African American Writers Meet Rudolph Lewis
The man behind ChickenBones
By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
First published: April 18, 2006
For those with an interest and involvement in the
writing and publishing industry, especially when it
comes to black culture, his name would be familiar.
Rudolph Lewis is one of the hardest working, dedicated
and respected men in the online publishing world. Yet
very little is known about his personal life. He is the
editor and founder of ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary and Artistic African-American Themes (www.nathanielturner.com
This is an educational web site which explores black
culture with the aims of uplifting and educating black
people as well as non black people about black culture.
Initiated in the fall of 2001, ChickenBones: A
Journal has accumulated a faithful following of
readers as well as a wide range of literary contributors
from all over the world. In 2005, Chickenbones
attracted about 5,000 visitors on a daily basis and is
already exceeding 1 million visitors for the year 2006.
This is a meteoric rise from 2003 when traffic included
about 500,000 visitors. ChickenBones has produced
and featured the works of several celebrated and new
writers including Kalamu Ya Salaam, Amiri Baraka, Zora
Neale Hurston, Askia Touré, Niyi Osundare, Latorial
Faison, Lasana Sekou, Ras Baraka, DB Cox, Stacey
Tolbert, Nicholas Berdyaev, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Kola
Boof,Danyel Smith, Yambo Ouologuem, Claire Carew and
Drisana Deborah Jack to mention a few. ChickenBones
is in short, a national treasure.
Behind all that work is Rudolph Lewis. Lewis is a
prolific writer of the Black Arts Movement generation.
He is the author of numerous essays, poems, interviews
and articles for various journals. He has also done
editorial jobs with positions such as the editor of I
Am New Orleans & Other Poems by Marcus Bruce Christian.
New Orleans: Xavier Review Press, 1999, Editorial
Assistant Labor's Heritage, Spring 1997.
Contributing Editor The New Laurel Review,
Spring/Fall 1984; Spring/Fall 1987 Editor (& Founder)
CRICKET: Poems and Other Jazz. New Orleans, 1985.
Literature has always been a part of his life. Lewis was
also an English and Literature instructor at the
following institutions: Coppin State College, University
of New Orleans, Northeast Louisiana University, and the
University of District of Columbia. He has in addition
reviewed several books and performed interviews with
notable writers such as Yusef Komunyakaa. Yet despite
all this, he has never been interviewed in any literary
magazine. So it was a great pleasure to be able to pay
homage to this illustrious writer/poet/editor/publisher
and instructor by interviewing him and getting his
readers and supporters to know more about the amazing
presence behind ChickenBones. He shared several
things with me; among them, his love for New Orleans,
the origins of ChickenBones, his relationship
with several historic icons and his beautiful poetry on
* * *
Many people know about the site but they may not be
aware of the person behind the site. You are the
publisher, owner and editor of ChickenBones-A
Journal for Literary and Artistic African-American
Themes. Please tell us more about yourself. Who is
I am uncertain, really. I feel as if I am still a work
in progress. That I am still becoming. The outer me and
the inner me I feel sometimes are two different persons.
I still feel rather young. But young men have started
calling me Baba and Pops. I'm egalitarian and I'm
restless. I'll be 58 on the 24th of August and I feel
like I'm just hitting my stride intellectually. I'm
fascinated by older women who are intellectuals. But I
am attracted to young women, especially if they have a
nice smile. Often too serious, I love women who can make
Jane: Let's talk about Rudolph the writer. You write
essays, poems, articles, editorials, stories, prose and
you do interviews as well. You are in essence a true
writer, mastering the different writing fields which are
available. When did this writing streak start?
It was in 1968 as a student activist that I first took
my writing talent seriously. Then I was writing
pamphlets, propaganda. In a manner my writing helped me
to defeat attempts to draft me for the Vietnam War. The
military declared me mentally unstable. My personal
writings began under Max Wilson, then a Haitian
philosopher at Morgan State College.
