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 Jerry W. Ward, Jr. Table & Bio




Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Bio Sketch

Dr. Jerry Ward is a distinguished professor of English and African American World Studies at Dillard University, New Orleans, LA. Ward spent 20 years as the Lawrence Durgin Professor of Literature at Tougaloo College in Jackson. He is recognized as one of the leading experts on Wright. His credentials concerning Wright include, co-editor of the Richard Wright Encyclopedia, to be published in 2006 by Greenwood Press; founding member of the Richard Wright Circle, and his recent portrayal of Richard Wright in the Mississippi Humanities Council’s Mississippi Chautauqua Writers series. Dr. Jerry Ward contributed to the intellectual and cultural climate in Jackson for many years. Bio contd.

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Poem 69


 I hate

                                                                You as you are

I love

                                                                You as you are

We adore and adorn

                                                                You as you are 

                                In tattered blues.


Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

July 30, 2012

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Trouble the Water   (Review, Intro, Contents )(anthology)


Angle of Song: Pinkie Gordon Lane (1923-2008)

The Art of Tom Dent: Early Evidence

Black American Narrative Does Not End

A Brief Defense of Richard Wright and Other Writers

Brief Record of Getting on with Emancipation

Blue Voices for the Fourth of July

China II Report

China IV Report

Death and Life of Gil Scott-Heron

The Death of Giants: A Tribute to John Scott

Dreamers Die Young; Dreams Die Eventually

End of African-American Literature? (Response to Kenneth W. Warren, Does African American Literature Exist?)


Imprisonment in Holding Cells at Tulane and Broad (from

The Katrina Papers)

Ishmael Reed and the American War of Words

Ishmael Reed and Multiculturalism

Jackson Advocate Source and Resource

Kalamu ya Salaam: A Primary Bibliography

The Katrina Papers

The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery (book)

Katrina Reports:  New Orleans 2007

Making Peace with the Loss of Things

Making the Wright Connections

A Meaningful Life: I Chose to Teach at HBCUs

The Narrative Does Not End

Nikky Finney’s Heartwood

November 28, 2010 and Richard Wright

On Cultural Work

On the “End of African American Literature?”

One Writer’s Legacy Richard Wright

On Reading Wolf Totem

On Richard Wright and Our Contemporary Situation

Open Note to President Barack Obama

Remembrances of Poet Gil Scott Heron

Rising and Recovering from the Water-Logged Ashes (Miriam’s Review)

Returning to the Sources

Richard Wright Print Resources

Triumph of the Waters (A Review by Reginald Martin of The Katrina Papers)The Weight and Substance of A Father’s Law

Where is the French Obama




Jerry Ward Reports on Dillard

“What’s with Mayor Nagin?”



After the Hurricanes

Blue Voices for the Fourth of July


Portrait of a Suicide/Death in Yellow Flooding

Three Poems “Thank-You” Note to American Presidents / I Did Not Ask to Be a Palestinian  / Don’t Be Fourteen (in Mississippi)

Whatbody Is Killing 

Your Eyes Are Haunting Me (for Trayvon Martin)

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Related files

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

I Bite the Hand That Feeds Me

The Impact of Katrina Race and Class

Richard Wright Table

Robert LashleyReviews Lawd Today

posted 4 April 2006

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Love in a Foreign House


                         By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


I have wounded you.


The silence of your grief

Resonates between us

Loud as the screams

Of a dead soldier

Dancing on phantom legs.


Life is tough; love, tougher

In a foreign house

Pretending to be home.

25 May 2011

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“Thank-You” Note to American Presidents

How beautiful is the blood of the dead splashed like azaleas  on the body of Earth You have  made my day                                                 aestheticJerry W. Ward, Jr.

March 29, 2011

Source: ProjectBW

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Making the Wright Connection

An Online Community for the Study of Richard Wright

The Wright Connection is an online community of scholars and teachers of the works of Richard Wright (1908-1960), the author of such major works as Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, and Black Boy. The community grows out of a fifteen-month program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities that explored Richard Wright and his influence on the American idiom. The program included a two-week summer institute held from July 11-24, 2010 at the University of Kansas, and subsequent virtual seminars that used technology to foster collaboration among participants.

The site serves as a clearinghouse for all information about Richard Wright. We welcome announcements of new books, articles, reviews, and conferences, as well as discussions of new pedagogical approaches to teaching Wright. We also serve as an archive of past work on Wright, including the complete print run of the Richard Wright Newsletter (1991-2006) and podcasts of lectures by some of the world’s foremost scholars of Wright.

