ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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I will lift up their heads in proud blackness / with the story of their fathers and their father's fathers.
And I shall take them into a way back time / of kings and queens who ruled the Nile,
and measured the stars and discovered the laws of mathematics.



Books by Margaret Burroughs

Did You Feed My Cow? Rhymes and Games From City Streets and Country Lanes

Whip Me Whop Me Pudding and Other Stories of Riley Rabbit and His Fabulous Friends

For Malcolm  /  What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?  /  Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy


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Margaret Burroughs DuSable Museum

(Co-Founder) at 93 Joins the Ancestors

Many Say Well Done, a Sad Farewell


"Michelle and I are saddened by the passing of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, who was widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor," Obama said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Burroughs' family and loved ones. Her legacy will live on in Chicago and around the world." . . .

Mayor Richard Daley said: "Through her artistic talent and wide breadth of knowledge, she gave us a cultural gem, the DuSable Museum of African American History. But she herself was a cultural institution."

Mrs. Burroughs immersed herself in art at a young age. In her early 20s, she joined several others in starting the South Side Community Art Center. Executive director Faheem Majeed said Mrs. Burroughs, who lived across the street from the Bronzeville center, remained active in the organization and recently was campaigning to help the center buy an adjacent vacant lot.

"Dr. Burroughs was a titan," Majeed said. "She had a great influence as an institution builder and a role model, but the amazing thing was how accessible she was. She still rode the bus to go grocery shopping."

She taught art and poetry to prison inmates, according to the Chicago Park District. For the last 35 years, she and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spent Christmas Day at the Cook County Jail.

"Dr. Burroughs was a pillar of strength and character in our community," Jackson said in a statement. "Dr. Margaret Burroughs radiated hope."ChicagoTribune

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Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (born November 1, 1917 - November 21, 2010) was a prominent African-American artist and writer. She was in Saint Rose, Louisiana, United States. By the time she was a teenager, the family had moved to Chicago, where Margaret attended high school. She graduated at Chicago Teachers College and then earned her Bachelor and Masters in Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago. Taylor-Burroughs married Beard Goss in 1939. They later divorced. She married Charles Gordon Burroughs in 1949. . . .  Taylor-Burroughs taught at DuSable High School for 23 years. From 1969 to 1979, she taught humanities at Kennedy-King College, a community college in Chicago. She and her husband co-founded what is now called the DuSable Museum of African-American Art in Chicago in 1961. For the first ten years of its existence, the museum operated out of the Burroughs' home and Taylor-Burroughs served as executive director. In 1989 Taylor-Burroughs won the Paul Robeson Award.Wikipedia

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Her parents, Alexander and Octavia Taylor, moved their family to Chicago in search of a better life than the South had to offer. Margaret Taylor graduated from Englewood High School in 1933, and from Chicago Teacher’s College (renamed Chicago State University) in 1937. She received a Bachelor’s (1944) and a Master’s (1948) of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Taylor married artist Bernard Goss in 1939, and later had a daughter, Gayle. In the 1940s, while teaching art at an elementary school, she constructed the egg tempera painting, I’ve Been in Some Big Towns. Margaret Taylor Goss and her husband later divorced. She then went to teach at DuSable High School for twenty-three years. In 1947, her first children’s book, Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy, was published. Taylor Goss remarried on December 23, 1949 to Charles Gordon Burroughs.

Her writing and artworks soared thereafter. Her two additional children’s books published were: Did You Feed My Cow? Rhymes and Games From City Streets and Country Lanes (1955) and Whip Me Whop Me Pudding and Other Stories of Riley Rabbit and His Fabulous Friends (1966). Her visual artworks include a watercolor, Ribbon Man, Mexico City Market, inspired by her experience at the Institute of Printing and Sculpture in New Mexico; an oil painting, Insect (1963); a marble sculpture, Head (1965); and two bronze sculptures, Black Queen and Head (1963).

The Burroughs’ founded the Ebony Museum of African-American History (renamed the DuSable Museum of African-American History) in their home in Chicago. Their aim was to make art, history and literature on the Black experience accessible to the community. The museum was eventually moved the Washington Park, with Margaret Burroughs as the executive director.

In 1967, she and Dudley Randall of the Broadside Press edited an anthology of poems by Black writers and leaders entitled, For Malcolm: Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X. Margaret Burroughs published her own book of poems, What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (1968), describing the effects of racism on one’s mental state. Her poems, including, “Open Letter to Black Youth of Alabama and Other Places,” often send a message of Black pride. Some poems encompass familial themes, such as, “Apology to My Daughter for Apparent Neglect,” “Lines for My Mother,” and “Memorial for My Father.” Her second volume of poetry, Africa, My Africa, was published in 1970. The poems in this volume explore the topics of slavery, African culture, and African life.