I was distraught in the early 70s, after my wife Evelyn
and I separated. It was then I made my first trip to New
Orleans, and then we divorced. I became a Buddhist, for
a while and then began private sessions with Wilson. He
was like a father, a dear friend. He got me to writing
diaries, keeping journals and scrapbooks. In some sense
ChickenBones grew out of this central experience. I
still have a journal-scrapbook here at my desk. I just
recently quoted from a 1976 newspaper article.
Jane: Who were your influences when you started
On a deep level I was influenced by oral literature. My
grandmother who raised me in the Virginia countryside
was the family historian. She was a great storyteller. I
honour her with some of my family stories. Then there
was the public speech of persons like Stokely
Carmichael, Martin, and Malcolm. Their rhythms, their
timing, their provocative language were so dynamic,
quite a political contrast from my rural, religious
I came to formal literature late, after I started
college, when I discovered Baldwin, Wright, Ellison, and
Killens. That was probably in 1967. Then there was
Negro Digest, later Black World. I still have
old copies of that journal. Then there were the writers
of the Black Arts Movement (BAM)-Baraka, Don L. Lee,
Sonia, and Nikki Giovanni. But it was their orality,
rather than what they were doing formally on the page.
That I did not understand at all. It was more their
political blackness than their literary art that really
affected me. Some of their works by the 70s were on LPs:
Nikki, The Last Poets, Baraka's Black Mass, and
Can't Get Over You
By Rudolph Lewis
Dancing, bare legs, flayed open
I die in you nappy Rasta woman
dreds like craggy running streams
falling on soft shoulders
I kiss your chocolate-bean thighs
swinging unrobed ass, hot sighs
& cries of sweet Jesus
your almond African eyes pierce
& pick my pluming dreams apart
like trespassing fingers
our wet lips weave brown islands
streaking tongues waving quilt
designs over a swelling belly
We strip down aching flesh
where I like to be, touching
dark fists pounding hard
I don't want to stop what we do
wounding raw, deep, shrinking
Jane: Your black erotica poems are some of the best
poems you've written Rudolph. A woman reads them and
feels truly beautiful and appreciated. Are you romantic?
Most of that work is recent. I began writing poetry in
New Orleans, then the most sensuous of American cities.
The walk, the talk, the smile, the sadness of New
Orleans women turned me on. I had a couple affairs there
I've never fully gotten over. There was just something
in the air-street music (the trombone, the tuba, the
banjo), the blues, the dance. The whole scene was
artistically inspiring. It broke down my protestant
reserve. Then there were the poems of Marcus Bruce
Christians-his love poems and blues.
Kalamu ya Salaam has been the major erotica influence. I
read a lot of his poems and stories. He broke the ice.
Since ChickenBones there have been numerous
female spoken word poets who have influenced me,
especially a young sister name Po-It. She really turned
me on. Before these readings, it was difficult to speak
of sexual intimacy openly. They showed me what was
possible without being vulgar or pornographic.
Jane: You describe black women so beautifully. In a
world where black beauty has 'disappeared' and expected
to erase itself and it has become more 'acceptable' by
becoming more Eurocentric, it is refreshing to read
poems from our brother appreciating us just as we are.
What is a beautiful black woman in your experience?
The beauty of black women, especially here in America,
comes in so varied shapes, sizes, shades, and ages. I
have loved them all. I have enjoyed them all. I loved
especially my former wife, Evelyn. It took me a decade
or more to get over that relationship. There is this
sadness in the beauty of black women, maybe in me, that
has coloured all my relationships with women and so, in
some sense, I've partaken of that beauty too much. There
has been too much intimacy, flowing through my fingers
like water or smoke, so I have not had a successful,
that is, a permanent relationship with just one black
Jane: You have a section called fourth world poems?
They have to do with the struggle of blacks in the West,
especially of black men in a white world. Since
we stepped off the boat, white men - their wealth, their
guns, their women - have come between the black man and
his woman and his children. That continues. So it is the
struggle to become fully whole, fully free in the West.
This struggle has rendered me childless.
Jane: It's never too late though. Now let's go to
Rudolph the publisher and editor. What inspired the
creation of ChickenBones?
