ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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In the evenings, after dinner, we would sit around the table and talk,

Mother washing dishes at the sink, my brother and I indulging in

chocolate milkshakes, and Daddy stirring the ice in his bourbon

and coke.  “Yes, I see what you mean,” he would comment,

 

 

Books by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic Writers (2003  / Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon (1999)

  The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995) / Erotique Noire/Black Erotica  (1992) / Homespun Images ( 1989)  / Notable Black Memphians

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Looking Toward Arbutus

Remembering Frank DeCosta

 By Miriam DeCosta-Willis

 

The future does not exist, the Indians of the Altiplano say, we can only be sure of the past—from which we draw experience and knowledge—and the present—a brief spark  that at the instant it is born becomes yesterday.  Isabel Allende

 

My earliest memory of my father is of that sweltering summer day when he came into my room—the one that Uncle Herbert built for me at the far end of the second-story porch—smiled down at me tenderly in my crib, and asked, “How’s my little girl?”  Still groggy from an early-afternoon nap, I giggled with delight at the sight of the tall, slender man in the blue tie and stiff white shirt who looked at me with such affection.  When he picked me up, I put my arms around him and snuggled my nose into the crook of his neck, where I detected the familiar smell of tobacco, English Leather, and Vaseline hair tonic.  This was my daddy, my very own daddy, I thought, as I touched his face, feeling the slight tickle of his beard against the palms of my hands.  Like other images of childhood—the sight of bats at the window, the cry of shrimp vendors in the streets of Charleston, and the taste of Uncle Herbert’s silver bells—that loom large in my imagination, the touch of my father’s face is one of the most important memories of my early years because it evokes feelings of love, warmth, and tenderness. 

Another image, dark and painful, haunts me.  On another hot summer night, I walked into the back bedroom of my parents’ home and saw Daddy stretched out, quiet and apparently asleep, on the twin bed under the window.  In the dim light of the lamp, he looked so small and frail and old, this man who, at six feet one, usually towered over me but who now lay motionless on top of the covers.  It was quiet in his room that except for the ticking of the clock by his bed, the sounds of Mother stirring in the kitchen . . . and Daddy’s heavy, labored breathing.  While I sat with him that night, I mumbled the usual bedside niceties—“The children came to see you.”  “I know you’ll feel better tomorrow.”  “Can I get you anything:  water, a glass of juice, your pills?”—but what I really wanted to do was to put my arms around him, snuggle into the crook of his neck, and whisper, “I love you, Daddy.”  But I couldn’t, I just couldn’t . . . because of my natural reserve and emotional coolness. 

At thirty-seven, I was a different person from that little girl whose world began and ended with her father.  I had grown up and away from him, and there were others in my life—a husband from whom I was now divorced, four children aged eight to sixteen, and a man whom I loved beyond reason—all of whom laid claim to my heart, but the memory of that night and the guilt that I felt over my failure to reach out and hold my father have haunted me through all these years. 

The long years and the emotional distance that separate the girl’s touch from the woman’s guilt underscore the complexity of my relationship with my father, a relationship that was so deep, so profound that even now I keep returning—in my memories, in the pages of my journal, in the walking-around hours of my daydreams, and in the tossing-and-turning hours of my nightmares—to the past with questions, the  answers to which I am now only beginning to understand:  Why is love so demanding?  Why do we hurt the ones we love the most?  Why do we withhold love, rationing it out in bits and pieces, afraid, perhaps, of giving too much or of revealing too much of ourselves?  This summer, I have had the extraordinary experience of revisiting the past and getting to know, really know, my father, while researching his life—reading his letters, articles, and books;  examining his papers, documents, and photographs;  and talking with other family members, particularly my mother. 

In long, late-night telephone calls, Mother has spun golden tales about my father and me, confirming what I have always known:  that I was a daddy’s girl.  A sensitive and perceptive woman with a delightful sense of humor, sharp memory, and a love of people, my mother, at eighty-two, is the family storyteller.  A month ago, Mother laughed, remembering, “You were so funny looking,” she told me, “with such a long, pointed head that Dad called you ‘Skoodle Head.’  He bought a frilly dress and a fancy bonnet to cover your baldness.”  Five minutes later, she called back to tell me, “And another thing, Daddy took over your care after Frank was born.  Our house was next to his school, so he’d run home between classes to see about you.  He always wore starched white shirts, and it was so funny, one day he came home to find that you had had a bowel movement and wiped it all over the wall. Well, you should have seen your father;  he rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to clean up you and the wall with his usual precision.” 

