ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Before his death in 1987, Davis proceeded, undaunted by the challenges,
to bring his life story before the reading audience. For him, Livin’ The Blues
would serve not just as a memorial constructed to provide additional
tangible evidence that he had lived in this world.
Books by Frank Marshall Davis
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Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet
By Frank Marshall Davis
Edited by John Edgar Tidwell
Note on the Text xxix
Titles in Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography 375
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Publishing ones memoirs can be either an extremely arrogant gesture of an incredible risk that the self will be exposed for what it actually is. Before his death in 1987, Davis proceeded, undaunted by the challenges, to bring his life story before the reading audience. For him, Livin’ The Blues would serve not just as a memorial constructed to provide additional tangible evidence that he had lived in this world. It would also provide new insight and fresh perspectives on the meaning of being an African American poet and journalist in these United States. These twin purposes had a special appeal to a number of people Davis reached out for assistance. Daviss importance as a writer and his numerous achievements in life generated a loyal following, who shared a common obligationthat his story must be told. Fulfilling Daviss vision, in his absence, has therefore necessitated an inspired collaborative effort. I wish to thank publicly some of the persons whose cheerful assistance made the publishing of this life story possible.
I am extremely grateful for the discerning perception of William L. Andrews in recognizing the importance of Livin’ The Blues, when he had barely seen a hint of its potential in a poorly xeroxed copy of the manuscript generously provided by his colleague Elizabeth Schultz. Although he is general editor for the series in which this autobiography appears, I am very pleased he never chose to remain aloof from the process. He has been intimately involved as a hands on editor, reading and offering candid assessments of the manuscript, the Introduction, and the Note on the Text. Where he was unable to answer questions, he made available to me Daniel Murtaugh and Amy Southerland, two very capable and conscientious research assistants, whose yeoman library work uncovered most of the annotations for the text.
I am indeed a better scholar for having worked with the superb editorial staff at the University of Wisconsin Press. Ms. Barbara Hanrahan, senior editor, was quite rigorous in her editorial demands, but her wonderful sense of humor made the task much easier. At the next stage, Raphael Kadushin continued the congenial working relationship and facilitated ushering the manuscript through the various stages of production. One of his most significant accomplishments were securing the services of Ms. Lydia Howarth as copy editor. She demonstrated an exceptional knowledge of her craft by superbly improving my prose and also by suggesting judicious emendations that Davis, had he lived, would most certainly have given his highest approval to.
To Ms. Beth Charlton, Frank Marshall Davis daughter, and to Mrs. Helen Canfield Davis, his former wife, I cannot express enough appreciation. Editing this manuscript required me to know more than words on a page; more crucially I needed to understand Frank Marshall Davis the mana formidable task since I never met him personally. Their fond memories and anecdotes not only humanized Davis but offered perfect complements to the text of his life story. Equally important were their cheerful responses to my many urgent requests for more research materials, which resulted in a steady stream of manuscripts, photographs, interviews, newspaper clippings, and photocopies of Daviss hard-to-locate newspaper work.
After I began the editing process, other people, who either knew Frank Marshall Davis personally or had done research on him, came forward with assistance at critical moments. I wish to thank Dr. Margaret Burroughs, now emeritus executive director of Chicagos DuSable Museum, for providing me with this version of Livin’ The Blues, which I used for an earlier Davis project; E. Ethelbert Miller, director of Howard Universitys Afro-American Resource Center, for sending me copies of his taped interviews with Davis; Fred Whitehead, editor of Peoples Culture, for sharing in the commitment to ensure Daviss wish of seeing Livin’ The Blues published; Michael Weaver, for providing copies of Daviss poetry contribution to Blind Alleys; poet-publisher Peter J. Harris, for giving me his insights into Daviss poetics; Gerald Early, of Washington University, for rendering indispensable assistance in the research on Daviss journalism; and Jerry M. Ward and Anne M. Emmerth for carefully reading and suggesting improvements in the manuscript.