While I was in library school (1994-1997) I was
introduced to the internet and during this period or
maybe a little later I also became aware of Kalamu's
e-drum. At UMCP (University of Maryland, College
Park) I took courses that dealt with the new digital
technologies. Since New Orleans (mid-80s) I have been
carrying around boxes and boxes of materials, my
writings and those of others, including a manuscript of
the poems of Marcus Bruce Christian. I first used that
manuscript to create a student web-site. So after I
finished my library studies, I was anxious to set up a
website. It took another four years.
During that period, I accumulated more writings and more
manuscripts and though I was getting poems, essays, a
story, even a book published, I realized such
publications had a short shelf life and a very limited
distribution. So I talked a printer friend Kinya
Kiongozi into helping me start a website. By that time
he knew how to build computers. Then I was working
part-time as a librarian at St. Mary's Seminary &
University and I got the needed software for $35. It was
just a matter of finding a host and figuring out the
software. In 2001 I went online with ChickenBones.
Jane: How did you come up with the name ChickenBones?
I wanted a name that was not pretentious. Some name
without "black" in it. I wanted a broad appeal. But I
wanted it to have an ethnic grounding - of the people,
by the people, for the people. Bones has its own special
ring. There is a trail of them across the Atlantic.
Those of our ancestors have been ploughed under by white
farmers for their own nourishment and we have used them
for divination. We poor folk have had to rely on the
lowly chicken for our meals, even to sucking the marrow
from the bones to survive.
So it rang true for me, that is, ChickenBones, as
one word. Because there was some snickering of
minstrelsy, I added "A Journal" and a subtitle, to show
that we were serious. Moreover, I felt confident because
of the Alice in Wonderland story that one could make a
word mean what one wanted it to mean, especially if one
puts the required work into it. There's no one
Jane: This site is dedicated to Nathaniel Turner
(1800-1831). In fact the site is actually under the name
www.nathanielturner.com although it is called
ChickenBones. What's your special connection to
I come from
Nathaniel Turner country,
which includes the southern Virginia counties of Sussex,
Southampton, and Greensville.
Turner was a 19th century
prophet, his father a slave-owner and his mother a
recently-arrived African captive. Scripturally-inspired,
Turner the visionary led the most devastating and
influential slave rebellion in American history. There
was a recent documentary and a recent French novel of
his life. A lot of print has been spilt over his deeds,
his religious psychology, and his 1831 Confessions.
When I quit
my job in 1999 at Enoch Pratt Free Public Library in
Baltimore, I retreated to my family home in Virginia. I
had studied Marcus Christian and New Orleans. Now it was
time to study my people and the land in which I was
raised. I wrote down Mama's stories. I checked the local
libraries and archives and began to meditate on the life
The white William Styron had written a popular novel on
Turner in the late 60s which created a great controversy
even into the mid-70s when I was working on my
undergraduate degree at UMCP. I looked at the collected
folk literature and the collected documents. I concluded
that both blacks and whites had gotten the story wrong
and that it was my duty to straighten out the historical
record and present the true Nathaniel Turner. I had a
Jane: When you started out, did you know that
ChickenBones would become this popular and not only
attract the attention of African Americans but also
continental Africans, Caribbeans and other groups?
No, my interests were narrow, comparatively. But
I have embraced these marvelous developments.
ChickenBones has taken on a life of its own. I am
now merely a servant, a follower. I am always surprised
by its influence, the people it reaches, the people who
are drawn to it. In a real sense, lots of people helped
to create ChickenBones, by their own work, not
least among these are New Orleans people like
Kalamu ya Salaam
Lee Meitzen Grue,
who sent me huge amounts of their work without fear of
One of the
key aspects of ChickenBones, I believe, is its
non-commercial stance, to provide a model of sacrifice.
It was not created to sell anything but rather to
inform, to create access to information not easily
accessible, and to give away everything, to provide a
platform for a great variety of writers and writings.
