Books by Marcus Bruce
Song of the Black Valiants: Marching Tempo
High Ground: A Collection of Poems /
Negro soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans
I am New
Orleans: A Poem
Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900 /
The Liberty Monument
* * *
Bontemps Advises Christian
on Securing a Rosenwald Fellowship
703 East 50th Place,
29 December '42
My dear Christian,
This part of my reply to your Christmas day special is a bit tardy, but rest
assured the more vital part was given immediate attention. I am sure that by now
you have received one of the two sets of blank applications sent you by the
Fund. One went in care of Lyle Saxon, along with the letter
Mr. Embree wrote. The other Miss Utley, secretary to Wm. C. Haygood, sent
directly to you at my request. Incidentally, I saw the Saxon letter to Mr.
Embree and the answer. In fact, Mr. Embree discussed it before replying.
Now for the subject matter. Your chance of getting the fellowship is
excellent this year. Age worked against you more than anything else in your last
try. This year the requirements will be relaxed as a result of the war. I
suggest that you outline a project something like this: a) completion of the
Negro in Louisiana study, b) some historical research that you may decide upon,
for example, 'collecting biographical material concerning free men of color in
Louisiana', c) assembling and writing first draft of 'b'. If the above doesn't
get it, nothing will.
It would probably be best to leave the Illinois study out of the project.
There are several reasons. 1.) Jack Conroy and I have been given permission to
rework parts of it in another connection. This has been done, and the manuscript
is now in the agent's hands. 2.) My own plans are obscure for the moment. Being
on fellowship now, I will not have to decide whether or not I'll re-apply till
In the meantime two or three irons are in the fire, and I'll want to see what
comes of them before I commit myself to another fellowship application. One of
these irons is a job which it was more or less understood I would take following
my present year's work. So you see I'm hogtied for the present. But that is no
cause for worry. I will speak in behalf of your candidacy and thereby bring to
bear any strength which I may have.
You will perhaps need to send representative sections of the Louisiana book
to the director of fellowships. I suggest that this be done now rather than
waiting for the 'additional evidence' call. In my opinion it is the stuff that
comes in early that exerts the influence. That is the stuff that gets thoroughly
read by the ADVISERS. Only when the issue is in doubt is the 'additional
evidence' called for. Two strikes are already against the candidate in such
cases. I strongly advise that you present about two or three hundred pages of
the most interesting historical sections of your book right away.
Tomorrow I'm going East on an errand connected with Yale and the James Weldon
Johnson Memorial Collection. The Yale Gazette has asked me to do an article
about the collection. My hope is that both you and Lyle Saxon will have made a
contribution to it by the time my article is published. An opportunity for a
good 'plug' would thus be afforded. I expect to be back in Chicago by January
Something in Mr. Saxon's letter makes me curious. He spoke of some passages
in the NEGRO IN ILLINOIS which he thought might perhaps be regarded by some as
controversial. As an amateur investigator, I am excited by that. Could you give
me a hint as to which sections gave this impression? We have had a bit of fun
with reactions like this. Frankly, I'm blissfully unaware of any questionable
history in the book, though its other shortcomings and additional requirements
are only too plain. But the history part is like a game to me--since my approach
is strictly nonprofessional--and I can't wait to find out where we have rushed
in where the angels would have hesitated.
I spoke of having fun with similar reactions. Well, not to lay any traps, we
caught a couple of the more academic historians (in a prankish way) on some of
the stuff which they thought sure was bogus till we brought in the
documentation. Did the bibliography accompany the copy of the manuscript which
you saw? Mind, I'm not saying the manuscript doesn't contain doubtful or
debatable material, but only that I'm unaware of it.
Finally, a word about your suggestion of appearing before the committee. That
is something which I would suggest that you take up with Mr. Haygood well in
advance. You see, one never know who will be on the committee from year to year,
the time or place of the meetings, etc. Moreover, there may even be some policy
about personal appearances by candidates before the committee.
All in all, I don't see how you can miss this shot. Give it a try.
* * * *
Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973) -- born in Alexandria,
Louisiana, the son of Creole parents -- was one of the more prolific writers of the
Harlem Renaissance. He was the author of over 25 books of
poetry, history, biography, fiction and anthologies. Bontemps
was a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Bontemps served as
head librarian at Fisk University from 1969 to 1972. He was also
curator of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro
Arts and Letters at Yale University.