Margaret Burroughs taught humanities at Kennedy-King Community College between the years of 1969 and 1979. During the 1980s, she served on the Chicago District’s Board of Education. She received . . . a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lewis University in Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago, where she taught humanities in 1968, Chicago State, and Columbia colleges. A day was named in her honor by Mayor Harold Washington on February 1, 1986.Dickinsg

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Burroughs has also had a commitment to progressive politics, as exemplified by her contributions to such publications as Freedomways, founded by, among others, W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, both of whom were special heroes to her. She has felt a special affinity to the Mexican muralists and both studied and collaborated with artists in Mexico.

Burroughs began her writing career by doing articles and reviews for the Associated Negro Press, founded and directed by Claude Barnett. Her work as an educator led her into writing for children. Her works in this category include Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy (1947) and the anthology Did You Feed My Cow?  (1956), both of which underwent subsequent editions.

Burroughs has made a distinctive contribution as a poet and as an editor of poets. The bulk of her poems are published in the volumes What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (1968) and Africa, My Africa (1970).

 Her most notable work as an editor was her collaboration with Dudley Randall in the production of the commemorative volume For Malcolm (1967). The forty-three poets represented include established poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, and Robert Hayden; as well as a younger group associated with the Black Arts movement, such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, and Mari Evans. Burroughs's own poem on Malcolm X was also included. In this poem, “Brother Freedom,” Burroughs places Malcolm in a pantheon with Toussaint L'Ouverture, Joseph Cinque, Nat Turner, and other heroes of black consciousness.

Burroughs also contributed to the rediscovery of the poet Frank Marshall Davis by editing Jazz Interlude (1987).

Burroughs's own poems exult in African and African American culture, taking imagery primarily from the urban milieu of Chicago in which she has spent her life. Her connection to Africa has been solidified by annual trips to the continent beginning in the late 1960s and continuing to the 1990s. As an early and often lonely pioneer of black consciousness, Burroughs welcomed in her poetry the apparent explosion in the ranks of those subscribing to her vision, particularly among the young. Her welcome, however, was tempered by a critical stance informed by her own progressive politics.

In the poem “Only in This Way”, for example, she downplays “wayout hairdos” in favor of blacks “knowing and accepting” themselves. The influence of Margaret Burroughs has been felt in a variety of organizations with which she has been associated, as well as by those who have participated in programs of the DuSable Museum. As an essayist, poet, and writer for children, her literary endeavors have interfaced directly with other aspects of her creative and social agendas.

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Margaret Burroughs Biography—Although Burroughs has worked in sculpture, painting and many other art forms throughout her career, it is her exceptional skill as a printmaker that has earned her a place within the history of art. For many years, she has worked with linoleum block prints to create images evocative of African American culture. Burroughs' work has been featured in exclusive shows at the Corcoran Art Galleries in Washington, D.C., and at the Studio Museum in New York. She has served as art director for the Negro Hall of Fame and has illustrated many books, including What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? . Burroughs has also published several volumes of her own poems, illustrated a number of children's books, and exhibited her own artwork all over the world. In 1975 she received the President's Humanitarian Award and in 1977 was named one of Chicago's Most Influential Women by the Chicago Defender. February 1, 1986, was proclaimed "Dr. Margaret Burroughs Day" in Chicago by late Mayor Harold Washington.TheHistoryMakers

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Mrs. Burroughs taught art for more than 20 years at DuSable High School. She worked in sculpture and painting but it was her skill as a printmaker that she became best known for. Her linoleum block prints featured images relevant to African-American culture. At Mrs. Burroughs request, there will be no funeral service. A public memorial will be held after the holidays.SunTimes

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Margaret T. G. BurroughsOur History her LegacyDr. Burroughs rise to national prominence as a visual artist and arts organizer puts her in a category all by herself. She founded the South Side Community Art Center Chicago, Ill the National Conference of Artist and is the originator of the Lake Meadows Outdoor Art Fair. Her greatest cultural influence in the community has been that of Co- founder Director, of the DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL 1961-1984.

The museum is the only one of its kind, whose roots grew out of the indigenous black community. Burroughs and her husband, Charles, converted the ground floor of their South Side home into a small museum to house and display artifacts. This venture grew into what is now the DuSable Museum of African American History, named after the first Chicago settler, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a black fur trader of African ancestry. The museum was moved to its permanent location in Washington Park in 1973. . . .