But also to present black people as beautiful as they
Jane: ChickenBones is the source of original
intellectual work by some of the most important artists
and theorists of the past 100 years including Yusef
Komunyakaa, Kalamu Ya Salaam, and Askia Muhamed Touré.
This was made possible by your singular labour. How were
you able to attract all these writers?
ChickenBones is a
journal in the true sense of the word. It is an
accumulation of writings, experiences, reflections,
intellectual work. My literary career really began in
New Orleans. Everyone, initially, thought that
ChickenBones was a New Orleans website. Maybe it had
My poetry writing began with
He's a great teacher, very inspiring. We were great
buddies back in 1984, 1985. Very close. Through him I
met and worked with a lot of writers and artists. We
went through over a thousand poems of Marcus Bruce
Christian at the archives of the University of New
Orleans, where I was teaching essay writing and
literature. That experience helped me to judge the value
of a poem, of poetry.
While in New Orleans I began a poetry journal
Cricket: Poems & Other Jazz, which published poems
by Kalamu, Yusef, Lee Meitzen Grue, Mona Lisa Saloy,
Mackie Blanton, and others. The poet Gillian Conoley
spent hours with me laying it out by hand. It lasted
three issues. It made no money. I paid for it out of
pocket. I sponsored a poetry contest. Made no money.
With Yusef and cultural worker Ahmose Zu-Bolton we set
up a cultural center in what had been a meat market. We
built a stage, a bar. There was a juke box, a pool
table. We exhibited children's art. Had quilt displays.
There was at least one jazz set. A lot of that too came
out of pocket. That didn't last long either. But we had
a blast while it lasted. I met Tom Dent. It was all so
sought me out. He didn't think I knew who he was. He
thought that I didn't appreciate his work or BAM. His
criticisms for the failures of BAM and mine differed. So
he thought I was a nut. And so after the
interview, we stopped communicating. But I have kept
reaching out to him. I'm not an ideologue. I'm not a
worshipper of men.
ChickenBones is an encyclopaedia of sorts. It is a
wealth of Black writings and I would even go as far as
to call it a national treasure yet you have manned the
site on your own. How were you able to back the site
Out of pocket. A lot of time and energy. A few friends.
I believed in ChickenBones. I made it a part of
my life. The technology made me less dependent on the
efforts and agreement of others for its success. It
would fail only if I failed to do the necessary work and
I have worked day and night at it.
Jane: ChickenBones does not shy away from
topics which are considered controversial. It's not
afraid to ruffle feathers. For example you profiled the
very controversial Sudanese/Egyptian writer Kola Boof (A
Chronology of the Life of Author Kola Boof)
and you even dedicated a poem (A
Hymn to Kola Boof)
to her. What do you think of her writing style?
Like Kalamu, Kola Boof is one of the daring and
successful pioneers of black cyberspace. Without the
internet, there probably would not be the Kola Boof we
know today. She has used text, photos, and video to
promote her writings and her views. Like other African
women, she has always fascinated me. They are in great
contrast to American women set on a pedestal. I have
never seen an African woman fawn and pretend to be soft
and weak like American women.
women are bold, willing to stand toe to toe with man or
woman. And if they try to cross them, they will
embarrass them or whip their asses. I like that. It
reminds me of women in my own family. Kola probably has
good cause for her anti-Arab views. I like her poems but
most of all I like her daring, her baring her breasts
without the least embarrassment, as a demonstrative
means of embracing her own culture and defying both
Islamic and Christian Puritanism. She's a good poet, a
dynamic writer. Kola is singular, unique. She has blazed
a trail to be followed.
ChickenBones was visited by 1.5 million people last
year, and this coming year you expect even more. What do
you think has contributed to its success?
It is different - unique, dynamic, exploratory, out of
the box, sacrificial, patient. It provides access to
desired information. There's simplicity in its layout
and intentions. It's headed up by someone who has little
idea of what he's doing, other than trying to do good.
It's huge and varied thus well-indexed by search
engines. It's black and that has its own attraction.
