ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



Many of us men have convinced ourselves that it is our gender per se

rather than our behavior that women perceive as the central problem



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Impotence Need Not Be Permanent

The Decline of Black Men Writing

By Kalamu ya Salaam




Who silenced the Black male writer? 

Po’ boy did it to himself


Within the dynamics of contemporarily respected social intercourse, many of us Black male writers feel sexually inadequate. To even raise the question of “who silenced Black male writers?” is in fact an admission of inadequacy because the implicit assumption is that we (or most Black male writers) share the view that we have been silenced. This “silencing question” is multifaceted: (1) We assume that our silence is an impediment to our fulfillment as male writers; (2) although unable to fully identify the culprit, we believe we have been coerced into this involuntary silence; and (3) we are certain that the silencing was done by someone other than ourselves.


But I believe these assumptions conceal the truth. First, if “silenced” means that either we are intellectually incapable of coping with our conditions (and thus have been overwhelmed and resultantly rendered speechless), or that we have been forced by others to say nothing about our current state, then we have not really been silenced. Second, to the degree that we are silent, we have done it to ourselves more than we have been silenced by others. But fear not, like many forms of impotence, our speech impediment problem is in part psycho-socially based, and it can be cured.

The hardest part of dealing with this problem is ‘fessin’ up, confessing where the problem lies. Moreover, admitting our own inadequacy vis-a-vis women is not easy, especially when we men perceive ourselves as besieged and censored, and also believe that women writers are enjoying “favored writers” status. To hear some of us tell it, rather than the general behavior of men toward women, it is “malicious, angry, and spiteful women who have given manhood a bad name.” Others of us are just plain confused: “What,” we incredulously ask, “is wrong with being a man?” Although we phrase the question as though we do not understand why we are under siege, that is not the question we are really asking. What we really want to know is “what is wrong with me being a man?”

To a frighteningly large extent, many of us men have convinced ourselves that it is our gender per se rather than our behavior that women perceive as the central problem. Just as many Whites convinced themselves that they were being attacked because of their race rather than because of their behavior, many of us men have taken the defensive posture that a feminist critique is preposterous. How could we possibly stop being men? Preposterous or not, we do recognize that there is a serious problem. We hold forums not only to address “the problem” but also hoping to commiserate with one another via an intellectual male-bonding ritual of collective denial.


Let’s look at the real problem, rather than the perceived ones. Regardless of sex (or sexual orientation), the intellectual who cannot speak is impotent. The intellectual whose words are ignored is frustrated. The intellectual whose print and broadcast access is severed is castrated. At a gut perceptual level (i.e., what we feel is true), to one degree or another, all of the above describe many Black male writers. Impotent. Frustrated. Castrated. The real question, however, is: who is doing what to whom? How? Why?

The impotence of the Black male is grounded in the complex nexus of exploitation and oppression, and in our individual (re)actions within that context Within the general social schema, a combination of two major foci immobilize Black male tongues:

1. We suddenly find ourselves branded the enemy.

2. We abandoned independent action (i.e., self-determined and self-supported alternatives   

    to the status quo) for failed attempts at integration into the mainstream.

Of these two foci, only the first can, in any remote way, be said to be caused by women. The idea that manhood is the enemy is precisely the arena within which we feel most vulnerable. The majority of Black male writers who feel vulnerable on this issue are either heterosexuals or closet homosexuals. Self-affirmative Black gay writers do not feel as isolated, principally because they are not isolated. They recognize their common condition  as gays oppressed by the status quo and are struggling against the status quo both for self-definition and self-respect.

But for those of us who are openly heterosexual or secretly and self-ashamedly homosexual (which generally manifests itself as exaggerated “manliness,” the question is: What are we struggling for? With what movements and what individuals do we identify?

Our problem is that we have no definition of manhood other than that of “man as conqueror.” The majority of male-respected definiti6ns of manhood are based not simply on triumphing, but rather on dominating (out-ranking the competition). Additionally. the concept of conqueror almost invariably leads to its logical extension: the concept of oppressor. Before we know it, despite our protestations to the contrary, being a man becomes synonymous with being an oppressor. 

