ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I would tell Jesus, it’s an example of white skin privilege – of “black robes and

white justice,” as the honorable African American judge Bruce Wright has said



If White America Had a Bill Cosby

By Jonathan Scott


Bill Cosby’s recent speeches to black audiences across the country, dropped on heads like a wave of U.S. cluster bombs on the poor folks of Iraq, have been wisely critiqued and judged accurately for what they are: well-intended polemics on the moral and political failures of the post-civil rights generation, yet a bit caustic when you consider the objective conditions facing us today. Dr. Cosby is caring deeply and genuinely about a situation from which he is at the same time estranging himself. In all events, it was just taken for granted that extremely harsh black self-criticism is par for the course. After all, African American intellectuals, from jackleg preachers and political organizers down to eminent scholars and critics like Harold Cruse, John Henrik Clarke, and Amiri Baraka, as well as our Nobel laureate in literature, Toni Morrison, are famous for never holding any punches when analyzing all backwardness among the people, such as misogyny, anti-democracy, provincialism, covetousness, opportunism, fatalism, dependency, and laziness.

This hallmark of the African American tradition, evident in Dr. Cosby’s critique, is the surest sign that a democratic culture and a healthy collective are alive and still flourishing. Praise God. But it got me thinking. When was the last time you heard a big white celebrity with moral authority raining down critical bombs on white people’s heads? For instance, Barbara Streisand taking the bully pulpit to chastise white Jews for members of their tribes’ betrayal of the civil rights agenda, and, no less immoral and directly related to civil rights, for their unconditional support of the Israeli apartheid state? How about the Reverend Billy Graham? I don’t recall him ever blasting white Christians for making a disgrace of Jesus’ name by continuing to support racist leaders and reactionary social policies such as war, capital punishment, the Crime Bill, de-funding public education and U.S. cities in general, de-unionizing the workforce, repealing welfare, the aggressive assault on Affirmative Action, the upward redistribution of wealth in the form of tax cuts for multi-millionaires – each a different cause of racial segregation, widening socioeconomic inequalities, and the moral debasement of our society. We know the answer: it’s called “white race” solidarity. For as soon as any prominent white leader starts criticizing white people’s bad behavior, the white identity falls apart and then the doors are pushed wide open for a new multiethnic U.S. populist movement, which remains the ruling class’ absolute worst nightmare. In this spirit, I have written the sermon that Reverend Billy Graham would have delivered on to the heads of white America had he forgotten, for just a day or two, his own whiteness – if he had been a white Bill Cosby.

Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan 70,000 people in attendance, June 5, 2005Reverend Billy Graham, Preaching a Sermon titled “Now Explain That to Jesus.”

Brothers and sisters, today we are living through the worst moral crisis that’s ever threatened our Christian nation. Tonight I want to be like Jesus and get right to the heart of the matter. We need to stop blaming the victims. That’s right. We need to look at ourselves first, at where we’re at today morally. I know many of you are unaccustomed to hearing such language from your leaders, and in particular from me. Yes, Brothers and sisters, I come to you tonight as a sinner. I have been silent about the sin of racism. I have supported immoral wars; these wars I supported were wars of aggression against innocent people, against poor people fighting for independence and a way out of poverty. I supported the war in Vietnam and I was wrong. I supported the war against Nicaragua and I was wrong. I supported South Africa when they practiced apartheid and I was wrong. I supported the first Gulf War and I was wrong. I supported the current war in Iraq and I was wrong (stunned silence). I have given my consent to an endless war on terror that is a sham and a waste of lives, that is weakening every day the foundation of our Christian democracy and is embarrassing us around the world as a Christian nation. Urinating on a Holy Book! We have become a nation of heathens and the whole world is watching! And God is watching the whole world! Tonight, brothers and sisters, I want to talk in plain terms about our democracy and who is threatening our democracy. Brothers and sisters, WE are threatening our democracy! It’s just us! Nobody else. The black comedian Richard Pryor used to have a joke about the American criminal justice system (a few gasps from the audience). He said, “I went to the courthouse to get some justice and all I saw there was just us” (confusion is breaking out).