Her attendance at the American Forum of International Study program at the University of Ghana, and subsequent trips to Africa provided the inspiration for Africa my Africa, Burroughs second volume of poetry. Burroughs has always considered herself to be a print maker preferring to work in the medium of linoleum block prints. She found the medium to be perfect for her art work which communicates and disseminates positive images of African Americans, their history and culture. . . . Dr. Burroughs has received many awards and honorable recognition including a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lewis University in Illinois, as well as honorary degrees form the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a role model that has set an example for others to follow.

Burroughs, became director emeritus of the DuSable museum in 1984, she was appointed a commissioner for the Chicago Park District in 1985. In a previous interview she was quoted as saying in Ebony, “Every individual wants to leave a legacy; to be remembered for something positive they have done for their community. Long after I’m dead and gone the DuSable museum will still be here.” She shared her vision for a new an emerging cognoscenti of African Americans who not only know of their heritage, but know that they know and in knowing must also work to pass on our legacy. Her latest poem “What will your Legacy be?" was published in 2005.HowardSalmon

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Margaret T. Burroughs, Archivist of Black History, Dies at 95—By William Grimes— November 27, 2010—Mrs. Burroughs, an artist and high school teacher, shared with her husband, Charles, an interest in history and a desire to celebrate the achievements of black Americans. In 1961, using their own collection of art and artifacts, Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs established a small museum in three rooms on the first floor of a large house they had recently bought on South Michigan Avenue. Originally called the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, it was renamed in 1968 to honor Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the black settler considered the first permanent citizen of what would become the city of Chicago.

In the early 1970s the museum moved to its present location in a city-owned building in Washington Park, just west of the University of Chicago. Its holdings of artworks, artifacts and documents include memorabilia of the poet Langston Hughes and the sociologist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois, the boxing gloves that Joe Louis wore when he won the Golden Gloves competition in 1934, and the jacket that Paul Robeson wore when performing before black troops during World War II.

“A lot of black museums have opened up, but we’re the only one that grew out of the indigenous black community,” Mrs. Burroughs told Black Enterprise magazine in 1980. “We weren’t started by anybody downtown; we were started by ordinary folks.” Margaret Taylor was born on Nov. 1, 1915, in St. Rose, La., and moved with her family to Chicago when she was a child.NYTimes

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What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?

                                                     By Margaret Burroughs

What shall I tell my children who are black
Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin?
What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb,
of how beautiful they are when everywhere they turn
they are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black.
The night is black and so is the boogyman.
Villains are black with black hearts.
A black cow gives no milk. A black hen lays no eggs.
Storm clouds, black, black is evil
and evil is black and devil's food is black...

What shall I tell my dear ones raised in a white world
A place where white has been made to represent
all that is good and pure and fine and decent,
where clouds are white and dolls, and heaven
surely is a white, white place with angels
robed in white, and cotton candy and ice cream
and milk and ruffled Sunday dresses
and dream houses and long sleek cadillacs
and Angel's food is white... all, all... white.

What can I say therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears because a playmate
Has called him black, big lipped, flatnosed and nappy headed?
What will he think when I dry his tears and whisper,
"Yes, that's true. But no less beautiful and dear."
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
his shoulders, look his adversaries in the eye,
confident in the knowledge of his worth.
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

What can I do to give him strength
That he may come through life's adversities
As a whole human being unwarped and human in a world
Of biased laws and inhuman practices, that he might
Survive. And survive he must! For who knows?
Perhaps this black child here bears the genius
To discover the cure for... cancer
Or to chart the course for exploration of the universe.
So, he must survive for the the good of all humanity.

He must and will survive.
I have drunk deeply of late from the fountain
of my black culture, sat at the knee of and learned
from mother Africa, discovered the truth of my heritage.
The truth, so often obscured and omitted.
And I find I have much to say to my black children.
I will lift up their heads in proud blackness
with the story of their fathers and their father's fathers.
And I shall take them into a way back time
of kings and queens who ruled the Nile,
and measured the stars and discovered the laws of mathematics.
I will tell them of a black people upon whose backs have been built the wealth of three continents.
I will tell him this and more.
And knowledge of his heritage shall be his weapon and his armor;
It will make him strong enough to win any battle he may face.
And since this story is so often obscured,
I must sacrifice to find it for my children,
even as I sacrifice to feed, clothe and shelter them.
So this I will do for them if I love them.
None will do it for me.

I must find the truth of heritage for myself and pass it on to them.
In years to come, I believe because I have armed them with the truth,
my children and their children's children will venerate me.
For it is the truth that will make us free!

from What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?

Source: WestGA

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The Birthday Party,

Linoleum Cut




Mother and Child


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What Will Your Legacy Be?

                                     By Margaret Burroughs

Legacy? Legacy?

Do you know what the word “Legacy”  means?

Well, if you don’t know, let me tell you what the dictionary says it means.