This site is administered by the staff of the Project on the History of Black Writing. If you are interested in contributing materials to the site, you are asked to contact us at or at the following address: Project on the History of Black Writing / Department of English / The University of Kansas / 1445 Jayhawk Boulevard / Lawrence, KS 66045-7590

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New Orleans:  A Crossroad of Axes

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


Never shy about proclaiming itself the birthplace of jazz or America’s classical music, New Orleans does not talk about itself as a point of origin for American literary traditions or movements.  The reason is not far to seek.  What is original in the literature of the Crescent City is French, West African, Creole (Spanish and French), Bambara and Mande, Cajun; it is rooted in Paris, Haiti, Martinique and St. Domingue, Senegambia; its debt to London and the King James Bible and the invention of American English is minimal.  The Louisiana Purchase was payment for property not for culture. From 1804 to the present, the constipation of America’s puritan ethos has been alien to the matrix of artisanship, musical genius, performance, and wordsmithery of New Orleans. 

As Marcus B. Christian wrote in his famous poem “I Am New Orleans,” culture is a blending and reinventing “Of Creoles, Americans, Frenchmen, Spaniards,/ Jews/Africans, mix bloods, Germans, Irishmen,/ and Indians” into “one common bond of defense.”  The city as “un entrepôt” defied the laws of thermodynamics and achieved perpetual cultural motion at very great cost, because it has never been free of racism, colorism, discrimination, classism, economic oppression, and sexism, the veneer of the carnivalesque notwithstanding.  New Orleans is New Orleans is New Orleans: an oscillating metropolis of entreposage.

Tom Dent, a native son of the city, put what is at issue clearly in “Report from New Orleans,” the prose coda in Magnolia Street (1976), his first collection of poems: “New Orleans is a weird town, wavering in the breeze of history.  An old place, one of the few towns in this country where one can look at the layers of two or three centuries in one glance.  Then there is the poised wrecking ball of ‘progress’.”

 Perhaps the spirits provoked by the winds and waters of the Storm (2005), angered by the bloodless face of “progress now,” command us to make a fresh inspection of cultural layers in this laid-back and care-forgetting place.  Perhaps the x,y, and z coordinates of place demand a new articulation.

What have  L’Album Littéraire, Journal des Jeunes Gens, Amateurs de la Littéraire (1843) and Les Cenelles (1845),  Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson’s The Goodness of St. Rocque (1899) and Brenda Marie Osbey’s  Ceremony for Minneconjoux (1983)  to do with Gumbo Ya-Ya (1945), the French Quarter-inspired work of Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams, Bob Kaufman’s The Ancient Rain; Poems 1956-1978, Tom Dent’s classic play Ritual Murder, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1987), or Kalamu ya Salaam’s What Is Life?: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self (1994)?   Does New Orleans ever take off the mask that grins and hides to coax dollars from tourists long enough to assess its own cultural wealth?

Truth be told, the necessary answers will only surface through dedicated, cross-generational  conversations and even more dedicated cross-class scholarship and public documentation among citizens of New Orleans and the artists, performers, writers, and  musicians who devote their considerable talents to preserving and recreating a unique, multi-faceted culture in a city whose essence is not exactly American.  The answers may produce joy, anger, disbelief, or despair.  They are beyond prediction.  What is most important is that we collaborate in producing cultural knowledge that may be critical and crucial for a future. For in the words of P. A. Desdunes:

Nul n’estime le people ingrate qui dans l’oubli

Profond laisse dormer ceux qui l’ont ennoble.

The remembering, of course, will be rendered in perfect New Orleans English.

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Ishmael Reed and Multiculturalism

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Remembering Professor Clyde Woods

By Mark Anthony Neal

On the “End of African American Literature?”  / Three Poems by Jerry Ward

     *   *   *   *   *

Poem 67


                 By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


Dread   —-   a season

for gluing codicils

on certificates of birth,

for withdrawing deposits

from accounts of death.


All we need

when the dead awaken the dead

in a dying planet   —

a fistful of absurdity.