My father’s partiality for me survived my infancy and was still evident when I was a young girl.  On another night, my mother told me:  “When we were living in Orangeburg, you did a lot of the cleaning, which you liked, but you didn’t care anything about cooking.  I told you, ‘You need to learn how to cook.”  You started fussing, just running your mouth and running your mouth.  I got angry and slapped you.  When Dad came home, I told him what had happened.  He said, ‘What!’  You slapped my child?’  He was very upset.”  Daddy never spanked me because he didn’t believe in violence or corporal punishment; all he had to do was to raise his voice and give me a stern look.  When he said, “Now, Mi-riam,” with emphasis on the first syllable, I knew that I was in deep trouble. 

The story above points up some of the tensions that surface in a family when a child feels closer to one parent than to the other.  Although Mother and I are very close (at least we have become so as adults), she must have been aware of my devotion to my father and of my antipathy toward her during that difficult growing-up period.  There’s a folk saying, “Mama’s baby, papa’s maybe,” but it was the other way around in my family; last year, I told some friends, in front of my mother, “I’m my father’s child.  My mother adopted me” and we both laughed knowingly.

When I was a little girl, I loved to watch my father shave.  He’d stand over the bathroom sink in his white boxer shorts and sleeveless undershirt, decked out in a battered felt hat, yes, a hat, to keep his hair from falling in his face while he shaved.  After he finished, he would take off his hat, pour a few drops of Vaseline Hair Tonic in the palm of his hand, rub his hands together before raking his fingers through his hair, and then comb the tonic through his heavy, dark hair.  He seemed totally unaware of his good looks:  the height, the handsome face with the high forehead and penetrating eyes, the athletic build and finely shaped legs, his large calves curving down to thin ankles and high insteps.  (To this day, the first thing that I check out is a man’s legs!)  An older family friend once told me, “I saw your father getting off the train in New York.  I just turned around and followed him because he was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen.”

But looks didn’t mean a thing to Daddy; what mattered to him was what was in your head.  Of all the gifts that he gave me, the one that I treasure most is the love of learning, which he nurtured through books, quiet afternoon lessons, long discussions at the dinner table, and, through example: writing at his desk by day and reading late into the night.

I must have been about four when he returned from graduate school, but I remember the two presents that he brought me from New York.  He photographed me, resplendent in the first gift—a pink wool coat, trimmed in rose velvet, with a matching cap and muff—standing at the top of the stairs outside our house at 54 Montague Street.  Daddy’s little girl, proud and pretty in pink!  He also brought me a set of books, which I have kept all these years, books such as Adventures in Geography, The Turned Intos, and Runaway Rhymes, in which the rhythm of the words, the beauty of the illustrations, and the wondrous adventures of the characters fired my imagination and kindled dreams of travel to distant lands.  My favorite was Little Peachling, a collection of Japanese tales told by Hanashi-ka, who recounts the miraculous story of the little boy who was found in a peach and became a famous warrior.

My father, who taught me how to read long before I went to school, was a consummate teacher, exacting and sometimes impatient but always thorough.  A perfectionist.  During my first semester at Westover, a preparatory school to which I was sent at age fifteen, I failed algebra after making the highest grade—99.5 percent—at the segregated high school in the small South Carolina town where I’d grown up.  I was devastated.  And I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on in class, so, when I came home for Christmas vacation, Daddy, who had been a mathematics major in college, took matters into his own hands.  Every day, I would go to his office and there, surrounded by books and papers, sunlight streaming through a bank of windows and smoke curling up from his Camel cigarettes, Daddy and I worked through the afternoon.  He would carefully explain the logic behind the various operations and then give me problems to solve until—miracle of miracles!—everything became perfectly clear.  When I returned to school, confident in my newly acquired skills, I made straight As in algebra to the teacher’s utter amazement. 

