ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes




And then God / he can walk in here / without a door being opened. / He can walk into

your life sometime when you / unconsciously open the door. / The door of your life

might be open / and you don’t know it. / He can walk in / While they were

in their meeting / he walked in, / without a door being opened.




CDs by C.L. Franklin

My Favorite Sermons  /  Sermons and Hymns  /  Legendary Sermons Only a Look (with Aretha Franklin)

The Eagle Stirreth in Her Nest  /  And He Went a Little Farther



Doubting Thomas

A Sermon by C.L. Franklin


We call your attention to the book of St. John, the 20th chapter, the 24th through the 29th verses:

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, / was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples said unto him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said unto them, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails,

and put my finger into the print of the nails, / and thrust my hand into his side,

I will not believe.”

And after eight days again his disciples were within, / and Thomas with them.

Then came Jesus / the doors being shut / and stood in their midst

and said, “Peace be unto you.” 

Then said he to Thomas, “Reach hither thy hand / and thrust it into my side,

and be not faithless, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said into him, / “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus saith unto him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me,

thou hast believed. / Blessed are they that have not seen / and yet believeth.”

Doubting Thomas! Doubting Thomas!




The passage that I have read in your hearing tonight / deals with one of the post-Resurrection incidents.

If you can call upon your knowledge of history, / and upon your powers of imagination,

you could picture the hostile world / in which these followers of Jesus found themselves.


The Jewish hierarchy / had put their leader to death./ He had been tried and condemned

by the Jewish church, / by the Roman courts, / and he had been nailed to a tree

while they looked on. / They had seen him drop his head / after a terrible experience

during the night of trial, / scourging, / and crucifixion, that ended on Friday evening

about three o’clock. / They heard him say / after that terrible night, / “It is finished.”


You know how they must have felt / when they had chosen to follow him,

when they had accepted him as their Messiah, / the anointed of God.


And now the man / whom they had called the Son of God, / was now dead,

and apparently disgraced. / And of course you know / how they must have felt.


Some of them said, / “Well, I’m going back to fishing. / I’m going back to my old job.

I’m going back to my old vocation. / It seems that we made a mistake.”

I believe Peter made the suggestion,/ and the others followed his lead.



Thomas, who was of the scientific turn of mind, / heard some rumors.

The women had said / that they had seen him, / and that he was alive.

Others said / that they were en route to Emmaus / and he joined them

and talked with them / and while he talked / their hearts burned.

Some of the rest of them reported / that they had seen him. 

Lately it was said / that in their secret gathering place in Jerusalem

to avoid the police / and to avoid arrest and embarrassment,

that he had come into their meetings.


But Thomas said, “I don’t believe it. / I don’t believe it. / Obviously

you’re being swept by rumors / or you’re suffering from hallucinations.

Nobody has ever died / as I saw that man die, / and come back again.

I was looking at them / when they hung him to the tree. / I was looking

at them / when they nailed his hands / and his feet. / I was looking

when the soldier / thrust the sword into his side. / And I heard him

when he dropped his head / say, ‘It is finished.’ / And I saw them

take him down from the cross / and lay him in Joseph’s tomb.

I know he’s dead. / Now there’s only one way / that you can tell 

me anything different, / and that is / I’ll have to see him.

And I’m not going to trust that. / He’s going to have to show me

his hands, / and let me see the nail prints / in his hands.

He will have to let me / look at his side, / and then 

I will have to examine / his side for myself. / I must satisfy 

the sense of seeing, / and of feeling / before I shall be convinced.

I don’t believe that he’s alive.”



Now Thomas, called Didymus, / which means the twin, / has received a great deal of ridicule

from the Christian world / about his doubting position. / But you know / you must give

some respect / to people who want to know. / to people who are not satisfied

with hearsay. / You must give some respect / to people who want to base their faith

upon as much knowledge / as they can acquire. / You see, superstition, rumor,

and hearsay / is not a sufficient foundation for faith. / I know that faith

transcend knowledge, / but you get all knowledge / you can get before you stop.

For you see, / Thomas was moving on fact. / And you see / fact can carry you

just so far. / It was a fact / that Jesus was put to death, / that he was hanged to a tree.

It was a fact /  that he dropped his head and died, / and declared, / “It is finished.”

This was a fact. / It was a fact / that they took him down /  and laid him in a tomb.

All of this was fact. / But that is so far as fact could go. / This is the reason

that Thomas couldn’t go any farther / because he was proceeding

on the basis of fact. / (You understand what I’m talking about.) / His whole operation

was based upon empiricism, / investigation / and what one can find out.


