ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
So Stokes quickly convened a second meeting of the board of editors on
January 9, 1932, at Howard University. Du Bois, with the greatest reluctance,
allowed himself to be persuaded to attend. Carter G. Woodson said he
didn’t accept gifts from Greeks and would not go.
Books by and about W. E. B. Du Bois
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Books by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Birth of Encarta Africana
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Thank you very much. It’s great to be here. . . .
First, I want to tell you a little bit about the encyclopedia’s history. In 1909, W.E.B. Du Bois , the greatest black intellectual of all time, woke up one day, seemingly out of the blue, and announced that he had a vision that the most efficacious way to fight white racism would be the editing of a comprehensive encyclopedia about the entire black world, the equivalent of a black Encyclopedia Britannica.
Du Bois was a genius so he didn’t need an antecedent for this idea. But about a year ago, I read a review in the Times Literary Supplement of the CD-ROM version of the Encyclopedia Judaica, and it said the Judaica was published in 1907. So you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out where Du Bois got the idea two years later.
Now Du Bois was a star by this time. He had probably sold The [Souls of] Black Folk in 1903. In 1900, he had written what had turned out to be one of the most prophetic and famous sentences in the entire 20th centurythat the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line. In 1905, he had cofounded the Niagara Movement, which metamorphosed into [the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or] the NAACP. And of course, between 1890 and 1895, he had taken three degrees from Harvard, becoming the first person of African decent to get a Ph.D. from this great university. I don’t know if it was so great then, but it’s great now [laughter]. It certainly was racist then.
So Du Bois was a star, but he had no money. He had just enough money to print about 100 pieces of stationery announcing this new project, the Encyclopedia Africana. He wrote to perhaps sixty great scholars throughout the world: Sir Harry Johnston in England, Franz Boas, with whom he had studied in Berlin, George Santana, the great philosopher with whom he had read the Critique of Pure Reason in an upper room in Harvard Yard, Albert Bushnell Hart, the historian who directed his Ph.D. thesis on the suppression of the African slave trade, William James, father of American psychology, and President Charles Eliot himself of Harvard.
Everybody wrote back and said they would join Du Bois’s board of editors, except President Eliot, who said he was too busy trying to transform his provincial liberal arts collegea gentlemen’s finishing schoolinto a grand, cosmopolitan, international, elite institution of higher learning. But he wanted to give young Du Bois a bit of advice. “Don’t ignore the presence of Islamic culture in subsaharan Africa,” Eliot said, which in 1909 was pretty amazing advice. I didn’t think President Eliot knew that much, either about Africa or about Islam, to tell you the truth, and my respect for him went up considerably. Secondly he said, “Don’t embark on this project unless you have the money.” That, as you’ll see, quickly turns out to have been prophetic advice.
Du Bois went on to co-found the NAACP in 1910. He was the only black member of the board of the NAACP initially. We think of it now as an all-black organization, but it wasn’t then. It was a liberal, left-of-center organization. He was busy trying to get a federal anti-lynching law passed, which he never succeeded in doing. He also edited The Crisis magazine, which was then and remains the official organ of the NAACP, from 1910 to 1934, and he was a brilliant editor.
Cut to 1931. Anson Phelps Stokes, a liberal white American, announced that he had had a vision that the most efficacious way to fight white racism would be the editing of a comprehensive encyclopedia about the whole black world. He invited twenty black scholars to join him on the campus of Harvard University on November 7, 1931. He invited all the great black scholars, except for two: W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson. . . .
Du Bois heard of this meeting and went crazy. He wrote to Anson Phelps Stokes, who was mortified. Nobody wanted to take on the great Du Bois. So Stokes quickly convened a second meeting of the board of editors on January 9, 1932, at Howard University. Du Bois, with the greatest reluctance, allowed himself to be persuaded to attend. Carter G. Woodson said he didn’t accept gifts from Greeks and would not go.