Once, I told a friend that I had sprung, Athena-like, from the head of my father, who was my teacher, mentor, and guide.  Sometimes, according to Mother, my special status worked to his detriment.  She told me this story by way of illustration:  “One summer while Dad was working on his Masters at Columbia, we went up to visit him.  You were four then.  He came home one day with a very important term paper that he had been working on.  You threw it in the bathtub and by the time we found it, it was ruined.  I was outdone, but all he said was, “Oh, that’s fine.  That’s probably where it belongs.  Then he sat down and wrote the whole thing over.”

Although he was a very kind and loving man, Daddy looked and acted like the college professor that he was, and he had fairly traditional ideas about marriage, family, and women.  (It’s very unlady-like for a woman to smoke,” he’d tell me, although he was a chain-smoker;  and he told my fiancé, “Leave the dishes alone.  That’s women’s work.”) I never heard him curse—he was very proper and always correct—but he liked his “highballs” in the evening, because, I think, bourbon took away his inhibitions, smoothing the sharp edges of his reserve and allowing him to loosen up and express himself more freely.  A strong and forceful man, he was definitely the head of the house (though he and my mother had an amazingly egalitarian marriage);  I respected his strength and looked for it, expected it even, in the men I have loved. 

Because he had grown up in a house full of strong, determined women—a stern and puritanical grandmother, widowed mother, and four older Victorian sisters—he must have struggled hard, I now realize, to assert his maleness in contradistinction to females, while engaging in typically masculine coming-of-age rituals:  working as a carpenter in the summer, playing baseball, captaining the basketball team, and pledging Alpha.  And so, he taught me the power of femininity (lessons which I sometimes ignored), but he also encouraged my feminism by challenging my ideas, respecting my opinions, and praising my academic achievements.  Although he must have assumed that I would marry some day and have a family, he also anticipated that I would go to college and graduate school, have a career, and make my own way in the world because he raised me to be independent and self-sufficient. 

In the evenings, after dinner, we would sit around the table and talk, Mother washing dishes at the sink, my brother and I indulging in chocolate milkshakes, and Daddy stirring the ice in his bourbon and coke.  “Yes, I see what you mean,” he would comment, showing respect for our opinions, “but have you thought about the impact that the program would have on the disadvantaged?” he would ask, challenging us to reexamine our ideas.  In those long, enjoyable evening discussions, we talked about everything:  current events, politics, education, Black history, and the strange antics of White folk.  Those after-dinner conversations helped to shape my view of the world and of my place in it.

Some of my father’s lessons, though, went unappreciated and sometimes unheeded;  he was so funny trying to teach a willful little girl the facts of life.  At three, I asked, “Mother, where do babies come from?” and, sociologist that she was, she gave some clinical answer that I didn’t understand, so Daddy told her, “Beautine, I’ll take care of this.”  He went into a long encomium about the virtues of marriage and the beauties of motherhood, after which I asked, “But, Daddy, what’s so beautiful about it?”  When I was seven, he tried again, soon after I taught a little boy to do “artificial respiration” at a birthday party.  (This was during the Second World War and I was doing my part for the Allies.)  Daddy and I were sitting in the living room of the house in Philadelphia that we shared with Aunt Edna and Uncle Petey, when he handed me a book about the birds and bees, saying, “Your mother and I think you ought to read this book.  If you have any questions, I’ll answer them.” 

The book described the growth of the fetus in the mother’s uterus, which left me totally confused, but I was fascinated by a round photograph of little tadpoles called “sperms” that swam across the page like a school of very confused fish.  “This is strange,” I thought.  When I finished reading, Daddy asked, “Do you have any questions?”  “No,” I answered, very shyly, because neither of us was comfortable talking about sex, but my father taught me an invaluable lesson: If you want to find out something, get a book.  So, by the time I was ten, I had read God’s Little Acre, Strange Fruit, the Kinsey Report, and the “good parts” of the medical books that belonged to Dr. Pettus (my friend Yvonne’s father), which answered all of my questions . . . and then some. 