Of course, the whole project benefited from the generous collegial support offered by Miami University. The Department of English, under the chairmanship of C. Barry Chabot, assisted me at very crucial moments. Hugh Morgan, for instance, rendered important advice on early drafts of the introduction. The technical preparation of the manuscript fell largely to the very capable hands of Mrs. Jackie Kearns, our Department administrative assistant, and to her staff of student workers. William Wortman, reference librarian at Miami Universitys King Library, was invaluable in locating difficult to find source materials. The College of Arts and Science and the Graduate School both provided timely funding for proofreading the final copy of the text. But when problems seemed to proliferate and solutions were not to be found, Drs. Augustus J. Jones, Jr., and Michael E. Dantley, wonderful friends, reminded me to seek spiritual guidance through prayeradvice that most assuredly produced ways when there seemed to be none.
Last, in my mother, Mrs. Verlean Tidwell, I found an example of hard work, persistence, and, above all, the belief that good things will happen if you have faith. My wife, Mandie Barnes Tidwell, offered what might be the ultimate sacrifice. When a simple editing job, turned into a major research undertaking and the computer threatened to consume all my time, she very generously encouraged me to complete the book. I am most appreciative, then, for her unfailing support and understanding. John Edgar Tidwell
Source: Livin’ The Blues:Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet (1992). By Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987). Edited by John Edgar Tidwell. The University of Wisconsin Press, pp. ix-xi
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Edited by John Edgar Tidwell University Press of Mississippi
Collection celebrates a great American journalist
Frank Marshall Davis (19051987) was a prominent figure in the black press during the middle of the twentieth century, who worked as a reporter and editor for the Atlanta World, the Associated Negro Press, the Chicago Star, and the Honolulu Record. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press (University Press of Mississippi) is a selection of Davis nonfiction, edited by John Edgar Tidwell, that gives readers insight into one journalists ability to frame the news in a way that opened up debate among Americansespecially African Americans.
Tidwell points out that the black press normally told the other side of the storyviewpoints that were distorted or altogether ignored by mainstream media. But Daviss writing moved beyond the norm and was motivated by other, more significant issues. It accomplished far more than countering the racism emanating from the white press. Tidwell explains in his introduction that Daviss writing sought to move a people to better understand why they needed to change the world they lived in.
Daviss commentary on race relations, music, literature, and American culture was precise, impassioned, and engaged. Throughout his career, he championed the struggles of African Americans for equal rights and laboring people seeking fair wages and other benefits.
His cultural criticism argued that blues and jazz were responses to social conditions and served weapons of racial integration. His book reviews further complemented his radical vision by commenting on how literature reshapes ones understanding of the world. Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for difference.
Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press reveals a writer in touch with the most salient issues defining his era and his desire to insert them into the public sphere.
John Edgar Tidwell is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas. He edited Frank Marshall Daviss Livin’ The Blues:Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet and his Black Moods: Collected Poems.
posted 13 May 2006
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By Henry Lewis Suggs
P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young’s personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.
Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young’s personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.David B. Parker,
Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
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A History of the Black Press By Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson II
In this work, Dr. Wilson chronicles the development of black newspapers in New York City and draws parallels to the development of presses in Washington, D.C., and in 46 of the 50 United States. He describes the involvement of the press with civil rights and the interaction of black and nonblack columnists who contributed to black- and white-owned newspapers. . . . Through reorganization and exhaustive research to ascertain source materials from among hundreds of original and photocopied documents, clippings, personal notations, and private correspondence in Dr. Pride’s files, Dr. Wilson completed this compelling and inspiring study of the black press from its inception in 1827 to 1997.
This is a major and noteworthy contribution to scholarship on the African American press. As Washington Post columnist Dorothy Gilliam concludes in the foreword, Pride and Wilsons comprehensive history is a lasting tribute to the men and women within the black press of both the past and the present and to those who will make it what it will be in the future.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 8 June 2012