Brothers and sisters, do you understand? Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Woe unto you that are rich! Ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep.” This was Jesus Christ’s most important sermon and I have ignored it for forty years. But this morning I came out of the wilderness and into the light! Praise God! Jesus was never wrong and if he was then I don’t want to be right! (a few amens, the crowd is beginning to warm up). I have been preaching Born Again Christianity for fifty years now and you know what? I was not the first. I have been reading the sermons of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and he was calling on the people to be born again before I knew what it really meant. What did Dr. King mean? (murmurs from the audience: he called him Dr. King?) He meant a moral transformation, brothers and sisters, from a state of sinfulness to a state of grace. And how did that happen? By being right by God. By being right by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What would Jesus think of you if he came back tonight? That’s the question Dr. King was always asking his congregations and they responded to it. Yes, brothers and sisters, they responded by taking to the streets, by marching for their God-given rights to live as decent human beings on this earth, protected by the Christian laws of the land, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. But first they chastised their own sinners and made them get right by God. Brothers and sisters, I’ve been studying closely the situation of our Christian nation. Every day I read the news on the Internet and every day I become more revolted by what I see. Tonight we’re going to talk about ourselves. Tonight we’re not going to talk about Muslims, teenage mothers, atheistic liberals, environmentalists, abortion doctors, gays, or the feminists.

Tonight we’re going to talk about our own sin (you could hear a pin drop). Tonight we’re going to come out into the light of self-criticism. Tonight we’re going to name names and come clean with ourselves. Tonight we’re going to question ourselves, as Jesus did himself on the Cross of Calvary. I read yesterday in the Detroit Free Press that the white people of a suburb called Grosse Pointe are expelling the black students from their school district because they say black parents are falsely claiming residence there. Brothers and sisters, I ask you: is this what Jesus would do? These parents are trying to get their children the best possible education and the white people there are opposing the education of children. That’s immoral and we need to call out those white people for being un-Christian and anti-American (a heavy silence). Have you seen the facts, brothers and sisters? Our schools are being resegregated. Today 80 percent of white students go to all-white schools. Wealthy white schools get the most money and they hire the best teachers and have the best facilities, computers for every student, send them to the best colleges so they get the best jobs.

Yet in black and Hispanic schools, the average career-span of a teacher is less than three years. Brothers and sisters, why is that? Is it because the children don’t want to learn? Is that how you would answer Jesus? Or is it because the pay is so low, the funds have been cut off, and the facilities are built like prisons not educational institutions? What would you tell Jesus? Let’s talk about prisons, brothers and sisters. We need to speak honestly now about one the greatest dangers facing our Christian nation—crime. In states like Illinois, Michigan, New York, and California, nearly 90 percent of the inmates are black and Hispanic. Is it because blacks and Hispanics commit more crimes than whites? Is that how you would answer Jesus? Would you lie to your own Maker and the Savior of your own filthy soul? I was studying the state of Illinois. Last year, the state of Illinois graduated less than 900 African American students from its public colleges and universities yet released from prison 8,000 on drug-selling offenses. Are African Americans the only people who sell drugs? Not according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They calculate drug use trends from data gathered through the federal National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA).

Stay with me now, people, I know you’re not used to facts, listening to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter all the time. But listen to the facts. In a report based on NHSDA data, SAMHSA estimates 3,727,680 whites use cocaine compared to 720,130 blacks. Why, then, are the prisons filled with black people instead of white people? If Jesus asked you, what would you tell him? Let me tell you how I would answer Jesus. I would site for him a vital statistic. Thirty-seven percent of all people arrested on drug charges are black yet black people use drugs five times less than whites do. I would tell Jesus, it’s an example of white skin privilege – of “black robes and white justice,” as the honorable African American judge Bruce Wright has said (whispering is heard). No, we cannot lie to our Maker and the Savior of our filthy souls, especially here tonight where we have gathered together to come clean in His presence. You see, brothers and sisters, we have been protecting drug addicts and drug sellers in our own communities merely because they’re white. We have allowed our Christian communities to become dens of sin, where people traffic in drugs and prostitution openly and freely because they have white skin.

Our obsession with skin is the sin! We must drive out these white criminals! How can you allow this to happen in your own neighborhoods? Now how would you explain that to Jesus?