It's personal, an accumulation of experiences, down to
Jane: Can you tell us more about your involvement in
the Black Arts Movement (BAM)?
In Baltimore, I was a part of the black consciousness
movement, a staff member of Student Non-violent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC). I met Stokely and
Rap Brown. I worked closely with Bob Moore, the local
director, and with Walter Lively, director of U-Join and
Black Liberation Press. I met Amiri Baraka in 1968 when
he brought his troupe to town to put on one of his plays
at a local church. I rode with him across town to a
house party. He probably does not remember that. I was
19, just a face and a body. But that period is a
cherished memory. It laid the groundwork for everything
black consciousness movement and the civil rights
movement inspired the organizing of black workers. I
became a union organizer with Local 1199. We organized
in 1969 5,000 workers, mostly black women, within six
months. It was phenomenal. I then became a union
representative, educating workers and defending their
rights in the work place. I was 23, 24. This is where I
met my wife. I stayed with 1199 as a union rep for two
years and then resigned. Thereafter I worked a number of
odd jobs - analyzed coal, drove a cab, cleaned floors
and washed pots at a hospital. I did whatever was
necessary to pay the bills.
Jane: Were you involved with the Black Panther Party?
No. I knew a few of them, locally. I thought they were
out of their gourds. I have never romanced the gun,
though I grew up with hunters. They were ideologues. I
have always been a skeptic. I have always asked
questions, since I was a child. I admire Huey. He was a
is necessary reading. I never cared for
I believed him to be an intellectual thug, a dangerous
How did you meet Kalamu Ya Salaam?
In New Orleans, as I recall. He then headed up the New
Orleans Jazz Fest. That was 1984, 1985. It was a brief
personal encounter. I was into Yusef Komunyakaa then. I
know we were in contact then because I published some of
haikus in my
Cricket. He was trying to write 100 haikus, using
black music or intonation. It was ChickenBones
and e-drum that really brought us together. He
made me part of his e-drum list 21 January 1999
(I still have the email note) and later in 2002 he sent
me a lot of his unpublished and published works.
After that I did extended interviews with him. I learned
a lot from his poems, his stories, his poetic
autobiography, Art for Life: My Story, My Song. A
great variety of these writings can be found on
ChickenBones. I wouldn't say we are personal
friends. But I think we have a great mutual respect. On
a couple of trips to New Orleans he showed me around
town and showed me what he was doing. The last time was
invited me to his house in Algiers, Louisiana and showed
me the video work of his students and his own video
work. I was greatly impressed. And then there was the
New Orleans Flood.
There was a lot of correspondence. I helped to arrange
his coming to Baltimore. My God, the man is a great
performer. On stage he's a demi-god. We spent some time
at his hotel after the performance, talking about his
work and what was happening in New Orleans.
Jane: What about Amiri Baraka...?
Baraka greatly. I have his books on my shelf. He
came to town recently and read at Coppin State. But I
did not talk to him or shake his hand. I have followed
his career, closely. We are not friends. We have been
communicating recently through email. His are usually
one-liners. His works, I think, are deserving of more
attention. He's a national treasure, not truly
appreciated broadly for what he has contributed to the
cultural and political life of America. Though not a
devotee, I will probably be doing more study of the work
that he has created for us, all of us.
Jane: What do you think of today's urban fiction
I know of its existence. I see more and more of
it on library shelves. I'm impressed by the ingenuity
and energy that has been put into its production. My
impression is that much of it is low brow, easy reading,
sexual and gangster oriented rather than political and
literary. It provides probably interesting, entertaining
snapshots of black urban life. My suspicion is that it
lacks the insightful analysis that would raise it to
true art. The only piece I have actually read is a local
novel Child Support by Ralph E. Johnson. I
learned a lot from the book about the child support
system here in Baltimore and its devastating impact on
black male-black female relationships and how it
criminalizes black men. Though packed with useful info,
the book falls short artistically. (A
Review of Child Support)
Jane: What about mainstream hip hop?