Not only do the vast majority of us clearly define our manhood by our ability to dominate in the social arenas of life, but within the generally accepted definition of manhood, the distance between dominator and oppressor is nil. In America, being “The Man” equals being dominant in whatever field of endeavor–sports, business, music, entertainment, education, etc. In the African American vernacular, to be “The Man” means to dominate the scene.

Check this interesting aside: Prince. Even though there are numerous rumors about his alleged (bi)sexuality/androgyny, still he is seen as dominating the pop music scene in terms of the popularity of his product. As long as he dominates (sells), his alleged deviance is tolerable.

“Man as dominator” is precisely the concept under attack. We attack the White man for dominating us, and Black women attack the Black male for”sexist” (trying to be as dominant  as the “real” man). The upshot of all this is our own particularly cruel cul de sac: not only does the White man dominate us, but Black women have peeped that, despite all our posturing and protestations, Black men are impotent males unable to perform (dominate) in a social sense.

This leaves us literally up against the wall, especially in the absence of any other operant and respected definition of manhood. To the right is the system defining the man as the dominant creature, to the left is the feminist movement defining the dominant male as enemy, and in the middle are Black men: dominated by the White man and disrespected by “our women.” Oh, how cruel!


I think what hurts many of us more than anything about the criticism leveled at us by Black women is not the rightness or the wrongness of the criticism, but the feeling of being swiftly kicked in the groin while we are down. If we were kicking the White man’s ass, we would care less. if; indeed, we had the power to kick ass, we would actually be The Man-the man we have been conditioned by modem American mores to believe that all adult males are or should be–the same man that objective political and economic conditions in modem America prevent us from becoming.

If we actually felt we were  men and could prove it through political and economic dominance, then being criticized for being a man would not bother us. What really bothers us is that we “non-men,” (at best, “aspirant men”), recognize with shame that it is not really our manhood under attack but our failed manhood. This failed manhood we desperately desire to bring to fruition. Yet, we realize it is non-functional. To put it even more bluntly: we really want to fuck somebody, but even when we get somebody in our beds, we cannot get it up.

In this context, the paradox is clarified: it is not the Black man who is under attack, but the Black male who ardently wants to be The Man. The painful realization is that even before  we become the men we want to be, we perceive that we are attacked for being what in fact we are not. We hurt precisely  because the more women talk about how wrong Black men are, the more they reveal to the world how much we are not men in the White western sense of the word, which is the only living, prosperous and unthreatened concept of manhood that most of us know or recognize.


Once we have accepted the definition of man as dominator, our fate is sealed; White men will not let us dominate and post-70s Black women will not even let us dream of it

White males dominate Black males (externally by force and internally by establishing the definitions that we unconsciously adopt and use to judge our own manhood or lack thereof). Even though the White male dominance of us is actually the cause of our psycho-sexual problem, the Black woman’s deflating of our manhood aspirations is the coupe de grace from which we we cannot recover as long as we accept status quo definitions. Neither the macho posturing of the 70s nor the status quo acceptance of the definitions of manhood. In both instances, we were unconsciously accepting Euro-centric definitions of what it meant for a male to become a man. Whether denouncing or emulating, the measuring rod remained the White man. 

This whole psycho-social quandary of seemingly developing our own definition of manhood while really only exhibiting a conditioned and painfully predictable response to our oppression is so subtly complex and ego-damaging that it is hard for many of us to even perceive or admit the effectiveness of this dynamic in immobilizing us. The external dominance we can easily see and just as easily reject. We label it racism. But the internal dominance is so artfully achieved that we adamantly refuse to recognize that our minds are being dominated. We believe that we are creating our own definitions of manhood, but before we can even read and write (not to mention critically and proactively think for ourselves), our vision of self is contaminated by “dominant-culture” produced images of what a man is and should be.

There is not one African American community in America within which the White power structure’s definition of manhood is not propagated, supported, and reinforced daily by print and broadcast media. The ubiquitous liquor and cigarette advertising billboards that dominate the physical ghetto landscape are simply the more flagrant and obvious examples of this phenomenon. And do not forget the “police & thieves,” especially the police. Currently, this occupying force includes women (more often than not, White women) who handle young African American males like they were boys. Hence, these White women become more “man” than the subjugated Black males.

