ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
When Dr. Kings house was bombed in Montgomery in 1957,
crowds of Black people rallied spontaneously in front of the house,
many with rifles and shotguns. The question of Self Defense was
raised as an exact response to its obvious need in real life!
Books by Amiri Baraka
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From Parks to Marxism
A Political Evolution
By Amiri Baraka
In 1955 I was 21 years old and had been in the U.S. Air Force a year, where I had gone after being tossed out of Howard University.The Montgomery bus boycott was heightened in my mind by the Jet cover of Emmett Till (which Ive always felt was the opening salvo of the 50 Civil Rights Movement). The boycott began to hoist the image of resistance to what Id known all my life as racial oppression.
Id been prepped for understanding by my parents and grandparents, who constantly spoke of the regressive, racially pathological south. They took me to South Carolina almost every summer throughout my youth. I had seen and experienced the ugliness and petty terror of segregated trains. One time, the white conductor would not let Black people close the windows in the segregated coach where we sat. I was half-amazed at the dumb unnecessisariness of it all. The why of it. Cinders and soot poured in on all our clothes, and we brushed with a stiff resentment at each stroke.
Id seen the segregated movies and bathrooms and restaurants. In Alabama, where my mothers family came from, we visited the very site of my grandfathers two grocery stores and funeral parlor, which all burned to the ground, Klan style, and my grandfather and family threatened with terror and murder.
Id looked at the funny-looking, droopy-faced, red storekeeper and friends, imaging, in adolescent vagueness, what idiotic ideas must be inside them, ugly as they were. And what Id remembered of what my folks had told me.
They said, these squint-eyed micro-rulers, that I talked too plain. Id almost fallen into as punishment. I was reading the advertising aloud. That was, I guess, like, ignorance of my place that made me read aloud, like I could really learn.
The south, for me, was always a mysterious terror our history and lives and families would connect us withon & on. Racism, a general context of my life, was emanating, like news of lynchings, from down home. There was always such news, and ugly movie spooks to make us ashamed (even if they were funny) and so to create a code of resistance we could hear later from some of the publicly humiliated. But as the complete awareness of all racisms meaning and my place in that got clear, it would, as even today, shape me in absolute conscious resistance to all of it.
Yet the boycott was distant. I was stationed in Puerto Rico; but my and our local struggles in our specific Americamyself now absolutely under the states commandwas like a current that touched me with its meaning. For me, the boycott as it registered, was an expected presence we knew emotionally would come. And the Civil Rights movement was in ourselves in the way we were seeing or approaching America and its old oppression of Black people.
Rosa Parks was a name that rang for me like an ancestors name, the way we read the headlines and radio and the grapevine of youth, opening where the beat of life beats strongest, as animator of our human development. We were gonna be in the movement.
We always knew the crazy tales our people told about the vicious madness of White Supremacy, enforced by Uncle Sam Gestapo Good Old Boy Cracker Nazis, Spawn of the Soul Thieves (Fred said) who bought our bodies to work for them free, forever, so they could be rich and rule the world. Sunday School and one people and friends and brains had told us clearly to recognize: Heathens, jealous Crackers the old folks called them. Racists. Lynchers. The spiritual KKK in Americas soul.
We are its Blood, ourselves. Sucked out of our homes by our African selves as captors, then sold to vampire-like European and American slaves traders. They are the meaning of Halloween. The Skull and Crossbones is their only flag.
So Rosa Parks was a recruiter for the people, an example, a breath of humanity drawn into us by our lives and mind. Dr. Kings appearance, the SCLC, the boycotts example of Black self-determination, political and economic strength as well, was an instruction in a new eras expression. Rosa Parks act, the organization and leadership, campaign development, success and impact, were the opening of the activist phase as the phoenix-like explosive re-emergence of the movement.
There was nowalong with our historic despising of and resistance to what we had been taught since babesan open, organized attack on Evil. On this real devil, in his Heaven-Hell. There was now organized Self Assertion, as Du Bois said, as well as Thoreaus Civil Disobedience and Gandhis Non-Violent Resistance.
When Dr. Kings house was bombed in Montgomery in 1957, crowds of Black people rallied spontaneously in front of the house, many with rifles and shotguns. The question of Self Defense was raised as an exact response to its obvious need in real life! National leadership was thrust by the media upon Dr. King when he commanded the crowds deepest and most immediate emotions into a Black Christian alternative, If any blood be shed let it be ours! Newsweek and Time carried these words and a part of America confirmed Kings vision.
