ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 The only black woman I had ever touched was my mammy, Maud. 

And she was seventy years old and smoked a corncob pipe and used s

nuff. And now I was being asked to double-date with two young

 maids whose skin was the color of ripe black olives



Letters On Africa

from Ben Schwartz


Dear Rudy,Thank you for refreshing my memory. I should very much like to meet and talk with Mr. Rogers. Although I would love to visit Cuba and capture their theater and dance for world audiences, my Spanish is limited to cafe con leche. My friend Mauro who is in charge of our Argentina events is, of course Portuguese speaking. I would love to go with Mr. Rogers along with my son. If Mr. Rogers is willing I could help defer his expenses.

Anything I send you you are welcome to use as you wish. As a young man I sold watermelons on the streets of Washington. At the end of a summer my attorney said I should buy six acres and an old house on the corner of Wisconsin and Western Ave in Chevy Chase. I asked him how much cash was needed and he replied $3000. down and $23,000 mortgage. I told him I needed my money to get married and go to school. So, he lent me the $3,000.

One year later the property was zoned commercial and I sold it to Lord and Taylor for over a million dollars profit. And from there to dealing with a very wealthy oil man about whom The Ugly American was written, and then as Vincent Astor’s son ( Tony Marshall) as Vice-President in Charge of investments for The African Research and Development Company, then my own company Intervest, and so on.

I was involved in the most exciting adventures in South Africa, Nigeria, Niger, Gabon, Kenya, Southern Rhodesia ( I sent my 16 year old five years ago to Zimbabwe) Ghana, Angola, et al. Did you read my attachment, “Glory Days,” that pokes a little fun at my naiveté.

So it is. When we meet I will do my best to regale you with my tales of Africa including delivering 50,000 dollars to Lumumba in Paris. However, let God grant me a little more time for at least one grand adventure, and I will give up thanks. I am hooked on adrenalin and lust for adventure. As I grow older I realize that Americans were cursed by Puritanical ideas. “The only black woman I had ever touched was my mammy, Maud.  And she was seventy years old and smoked a corncob pipe and used snuff. And now I was being asked to double-date with two young maids whose skin was the color of ripe black olives” (“Glory Days” ). After making money in Africa I returned to NY and bought The Little Theater (next to Sardi’s) and we opened with Langston Hughes Tambourines to Glory starring Clara Ward, and featuring Bob Guillaume, Lou Gosset, Mickie Grant, Roxy Roker, all young and unknown artists. Anyhow, it is a long story and much better told over a glass of wine. I believe I can revolutionize and democratize theater. Sound ambitious. It’s a piece of cake. By the way my daughter is a doctor at John Hopkins (after a career in the Army) and lives in Towson.

Regards, Ben

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Dear Rudy,Thank you for your kind interest in my stories. I write for my own pleasure and “Glory Days” needs to be finished. My trip was motivated by the same lust and greed that prompted the Conquistadors. “Glory Days” is very personal. We went to Africa to exploit. We went to make a fortune and come back to London or New York and spend the money. To my surprise I fell in love with the impossible, a black woman. Nor Lena Horne, but an African woman six feet tall richer, better educated and much brighter than I was.

I write about the defeat of Colonialism, a defeat that after Vietnam and Cuba we are just beginning to accept. Slavery, the holocaust, and The Inquisition are the results of “Colonialism” i.e. the taking of a people’s resources by a superior army. I write Glory days as a satire and point the irony of White perception of their superiority. I knew Toure, Lumumba, Vervord, Ian Smith, Welensky, Akintola, Festus Ekote Iboh, Enaraho, Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta, Amadu Bello, Idi Amin, and Nkrumah.  Today the U.S. still indulges in Iraq this colonialism and believes in the right to drop bombs on innocent people.

I believe with your editorial help I can give an insight into the Africa of Change. When my son was sixteen I sent my son to Zimbabwe to visit old friends.  We ran into Mr. Mugabe and that is another story. I would be happy to provide material for your journal. At my age I am beginning to realize that most of my life I have lived in Plato’s cave, and not in a real world.I will send you more material.

Regards, Ben

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Dear Rudy,

I read your commentary on Gangsters in Nigeria and was amused. We should do an article entitled “Dash” (bribe) which was a way of life. A character you will often meet in “Glory Days” is Amadu Bello (The Sardonna of Sokoto) who I first met in his Palace Parade Grounds wearing the armor his ancestors had worn when conquering Spain. He entered from one side preceded by 400 of his children (wards of the state) who came bearing flowers for me.

During negotiations he came to my rondeval at midnight with his secretary and dictated a six million dollar letter of credit. I asked him, ” Sir, why are we doing it this way?” He answered, “Because I do not trust my ministers!” Several years later he was assassinated in his sleep. He was an absolutely fair, just, and incorruptible officer of Africa. The historic animosities between the Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, and Christian are unrelenting and grim. During a meeting Bello began speaking in Swahili, he looked at me and said, “your language is better for business, but ours is better for politics.Regards, Ben

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood



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Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

By John Lewis

The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.

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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.

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Exporting American Dreams

 Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey

By Mary L. Dudziak

Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in 1960 Kenyan independence leaders asked him to help write their constitution, Marshall threw himself into their cause. Here was a new arena in which law might serve as the tool with which to forge a just society. In Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey (2008) Mary Dudziak recounts with poignancy and power the untold story of Marshall’s journey to Africa

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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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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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 24 June 2012




Home  The African World  Transitional Writings on Africa

Related files: Letters on Africa from Ben Schwartz    Glory Days – Sahara Nights  Notes to a Diabetic