In my reading over the past year, I have made other discoveries that revolt me. Unemployment among blacks is more than double that for whites, 10.8 percent versus 5.2 percent in 2003 – a wider gap than in 1972. Black infant mortality is also greater today than in 1970. In 2001, the black infant mortality rate was 14 deaths per 1,000 live births, 146 percent higher than the white rate. The gap in infant mortality rates was 37 percent less in 1970. Now how would you explain that to Jesus? I would tell Jesus that it’s because for every dollar of white income, African Americans have 57 cents. At the rate we’re going, it’ll take 581 years to achieve income equality between God’s people here in America. Do you think Jesus is going to wait 581 more years for you all to stop this immorality? I would tell Jesus that the average black college graduate will earn $500,000 less in his or her lifetime than an average white college graduate, for doing the same work. Is this how YOU would explain to Jesus that his black babies die 146 percent times more often than his white babies die? You better be right by Him when he asks you these questions on Judgment Day. You have to be right by God! What did you do to stop this genocide? You better have a good answer, brothers and sisters. Now we need to talk about sex. Yes, brothers and sisters, we have to speak openly about sex, as Jesus did himself. We cast stones at others for sexual immorality but how would you explain to Jesus the fact that pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry? Ninety-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian and pornography expands every day. Who here does not look at pornography (a flurry of hands are raised in the air)? Who here has never purchased pornography (the same hands in the air)? Then how would you explain to Jesus the thousands of Internet porno sites that exploit young women? Have you ever imagined your own daughters in those same positions? These are crimes against God, and so we need to return to our discussion of crime. Ken Lay says that by stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from working people’s pension funds he was doing the work of God. That’s right, he said that. How would you explain to Jesus that this criminal has been allowed to go unpunished for blaspheming the name of the Lord? Why haven’t you organized a citizens council to judge him and sentence him to Christian justice the same way you’ve always carried out vigilante justice against innocent blacks? How would you explain to Jesus that, instead of sentencing Lay, you elected a close friend of his to the presidency of the United States of America?! Yes, brothers and sisters, now we need to talk about our Christian president George W. Bush, one of Ken Lay’s best friends. He calls him Kenny Boy. Thou shalt not lie. It’s time we admit publicly, together tonight, that George W. Bush lied again and again to the Christian people of our nation. He lied by saying Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Then he lied even worse by saying Saddam Hussein was plotting to destroy America with weapons of mass destruction. But these were weapons of mass deception! And you re-elected him! Now how would you explain that to Jesus? These are President Bush’s worst lies but there are many others, saying that Social Security is bankrupt. Why, the U.S. government’s own Congressional Budget Office says that Social Security has the funds to pay every benefit owed through 2048. Why is he lying like this, brothers and sisters? What is his purpose? Could it be to enrich the tiny minority of multi-millionaires who got him into office? I’ve been reading the facts, brothers and sisters. I’ve come out of the wilderness and into the light, the light of self-criticism. I told you I was wrong. Now here tonight I want you to confess your own wrongs. How many of you have witnessed racism and did nothing about it? How many of you ignore your children and watch television instead of helping them with their homework?

How many of you worship sports stars? How many of you spend money on a new car instead of books for you and your children? When was the last time you took your grandmother out to lunch and talked with her? How many of you know a language other than English? Jesus loved all the children of the world and you don’t even love your own children! You send them to daycare and hire nannies to raise them so you can play golf and drink martinis! How would you explain to Jesus that you allow a ruling class to govern you that spends more money on weapons than it does to fight poverty? Now how would you explain to Jesus, right here tonight, that you do nothing about the fact that 3,000 African children died today of hunger?

How would you explain to Jesus that you have allowed the rich, who according to Jesus will have a very hard time entering the gates of heaven, a harder time than a camel has passing through the eye of a needle, to enrich themselves even more than they already are? You have the power! You are the majority! Everything you do affects the whole nation and the world! You could end all this disgusting immorality tomorrow! Brothers and sisters, you need to march! What do you think Jesus would tell you to do? Did he not march against the Romans? Are you Romans pretending to be Christians or are you Christians trying to be like the Romans? I fear, brothers and sisters, I fear every day, that if Jesus came back tonight he’d strike us all down. He’d destroy me and you gathered here together tonight. His wrath would be furious. All this slovenliness, this obesity, this collaboration with oppression and narrow-minded racism, this over-consumption, this gluttony, this lazy lethargy, this willful ignorance, this smug self-satisfaction. Do you think Jesus doesn’t know we consume 25 percent of all the earth’s resources yet we are only 5 percent of the world’s population? Jesus is watching you, brothers and sisters. The whole world is watching and God is watching the whole world. Now is the time to come clean before the Lord!

Jonathan Scott is Assistant Professor of English at Al-Quds University in Abu Dees, the West Bank, and the author of Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes .

posted June 2005

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The Quotable Bill Speaks 


On the Black poor

“Lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for ‘Hooked on Phonics.’ “

On Black youth culture

“People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn’t that a sign of something gone wrong? … People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn’t that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn’t it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don’t know a damn thing about Africa.”