In 1923, Bontemps
received his B.A. from Pacific Union College in Angwin. In 1924,
his poetry appeared in Crisis
magazine, the NACCP periodical edited by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.
In 1926 Golgotha
Is a Mountain won the Alexander Pushkin Award and in 1927 Nocturne
at Bethesda achieved first honors in the Crisis poetry contest.
Personals, a collection of poetry was published in 1963.
Bontemps then turned to
prose. In the decade of the thirties, he wrote three acclaimed novels
God Sends Sunday (1931);
Black Thunder (1936); and Drums at
Dusk (1939). Frustrated in his ability to reach his own generation
Bontemps to literature for children and young graders. In 1937 he
Sad-Faced Boy; and others for young audience
We Have Tomorrow (1945) Slappy Hopper (1946) and
of the Negro (1948).
Bontemps was involved in the publication of at least three
Golden Slippers: An
Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers (1941); with
The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949
Bontemps, American Negro Poetry
(1963 & 1974 rev.).
Bontemps was gracious enough to include Christian's poems in all his
Bontemps' beautiful short story "A Summer
is found often in anthologies. It is indeed a treat. His poems "A
Black Man Thinks of Reaping," "Southern
"Nocturne at Bethesda" are often anthologized. But such poems
as "My Heart Has Known Its Winter" and "Day
Breakers" are also found in anthologies.
Early in his career Bontemps had wanted to get a Ph.D. in English but
with his marriage in 1926 and the coming of six children he had to work.
He taught for awhile at an Alabama junior college. With the coming of
the Depression he worked for the Illinois WPA and supervised and
assisted in the writing of a history of the Negro in Illinois. In 1943
he completed a degree in library science and served as librarian at Fisk
University and developed an archive of African American
cultural materials that is a major resource for study in this field.
* * * *
Anyplace But Here
Arna Wendell Bontemps : A Bibliography
Robert E Fleming. James
Weldon Johnson and Arna Wendell Bontemps: A
reference guide. G. K. Hall, 1978
Kirkland C. Jones.
Man from Louisiana; A Biography of Arna Wendell
Bontemps.. Greenwood Press, 1992.
Sterling Brown "Arna
Bontemps: Co-worker, Comrade." Black World
22:11 (September 1973): 92-98.
* * *
* * *
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
* * * *
Drums at Dusk
By Arna Bontemps
A story of love, violence, and
race set at the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, African
American writer Arna Bontemps's Drums at Dusk immerses readers in
the opulent and brutal--yet also very fragile--society of France's
richest colony, Saint Domingue.
First published in 1939, this
novel explores the complex web of tensions connecting wealthy
plantation owners, poor whites, free people of color, and the slaves
who stunned the colony and the globe by uniting in a carefully
The novel's hero, Diron
Desautels, a white Creole born in Saint Domingue who belongs to the
French antislavery group Société des Amis des Noirs, attempts to
spread his message of "liberty, equality, fraternity" in a world
fraught with conflict.
Imaginatively inhabiting a wide spectrum of Haitian voices,
including those of white indentured servants, female slaves, and Toussaint
L'Ouverture, who later emerged as the revolution's best-known hero, Bontemps's
work reflects not only the intricacies of Haitian society on the eve of the
revolution, but also a black artist's vision of Haiti in the twentieth century,
during the U.S. Marines' occupation and at the brink of war in Europe. A new
introduction by Michael P. Bibler and Jessica Adams reveals how Drums at
Dusk--even seventy years after its original publication--contributes to
contemporary studies of the American South as part of the larger plantation
region of the Caribbean, and inspires a reevaluation of assumptions about
revolution, race, and nationalism.
* * * *
Selected Diary Notes
Memories of Marcus B. Christian
BioBibliographical Record Introduction to I AM NEW
Theory of a Black Aesthetic Magpies,
Goddesses, & Black Male Identity
Activist Works on Next Level of Change
Intro to I Am New
Letter from Dillard University
Labor of Genuine Love
Letter of Gift of
LSU and Skip Gates
* * *
Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900
By Marcus Bruce Christian
Study of the blacksmith tradition and New
Orleans famous lace balconies and fences.
Acclaimed during his life
as the unofficial poet laureate of the New Orleans
African-American community, Marcus Christian recorded a
distinguished career as historian, journalist, and literary
scholar. He was a contributor to Pelican's
Gumbo Ya Ya, and also wrote many articles that appeared
in numerous newspapers, journals, and general-interest
* * *
My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)
* * *
* * *
update 1 May 2009