27 July 2010

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Comments on James Baldwin’s The Cross of Redemption

Guest Blogger Professor Jerry W. Ward

Baldwin, James. The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings. Ed. Randall Kenan. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010


 “Is A Raisin in the Sun a Lemon in the Dark?” is one of the more revealing essays in this collection. Disputing Nelson Algren’s criticism of Hansberry’s play as a drama about real estate and his valuation of Wright’s Native Son, Baldwin contended “both Native Son and A Raisin in the Sun are flawed pieces of work,” because he found “a profound connection between the two works, and even certain rather obvious similarities. Wright’s flaw is . . . involved with [an] attempt to illuminate ruthlessly as unprecedented a creation as Bigger by means of the stock characters of Jan, the murdered girl’s lover, and Max, the white lawyer”(25).  Bigger’s tortured reality precludes belief in the two.  Likewise, belief is not warranted by Hansberry’s “juxtaposition of the essentially stock . . . figure of the mother with the intense (and unprecedented) figure of Walter Lee.  Most Americans do not know that he exists” (26).

Despite his awareness in 1961 that drastic measures were needed to educate most Americans about systemic racism, Baldwin yearned for dramatic verisimilitude divorced from social data, for a certain kind of art.  One profits from reconsidering Baldwin’s problematic judgment by way of reading Robin Bernstein’s “Inventing a Fishbowl: White Supremacy and the Critical Reception of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun in Modern Drama (Spring 1999).

Baldwin’s venial flaw was insufficient consideration of the agon of the particular and the universal in American letters.  His flaw leads to a cardinal, contemporary question: should most Americans even care that the characters Walter Lee Younger and Bigger Thomas have become living human beings? An answer might illuminate something.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr., Professor of English at Dillard University, is the author of The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery (UNO Press, 2008). A Richard Wright scholar, poet, literary critic, Ward was born in Washington, DC but has spend most of his adult life in Mississippi and Louisiana. He is co-editor with Maryemma Graham of The Cambridge History of African American Literature and HBW Senior Board Member. 

Source: ProjectHBW

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Wright’s story “Down by the Riverside” makes us aware that natural disaster and its subsequent traumas do not necessarily lead to any transcending of racial differentiation and skin privilege. As can be seen in the way our mass media used various kinds of print and visual narratives to report on New Orleans, a regressive process of demonizing one portion of the city’s population and of erasing the existence of other portions. The classic binary of black and white was showcased with a vengeance.  It is now very easy to believe that no Latinas/Latinos, no Haitians, no Vietnamese, no Japanese, no Chinese, no people of Asian descent inhabited the city.  They are a significant absence in the ongoing discourse.

On Richard Wright and Our Contemporary Situation

*   *   *   *   *

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

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

Dear Jerry, 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

Dear Jerry,   I received my copy of The Katrina Papers this past weekend. I had to order it directly from UNO Press. This is a formidable volume! You write with such eloquence, passion, insight, and power. As survivor and raconteur of Katrina’s devastation, you give the reader your reflections on this event; you also provide us with informed commentaries about a broad variety of other issues that attract your attention and the people with whom you interact. As a student of politics, I guess I am just overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of your critical observations. Reading this volume and The Richard Wright Encyclopedia, I can comprehend not only the centrality of Richard Wright to your scholarly project, but I also can grasp your own intellectual power a

nd clear vision. For example, your critique of Robert Lashley’ rant about Wright’s LAWD TODAY is the model of the art of critique. Marvelous!   Thanks for your generous comment on my paper on Robeson and Wright. I continue to read both of your books. As always, Floyd W. Hayes

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Rudy, Jerry’s Katrina Papers, which I started reading last night, is, indeed, extraordinary. It’s not a new genre, however; it’s really set in the frame of a journal—not the 19th-century kind like that of Ida B. Wells and of so many other, primarily women writers of that period—but more like the “new diary,” described by Tristine Rainer as a “journal for self guidance and expanded creativity.” In many ways it’s similar to Frida Kahlo’s journal or notebook—in her case, designed for creative self-expression through the incorporation of sketches, notes, and symbols (primarily visual images); in his case designed for intellectual reflection through the incorporation of verbal images and symbols.

In many ways, his journal and the “new diary” finds its postmodern manifestation in the blog, particularly one like Ethelbert’s. The journal/new diary/blog is an extremely flexible genre that permits the inclusion of various other forms: poetry, Q & As, course syllabi, dialogs, prose pieces, doodlings, sketches, dramatic scenes, etc. I was particularly fascinated with Jerry’s piece about his body, suggesting as it does, separation and disconnection from the “life of the mind” that he lives. Jerry is an intellectual par excellence with little indication in the Papers  of his physical/pleasurable self. Maybe he’ll expand later in the book on his trips to casinos and enjoyment of Jack Daniels. But, then, the book is not a reflection on joy, but, as you say, of power and clarity in the midst of disaster and depression. Most people would have disintegrated under such trauma. More about this later as I get my thoughts together. Miriam