Moreover, as Fanon correctly perceived and articulated in A Dying Colonialism, within the context of colonialism or external domination, it is impossible to come up with an alternative definition of manhood that does not include the committing of violence. Although it is not necessary for us to dominate Whites or women in order to be men, it is necessary for us to destroy the dominance that Whites have over us. As long as we are dominated, we cannot be men; ending our domination will require violence. Long before Fanon, Frederick Douglass framed the essence of this argument: power concedes nothing without a struggle, it never did, and it never will. Whether the violence be physical, mental, or moral is not the question. There is no way to end domination except by force. Contrary to popular belief, there are no shortcuts to power, no shortcuts to achieving enlightened manhood.


Too many of us focus our energies on defending ourselves against perceived and/or actual feminist attacks. This focus, which fuels a major portion of the anger expressed by Black male writers, is a mistake. No matter what feminists may say about us, feminists are not the enemy. In fact, they do not even talk as bad about us as do our real oppressors.

Since day one (i.e., Jamestown, 1619), African Americans have suffered and continue to suffer systematic oppression and exploitation. Those who maintain this social system are our enemies, regardless of the fact that they now invite us to participate in the system’s maintenance. Yet, we suffer from the Fred Douglass Syndrome: we fight against slavery, and once slavery is abolished we join the government. But it was not slavery alone that was our problem. Our problem was and remains being captured in a social context within which we have relatively insignificant political and economic power.

The most obvious manifestation of the granting of civil rights to African Americans has been the proliferation of Black (predominantly male) elected officials in general and Black mayors of major cities specifically. The most obvious manifestation of the denial of Black power has been the worsening condition of inner-city African Americans. This includes not only a debilitating drug epidemic and horrendous levels of homelessness, but a family profile that is now dominated by female-headed, single-parent families. On the one hand, “blood” is the mayor. On the other hand, he is the absent father husband. The resultant dichotomy understandably leads to many politically active men defending the system and many socially active women attacking that same system.

This does not necessarily translate into an anti-male bias on the part of women, but it does mean that women are less likely to believe that participation in politics will solve our social problems. After all, during a period when we have had more Black elected officials than ever before, the conditions of poor women have drastically deteriorated. No matter if Jesse Jackson is elected president, the United States government and the major corporations ultimately represent enemy forces unless and until objective conditions for our people drastically change in the economic, social, and political spheres. How one perceives the enemy is a litmus test. The Black male writer is intricately involved in this intercommunity conflict.

In the 60s, we took on racism. In the 90s, we must take on homelessness, drugs, cancer. AIDS, environmental poisoning, economic exploitation, and public (mis)education. Even though Black men direct many of the local, state, and federal agencies responsible for dealing with these issues, is there any doubt that the same system that produced racism produces and/or condones the ills we now face? The symptoms of the illness are different, but the illness is the same. Whereas before it was White mayors siccing dogs and “pigs” (police) on our people, now we have Black mayors, such as Wilson Goode, who are both figuratively and literally dropping bombs on us. Whereas under segregation all-White school boards enforced inferior education, today, majority-Black school boards very often supervise the miseducation of our youth.

In far too many cases, the most conspicuous examples of “Black men” in our contemporary communities are those who are also tacit collaborators the maintenance of the system of our oppression and exploitation. During slavery, a similar phenomenon did not create similar confusion. A Black overseer wielding the whip did not change the social conditions one iota for the majority of our people. No slave was fooled into thinking that the creation of Black overseers was an objective improvement for the enslaved majority. Everyone knew the Black overseer had cast his lot with the slave master in exchange for personal gain. Was this Black overseer The Man? NO! The Black overseer was a servant at best, a flunky and traitor at worse. What of today’s civil servants?

The dilemma facing Black males is that it is difficult to advocate active participation within the system and at the same time attack the system. We know that the system is not working, but as the repression of the 70s and the 80s* has made clear, there is nowhere outside of and in opposition to the system where it is safe and/or comfortable for a Black man to be a man. Participation in the system offers us a limited measure of manhood, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. What profits it a man to win his manhood if the cost is managing the oppression of his people?

