ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



In a shoebox, clippings of me and my sister,  / our bangs, Dixie-Peached and Saturday-straightened

in Miss Nancy’s beauty shoppe; hot combs, / the quick pop fry of a water drop

just missing a lobe of our ears. Later, the slight rattle / of a pot; collards, steam escaping, odors



Books by Jeannette Drake


Journey Within: A Healing Playbook  /  Promise: Inspirational Fantasies


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Daughter of Abraham and Other Poems

By Jeannette Drake


Daughter of Abraham


                                 By Jeannette Drake


“You don’t have nothing to do with that,” my father says 

when I tell him, “God’s not fair.”  Daddy is

old now, leathery, brown jaws

sinking closer to his frame, gentle

hands that held books, turned pages, opened doors for me,


like yams.


On the Sabbath,

he still rises early to sing his praises

and plucks no corn.

When the sun goes down

he goes in the kitchen

and bakes me a sweet potato pie.

© Jeannette Drake

  Poem first published in New Virginia Review Volume 8, Spring, 1991 

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My Secret Valentine

                                 By Jeannette Drake

Your skin is the color of mama’s

though she insisted we call her Mother,

the proper way she said.


Your skin is the color of marigolds

she tended in the backyard,

the color of lemon chiffon

she piled in a bowl,

the color of custard

under white meringue she whipped for a pie.


Your skin is the color of homemade butter

she stirred into cake batter

we sopped with sticky fingers

from wooden spoons,

the color of crushed pineapple

she layered between coconut.


Your skin is the color of ruffled organdy

dresses she stayed up all night to sew,

the color of Easter eggs

she hid in the grass.


Your skin is the color of sunrise on Sunday morn.

© Jeannette Drake

    Poem first published in Xavier Review, Volume 17, Number 2, 1997


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                             By Jeannette Drake


Her head resting against the malignant white

of the hospital pillow, she chooses colors.

“Bury me in rosy peach?” Mother asks.

“And just a  touch…not real

red lipstick.” A reminder.

Of what I’m not sure. Still,

I unwrap the present I’ve brought.

A sketch pad. Colored pencils. A small gum eraser.


The nurse interrupts. Time for lunch.

Lettuce and tomato, baked potato, braised halibut

with lemon.  “No grapefruit or oranges back then,”

Mother schools me. “Only at Christmas.”

I open the top drawer of the nightstand,

shut my gift of supplies inside.


Back home she has separated

the needles, threads, and thimbles; packed

remnants of dotted swiss, voile, and yellow organdy.

In a shoebox, clippings of me and my sister,

our bangs, Dixie-Peached and Saturday- straightened

in Miss Nancy’s beauty shoppe; hot combs,

the quick pop fry of a water drop

just missing a lobe of our ears. Later, the slight rattle

of a pot; collards, steam escaping, odors

assaulting our noses; heavy stroked promises

of the next day’s delicacies,

real as Mother standing

in the backyard years earlier,

her hands holding a cocoon

up to sunlight, “This will 

be a swallowtail butterfly.”    

© Jeannette Drake

Poem first published in The Southern Review October, 1992, Vol. 28, Number 4 

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The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

By Yvonne Thornton

Dr. Yvonne Thornton’s memoir The Ditchdigger’s Daughters has captured the hearts of readers everywhere since it was first published in 1995. Translated into 19 languages, featured on Oprah, and made into a TV movie, this heart-warming and inspiring story chronicles Yvonne Thornton’s family; at its center is her beloved, unschooled but wise father Donald Thornton, who demanded that all five of his daughters not only excel in school, but go on to become doctors. Four of them did; the other found her calling in law and became a lawyer instead.—Dafina

Thornton’s frank, relaxed manner makes it accessible to general readers as well as students of women’s or African American memoir. Worth considering also for those looking for inspirational reads.—Library Journal

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Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark

By Katherine Mellen Charron

Freedom’s Teacher traces Clark’s life from her earliest years as a student, teacher, and community member in rural and urban South Carolina to her increasing radicalization as an activist following World War II, highlighting how Clark brought her life’s work to bear on the civil rights movement. Katherine Mellen Charron’s engaging portrait demonstrates Clark’s crucial role—and the role of many black women teachers—in making education a cornerstone of the twentieth-century freedom struggle. Drawing on autobiographies and memoirs by fellow black educators, state educational records, papers from civil rights organizations, and oral histories, Charron argues that the schoolhouse served as an important institutional base for the movement. Clark’s program also fostered participation from grassroots southern black women, affording them the opportunity to link their personal concerns to their political involvement on the community’s behalf.

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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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posted 17 April 2011



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