My last “lesson” on that subject came when I was fourteen and on the basketball team at Wilkinson High School.  The coach must have told my parents that I was seen kissing my boyfriend on the school bus when we traveled out of town because one evening Daddy sat me down for a heart-to-heart talk.  “Be careful how you behave on trips.  Remember that you’re a DeCosta,” he warned.  That did it:  I had visions of thirteen aunts and uncles glowering at me from the dark shadows of the bus.  My father would have been quite surprised, no, traumatized, to know that, in spite of his teaching about the beauties of motherhood and the importance of books, his little girl grew up to publish a book of erotica!

There were other things besides sex—our feelings, our fears, and our insecurities—that we didn’t discuss freely, and as I grew older, the silences became longer and the tensions became more apparent.  One incident stands out in my mind.  I was fifteen and away at Westover for the first year, and Daddy drove out to the tiny Connecticut town (a village square, two churches, several houses, and a school) to visit me.  Westover had strict rules about visitation, even by parents, so he could stay for only a few hours that Saturday afternoon.  We talked and talked.

“Do you like the school?” he asked.

“Oh, yes.  I’m learning so much and I’m in all the clubs,” I said, excitement in my voice.”

“How do the other girls treat you?”

“Fine,” I lied.  “I have lots of friends:  Pepper and Beth and . . . .

I was so proud of my father that day, the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he was . . . but I was so ashamed of myself.  I felt so ugly, dressed in the drab, brown school uniform with no make-up or jewelry (“Young ladies should not adorn their bodies.”).  I had gained twenty pounds from the rich meals, midday cocoa and cookies, and afternoon “sit-sits” where we fixed peanut butter and jelly on toast, and my face was burned from the neck up because I’d been receiving radiation treatments for acne.  But I was talkative and ebullient, trying to impress my father with my worldliness and sophistication (I’d begun to shave my legs, curl my eyelashes, and smoke in the closet after lights-out).  Inside, though, I was miserable.  I hid from him the daily assaults against my self—the parents’ insults, the teachers’ slights, and the arrogant assumptions about who I (the first Black student) was—because I didn’t want to worry him.  Did he sense, for my father knew me better than I knew myself, that I was hiding behind a mask and putting up a front for him?  When he left, I felt that the only man who really loved me had walked ever so gently out of my life, so I went to my room, locked the door, and cried long into the night.

Sometimes I wonder if my father ever really knew the woman that I eventually became because I was always very careful, as I grew into adolescence and then womanhood, to preserve the image of the “good daughter,” hiding from him the problems:  financial, marital, personal, and family.  Why?  Because he and I were both raised in fairly “traditional” families, where a genteel formality and courteous reserve were required.  We were Charleston bred in a place where and at a time when we were expected to dissemble emotions—whether impassioned cries in the night or shouts of sanctified joy–like so many nappy edges concealed beneath the silken contours of a nylon wig.  As I have matured, I have fought against that formality, that reserve, and all those painful silences, encouraging open discussion of even the darkest corners of my life. 

But my father did not have that option, I now understand, because of the circumstances of his life.  Born in 1910, the youngest of eleven children, Frank Augustus DeCosta always struggled to overcome the death of his father when he was only ten months old, the limited resources of his family, the difficulty in obtaining an education (he went away to college with $53 in his pocket!).  And what a price he paid for that struggle.  In his later years, there was a sadness and a loneliness about him that I sensed but did not feel free to talk about.  He seemed to distance himself from people, as he became more and more ensimismado (literally, “put into himself”: translated, “lost in thought” or “sunk into a reverie”).  A friend once saw him, alone, at Atlantic City walking down the beach;  when he had a heart attack at fifty-nine, my father drove himself to the hospital, and, finally, he died alone.  He paid dearly for being a strong and silent man.

However my father might have struggled with his personal demons (demons that I can only intuit, because he lived a careful, guarded private life), he never, ever failed me.  Although I left home at fifteen, he wrote long, frequent letters that always ended “Lovingly, Daddy.”  (I write, though not so beautifully, with the same hand—a firm, deliberate script, characterized by open vowels and tall capital letters.)  He and Mother supported all of my educational endeavors, making space in their home for my two children and me when I was working on a master’s, and turning their house completely over to me when I returned with four children to pursue a doctorate.  Whenever Daddy visited me and my family in Memphis, he always left me a check, because he knew, intuitively, that we were struggling financially. 