*   *   *   *   *

Treme: Beyond Bourbon Street (HBO)

*   *   *   *   *

Trouble the Water

Review, Introduction, Table of Contents

*   *   *   *   *

Douglas Redd Cultural Summit—Dillard University, Prelude, March 14, 2009—After August 29, 2005, the demographics of New Orleans shifted dramatically. The shift, to overstate the case, changed everything: how we shop and how we cook; how we talk to one another; how we use celebrations as signs of hope and as mechanisms of denial and how we deal with or pretend we do not have to deal with racism, political corruption, and crime; how we educate and miseducate young people as we watch them walk down the road to death.  We do, however, continue to invent bullshit excuses for our shortcomings (lack of enforceable norms) and to perpetuate the myth of THE BLACK COMMUNITY as if time has not moved since 1968. There are African American communities in New Orleans, some of them very ancient and some, quite new. No such animal named THE BLACK COMMUNITY any longer exists.— Jerry W. Ward, Jr., Professor of English. Dillard University, author of The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery

Source: Summit Comments 2009 / Summit Summary 2009

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In the Summer of ‘82

In the summer of ’82, I heard perplexing things.  One scholar proclaimed that if God had never spoken directly to a Black woman or man, his behavior was racist.  Where, asked the scholar, was proof in fact or fiction.  Moreover, the Black theologian refused to deal with Black atheism.   Another brother wondered if the historical Jesus had learned his religion from Coptic Christians.  What was Christ doing in Ethiopia during the Hidden Years, given that Ethiopia was the playground for the Greek gods?  Why has a story which centered on a Jew with hair like lamb’s wool (I suspect said genuine Hebrew would have fought with the PLO) . . . why had this story sent African Americans into the recesses of beyond-salvation?   Even sisters dressed to the nines with five inch high heels or three inch long roaches exploring my laundry bag proved to be insufficient distraction.   God was popping up all over.  Especially in fiction. Alice Walker let the spirits speak in The Color Purple, thereby preserving her soul from eternal damnation.  Alice as instrument of spirit said: God is neither HE nor SHE but IT.  And likewise the Greeks found books in the Library at Alexandria that were Greek to them.  They invented philosophers to carry the weight.   Knowledge in books is often heavy.  Among other amazing facts I discovered that the State of Georgia suffered Washington’s revenge in 1915.  As soon as Booker T. Washington died, the boll weevil invaded.   Brother Hakim worries about the class conflict in Nigeria.  Neither in Lagos nor in Atlanta can people venture outside after 9:00 p.m. Squirrels began to fold their arms and die for no reason on the Spelman campus.  Even for the celebration of such revenge, God was present.  Horror, I am convinced, is conversion. Jerry Ward

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Related Files

The Acklyn Model Not Sufficient 

An American Goes Back to Africa  

Black Arts and Black Power Figures

Blueprint for Negro Literature (Richard Wright)

The Claude McKay–Romare Bearden

The Conspiracy to Whiten New Orleans

Cotton Field of Dreams

The Healing Power of Words (Raymond Brookter)

I Bite the Hand That Feeds Me

I Tried to Be a Communist

Jessie Covington Dent

Katrina New Orleans Flood Index 

Katrina Survivor Stories

Literature & Arts 

Literary New Orleans

Love Should Deflect Contentment   

My Father Is Dead

Responsibility of Blacks in Cyberspace

Review of Native Son

Richard Wright Bio

Robert LashleyReviews Lawd Today

Wright Bio-Chronology  

Richard Wright Expert Jerry Ward Will Speak at SIUE

Richard Wright’s Seven Photos 

Richard Wright Table

Robert Lashley Reviews Lawd Today 

Southern Journey 

Take Deep Breaths

Tom Dent Bio

Tom Dent Speaks

Uncle Tom’s Children  & Native Son   

Wright Bio-Chronology

*   *   *   *   *

David Walker knew very well in 1829 that consciousness and action are crucial if an oppressed population is ever to free itself from wretchedness.  We can not depend on the American criminal justice system for remedies, because the recent antics of the neo-con Supreme Court sanction anything and everything behind the twin disguises of judicial process and national security.  Like Walker, we must present the case of our plight in the courts of world, simply as a matter of record. Such a move would create a global environment for discussion, but the more meaningful work has to be done on site in Jena, LA and everywhere else by grassroots leaders and community people who are directly affected by police attacks. Security Guards Beat School Teen

*   *   *   *   *

I do worry that the very people who contributed to the flavor and culture of New Orleans will truly be too poor to afford housing in the NEW New Orleans.  As one of my friends put it, “Katrina passed judgment on America and the country has been found wanting.” Thanks, Rudy, for promoting open dialogue about life and death issues.  We can prevent rumor as easily as we can prevent terrorism. We can succeed, however, in asking questions about why we can not spend as much money to restore homes as we have spent to destroy Iraq. And those questions do need to appear in global cyberspace.