At the meeting, Du Bois was unanimously elected the editor in chief of the encyclopedia of the Negro, in which capacity he served between 1932 and 1946. After 1934, he had a lot more time to do so because he was fired from the NAACP after writing an editorial that said that since the goal post of the civil rights movement appeared to be receding, perhaps it would behoove the Negro to develop separate political, social, educational, economic, and cultural organizations until the goals of the civil rights movement were realized. This ran counter to the etiology of the NAACP then, and it runs counter to the NAACP today.
It was the Great Depression. Du Bois needed $250,000 to do a two million word encyclopedia. This encyclopedia would be about the Negro in Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, plus individuals of African descent who were eminent in Europe and Asiapeople like Alexander Pushkin, who had near African ancestors. He couldn’t get any money to do it, except for the initial money that Anson Phelps Stokes had put up. Finally, in 1937, he went to Anson Phelps Stokes and said, “What are we going to do? Nobody will give money during the Depression for this encyclopedia that people think it’s frivolous.” Or else they were terrified of Du Bois because he was so radical. Stokes offered half the money$125,000on a matching basis.
Stokes also went to Frederick Keppel, head of the Carnegie Corporation, and asked him to match the $125,000. Keppel said, “I’ll do it, but don’t tell Du Bois, because I have to get my board to approve it.” As soon as Keppel left his office, Stokes picked up the phone and called Du Bois and said, “Dr. Du Bois, don’t tell anybody, but on May 17, 1937, at 3 o’clock, the board of the Carnegie Corporation is going to convene and at 4 o’clock they’re going to call you and they’re going to tell you they’ve matched my $125,000 donation, but you’ve got to be surprised.”
Du Bois promised to be surprised. And as soon as he hung up, he called [historian] Rayford Logan. Like W.E.B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson, Rayford Logan was a black man who got a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, but unlike Du Bois and Woodson, Logan at one time was engaged to my great aunt. I got to know him very well in his last decade of life, and he told me this story that had never been in print, until very recently.
He said that Du Bois told him to be at his office 3 o’clock on May 17, 1937. He walked into the office and there on Du Bois’s desk, over in the corner, next to one of those old-time black telephones, was a bottle of vintage champagne chilling in an ice bucket and two champagne flutes. Rayford didn’t know what was going on and Du Bois said, “Sit down Logan, sit down. At 4 o’clock that phone’s going to ring and it’s going to be the Carnegie Corporation. It’s going to be Frederick Keppel and he’s going to tell us that he’s matched Anson Phelps Stokes’s generous grant and we’ll be able to do the encyclopedia.” So for the next hour they slapped five or whatever Du Bois did when he was happy, and finally they waited until 4 o’clock comes and goes. At five minutes to five, Du Bois, realizing that the phones are never going to ring, looks at Logan, looks at the ice bucket, grabs the bottle by the neck, yanks it out of the ice bucket and slams it against the bookshelf and back at his desk.
The phone never rang because he’d been lobbied against by Carter G. Woodson. On September 26, 1936, Woodson claimed on the front page of the Baltimore Afro American that Du Bois stole the idea from him. You see in those days, ladies and gentlemen, there was tension among African American intellectuals. I know we find it hard to believe today. You know, mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest Negro of all [laughter]. People were terrified of Du Bois because he was so radical.
To make a long, fascinating story short, in 1961, Du Bois ended up moving to Ghana at the request of [Ghanaian president] Kwame Nkrumah to edit the Encyclopedia Africana. He was ninety-three years old. He joined the Communist party, renounced his American citizenship, and repatriated to Ghana. On December 15, 1962, he convenes the first and only meeting of the board of editors of this Encyclopedia Africana, and this project, unlike the first two, would be, and I quote what Du Bois told his audience that day, “by Africans, for Africans and about Africans.”