But you see, faith / (You understand what I mean?) / goes on beyond the grave.

(I don’t believe you know what I’m talking about.) / Faith doesn’t stop at the grave.

Faith didn’t stop / when they rolled the stone to the tomb. / And faith

didn’t stop / when the governor’s seal was placed thereon. / For you see faith

goes beyond what I can see / and what I know. / I can’t prove God.

And you don’t have to prove God. / Somebody said, “If you haven’t seen God

or you haven’t seen heaven,” / and all that kind of thing. / That doesn’t mean 

anything. / Say, “Who’s been there?” / That doesn’t mean anything. / What

you cannot prove, / what you cannot see / is no argument against its existence.

You can’t see electricity / but God knows it exists. / You can’t see energy,

but take all the energy / out of this room tonight / and all of us would be dead

shortly. / Hnnh? / Many of the forces of the universe, / you can’t prove them,

you can’t see them, / you can’t touch them, / but they do exist./ They are realities.

(I don’t believe you know what I’m talking about.)


But Thomas was like many of you / that are listening at me tonight. / He wanted

to base his faith / totally upon fact. / Totally upon faith / or rather upon fact.

But you see faith / moves out beyond / what I can touch, / beyond what

I can investigate. / I don’t know where God is, / but I believe he liveth.

I don’t know anything / about how he raised his Son. / I’m not concerned

about whether / it was bodily or spiritual. / I believe that Jesus liveth

tonight. / I believe / that he is a living reality. / He is a transforming influence

in this old world of ours. / Don’t you know all these people / wouldn’t have been

following him / by the thousands / and by the millions / for twenty centuries

 if he didn’t live? / Don’t you know / all of these people / who go to their graves

with his name on their lips, / saying, “Death cannot make my soul afraid

if God be with me there, / though I walk through the darkest shades,

I’ll never yield to fear. / if he didn’t live tonight.” / (I don’t believe you know

what I’m talking about.) / The great impact that his name / has had upon history

would not have changed / the world society / if he wasn’t a living influence.

I believe he liveth. / So Thomas wasn’t at the meetings.


And you know / when you fail to meet constantly / with that Christian fellowship

you miss so much. / You miss / so much in inspiration, / you miss so much

in God-consciousness. / You miss so much / in soul enrichment

when you fail to fellowship / with that Christian society. / (I don’t believe

you know what I’m talking about.) / So Thomas great mistake

was he wasn’t there. / And when he came in / after having given voice

to his doubts, / he eventually presented himself / at one of the services.

And while they were no doubt / musing and meditating upon God,

singing his praises, / while they were no doubt / talking about  the fact of his Resurrection,

while they were no doubt / talking about their faith in the fact / that he was alive,

without a door being opened / he walked in. / And thank God / he can walk

in here / without a door being opened. / He can walk into your life

sometime when you / unconsciously open the door. / The door of your life

might be open / and you don’t know it. / He can walk in / While they were

in their meeting / he walked in, / without a door being opened.



AND / when they looked around / he was standing in their midst.

When / they looked around / he was there / in their presence.

And it seemed that / why / his address / was so consoling.

He knew how / doubtful some of them were / AND

he knew how their faith / had been tried. / AND

he knew what a terrible ordeal / they’d gone through. / AND

think about how consoling / his address was. / Listen at him

“Peace be unto you.”


O LORD / you know when I think about / the world that we live

in / when I think about / how frustrated / many of us are,

when I think about how / neurotic we’ve become,

when I think about / how tension-filled / many of our lives are,

when I think about / how afraid of life / so many of us are,

WHY / I think about what Jesus said / to those fearing

and doubting disciples, “Peace be unto you.” / GREAT GOD!


You that are afraid tonight / GREAT DAY! / you that are anxious

tonight / AND / you that don’t know how / to face your problems,

you ought to hear his word / coming down through the centuries,

saying “Peace be unto you.” / O LORD!


Though the storms / may rage around you / though the road

that you are traveling / may be rough / though the problems

that you’re faced with / may be perplexing / O LORD!

he’ll still say to you, / “Peace be unto you.” / O LORD!

“Peace be unto you.” / O LORD!


Listen! / Did you know what Thomas said / when

he beheld the reality / of Jesus Christ? / You know what

Thomas said / when he saw / his wounded hands,

when he beheld / his wounded side? / “MY LORD



And I’m going to close / when I tell you this. / O LORD!

I’m not going to wait / until I behold / the wounds in his hands.

O LORD! / I’m not going to wait / until I behold the wounds

in his feet. / I’m not going to wait / until I have a chance

to behold the wounds in his side. / I’m going to acknowledge him

as Lord / RIGHT NOW, / every day of my life. / O LORD!