Of course, many will argue that Black men working within the system are making a positive difference. My response is that the difference has been insignificant when compared to the worsening of our overall conditions as a people. Whether politicians are making a significant difference or not, what is the overall condition of our people? The answer is obvious: we are in bad shape. To use a voguish phrase which implies an acceptance of economic determinism, the bottom line is that most visible and “respected” Black men are promoting integration into the American system rather than independent opposition or alternatives to the American system as the direction of the future. 

Among the integrationists, those of us who are Black male writers find ourselves increasingly confounded with nothing original to say. We are confounded because the major issues facing our people all involve opposing the status quo, and how do you be in and out at the same time? We have nothing original to say because there is nothing original about doing what you got to do to deal with the bottom line. Po’ boy did it to himself. our silence on the major issues of the day is a result of our correct understanding that the system does not want to address these issues (from a radical as opposed to an accommodationist perspective). To take a hard line against the system would be a case of biting the hand that feeds us.

Black writers must make the choice that Paul Robeson identified: the choice between the forces of oppression and the forces of freedom. Regardless of rhetoric emanating from Black politicians and Black conservatives, the status quo does not represent freedom for the majority of African Americans. The ethical question each writer faces is not a question of what political line to espouse, but rather how to resolve the conflict between the good of the individual and the good of the group within the context of modern American society. 

This question is especially critical when we are specifically dealing with the good of our people as a whole versus our own individual economic well-being. The complexities of these questions are the central tension that either activates or paralyzes many Black male writers. The abstract resolution of this conflict is easy: Revolution against the system and/or significant change within the system. But on a day-to-day living level, the concrete resolution is not only far more complex, it is also depressing. The inability to make revolution silences us.

For those of us who remain constant in our opposition to the system, we often end up marginalized into a position of very limited, if any, effectiveness. Not surprisingly, we are demoralized by our own ineffectiveness. The media spotlight (the major validator of any reality in contemporary America) focuses on those who participate and excel at partisan politics, while our own fractured, crippled, and largely deserted or nonexistent revolutionary (or alternative) organizations are largely ignored. Those who keep the faith generally find themselves in economically tenable and unenviable positions. There is a whole lot of isolation and very little reward or recognition given to those who oppose the system.

For those of us to change the system from the inside, we too end up marginalize. We strive mightily, but even as we are successful at making little changes for the better, the overall position of our people worsens. Most Black male writers who work inside the system in economically secure positions find their creative output drops to a trickle. This happens not because anyone is telling them not to write, nor because someone is telling them what not to write, but because we are not ready–for reasons as understandable as seeing the kids through school to reasons as personal as being tired of being poor, marginalized, and part of an opposition that has proven ineffective at bringing about revolution-to write our most relevant missive: our letter of resignation from the system.

Because of the lack of progress for the majority of our people in all of the places where there have been real revolutions–the failure of Marxist-Leninism and Maoism, the neo-colonial embarrassments on the continent of Africa and in the Caribbean, the crippled Central American revolutions, and the repressed South American revolutions–one almost feels like a fool calling for revolution, especially when one has a job in which one can do small bits of good on a daily basis. Many of us are emotionally whipped and overcome by the American political success at counter-revolution. And rather than address the depth of our pain, the real causes of our impotence, rather than write about ourselves as we actually are, we suffer in silence. Meanwhile, the dominant forces march on and on, and on over us.

I know from personal experience working as the executive director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation from June 1983 through June 1987 that no matter how successful a Black person is while working within the system, his or her success does nothing to answer our people’s need for radical, systematic change. When one honestly realizes the depth of the dilemma, one either gets out or becomes a silent cynic. We become silent because we cannot afford to say anything contrary to the master who employs us or to the field slaves who see us as house servants. We become cynical because we realize that the better we do our jobs, the more difficult it will be to overthrow the system.