The church, the voice of southern Black religion and its professional class, would assert its leadership, and Christianity would reassert its leadership, and Christianity now would be the clothes democracy would need. If we were Righteous, we would Overcome, as the Bible and Jesus promised.
It was classical Afro-American mythology, such as Du Bois characterized the slaves ontology connecting Africa with American chattel slavery and the slaves to an ancient ye syncretized philosophy. We were to suffer and be degraded, and then afterwards, by Divine edict, raised to manhood and power (Du Bois: Black Reconstruction). For the masses of slaves, slavery ended because of the Coming of the Lord.
Such a cultural form was tradition and the emotion of our lives and memory, but we younger Blacks, out of school or the service or in the factories and warehouses docks, knew being righteous or good had never worked, except if you could fight. (Thats why we called ourselves Bad!) You couldnt be where we lived and let nobody insult you, your family, put you down too tough or get nuts on you. So the Christian essence of the movement was lost to us, either in the world of the church or; as we saw it, other fictions.
We would not turn any other cheek. White people could get their whatname beat. I knew that. Their cruelty was nearly always a constant. Their real meaning was as Bosses, Owners, Storekeepers, Police, Pain-in-the-behind little racist dudes wed clashed with, particularly in the north, at school or in the streets, or had to talk tough to. What? Ill whip yo mammyjammin white That had already come out of many of our generations mouth, absolutely sincerely, hope to die.
So, SCLC, SNCC, Robert Williams, Malcolm, Stokely, Rap, Fannie Lou, the Panthers, CAP, CORE, Young Lords, Welfare Rights Organization, Nation of Islam, Urban League, NAACP, churches, Freedom Riders, Move On Over Or Well Move On Over You! there was a part of us in all of them. Some of us sang for all of us. The Black Panther of Alabama. Voter Registration Summers. Freedom Marches. They were part of our whole self-identification, even though we would work up passionate disclaimers on some of the details.
Robert Williams in Monroe, N.C., emerged as the wave, for us, after Rosa Parks giving the word, and Dr. Kings victorious leadership in Montgomery. When Williams said, Meet violence with violence and ambushed the local Klan, took their guns and took off their hoods, that was a new paradigm for many of us young peopleemphasized to the quick when Roy Wilkins bumrushed Williams out of the local NAACP leadership the next day! But then The Deacons for Self Defense in Boogaloosa, Louisiana, followed with more armed defiance of the Klan and James Brown made that name a dance: The Boogaloo!
We absorbed the machine-gun rapidity of heavy transforming events and personalities and struggles, Selma, Birmingham, Blown-up churches, whats the difference between Bull Connor and Hitler, this was the nature of our incendiary learning. White Citizens Council: whats the difference between them and the U.S. Senate, we shrugged, both shaped by white supremacy, by what we later understood as the national oppression of the Afro American people? Medgar Evers, KKK (over and over), Lynchings (again and again), Mississippi (Mississippi, Goddamn our Nina belted!), Governor Wallace, Ross Barnett, the fool Eisenhower (You cant legislate the minds of the people, he said, Oh,, we said, then what mus we do?)
Little Rock (Remember the little girl on the bench surrounded by heathens?), blown-up Black children in blown-up Black churches, by known Klan killers the FBI could have stopped. Now they blowing them up again!!! So what mus we do?
And then the next wave, spearheaded by Malcolm X and his fiery accusation of a white America that we recognized and were having a bloody public refresher course on. Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, SELF DEFENSE! BLACK POWER! We were inside the newsreel in a breathless sweep of struggle and education and commitment.
Every day we inhaled Hoover, The Panthers, The beatings. We beheld a Nazi America! Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner murdered like escapees from Auschwitz, Water hoses, Dogs. Violent maniac racists with the green light to do anything to us and get away with it. Despicable ignorant! Heathens. Murderers. Powerful! Frauds who make a living lying. Average ignorant white people. Liberals.
These were not just events, but teachings, forum, battles, inductions into the deep heartlessness of this land and the empty doggishness of too many of those who claimed prominence and power. We shuddered in outrage at the murders now of students as the student movement expanded across the country, the murders of Black students at Jackson State, Orangeburg, Texas Southern, and of white students at Kent State! The 1960 Greensboro Black student sit-in had set it all off, and we grew even more aggressive in our will to resist this historic domestic oppression.