Jerry Ward Reports on Dillard

*   *   *   *   *

There is rancid irony in my giving loving attention to Richard Wright’s violence-drenched work as we approach his centennial. Men and women of all colors only half-listened to Wright and other writers who focused on peoplekind’s destructive potential, preferring to dance in the twilight zone of arts, self-congratulation regarding the achievements of technology and science, entertainments, romantic illusions. We have not changed much. We are still dancing in 2007. The irony consists of my not feeling exceptionally good about playing the role of a reverse John the Baptist. As Wright remarked in 1944 about the genesis of Black Boy, “to tell the truth is the hardest thing on earth, harder than fighting in a war, harder than taking part in a revolution. Indeed I discovered that writing like that is a kind of war and revolution.” KATRINA REPORT  New Orleans 2007

*   *   *   *   *

All I can say about this piece [What’s So New About Obama?]  is that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were probably the last leaders to whom large numbers of black Americans were willing to accord genuine respect. Neither was a politician.  Now we have politicians who seem to believe class is far more important than race. Their minds are visually and visionally challenged. Obama and other figures mentioned in Zafran’s article belong to a new breed of elected officials who may indeed lead white Americans and their black friends into or out of hell. Insofar as most black Americans exist willingly or unwillingly within the American body politic, they will be in various coaches on the train.   I judge these people [ so-called black leaders] to be persons with slight historical consciousness whom I have not elected or selected to lead me anywhere. They are interested in power (a vague concept), money, and idealistic hot air. Each of us must make an individual decision about who will indeed lead us daily. Those who lead me are all dead —my known ancestors, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Margaret Walker, and Richard Wright; they lead me to use my talents for the benefit of my people, people who try desperately to be good citizens of the world.  Zafran’s article is laughable because it is naive. Jerry Ward

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[Tom] Dent did not aim his parting shots at the philosophical traditions which defined the role of his alma mater in the history of African American culture. His target was the kind of pedagogy which served to miseducate and underprepare Negro students. Having been trained to think critically at Morehouse by the brilliant political scientist Robert Brisbane, Dent could discriminate nicely between the value of honoring tradition and the negation that resulted from blind “worship” of traditions. The work Dent would produce during the next four decades is marked by his penchant for reason, for surgical analysis of affairs, for being informed about the cutting edge of history’s progress. The Art of Tom Dent

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*   *   *   *   *

Institutional racism is the very backbone of the industry that champions and valorizes thug culture. That some presumably intelligent African Americans should be gears in the machinery of institutional racism is not astonishing. They have embraced the current version of the American Dream. After all, they have no obligations under the laws of brute economy to be more noble than Africans who sold other Africans to Europeans.

If Reginald Hudlin and Tracey Edmonds and the non-black black-oriented BET celebrate Kimberly Jones (aka Lil’ Kim) for her crimes, they are acting in ways that historical narratives allow us to predict. Although King did not include either thug culture or racial treason or sinister commodification in his dream-script, these things are undeniable components of our post-1968 America.

Ms. Tucker’s juxtaposing the memory of King’s death with the success of trafficking in lawlessness is sobering. It is regrettable that, on the other hand, she failed to place the abuse of King’s sacrifice in the context of the pervasive lawlessness that is honored at the highest level of American government and business.

Messages on MLK Day

     *   *   *   *   *

Yesterday, I regretted discarding five boxes of LPs. These were choice albums I spent more than forty years collecting. With dry eyes and a wet heart, I consign my music to the curbside. My music is trash. LPs, cassettes, and many CDs have become trash. Emptiness pains like a fishbone caught in the throat. You can have more CDs, but you are not fond of CDs. Aretha Franklin does not sound right on a CD. She sounds corrected. So too do Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. “Cold Shot.” Perhaps classical music sounds very good on a CD. Classical music is, after all, hypercorrect.

