex’ class I members was de cow men and de niggers dat have care of de dogs. All dese have good houses and never have to work hard or git a beatin’. Then come de cradlers of de wheat, de threshers and de millers of de corn and de wheat, and de feeders of de cotton gin. De lowest class was de common field niggers.”



*   *   *   *   *’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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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.—


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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America.

Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness.

Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.—Publishers Weekly

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The Cambridge Historyof African American Literature

Edited by Maryemma Graham and Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


The first major twenty-first century history of four hundred years of black writing, The Cambridge History of African American Literature presents a comprehensive overview of the literary traditions, oral and print, of African-descended peoples in the United States. Expert contributors, drawn from the United States and beyond, emphasize the dual nature of each text discussed as a work of art created by an individual and as a response to unfolding events in American cultural, political, and social history. Unprecedented in scope, sophistication and accessibility, the volume draws together current scholarship in the field. It also looks ahead to suggest new approaches, new areas of study, and as yet undervalued writers and works. The Cambridge History of African American Literature is a major achievement both as a work of reference and as a compelling narrative and will remain essential reading for scholars and students in years to come.

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet.

Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly /  Derrick Bell   Dies at 80

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The Women Jefferson Loved

By Virginia Scharff

According to historian Scharff, Thomas Jefferson’s “most closely guarded secrets, the most fiercely maintained silences, all had to do with the women he loved.” It stands to reason that in order to fully understand a man as tremendously gifted and as deeply flawed as Thomas Jefferson, one must also understand and appreciate the women who collectively formed the foundation of his life and shaped the nature of his legacy. Although Jefferson’s mother, daughters, granddaughters, wife, and enslaved mistress were all fascinating women who played distinct roles in his life and legend, they were also creatures of their time and place, living, enduring, and playing by the rules of a patriarchal, male-dominated society. By studying these women Scharff not only opens a window to the heart and soul of one of our nation’s founders but also resurrects their own contributions to our nation’s history.—Booklist

The chapter on Sally Hemings does not add much new information, but it certainly lays out the facts we know in a comprehensive and well organized fashion. Much like Professor Gordon-Reed, the author carefully explains the strange dual-family existence that prevailed at Monticello, and how servants integrated with the Jefferson family as they all lived together. As regards the two daughters, they too emerge from the historical darkness and we learn a great deal about them and their important role in TJ’s life and activities. As I read each chapter, I learned all manner of things of which I had not been aware, and I have read a lot of material on TJ. So women are central to the story, but there is also an abundance of additional facts and perspectives that very much enhance the book. —Ronald H. Clark

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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 /

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 26 July 2012




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