Chickens Coming Home To Roost! called Malcolm, sure enough. The split in the Nation of Islam. A lot of us would go with Malcolm El Hajj Malik Shabazz, the OAU, the journey to Africa and the historic Third World Front, the Bandang Conference.
All the faces and confrontations, the roar of resistant philosophies, diverse, some even antagonistic, were still against the American slave-master beast. Elijah Muhammad, Black Nationalism Black Power Conferences, Panthers Constitutional Convention, Congress of African People meeting in Atlanta, both the same weekend in 1970all part of the same rush that sprang out with Malcolms first national appearance and the great explosion of the Cuban Revolution!
Nkrumah! Africa! Lumumba, Toure. The National Black Assembly, Gary, Indiana; Africa Liberation Support Committee; Voting Rights; Civil Rights Bill; Vietnam; South Africa. Stokes elected Mayor of Cleveland, Hatcher in Gary, Gibson in Newark; the Black vote! The movement swept the whole of the U.S. in revolutionary democratic struggle. It mirrored the same anti-colonial revolutionary democratic struggle that raged around the world.
That Afro American struggle, like those others, was and will be based on the exercise of the first expression of self-determination! Nasser, Nyerere, Machal, Cabral, Pan African Congress, MPLA, ANC, TANU, PDG, PAIGCthose names carried confirmation that our struggle was part of a worldwide struggle against oppression, monopoly capitalism, imperialism, with apartheid and racism merely handy tools.
JFK assassinated, then Malcolm and King and Kennedy.
We called LBJ and Nixon names every day we saw their names or pictures. Amidst the murderous swirl of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, which Dr. King correctly drew our struggle into, and the Days of Rage, Fred Hampton and Ralph Featherstone and Bobby Hutton were we? yeh this is the United States, not 1933 Berlin! the murders, herds of political prisoners, beatings, trials, demonstrations, protests, conferences, meetings meetings meetings, confrontations, resistance.
By the last year of the 60s, Stokeley had called for Black Power, after Adam Powells sharp directive that Black people seek audacious power at the first Black Power conference he had convened, in D.C.before White America got Adam, too and in true slave-master style, threw him out of Congress!
When the Black Power Conference came to Newark in 1967, I was in solitary confinement in a Newark jail as a result of the Newark Rebellion. By then Watts 65, Detroit and Newark 67, and then hundreds of cities went up in flames. Not only the cries of Black Power! but ultimately the urban rebellions in every major city in the country were the logicalif at first seemingly contradictoryoutgrowth of Rosa Parks heroic act of resistance.
It was a mind-altering bombardment of revelation for those of us growing to political maturity during these times. Between 1963 and 1969, John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were blown away, in ways the convince many of us that it was done by anti-democratic forces affiliated with the U.S. government itself, direct agents of the most reactionary section of finance capital.
Today, contemplation of history shows us almost in exact replay of the Civil War and proposed Reconstruction. Many of the democratic advances and reforms gained through the 50 and 60 Civil Rights/Black Liberation Movement have been but swept away. The most bitter irony is that after every advance we thought would permanently transform this society is diluted, eliminated, or otherwise trashed, there are still mouths to the lie than now the U.S. is a peoples democracy.
Even uglier is that too often it is one of the knee-grows who benefited most of the movement who becomes spokesperson in charge of covering this outrage. Those who have sold their souls for a mess of pottage (and a few because they are psychologically and/or morally warped) are now employed as Heels. This is the Sisyphus Syndrome Du Bois talked about, still in operation, where collectively Black people push the huge boulder of our national oppression up the racial mountain (Langston Hughess phrase), only to have it rolled back down on our heads by the Gods.
All that is to say, surely it is time for another political upsurge by the Afro-American people, and indeed by the great masses of all the people in the U.S., who are not home watching the stock market for their daily swig of our blood. Let us speed the needed reorganization and recommitment. In Rosa Parks name, as well as Dr. King and Malcolm Xs. Like we used to sing on those marches, Aint gon let nobody turn me around! I know you remember!
