ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Mehmet Akif Ersoy tried to encourage people in his preaching at mosques in Balıkesir

in order to support the National Struggle rising in the Western Anatolia after the invasion

of İzmir (1919). Shortly after his arrival in Ankara, he was elected as deputy from Burdur

and served at this office until 1923. He was sent to Konya to prevent

the rebellions and to guide people.



Turkish Legislator Poets


Translated from the Turkish by Mevlut Ceylan

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Mehmet Akif Ersoy —Poet and man of thought (b. 1873, İstanbul – d. 27 December 1936). He was the son of İpekli Tahir Efendi, a Albanian tutor at Fatih Madrasah. Mehmet Akif’s mother came from a family who migrated from Buhara and settled in İstanbul. The name of Akif was initially Rakıf, so as to rhyme with his father’s name; however, it was changed later. He was born in the Sarıgüzel quarter in Fatih province and attended the Emir Buhari Quarter School, Fatih Elementary School and the School of Politics.

During his years at high school, he attended the lectures at Fatih Mosque and learned Arabian and Persian.

He attended the Halkalı School of Veterinarian, after his father died and their house burned down and he graduated with the first degree (1893). He worked as a civil officer at the Department of veterinarian at the Ministry of Agriculture and worked in Rumelia, Anatolia, Albania and Saudi Arabia for four years. He learned everything and Arabian from his father. He got married in 1989 and had six children. Also working as a teacher at the School of Veterinerian, Akif published the reviews Sırat-ı Müstakim and Sebilürreşad with his friend Eşref Edib in 1908. He resigned from his office due to the Balkan War (1913). Opposing the Turkist movement of Ziya Gökalp, he defended the idea of Unity of Islam in his articles published in Sırat-ı Müstakim and Sebilürreşad and at his preaches in Fatih, Beyazıt, Şehzadebaşı, Süleymaniye mosques (1912). He went to Egypt and Hejaz before the World War I began (1913). He was sent to Germany during the war by the Ottoman Intelligence Service on the invitation of the German government in order to see the Muslim captives in Germany in 1914; and to Necep Emiri İbnürreşid, where people stayed loyal to Ottoman Empire against pro-English Şerif Hüseyin in the end of 1914 by t he same organization. Meanwhile he was appointed as the first secretary to High Islamic Counsil. He tried to encourage people in his preaching at mosques in Balıkesir in order to support the National Struggle rising in the Western Anatolia after the invasion of İzmir (1919). Shortly after his arrival in Ankara, he was elected as deputy from Burdur and served at this office until 1923. He was sent to Konya to prevent ther ebellions and to guide people. He informed people on Sevres Agreement and National Struggle at the enthusiastic preaching in Kastamonu Nasrullah Mosque (this preaching was published and handed out to all provinces and fronts). His Sebilürreşad was published in Kastamonu on 20 November 1920. He was dismissed from Dar’ül Hikmeti’l İslâmiye for his actions (20 December 1920). He settled in Tacettin lodge after returning to Ankara. His poem was enthusiastically read out at the Turkish Grand National Assembly and was accepted as the National Anthem (21 Mart 1921). He refused the money award as the poet of the national anthem, although he was economically in a bottleneck. The national anthem has been re-composed four times, and the form by Osman Zeki Üngör was approved. Akif returned to İstanbul after the Independence War was over; however went abroad on seeing the practices against his ideals in the Republic, Such as abolition of caliphate and the tendency to secularism.

The publication of Sebilürreşad was terminated with the law of Maintenance of the Regime. If Akif still lived in Turkey under these circumstances, it was highly probable that his acts would haven been regarded a crime. therefore, he left for Egypt on an invitation form Prince Abbas Halim Paşa and settled in Hilvan. He worked as a professor of Turkish language and literature at the University of Egypt (1925-1935). He lived ten years of exile in Egypt and returned to İstanbul to die on his homeland of his cirrhosis. He died on 27 December 1936. He is buried at the Edirnekapı War Cemetery, next to the grave of Babanzade Ahmed Naîm Efendi. His first poem was published in the school journal at the School of Veterinarian (Mektep Mecmuası, issue of 2 March 1895); and his first professional work of poetry (Kurana Hitap-A Preach on Koran) appeared in Resimli Gazete in 1895. He published translations from İranlı Hafız and Sadi in Servet-i Fünun after 1898. He was recognized with his poems and stories in verse published in the Sebilürreşad review (1908-1910).

He defended complete loyalty to Islam as a man of thought and represented the idea of Islamism, which was spreading at the end of 19th century. Agreeing with the famous Islamist philosopher of his time, such as Muhammed Abduh (1948-1905), Abdürreşid İbrahim (1853-1944) and Cemaleddin Afgani (1838-1897); Mehmet Akif believed that the Muslims should apply the Holy Koran to purify the religion from superstitions and to survive from the depressing conditions they were in. The idea was expressed in the words that read “Directly inspired by the Koran / The mind of the century shall interpret Islam”. Thus, he asserted a condition for being a poet of his time on his own understanding. His approach to art was to be with God, as Yunus Emre claimed. Regarded as the leading representative of the idea of “Arts for society”; Akif assumed poetry as an instrument to spread his beliefs and ideas and to continue his struggle.

WORKS:POETRY: His poems have been collected under the title Safahat (Articles), which consists of seven volumes: Book 1: Safahat (Articles, 1911), Book 2: Süleymaniye Kürsüsünde (At the Chair of Süleymaniye, 1912), Book 3: Hakkın Sesleri (Voices of God, 1913), Book 4: Fatih Kürsüsünde (At the Chair of Fatih, 1914), Book 5: Hatıralar (Memoirs, 1917), Book 6: Asım (Asım, 1924), Book 7: Gölgeler (Shadow, 1933).  THOUGHT-RESEARCH: Kastamonu Nasrullah Kürsüsü’nde (At the Kastamonu Nasrullah Chair, preaching to people at the Nasrullah Mosque during the National Struggle, published by Nihat Paşa, the commander of Al-Jazira, at diayrbakır Printing House, 1921), Kur’an’dan Ayet ve Hadisler (Sentences and Hadis* in the Koran, selections from his articles in Sebilürreşad, edited by Ö. Rıza Doğrul, 1944).

For My Picture

If there’s a trace of life on this earth it cannot be erased

Even if you die underground it will carry you on its back

So you who asks your silent question from the shadows

How long do you think that darkness will remember you?


Dream of Istanbul

The boat was rolling over in an ocean…

The dream threw me on the shores of Marmara!

I saw from only a couple of miles away

your blackened Istanbul clear as crystal,

Its forehead shining like a crescent:

She’s laughing; coquettish, charming and attractive.


What base destitution now, alas!

What arrogance, what ostentation!

Many schools are opened, men and women study;

factories are in full steam, textile industries progress.

Printing houses work day and night.

New companies emerge for the benefit of the people,

New parties arise to enlighten the people,

Economy prospers

And ships unload wealth from length to length of her shores.

Mehmet Akif Ersoy (1873-1936) 

posted 9 March 2006

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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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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation?

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to accept—or at least endure—the universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.

The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.


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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 25 June 2012




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Yusuf Ziya Ortac    Ziya Gokalp