Would  you be my guide, / would you be my leader,

would you lead me / through the crises of life?


I’ve got to stop right here. / O LORD!

YES / the winds that blow me about, / YES!

My faith is tried sometime, / but I’m going to hold on

to his unchanging hand. / YES I AM! / Every day!

YES! / Every day of my life, / I’m going to hold on.

in the midst of doubting, / in the midst of the windstorm,

in the midst of failure, / in the midst of frustration,

I’m going to hold on anyhow. / O! / O LORD!

O YES! / YES! / For he is my LORD! / And he is my GOD!


He is the Lord of my life. / He is the Lord of my life.

He reigns and He liveth. He liveth.


Maybe you don’t believe it, / but God is real tonight.

God is real tonight. / Sometimes Satan / tries to make

me doubt. / He tells me / that there are a lot of things

that I imagine / are not so. / He tries  to tell me

that I’m caught up / in the grip of / my traditional upbringing.

That God is not real. / If God is not real / who is it / that watch over me

every night? / O / who is it / that calm the storms

about me / if he’s not real? / Tell me who is it?

Who is it / that makes me cry / when there ain’t nobody

hurting me, / that makes a fire burn / down in my soul?

Who is it? / If it’s not the Lord, / then who is it

that makes me run sometimes / when nobody’s behind me?

God is real!

(The doors of the Church are open! Precious Lord is sung

Reverend C.L. Franklin—Except I Shall See in His Hand the Print of the Nails

 (part 1)


Reverend C.L. Franklin—Except I Shall See in His Hand the Print of the Nails (part 2)


Thomas A. Dorsey: Precious Lord


*   *   *   *   *

Source: Reverend C.L. Franklin. Sermons and Hymns  (CD);  Jeff Todd Titon, ed.  Give Me This Mountain: Life History and Selected Sermons (1989)


Clarence Vaughn Franklin (C.L.Franklin)–born 1915 in a Mississippi sharecropper family–became a nationally known and respected Baptist minister of Detroit, Michigan. He was known as the “man with the golden voice,” not only for his singing, but also for his command of the classical style of Negro preaching. His parents were Rachel and Henry Franklin.

Precocious, he was Baptized at ten and at sixteen nominated for ordination and then accepted as an associated pastor of St. Peter’s Rock Baptist Church in Cleveland Mississippi.

He later served as pastor in Memphis at New Salem Baptist Church  and then at Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY. he then settled down for 33 years at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

C.L. Franklin married Barbara Siggers, a church pianist, and had five children: Erma, Cecil, Aretha and Carolyn, as well as half-brother Vaughn. At Bethel, Franklin started a food ministry for those who could not afford sustenance for themselves or their families, offered financial and legal help for the homeless, and conducted a prison ministry.

He also became involved in politics by urging voters to go out to the polls and vote for the qualified candidates he was endorsing and was an active member in the civil rights movement.

 He co-organized the 1963 “Walk Toward Freedom March” with his close friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also actively involved in such organizations as the Urban League, NAACP, and on the Executive Board of the Southern Christian Leadership Council.

C.L.’s sermons were broadcast on radio nationwide under the Chess Recording Company banner. Rev. Franklin also released 76 live recordings of his sermons and music. He preached at churches all over the country and often brought his daughter, Aretha, though all the children joined CL in his road entourage at one time or another.

His life was shorten, in June 1979, when he was shot during a robbery attempt on his house in Detroit. He remained in a coma for 5 years and died on July 27, 1984. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral at New Bethel Baptist Church. 

Detroit’s mayor, Coleman A. Young, renamed Linwood Street as C. L. Franklin Boulevard, and renamed the park, (located 2 blocks from C. L. Franklin’s house), C. L. Franklin Park.

*   *   *   *   *’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

*   *   *   *   *

Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters 

Edited by Michael G. Long

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the Civil Rights Movement, a master strategist and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a deeply influential figure in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters  are his words shining through a collection of more than 150 of Rustin’s letters. His correspondents include major figures of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. “I have file boxes full of Rustin’s letters that I tracked down in archives across the country,” said book editor Michael G. Long.

“The time it took to complete the research was much longer than I had predicted, not just because of the number of letters I had in hand, but also especially because for their high quality. It was incredibly difficult to weed out those letters I really liked but that did not serve the purpose of putting together a publishable narrative of letters. And there are quite a few of those that are topically fascinating but not easily fitting for a narrative.”—phillytrib

*   *   *   *   *

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.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *


The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

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

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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

*   *   *   *   *

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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5 March 2012




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