And he had an uncanny ability to sense when I was in trouble.  I’ll never forget the week in early January when he announced, “I’m planning to come to Memphis.  I really miss you and the children.  I believed him, because that Christmas—always special to Daddy—was one of the few that we had spent apart.  Little did I realize that he was coming to check on his daughter.  He must have felt the tension in the house, noticed my husband’s absences, and heard my whispered conversations on the telephone, but he never said a word.  I remember his final goodbye at the airport.  We were standing in the parking lot, Daddy somber and serious-looking in a dark grey coat and felt hat, when he turned to me and asked, “What is this I hear about another man?”  I caught my breath and swallowed hard in disbelief.  Then I looked into my father’s eyes and said without flinching, “But I love him, Daddy.” 

In the years that followed, through my separation, divorce, and move to Washington, Daddy never asked questions about or commented on my personal life, but he had to have known that that man, who was also married, was very much at the center of my life.  He must have viewed that relationship as a betrayal of all that he had taught me, but he respected me too much and cared too much about me to intrude on my privacy.  Thank you, Daddy. 

I, on the other hand, still feel that I failed my father in so many ways.  First, because I couldn’t remain his little girl forever.  I had to grow up and loosen the bond that had sustained me through all those important and formative years.  Mother told me recently that my father was devastated and close to tears when I left home, at age twenty, with my new husband; he believed that he had lost his daughter forever.  Insensitive and self-centered that I was, I never thought about his feelings.  A year and a half later, Daddy came to visit us, in Memphis, a week after the birth of our first child.  I had had a long and difficult delivery and was exhausted after several days of cleaning up, cooking for my parents, and staying up nights with a fretful, colicky baby.  It was getting late. 

Daddy was sitting up drinking highballs and I was holding the baby, who was screaming at the top of his lungs.  Daddy said something like, “You need to put that child down,” in a rather stern voice, and I went off . . . . I said, “Daddy, you need to go home.  You’re drunk!”  My father walked out and, later, told Mother that he would never return to my house.  I was devastated.  My cruel, thoughtless words stood like a ten-foot brick wall between us for months.  I was stubborn and Daddy was proud and so it took a long time for us to resume our close relationship.  I have never forgotten the incident.

Nor have I forgotten my inability to comfort Daddy on that Saturday night when I found him quiet and still in the back bedroom.  I drove back to Washington and spent the next day catching up on work around the house and seeing after the children because I had been away at a conference in South Carolina for a week.  Mother called that afternoon to tell me that she had taken Daddy to the hospital but not to worry because he seemed better.  Since he had been scheduled for routine surgery to have his pacemaker replaced, we did not think that his condition was serious.  That night, I was out late because I had decided, after months of turmoil, that I would break up—finally—with the man whom I had loved for five years.  It was a painful and heartbreaking dissolution for us both, so I arrived home at one o’clock in the morning.

I awakened with a start about five o’clock on Monday morning.  At first, the room was dark, but, gradually, I began to discern the shapes of objects—the closet door, the dresser on my left, and the bureau across the room—as the sky outside my bedroom window turned from a plum-colored black to the palest grey.  Everything was perfectly still except for the curtains that fluttered every now and then in the breeze blowing through the window.  And silent:  no doors opening and closing, no cars screeching to a stop at the corner, even the birds were quiet.   The air was radiant and translucent:  “la región más transparente,” I thought, as I watched the slow metamorphosis of dark shapes into shoes, books, photographs, and a dark blue dress thrown carelessly across a chair.  Suddenly, I felt something tactile and physical in the room, enveloping me in waves and waves of . . . sensations and feelings.  It was an energy force like bright, warm sunlight moving slowly across a wooded plain, engaging all of my senses:  sight, touch, taste, sound, smell. 

Later, I must have drifted off to sleep, because the telephone awakened me.  “Miriam?”  It was my brother Frank.  I know, oh, God, I know, I thought to myself.  “Daddy died early this morning.”