On civil rights

“Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. We have to go in there – forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps – it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can’t speak English.”

On literacy

“Basketball players – multimillionaires – can’t write a paragraph. Football players – multimillionaires – can’t read. Yes, multimillionaires. Well, Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today? They paved the way, but what did we do with it? That white man, he’s laughing. He’s got to be laughing: 50 percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison.”

On poor Black women:

“Five, six children – same woman – eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don’t know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they’re young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I’m just predicting.”

Cosby on the sons and daughters of poor, Black, unmarried mothers:

“…with names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed [!] and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.

On Blacks shot by police:

“These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged,  [saying] ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?”

Source of Quotes: BlackCommentator

*   *   *   *   *’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

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Aké: The Years of Childhood

By Wole Soyinka

Aké: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perception


a lyrical account of one boy’s attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings. Various cultures, religions, and languages mingled freely in the Aké of his youth, fostering endless contradictions and personalized hybrids, particularly when it comes to religion. Christian teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of ancestral spirits


who alternately terrify and inspire him


all carried equal metaphysical weight. Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that “God had a habit of either not answering one’s prayers at all, or answering them in a way that was not straightforward.” In writing from a child’s perspective, Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult snares of cynicism and intolerance. His stinging indictment of colonialism takes on added power owing to the elegance of his attack.

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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Civilization: The West and the Rest

By Niall Ferguson

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic.

These were the “killer applications” that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic. Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.

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Andrew Johnson: The 17th President, 1865-1869

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth man to ascend to the highest office in the land, is generally regarded by historians as among the weakest presidents. Gordon-Reed has no intention of moving Johnson up in rank (“America went from the best to the worst in one presidential term,” she corroborates). So this is no reputation rescue. Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, takes as her task explaining why we should look anew at such a disastrous chief executive. She reasons he is worth looking at, though her reasoning yields a far from sympathetic look. In a short biography, all bases can be covered, but the author is still left to exercise the tone of a personal essay, which this author accomplishes brilliantly. Her personal take on Johnson is that his inability to remake the country after it was torn apart rested on his deplorable view of black Americans.

In practical terms, his failure derived from his stubborn refusal to compromise with Congress in the abiding post-Lincoln controversy over who was to supervise the Reconstruction, the executive or the legislative branch. A failure, yes, but more than that, a failure at an extremely critical time in American history.



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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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Punishing the Poor

The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity

By Loïc Wacquant

The punitive turn of penal policy in the United States after the acme of the Civil Rights movement responds not to rising criminal insecurity but to the social insecurity spawned by the fragmentation of wage labor and the shakeup of the ethnoracial hierarchy. It partakes of a broader reconstruction of the state wedding restrictive “workfare” and expansive “prisonfare” under a philosophy of moral behaviorism. This paternalist program of penalization of poverty aims to curb the urban disorders wrought by economic deregulation and to impose precarious employment on the postindustrial proletariat. It also erects a garish theater of civic morality on whose stage political elites can orchestrate the public vituperation of deviant figures—the teenage “welfare mother,” the ghetto “street thug,” and the roaming “sex predator”—and close the legitimacy deficit they suffer when they discard the established government mission of social and economic protection. . . .

Punishing the Poor shows that the prison is not a mere technical implement for law enforcement but a core political institution.

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

By Annette Gordon-Reed


This is a scholar’s book: serious, thick, complex. It’s also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived.

So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves’ lives and the nature of the choices they had to make—when they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed’s genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work.—Publishers Weekly

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Middle Passage

By Charles Johnson

A savage parable of the black experience in America, Johnson’s picaresque novel begins in 1830 when Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed Illinois slave eking out a living as a petty thief in New Orleans, hops aboard a square-rigger to evade the prim Boston schoolteacher who wants to marry him. But the Republic , no riverboat, turns out to be a slave clipper bound for Africa. Calhoun, a witty narrator conversant with the works of Chaucer and Beethoven and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, hates himself for acting as henchman to the ship’s captain, a dwarfish, philosophizing tyrant. Before the rowdy, drunken crew can spring a mutiny, African slaves recently taken on board stage a successful revolt. Blending confessional, ship’s log and adventure, the narrative interweaves a disquisition on slavery, poverty, race relations and an African worldview at odds with Western materialism. In luxuriant, intoxicating prose Johnson (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) makes the agonized past a prism looking onto a tense present.—Publishers Weekly

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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

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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 15 December 2011




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Related files:  Gospel for the Poor by Bill Cosby