Jazz musician Archie Shepp is credited with a witty, albeit deadly accurate, statement: “When we ain’t got much, we share. When we get something , we talk share.” As I remember it, he was discussing the dying out of collectives among jazz musician, and the absence of any Black collectively owned record labels. Writers, more so than most other artists, are magnificent rationalizers. But no amount of rationalization can justify African American abdication of the struggle for independent (or “alternative”) publishing apparatuses. The reasons the existing Black presses continue to struggle for recognition is not because they are not taking care of business, nor because they are not publishing important books, but because all of us collectively and most of us individually have failed to financially support their efforts or to establish the necessary support networks, such as distribution companies.

Brothers, Black male writers, we can talk trash if we want to and cry crocodile tears about our plight, but the fact is we just are not doing it. Although the reasons we do not have more healthy, independent, Black publishing businesses is complex, two easily identifiable factors significantly contribute to our failure:

1. Many of the most financially stable of us have gone the (accommodationist route and spent our resources supporting and touting Black-oriented publishing concerns that are either mainstream institution-supported (Black oriented but supported by dominant-culture educational and philanthropic institutions) or main-stream aspirant (Black-oriented but they view Blackness as simply a marketing segment or orientation. There is a world of difference between being Black-oriented and being an independent, self-defined, self-determined Black institution.


2. During the big debate of the late 70s (Black Nationalism vs. Marxism) the progressive wing fractured, and Black Nationalism got a bad rep. Although there were some very important and accurate criticisms leveled against Black Nationalism, the AfricanAmerican Nationalist community was at the front line of independent and alternative Black institutional development. Black Marxists made two fundamental critiques. First, they denounced the preoccupations of mainstream-aspirant Black business people

as the pipe dreams of capitalists who were simply and solely interested in making money.


Secondly, the Marxists took a hard-line ideological position that it was impossible to build economic alternatives inside capitalist America. The mainstream-aspirant Black capitalists ignored the Marxists and took shelter in minority set-aside programs and economic schemes  concocted by Black politicians. The Nationalists, from whose ranks many of the hard-line Black Marxists emerged, suffered both from the defections and from the fierce and debilitating battle royales that accompanied the transformations of individuals and organizations from Nationalism to staunch Marxists.


By the end of the 80s, on the international scene as well as within the United States’ African American community, it was clear that both the Marxists and the Nationalists were largely defeated their guests to establish alternatives. Much of the non-progressive Black business community went rightward with Reagan and the Nationalists were hounded into obscurity. Ironically, the progressive Marxists were often the ones who served as the “hunting dogs” that flushed the Nationalists out of the community. 


Historically Black colleges, as well as Black Studies departments and courses at most U.S. colleges and universities, continue to exist. Black professors and Black administrators in these educational institutions could have organized themselves to support ten or fifteen medium-sized presses (those with gross annual sales exceeding a million dollars). Yet, only a small percentage of the books purchased and used in these academic settings are published by independent African American businesses That is our fault.

The continued existence, growth and development of various Black publishers, such as Africa World Press, Black Classic Press, Third World Press, and others is the major exception to the just outlined depressing scenario. Their existence demonstrates that it can be done. Yet much remains to be done. Dealing with self-capitalization is where there is an understandably significant difference between the independent Black movement and the women’s movement. The women’s movement receives major and consistent capitalization from women who have access to money, an access that easily outweighs any comparison of access to wealth in the Black community.

There are more than enough Black male writers who are employed as professors and endowed with prestigious fellowships and grants to fund a national Black literary publication if not a Black publishing company. Besides our own hesitancy to leave the big house (where we are seduced and corrupted by creature comforts ,what stops us? When we did not have access to the resources, we used to try to build independent publishing concerns. Now that a significant number of Black male writers are employed and have access (at the very least) to personal resources we talk about the silencing of the Black male writer. Brothers, please!

In the area of literary magazines, the two major independently produced, nationally distributed Black literary magazines, Catalyst and Shooting Star Review are both founded and edited by African American women–Pearl Cleage and Sandra Gould Ford, respectively. Catalyst is funded by the Fulton County (GA) Arts Council and Shooting Star is far from being really well known around the country. Regardless of these shortcomings, where Black (mainly male) politicians have risen to nominal positions of power or influence, we do not use our power or influence to create and support independent Black efforts. Fellows, where are we? 

