Chancellor Williams

Chancellor Williams


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Dr. Williams was a son of the Reconstruction South. His father had been

a former slave and his mother had been a cook, a nurse, and an evangelist



Books by Chancellor Williams

The Raven / The Rebirth of African Civilization / The Destruction of Black Civilization

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Chancellor Williams &  Oggi Ogburn


Beginning in 1975, Oggi Ogburn had the honor of traveling and working with the great author and historian, Dr. Chancellor Williams (1898-1992). Oggi is a photographer and as Dr. Williams assistant and friend, photographed him in his travels. Since Chancellor was blind, Oggi became his eyes and Chancellor became a mentor who shared his wisdom and historical perspective.

Oggi documented this remarkable experience with photographs and audiotapes that provide an intimate glimpse of Dr. Williams’ life during this period. As the results, he has amassed a large, quite impressive collection that would afford those who are interested a means to reflect on and cherish properly the outstanding contribution of this scholar ad pioneer.

Ogburn feels because of the blessings to have a relationship with the Mighty Doctor he feels obligated to pass onto others Chancellor’s messages and stories. Chancellor believed the ideologies and value system of the oppressors unconsciously become those of the oppressed. The liberation of the mind was one of his main messages.

Dr. Williams was a son of the Reconstruction South. His father had been a former slave and his mother had been a cook, a nurse, and an evangelist. Professor William’s curiosity, about racial equality and cultural struggles began as early as the fifth grade. thus he devoted his lifetime and academic pursuits to the study of ancient history.

He conducted field studies covering 26 nations in West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, researching some 105 societies and language groups. The results are an interpretation of Black history from the conquered as opposed to that of the conqueror. He assessed the factors that led to the downfall of a people who were once the “Cradle of Civilization.”

Williams explains what happened, how it happened, and most importantly, what can be done about it. meanwhile, all of these insights and ideas are available. He published over 50 articles, books, and lectures. Among his publications are The Raven, The Rebirth of African Civilization, and The Destruction of Black Civilization.

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Ogburn’s Star Shots

By Ferdinand Protzman

Oggi Ogburn was working on a masters degree in urban studies at Howard University in 1971, and teaching himself photography, when a friend asked if he could shoot some promotional pictures of musicians visiting a local radio station. Although he had no experience, Ogburn jumped at the chance and a remarkable career was born.

“I’m the kind of individual that when I get into something, I’m really into it,” says Ogburn, whose candid, lyrical photographs can be seen in an exhibition titled “Backstage Pass,” at the Auditorium Lobby Gallery at the University of the District of Columbia. “So when I started going into the darkroom at 5 in the afternoon and coming out at 3 a.m., I knew something was going on. Then I got involved with the music scene.”

Involved is putting it mildly. Over the past 30 years, Ogburn has been commissioned by record companies, publications, radio stations and promoters to shoot a mind-boggling collection of musicians, recording artists and celebrities who have passed through the mid-Atlantic region. “The only people I haven’t shot are Aretha and the Artist formerly known as Prince,” he says. “And that could still happen.”

He has also served as campaign photographer for President Jimmy Carter and former mayor Walter Washington, shot the Watergate hearings and documented his travels as a research assistant working for the late Dr. Chancellor Williams. The exhibition includes a series of photographs of Williams, a pioneering scholar of African-American history and author of the book, “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” that are being shown in public for the first time.

Ogburn’s photographs are almost all candid, black-and-white shots taken while he was hanging out with stars such as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Dizzie Gillespie and Bob Marley, just to name a few. They have been shown in exhibitions in the United States and China and published in major magazines ranging from Billboard and Jet to U.S. News and World Report. He has worked for most of the major record companies, including Sony, Arista, MCA, Motown and Polygram.

“You can see where life has been a holiday for me,” Ogburn says. “The past 27 years went by fast because I was doing something I loved. It’s been great. Every assignment is different. I’m working for my friends, eating in the best restaurants, staying in the best hotels, traveling in limos, hanging out backstage. It really has been a holiday.”

But even holidays can be dangerous. Growing up in Brooklyn and Queens, Ogburn saw some of his friends get into serious difficulties because of their use of drugs. Hanging around the intense partying on the music scene confronted Ogburn with similar temptations. But he says his work with Williams, who was blind, helped keep him grounded.

“I had heard him on the radio when I was a student and when I found out he was looking for an assistant, I applied,” Ogburn says. “I wrote him a letter and ended up hand-delivering it. We hit it off and I began accompanying him on the lecture circuit and helping with his research. He treated me like a son. Working with him I discovered so much about myself and about the history of Black Americans. You can get lost in all the partying, but I had this incredible alternative with him and that balanced my life.”

As a group, Ogburn’s photos give an unvarnished account of life inside the music business. Behind the glitz is a world of egos, entourages, road gigs, promotional appearances, interviews and exhaustion. One of the most telling images shows the singer Sade and two members of her band, packed into the back seat of a limo like sardines, dead to the world. “They were beat. Got into the limo after her show and passed straight out,” Ogburn says.