He was very angry at the American Negro leadership because it didn’t support him during the McCarthy era when he’d been arrested, imprisoned, and tried as a Communist. He wasn’t a Communist, though he was on the Left, but the official civil rights establishment didn’t support him. He was so angry with them that he completely cut them out of the Encyclopedia. “This is only going to be about Africans and no longer a truly pan-African encyclopedia.” He recapitulated the history of the idea as I’ve done for you today and then he said, “Perhaps it was only fitting that the idea couldn’t come to fruition before now, 1962.” It had to wait for the independence of the African continent. Remember in 1960 alone, nineteen African nations became independent.
Cut to the summer of 1963. The night before the March on Washington, Du Bois writes out a message which is sent by cable to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The next day, after King’s great “I Have a Dream” speech, [NAACP president] Roy Wilkins reads the content of the cable and announces that Du Bois had died in his sleep.
I heard about this idea [for the Africana] in 1969 when I went off to Yale and decided that I’d really like to do it. Four years later, at the University of Cambridge, I met Wole Solinka, who was my professor, and [Kwame] Anthony Appiah, who is a distinguished professor of philosophy in African and African American studies here. One night, the three of us made a drunken pledge that we were going to try [to do the encyclopedia]. In the late 1970s, the Encyclopedia Britannica company told us they would do it if we raised $20 million. How much could we raise? I was twenty-nine years old; I had just taken my Ph.D. from Cambridge. I raised $50,000, which is not bad for a 29-year-old; just enough money to print my own stationary [laughter] and convene a meeting of the board of editors.
So cut to 1995. Quincy Jones said he would put up development money if we could get matching money from a publisher. Random House’s CEO asked, “You can do it as a CD-ROM, can’t you?” I said, “Absolutely, but why do you want us to do it as a CD-ROM?” He said, “Well, this is confidential, but in a few months Encyclopedia Britannica’s going to have a press conference and declare they’re bankrupt.”
In 1990, the Encyclopedia Britannica, which was founded in 1768, enjoyed its biggest profit in history. In 1991, a computer geek from Redmond, Washingtonwho had tried to license Britannica and the World Book and gotten turned downbought Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, hired a team to put bells and whistles on it, and reduced it to a CD-ROM. Four years later, Britannica was bankrupt.
So I left there that day with $125,000 to develop a prototype of a CD-ROM. In fact, I went across the street to a phone booth, called Anthony back here at Harvard Square at the old AfroAm and I said, “Kwame, Kwame, you’ll never believe it, we have development money to do a prototype of a CD-ROM.”
He said, “Oh.”
And I said, “There’s only one problem.”
He said, “What?”
I said, “What’s a CD-ROM and can we do one?”
He said, “Yes.”
We did a CD-ROM prototype and six months later I made this dazzling 45-minute presentation to Random House’s executives and got a standing ovation. Then Alberto Vitale, the CEO from Random House, stood up and said, “That’s the good news.”
I said, “The good news: what’s the bad news?”
He said, “The bad news is that in the last six months the bottom is falling out of the market for academic CD-ROM products. If you can do it as a game . . .”
I’m an optimistic person, but I sat there and had to blink. First of all, I saw my $2 million flying out the windowwhich is what we needed to do a two-million-word encyclopedia. I just was so discouraged, I couldn’t believe it. We had done everything right. We had earned it. I told Anthony it was over. I wasn’t going to work on this any more.
The next day I sent twenty-five letters out to all the major publishers in the United States and asked them if they’d do this project. In the next few years, I met with those publishers and demonstrated the prototype. Nobody wanted to cough up the $2 million we needed that to develop the encyclopedia. Finally, a friend suggested I pitch it to Frank Pearl, who was about to start Perseus Books. I went to Frank’s suite at the Carlisle Hotel, and for the 26th time I gave the same demonstration of that CD-ROM.
After forty-five minutes, Frank said, “How much do you need to do this project?”
I answered, “$2 million.”
He stuck out his hand and he said again, “You’ve got a deal.”
I said, “Don’t mess with me, Frank.” I couldn’t believe it and he said, “You’ve got a deal.”