Journals such as and Callaloo can be cited as publications founded and edited by Black male writers, but both are connected to universities, and both actually underscore the point that we men are not out on the cutting edge of alternative magazine publishing. It is not that Black men are not doing anything, nor that what we do is not of merit Yet, African American male writers have all but abandoned the struggle to create independent Black publishing institutions.

Women are much clearer about both the necessity of se-f- determination and about making a personal commitment to establishing independent publishing concerns. While most Black male writers are writing for status quo-based publications, women are breaking down the barriers as well as creating their own women-controlled publishing institutions.

Black male writers are not so much silent as we are generally irrelevant in the struggle to create an alternative to the status quo. We think progressive thoughts, but our actions and inactions have abdicated a leadership position in our liberation struggle. To paraphrase Stevie Wonder, it is not that we are silent, but when we talk, “we ain’t saying nothing.”


Brothers, if you’re still with me, let’s do like Isaac Hayes advises and make a big fat “U-Turn.” Our real problem is not silence. The real question is: will we continue talking loud and saying nothing or will we add our voices in shouting a freedom song? We know what the real deal is. Our impotence is self-inflicted and based on our decision to stand in the shadow of the master. The revivification of our virility is directly related to our willingness to speak out, and act out, against oppression and exploitation.

If we are convinced that we are headed in the right direction, then so be it. But in the process of silently giving assent to the slaughter, let’s not blame anyone but ourselves. If we have been silenced, it is because of our own overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and as Black male writers, we silence ourselves once we stopped struggling for freedom from the system and convinced ourselves that collaboration and accommodation was the prudent course! WORD!

Source:  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

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Kalamu ya Salaam has traveled extensively as a journalist, activist and arts producer:  Ghana, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Guadaloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Korea, Japan, The People’s Republic Of China, England, France and Germany. Contact Information: Kalamu ya Salaam/ Box 52723/ New Orleans, LA 70152-2723 Phone: (504) 581-2963 / Fax: (504) 581-5446/ email:

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

Bob Dylan: Only a pawn in their game  / The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

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Panel on Literary Criticism

26 March 2010

 National Black Writers Conference

Patrick Oliver, Kalamu ya Salaam, Dorothea Smartt, Frank Wilderson discuss the use of literature to promote political causes and instigate change and transformation.  The event is at the Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York. C-Span Archives

Panel on Politics and Satire

26 March 2010

 National Black Writers Conference

Herb Boyd, Thomas Bradshaw, Charles Edison and Major Owens discuss how current events are reflected in the writings of African Americans.  The event is at the Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York. C-Span Archives

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The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. $18.95  The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)

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The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man’s experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  The Katrina Papers  provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with form—the search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar’s life and in American social history—lies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers . It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward’s narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.—Hank Lazer

The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008) is a marvelous resource! It’s not like any encyclopedia I’ve seen before. Already, I have spent hours reading through the various entries. So much is there: people, themes, issues, events, bibliographies, etc., related to Wright. Yours is a monumental contribution! The more I read Wright (and about him), the more I am amazed at the depth and breadth of his work and its impact on the worlds of literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, history, psychology, etc. He was formidable! Floyd W. Hayes

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

 A Radical Democratic Vision

By Barbara Ransby

One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.

In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker’s long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century. UNC Press

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Who Was Ella Baker—Ella Baker began her involvement with the NAACP in 1940. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946. Inspired by the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Baker co-founded the organization In Friendship to raise money to fight against Jim Crow Laws in the deep South. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King’s new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship.

On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. Baker left the SCLC after the Greensboro sit-ins. She wanted to assist the new student activists because she viewed young, emerging activists as a resource and an asset to the movement. Miss Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  was born.

Adopting the Gandhian theory of nonviolent direct action, SNCC members joined with activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to organize in the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1964 SNCC helped create Freedom Summer, an effort to focus national attention on Mississippi’s racism and to register black voters. . . .

With Ella Baker’s guidance and encouragement, SNCC became one of the foremost advocates for human rights in the country. Ella Baker once said, “This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real.” Her audacity to dream big is a cornerstone of our philosophy. Her influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: “Fundi,” a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.—EllaBakerCenter

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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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

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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 5 March 2012




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