Catching such scenes sounds easier than it is. Ogburn has a fine eye for composition and a rare knack for capturing stars in unguarded moments. That talent is particularly critical given the egos he with which he has to deal. Some stars are more cooperative than others.

“Michael Jackson can be tough to shoot because he wants to control everything,” Ogburn says. “The way I like to work is just hang out and see what happens. So in that case, I’ve got to go with what he wants. I’m not there to get into people’s faces about what I want for a picture. I’m there to catch them doing their thing.”

A photograph of the Rev. Al Green taken at a 1996 concert date in Washington, is a fine example of Ogburn’s work, although in this instance he gives much of the credit to the singer. “Al Green is a pro’s pro,” Ogburn says. “He gives you so many different looks in the first ten minutes of his set that you’d have to be blind not to get a good picture.”

Ogburn’s show is the second in a new series of art exhibitions at U. D.C. featuring work by minority and female artists. Manon Cleary, the coordinator of the university’s art program says the focus was chosen because it reflects the student body.

“A lot of our students are working women, who take classes at night. We want to be a venue for people who deserve attention but for whatever reason haven’t gotten it,” Cleary says. “So we’ve been really happy to show artists like Pat Goslee, who was our first show, and Oggi because their work is so strong and our students can relate to it.”

For Ogburn, the exhibition also represents a chance to emphasize the non-music side of his photography, which he hopes will inspire students, as well as other viewers.

“I’m locked into the music thing. That’s what people know me for,” he says. “But a lot of the music business is here today, gone tomorrow. I’ve done a lot of other work, shooting people like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Chancellor Williams. I take a lot of pride in that because those people are in the history books.”

Source: Washington Post, Thursday, April 9, 1998

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Chancellor James Williams (December 22, 1898, Bennettsville, South Carolina – December 7, 1992, Washington, DC) was an African American sociologist, historian and writer. He was the author of The Destruction of Black Civilization (1971), a work advocating Afrocentrism and Black orientalism. . . . In 1971, Williams sent his magnum opus The Destruction of Black Civilization to Kendall Hunt, a white-owned publishing company, for publication and distribution. The following year, the book received an award from the Black Academy of Letters and Arts. Encouraged by the award, Williams worked for years to expand and revise the book before publishing a second edition. Feeling more comfortable with a Black-owned firm as his publisher, he sent the second version to Chicago‘s noted Third World Press.

When published in 1987, the second edition of the book received a wide wave of critical acclaim, including from such people as New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka and noted professor John Henrik Clarke. Years of cultural change enabled people to see the value of Williams’ work. The 21st Century Foundation honored Chancellor Williams, making him the first person to receive its Clarence L. Holte International Biennial Prize.

Preparing to release his most famous book, Williams did not wait for grants or fellowships to publish it. On his apparent hastiness, he commented: “I was out of step with tradition.” He also said, “I rebelled against overspecialization. Even when I had the required courses for my majors, I would take other subjects in which I was equally interested. I was interested in pure science, for example, even though I was majoring in history. I was also interested in psychology. My transcripts from Howard, where I did most of my formal study, won’t give you any idea of what my major really was.” Dr. Williams died of respiratory failure on December 7, 1992 at Providence Hospital. He had been a resident of the Washington Center for Aging Services for several years. He was survived by his wife of 65 years, Mattie Williams of Washington, and 14 children; 36 grandchildren; 38 great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren.—Wikipedia


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My First Coup d’Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening.

As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins. —Publishers Weekly

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Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage

By Rick Stengel

Richard Stengel, the editor of Time magazine, has distilled countless hours of intimate conver­sation with Mandela into fifteen essential life lessons. For nearly three years, including the critical period when Mandela moved South Africa toward the first democratic elections in its history, Stengel collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography and traveled with him everywhere. Eating with him, watching him campaign, hearing him think out loud, Stengel came to know all the different sides of this complex man and became a cherished friend and colleague.  In Mandela’s Way, Stengel recounts the moments in which “the grandfather of South Africa” was tested and shares the wisdom he learned: why courage is more than the absence of fear, why we should keep our rivals close, why the answer is not always either/or but often “both,” how important it is for each of us to find something away from the world that gives us pleasure and satisfaction—our own garden.

Woven into these life lessons are remarkable stories—of Mandela’s child­hood as the protégé of a tribal king, of his early days as a freedom fighter, of the twenty-seven-year imprison­ment that could not break him, and of his new and fulfilling marriage at the age of eighty.

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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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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Exporting American Dreams

 Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey

By Mary L. Dudziak

Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in 1960 Kenyan independence leaders asked him to help write their constitution, Marshall threw himself into their cause. Here was a new arena in which law might serve as the tool with which to forge a just society. In Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey (2008) Mary Dudziak recounts with poignancy and power the untold story of Marshall’s journey to Africa

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

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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 3 July 2012




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