In the meantime, I had written to Bill Gates. They flew us out to Redmond, Washington, Anthony and I went out there, we pitched it, they said they loved the idea, but they wanted to do a marketing study. And I said, “Well, what’s that?” They said they wanted to count the number of black people with computers because that was our principal market, so I said, “Okay.” So then I got back, I called all my friends who had computers and said, “Here’s Bill Gates’ e-mail, write to him and say, I am black, I have computer” [laughter]. I am not joking.
So the day after meeting [Pearl] at the Carlisle, Microsoft called and said, “You’ve got a deal. You’ve got a million dollar advance from the publisher and a million dollars from Microsoft.” There was only one caveat. They said we had to do the whole thing in eighteen months. So we hired a staff that eventually grew to forty people. I set up an office on Francis Avenue, and the staff wrote about 45 percent of the encyclopedia.
And twenty years after Wole Soyinka, who would go on to become the first person of African descent to win the Nobel Prize for literature, and Anthony [Appiah], an African prince and the nephew of the late Asantehene, the king of the Asante, and me, a poor, working-class colored boy from Piedmont, West Virginiatwenty-five years after we made a drunken pledge at the University of Cambridge that we would try to fulfill Dr. Du Bois’ great dream, we shipped 2.25 million words to Microsoft. On January 19, 1999, Martin Luther King’s birthday, the official holiday, ninety years almost to the day after the great W.E.B. Du Bois had a dream, had a vision that the most efficacious way to fight white racism would be the editing of a comprehensive encyclopedia about the whole black world, we published Encarta Africana.
Thank you very much [applause]. Now I want to take a little time to show it to you . . . [music starts] This is the third edition. We’ve published three editions in two years. It’s divided up into articles, welcome, features, library; this edition has ten million wordsthree million words of encyclopedia articles and seven million words in another feature that I’m really proud of, but first I’m going to show you a few of the articles. . . . We digitized [the Library of Black America] for this edition160 books written by black people between 1773 and 1919, which was the end of public domain. We didn’t have to ask anybody for the rights to these books. They are free and fully searchable.
Last December an undergraduate came to me and asked me if anybody black wrote about Charles Darwin in the 19th century. How would I know? Then I realized, “Well I do know.” I typed in “Darwin,” the computer searched all seven million words, and found five references to Charles Darwin. We find in the entry on Anna Julia Cooper, who wrote A Voice From the South in 1890, where she wrote Charles Darwin’s name, with “Charles Darwin” highlighted in yellow. Isn’t that great? Do you know how long it would take to do all that research? It’s amazing; we’ll revolutionize scholarship in African and African American studies.
We also developed a music timeline with Quincy Jones. We figured if we couldn’t get inner-city black kids interested in computers with this, then we were dead. I mean, we might as well give up. This is a history of black music from 1870 to Lauryn Hill. Click on 1870 and we’re going to see the first Jubilee singers. Now we can go to film footage of a minstrel routine. It’s disgusting, but it’s part of the tradition. You have to teach that. Let’s look at 1950. Click on Miles. Look at this: Miles and Coltrane together, 1959. Isn’t that great? We have thousands of pieces of film footage like this and audio clips. . .
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Henry Louis Skip Gates, Jr., Ph.D. (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor and public intellectual. He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his teaching, research, and development of academic institutions to study black culture. In 2002, Gates was selected to give the Jefferson Lecture, in recognition of his “distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” The lecture resulted in his 2003 book, The Trials of Phillis Wheatley.
As the host of the 2006 and 2008 PBS television miniseries African American Lives, Gates explored the genealogy of prominent African Americans. Gates sits on the boards of many notable arts, cultural, and research institutions. He serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, where he is Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Michael Kinsley referred to him as “the nation’s most famous black scholar.” However he is criticized as non-representative of Black people by prominent African-American scholars such as Molefi Asante, John Henrik Clarke, and Maulana Karenga. . . .