Source: Crisis, December 1998
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By Lorraine Hansberry
I can hear Rosalee See the eyes of Willie McGee My mother told me about Lynchings My mother told me about The dark nights And dirt roads And torch lights And lynch robes
The faces of men Laughing white Faces of men Dead in the night sorrow night and a sorrow night
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Writer Lorraine Hansberry’s sober eulogy of the death of Willie McGee weighed heavy on the hearts and minds of the American Left. On May 8, 1951, a crowd of five hundred lingered outside the courthouse of Laurel, Mississippi, to witness the execution of yet another black man convicted for allegedly raping a white woman. His 1945 lightning trial resulted in a guilty conviction delivered in less than two and a half minutes by an all-white, male jury, setting off a heated five-year legal struggle that drew national headlines. Despite an aggressive appeals defense team who attempted every legal maneuver in the book, the US Supreme Court ultimately chose not to intervene. With the legal lynching of the Martinsville Seven in February, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s conviction in March, followed by the execution of McGee in May, 1951 was a bad year for Left-leaning lawyers (Parrish 1979; Rise 1995). Most discouraging, national news sources like the New York Times and Life magazine red-baited the “Save Willie McGee” campaign andas Life reportedits “imported” lawyers (Popham 1951a; Life 1951). Few felt McGee’s passing with as heavy a heart as his chief counsel, thirty-one-year-old Bella Abzug.
Before Abzug became a representative in Congress and a leader in the peace and women’s movements, she confronted the Southern political and legal system at the height of the early Cold War. Retained in 1948 by the Civil Rights Congress (CRC)a New York-headquartered Popular Front legal defense organizationthe novice labor lawyer honed her civil rights . . .
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Books by Amiri Baraka
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#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 Eroticanoir.com 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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By David Graeber
Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systemsto relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? Theres not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goodsthat is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections.
He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like guilt, sin, and redemption) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong.
We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known historyas well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy. Economist Glenn Loury /Criminalizing a Race
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.
Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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By John Lewis and Michael DOrso
Lewis, an Alabama sharecropper’s son, went to Nashville to attend a Baptist college where, at the end of the 1950s, his life and the new civil rights movement became inexorably entwined. First came the lunch counter sit-ins; then the Freedom Rides; the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Lewis’s election to its chairmanship; the voter registration drives; the 1963 march on Washington; the Birmingham church bombings; the murders during the Freedom Summer; the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party; Bloody Sunday in Selma in 1964; and the march on Montgomery. Lewis was an active, leading member during all of it. Much of his account, written with freelancer D’Orso, covers the same territory as David Halberstam’s The Children. Halberstam himself appears here briefly as a young reporter but Lewis imbues it with his own observations as a participant.
He is at times so self-effacing in this memoir that he underplays his role in the events he helped create. But he has a sharp eye, and his account of Selma and the march that followed is vivid and personal. He describes the rivalries within the movement as well as the enemies outside. After being forced out of SNCC because of internal politics, Lewis served in President Carter’s domestic peace corps, dabbled in local Georgia politics, then in 1986 defeated his old friend Julian Bond in a race for Congress, where he still serves. Lewis notes that people often take his quietness for meekness. His book, a uniquely well-told testimony by an eyewitness, makes clear that such an impression is entirely inaccurate.Publishers Weekly
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By Tom Reiss
Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristoa stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature. Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slavewho rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy.
Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle Eastuntil he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
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By Shirley Sherrod
Sherrod sets the record straight on her forced resignation from the Department of Agriculture in 2010. The author. . .was director for the USDA’s Rural Development in Georgia when conservative political blogger Andrew Breitbart attacked her for allegedly reverse racist comments she made at an NAACP event. The threat of exposure on national TV was enough to send the USDA running for cover, and she was dismissed. Sherrod decided she had to fight back. She and her husband have been directly involved in the struggles for political and economic justice in Georgia and elsewhere since the 1960s, and they were part of Martin Luther King’s movement for civil rights. She writes about growing up in segregated Georgia and the circumstances surrounding her fathers murder and the arson of her family homeat that time, fear was the daily diet that kept the status quo alive. In the 70s, Sherrod and her husband worked with other farmers in Georgia on experimental projects.
Denied drought assistance funds by the USDA, they faced foreclosure and joined a class-action suit to redress the discrimination. Eventually, they won the settlement, a decision strongly opposed by conservatives. Sherrod writes sharply about the continuing legacy of racism and how economic policy, hidebound bureaucracy and plain malice affect poor people everywhere, and why pretending that we are in a post-racial world doesnt help anyone. An inspiring memoir about the real power of courage and hope.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 9 November 2007