ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



What I do believe is that Mayor Hatcher and the Hall of Fame board are trying to sort

 through this very bizarre situation. I am also confident that the end result

will first be the truth and then based on that truth, what is right.



No Joy Taken in Display of Remains of Holy Man

Hatcher Hampered & Demeaned

by Post Tribune’s Racism & Paternalism


Dear Mr. Lewis,

I have found all the articles surrounding the Nat Turner to be very interesting. It seems to have stirred up a lot of interest on your website. It has certainly enlightened me on the history of Nat Turner. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many of our heroes the information that is given us in our schools is only basic and too often that is distorted.

Although it appears on the surface that there has been a heightened interest since your article appeared in the Post, I have only spoken with three people who read your letter to the editor and they did not follow up as I did with a “trip” to the website. I’m sorry to say that very little happens that gets folks really stirred up around here. We certainly have enough going on that we should be up in arms about . . . but that just isn’t the case. Another reason very few people may have read the article is simply where it appeared. The Post (formally the GARY Post Tribune, until Gary became Black) has single-handedly done more to destroy this community and any Black person that dares to speak out, with its racist tactics than any other single factor. In fact, the only reason they are hot on this story is that they feel this can further demean Richard Hatcher and his attempt to build the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame. 

There were several reporters at the fundraiser the night the “skull” was presented, including the Gary City editor who is Black but they showed no interest one way or the other until they “smelled blood” when your article appeared. I said that to say that the majority of Blacks use that paper for sale ads, obituaries, and sports . . . never making it to their opinion page because of the paper’s racist, paternalistic views. They have no Blacks on the editorial staff but have all the knowledge of what is right for us. From what I have read on ChickenBones I think there is a misconception about the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame. At this time only the land has been acquired and that was a major task since it had to be done through the city government. We are still trying to raise enough money to begin construction and those efforts been greatly hampered by the Post Tribune. They have written more negative editorials on the Hall of Fame than on any other one subject. They continue to try to infer that the financial statements have not been made available when the truth is that they have not been made available to THEM only. 

Every other agency, governmental and otherwise, that has requested the information has been given the information and has been satisfied with what they have received. Why should any information be given to the people that are dead set on destroying the concept? In fact, the Hall of Fame board stopped announcing contributions because reporters would call the companies and try to persuade them that they would be contributing to an illegal venture. That is how filled with hatred this paper is. What I’m saying is that there has been no monetary value received from the “skull.” It was presented at the fundraiser, period. I am now very interested in the “journey” this skull has taken over the last 170 years and if in fact it is actually the skull of Nat Turner. The night it was presented I wondered why someone would be silent all these years about its existence. I think all in attendance were just totally baffled, including Mayor Hatcher. I don’t think anyone I have spoken to about this, including Mayor Hatcher, is jumping for joy at the thought of displaying the remains of such a great person. As they say “charge it to our heads…not our hearts!” What I do believe is that Mayor Hatcher and the Hall of Fame board are trying to sort through this very bizarre situation. I am also confident that the end result will first be the truth and then based on that truth, what is right. And I may add that this was not based on anyone having to twist the mayor’s arm or use any other persuasive tactics. His vision of a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame has been and continues to be to pay honor to those who sacrificed to make things better for us, certainly not “profiteering off the remains of a holy man.” I believe that you would have been very surprised had you had that “one on one” conversation. I wish you had not taken a busy signal to mean that the mayor had no interest in responding to your queries, because after all a busy signal gives no acknowledgment that you called. Again, one positive aspect of this situation is that I have learned much more about Nat Turner and I am very interested in the “journey” this skull has taken in the last 170 years. I hope that in some way it can be positively determined if this is indeed the skull of Nat Turner and if so how it was acquired. I believe all things happen for a reason. Had the skull never been presented none of this discussion would ever have taken place and if this is the actual skull, we would never have known it still existed. Peace to you in these very hectic times, Dena

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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 incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

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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

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 13 January 2012




Home   Nathaniel Turner Page  Christian Martyrdom in Southampton Lynching Index 

Related files:  Hatchers Skull Letter    Richard Hatcher’s  Skull    Hatcher Hampered By Post Tribune  Acts of Desecration and Demystification