On July 16, 2009, Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the door to his house jammed. His driver attempted to help him gain entrance. A passer-by called police reporting a possible break-in and a Cambridge police officer was dispatched. The resulting confrontation resulted in Gates being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.The incident spurred a politically charged exchange of views about race relations and law enforcement throughout the United States. The arrest garnered national attention after the President declared that the police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates. The President eventually extended an invitation to both Gates and the officer involved to share a beer with him at the White House.
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By Barbara Ransby
Skip Gates “End the Slavery Blame-Game” Nonsense
By Dr. Ron Daniels
Professor Charles Ogletree on Profiling to Beergate to the Obama
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Remarks by the President and the First Lady at Presentation of the National Medal of the Arts and the National Humanities medal.November 5, 1998THE PRESIDENT: Near the beginning of this century, W. E. B. Du Bois predicted a “black tomorrow” of African American achievement. Thanks in large measure to Henry Louis Gates, that tomorrow has turned into today. For 20 years he has revitalized African American studies. In his writing and teaching, through his leadership of the Dream Team of African American scholars he brought together at Harvard, Gates has shed brilliant light on authors and traditions kept in the shadows for too long. From “signifying monkeys” to small-town West Virginia, from ancient Africa to the new New York, Skip Gates has described the American experience with force, with dignity and, most of all, with color. Ladies and gentlemen, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Applause.) The Medal is presented.)clinton6
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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 Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.”
Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger
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By Manning Marable
Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.
Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.
Reaching into Malcolm’s troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents’ activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.
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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 books 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 conventions decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maiers 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 conventions verdict affected anothers. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.Booklist
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Edited By Henry Louis Gates and Donald Yacovone
Generations of Americans have debated the meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s views on race and slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation and supported a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery, yet he also harbored grave doubts about the intellectual capacity of African Americans, publicly used the n-word until at least 1862, and favored permanent racial segregation. In this bookthe first complete collection of Lincoln’s important writings on both race and slaveryreaders can explore these contradictions through Lincoln’s own words. Acclaimed Harvard scholar and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presents the full range of Lincoln’s views, gathered from his private letters, speeches, official documents, and even race jokes, arranged chronologically from the late 1830s to the 1860s.
Complete with definitive texts, rich historical notes, and an original introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this book charts the progress of a war within Lincoln himself. We witness his struggles with conflicting aims and ideasa hatred of slavery and a belief in the political equality of all men, but also anti-black prejudices and a determination to preserve the Union even at the cost of preserving slavery. We also watch the evolution of his racial views, especially in reaction to the heroic fighting of black Union troops.
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By Adam Fairclough
Better Day Coming is intended, in author Adam Fairclough’s words, as “neither a textbook nor a survey, but an interpretation” (p. xiv) of the circuitous struggle for racial equality pursued by African Americans and their occasional allies between 1890 and 2000. Chronologically organized, the narrative moves from an evaluation of the hard-pressed, contending forces vying for ascendancy in the black South at the nadir to the interwar period and well beyond, into the urban cauldron of the northern ghettoes at the high point of the Black Power movement. Fairclough brings to his project a fluent understanding of the shifting institutional configurations of opposition to Jim Crow and a keen sensitivity to the ways in which the efforts of those who fought it were hampered, circumscribed, and occasionally crushed by the pressures of operating in a society formally committedfor most of the period under discussionto aggressive defense of the racial status quo.
Fairclough’s “basic argument” seems at first glance uncontroversial: that “although blacks differed . . . about the most appropriate tactics in the struggle for equality, they were united in rejecting allegations of racial inferiority and in aspiring to a society where men and women would be judged on merit rather than by race or color” (p. xii).
But his ultimate aim is more ambitious: he sets out to rehabilitate the accommodationist tradition represented by Booker T. Washington which, though “apparently unheroic,” in the author’s view “laid the groundwork for the militant confrontation of the Civil Rights Movement” (p. xiii).h-net
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 13 June 2012