But Clifford Brown, Buddy Guy, Esther Phillips, Lynn Gold, Cassandra Wilson, Jerry Butler, the soundtracks of The Color Purple and For Colored Girls . . . and Shaft, and Tommy James and the Shantells are not hypercorrect. They, the recorded traces of their creation, are human in the grooves. When you want to hear Roland Kirk’s Oleo, you must hear the grooves and scratches. It took you twenty years to begin to understand the musical structures of Oleo, and you do not want to have that pain and pleasure cheapened by a CD. Making Peace with the Loss of Things

*   *   *   *   *

Not Gone With the Wind Voices of Slavery—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—9 February 2003—Unchained Memories, an HBO documentary that makes its debut tomorrow night, provides a powerful answer to that question. It gives us, through the faces and voices of African-American actors, an introduction to a vast undertaking that took place in the 1930’s: the collection and preservation of the testimonies of thousands of aged former slaves in an archive known as the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers’ Project. This archive unlocked the brutal secrets of slavery by using the voices of average slaves as the key, exposing the everyday life of the slave community. Rosa Starke, a slave from South Carolina, for example, told of how class divisions among the slaves were quite pronounced:

”Dere was just two classes to de white folks, buckra slave owners and poor white folks dat didn’t own no slaves. Dere was more classes ‘mongst de slaves. De fust class was de house servants. Dese was de butler, de maids, de nurses, chambermaids, and de cooks. De nex’ class was de carriage drivers and de gardeners, de carpenters, de barber and de stable men. Then come de nex’ class, de wheelwright, wagoners, blacksmiths and slave foremen. De nex’ class I members was de cow men and de niggers dat have care of de dogs. All dese have good houses and never have to work hard or git a beatin’. Then come de cradlers of de wheat, de threshers and de millers of de corn and de wheat, and de feeders of de cotton gin. De lowest class was de common field niggers.”



*   *   *   *   *’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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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Yvette’s cookbook is a 2011 bestseller

GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)—It’s official. It’s a bestseller! From Yvette’s Kitchen To Your Table – A Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the author’s family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvette’s Kitchen  … lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.“We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvette’s cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nation’s cuisine,” said Sample.From Yvette’s Kitchen  is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.

The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvette’s. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.“We hope that this cookbook’s success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean,” said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of S’maatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample.

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Book of Sins

By Nidaa Khoury

Khoury’s poetry is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow.—Yair Huri, Ben-Gurion University 

Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury’s poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman  . . . an archetype revived. The secret she whispers is ‘smaller than words.’—Karin Karakasli, author, Turkey

Nidaa Khoury was born in Fassouta, Upper Galilee, in 1959. Khoury is the author of seven books published in Arabic and several other languages, including The Barefoot River, which appeared in Arabic and Hebrew and The Bitter Crown, censored in Jordan. The Palestinian poet is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. The founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel, Khoury has participated in over 30 international literary and human rights conferences and festivals. Khoury is the subject of the award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence.

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The First Emancipator

The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves

By Andrew Levy

In 1791, at a time when the nation’s leaders were fervently debating the contradiction of slavery in a newly independent nation, wealthy Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter III freed more than 450 slaves. It was to be the largest emancipation until the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. Levy offers an absorbing look at the philosophical and religious debate and the political and family struggles in which Carter engaged for years before very deliberately and systematically freeing his slaves as he attempted to provide a model for others to follow. Drawing on historic documents, including Carter’s letters and painstakingly detailed accounts of plantation activities, Levy conveys the strongly held beliefs that drove Carter through the political and religious fervor of the time to arrive at a decision at odds with those of other prominent leaders and slaveholders of the time, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Levy offers a fascinating look at one man’s redemption and his eventual lapse into historical obscurity despite his incredibly bold actions. Well researched and thoroughly fascinating, this forgotten history will appeal to readers interested in the complexities of American slavery.—Booklist

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The Cambridge Historyof African American Literature

Edited by Maryemma Graham and Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


The first major twenty-first century history of four hundred years of black writing, The Cambridge History of African American Literature presents a comprehensive overview of the literary traditions, oral and print, of African-descended peoples in the United States. Expert contributors, drawn from the United States and beyond, emphasize the dual nature of each text discussed as a work of art created by an individual and as a response to unfolding events in American cultural, political, and social history. Unprecedented in scope, sophistication and accessibility, the volume draws together current scholarship in the field. It also looks ahead to suggest new approaches, new areas of study, and as yet undervalued writers and works. The Cambridge History of African American Literature is a major achievement both as a work of reference and as a compelling narrative and will remain essential reading for scholars and students in years to come.

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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

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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 4 March 2012