I have this uncanny feeling that, as I grow older, I am becoming my father.  When I was growing up, I had the audacity to think that I was shaping my own destiny:  I loved reading and writing, was drawn to academic life, and never considered doing anything else but teaching.  I did not realize, however, until I began reconstructing my father’s biography, that I have walked, however falteringly, in his footsteps:  the academic achievements, degrees, college teaching, department chairmanship, direction of graduate programs, and publication of articles and books.  Nor did I realize that so much about me is like him:  the seriousness, reserve, emotional distance, fascination with numbers and words, aptitude for languages, and enjoyment of physical activity (he played baseball and basketball; I played basketball and field hockey).  But what meant the most to me was to discover the deeper kinship of the spirit—in our values and beliefs, the way we look at life, our attitudes toward people . . . and, even, our dark sides.

Life is a funny thing, how it sometimes brings you full circle back to your roots no mater how far up to the sky you spread your branches.  It is a very humbling experience.  When we began making preparations for my father’s funeral and burial in Arbutus, a cemetery on the outskirts of Baltimore, my brother said to me, “We should buy a family plot with room not only for Mother and Daddy, but also for me and you.”  I was divorced at the time and had moved with my children from Memphis to Washington.  I had no real roots anywhere, but I still protested, “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that.  I’m still young.  I may move away, travel, remarry, so I wouldn’t want to be tied down to any memorial park.” 

I did all of the things that I imagined:  I moved to another city, traveled throughout the world, and married the man whom I had loved for years.  But several years ago, when my husband died, I returned to Washington and took a job in a university outside of Baltimore, near the little town of Arbutus.  On a clear day, I can stand at my fifth-floor office window and look out across the campus, over the parking lot and the playing fields, and, if I look very very hard, I imagine that I can see the flat marker bearing my father’s name.  And I whisper into the wind, “I love you, Daddy.”

This essay was first published in Father Songs: Testimonies by African-American Sons and Daughters, edited by Gloria Wade-Gayles (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997).

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Pilgrimage  to an  Ancestral Land: Ghana  / Miriam in Ghana

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Notable Black Memphians (Miriam DeCosta-Willis)This biographical and historical study by Miriam DeCosta-Willis (PhD, Johns Hopkins University and the first African American faculty member of Memphis State University) traces the evolution of a major Southern city through the lives of men and women who overcame social and economic barriers to create artistic works, found institutions, and obtain leadership positions that enabled them to shape their community. Documenting the accomplishments of Memphians who were born between 1795 and 1972, it contains photographs and biographical sketches of 223 individuals (as well as brief notes on 122 others), such as musicians Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin, activists Ida B. Wells and Benjamin L. Hooks, politicians Harold Ford Sr. and Jr., writers Sutton Griggs and Jerome Eric Dickey, and Bishop Charles Mason and Archbishop James Lyke—all of whom were born in Memphis or lived in the city for over a decade. . .  .

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Capitalism and the Ideal State: Marcus Garvey  / Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism (Du Bois)  / Economic Emancipation of Africa

Liberty and Empire  /  Money is Speech   /  On Capitalism: Noam Chomsky

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#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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Predator Nation

Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America

By Charles H. Ferguson

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York. This radical shift did not happen by accident.  Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite.  It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers.  It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008. Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite.

Based on many newly released court filings, it details the extent of the crimes—there is no other word—committed in the frenzied chase for wealth that caused the financial crisis.  And, finally, it lays out a plan of action for how we might take back our country and the American dream.Read Chapter 1

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Weep Not, Child

By Ngugi wa Thiong'o

This is a powerful, moving story that details the effects of the infamous Mau Mau war, the African nationalist revolt against colonial oppression in Kenya, on the lives of ordinary men and women, and on one family in particular. Two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, stand on a rubbish heap and look into their futures. Njoroge is excited; his family has decided that he will attend school, while Kamau will train to be a carpenter. Together they will serve their countrythe teacher and the craftsman. But this is Kenya and the times are against them. In the forests, the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government, and the two brothers and their family need to decide where their loyalties lie. For the practical Kamau the choice is simple, but for Njoroge the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up.—Penguin 

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My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening.

As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins. Publishers Weekly

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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        

Enjoy!

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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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posted 6 May 2009

 

 

 

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