It's phenomenal, international in impact. I like the
rhythms, the moves, the intonations. Most of it I am
unable to understand. I was listening to Nellie,
recently. I like especially the post-Katrina rap by
"George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People." That
showed me the potential impact that hip hop could have
on raising consciousness, of changing America for the
better. The hip hop industry is, however, geared toward
success and commercialism. I'm afraid it will never rise
above sheer entertainment, post-modern minstrelsy.
Jane: Some people say that some Generation Xers have
forgotten the struggles and sacrifices that our
ancestors went through in order to give us the freedom
that we enjoy. The efforts of people like Malcolm X, Du
Bois, Nkrumah and Sekou Touré made seem to be taken for
granted. What's your take on that?
All the people you named are dead. They made their
sacrifices and left us to carry our own crosses. We have
all failed to pick up our cross. What the youth are
about is only another version, a mirror image, of what
most adults are about - lust, greed, adultery, a great
host of sins. What is unique in the youth today is that
they see the hypocrisy. But they are as spoiled and
cynical as their parents. They don't see any way out of
our racial dilemma, our oppression. They have no faith
in group work or group study. So they have opted for the
individualistic arts of hustling, entertainment, and
athletics to make their mark, to make their fortune.
That choice has been devastating.
But there are exceptions.
There's a young brilliant cat here in Baltimore,
Rodney Foxworth, Jr. He is a UMBC student. He's
brilliant, loves hip hop, and he's a social activist and
journalist. We have been cooperating and collaborating.
His writings are on ChickenBones.
Jane: ChickenBones is one of the few sites
which covered true New Orleans stories, true accounts
from the survivors. I sense a personal attachment you
have with New Orleans. You created a special space
called Literary New Orleans. You even have special New
Orleans poems. Can you elaborate more on that?
I love New Orleans; at least, what was New Orleans. It
changed my life like a woman you can never possess. It
is the soul of America, and now the soul of America on
trial. So goes New Orleans, so goes America. Because it
has that significance I have devoted so much time and
energy to it and its writers and its culture. I wish I
could do more. The
Literary New Orleans
section was just another means of organizing material on
the site in that we don't have a search engine and it
was a way of emphasizing certain writers.
Jane: I hope you know that you will be leaving a
powerful legacy behind. You are recording history. How
are you going to make sure that this information is
passed on to the next generations?
I have raised that issue with some of our supporters. I
have spoken to Kalamu about it. I asked him the same
question. He didn't have a definitive answer. Neither do
I really. Of course, one can institutionalize it. I
recently gave the Library of Congress permission to add
ChickenBones as one of its collected websites. The
LOC will further diffuse access. So there is hope that
our work will be preserved.
But by nature institutions are static and conservative.
ChickenBones is personal and dynamic. So if I die or
something happens to me, ChickenBones will
probably suffer the same fate. Individuals and the
passions of people cannot be replicated. Where are the
Kings and Malcolms, today? Where is Nkrumah, where is Du
Bois? In liberation struggles, these are tragic
dilemmas. Have no fear; there will always be those who
will rise to carry the cross, who will carry the flag
what's next for Rudolph Lewis?
I got to find me a woman, who is willing to struggle
with me, to push forward with me, to make
ChickenBones all that it is fated to be. I have to
find a place in which to work comfortably. I probably
need to put some more of my writings in print. Of
course, the sky is still the limit.
Thanks for the interview.
First published: April 18, 2006
* * * * *
Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was
born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto,
Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time
she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda,
some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark,
Cuba and Canada. She won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000
in Toronto where she was also named ‘one of the new voices of
Africa’ after reciting one of her poems. In 2004 she was
published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black
storytellers and in February 2005 her art piece Namyenya was
featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through
Art-Black History Month Exhibit.
She is the recipient of
numerous awards for her poetry, art, and playwriting and is
becoming a household name in Toronto circles. She is a columnist
for Bahiyah Woman Magazine and is also a fellow for the Crossing
Borders-British Council Writers Programme. www.nteyafas.com
* * *
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
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.
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
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
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
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
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
3 March 2012