Legacy: property or money left to someone by a will; something handed down from those who have gone before; a legacy of honor, our legacy, of freedom.

In this poem, I’m not referring to material things like property or money, either of  honor or of freedom.

I am referring to what a person has done with this life that God has given to him or her.

Yes, I want to know what will your legacy be? This is a question that I would like to put to each and every one of you?

What will your legacy be?

When you have finally cast off these mortal coils?

When you have crossed the great divide?

What will your legacy be?

When you can no longer run life’s race.

When you no longer have a place; when you have at last completed the circle round and when an escape is no longer to be found.

What will your legacy be?

When you walk into the unknown all by yourself and alone,

What will your legacy be?

Stop for a moment and listen to me and answer this question if you can.

What will your legacy be?

When you must cross that great divide into an area from which none can hide. When you, alone, with no one by your side with no friend to lead you or to hold your hand?

What will your legacy be?

What deeds have you done in your lifetime which will be left for you to be remembered by?

Will it be just a gray decaying tombstone standing alone in a cemetery or will it be, as it should be some act, some service or some deed that will insure that you will be remembered on and into the eternity of life’s game?

I ask you. What will your legacy be?

Will it be the fact that you helped somebody along the way, during the time while you were here on earth?

What will your legacy be?

Will it be similar to the legacies left to our generation by people like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Ida B. Wells, Mary Bethune and so many others who made of their lives a bridge for us to cross over on and whose lives were an inspiration for us of today to make of our lives bridges for future generations to cross over on?

What will your legacy be?

Legacy! Legacy!

Let us stop for a moment and recall some of our people who left their lives as legacies to us, and who always will be honored and remembered.  They were people like:

Harriet Tubman: her legacy was the work that she did on the underground railroad in which she brought hundreds of our ancestors out of the bonds of slavery; and,

Frederick Douglass: his legacy was the work that he did to help abolish slavery; and, fought against the evil of black men being lynched in this country; and,

Mary McLeod Bethune: her legacy was that she worked for the education of our youth by starting on faith, a small school which grew to be a great university; and

Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr.: his legacy was that he devoted his life to fighting for full equality for our people; and,

Sojourner Truth: her legacy was her fight for the liberation of and full equality for all women in our country; and,

John Brown: his legacy was that he sacrificed his life for an end to slavery and for freedom of our people; and,

Bessie Coleman: her legacy was that she became the first woman in America, black or white, to acquire a pilot’s license; and,

Paul Robeson: his legacy was that he was a renaissance man. He was a concert and folk singer, an athlete and a linguist and that he fought for the liberation of all oppressed people all over in the world; and poets,

Langston Hughes and Margaret Walker: their legacies were the many inspirational poems that they wrote which expressed the soul of our people; and

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois: his legacy was his life long struggle for the liberation of our people in his actions, his speeches and his writings; and,

Dr. Carter G. Woodson: his legacy was the fact that he early brought to the attention of the world the numerous and significant contributions of people of Africa and African descent to the attention of the world; and,

Booker T. Washington: his legacy was the fact that he worked for the education of our people when he founded and opened Tuskegee Institute in Alabama; and,

George Washington Carver: his legacy was his significant and important accomplishments in the field of science; and,

Jean Baptiste Point DuSable: his legacy was the fact he, a black man, was the first person to settle in the area that became Chicago and grew into a great trading center from the little post that DuSable of African blood started over 100 years ago; and, last but not least,

Charles Gordon Burroughs: his legacy was the first black history museum in the world which he as co-founder started in his living room at 3806 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

This act inspired many who were interested in the recognition and preservation of black history to the point that today there are over 100 black history museums in our country.

These are just a few as you well know.

There are many, many others who like these, left, though their contributions in their lifetime, their legacies as bridges for us to cross over on. So, I ask you, what will you leave as your legacy, as a bridge for those now and those coming on to cross over on. What will your legacy be?

I ask you, what will your legacy be? Do you know? How you thought about it? Do you have an answer? What will you leave as your legacy? If you have no answer, if at this point, you cannot say: Hearken! Listen to me! This is the moment. This is the prime moment for you to think and to get to work and identify what you will leave as your legacy for you to be remembered by. You are here. You are still here, alive and quick and you have time. You have time on your side. You have time to begin even now so get busy and do something to help somebody. To improve the conditions of life for people now and for those who come after. To build institutions to educate and broaden the minds for people now and for those who came after and to make your life a contribution that will be your legacy. Do this and your name will be remembered from now on and into eternity.

What will your legacy be? Hopefully, it will not be just a gray and decaying tombstone.

Think now! Act now! To insure that your legacy will be a positive contribution to humanity and you will be remembered, yes you will be remembered, on and on and in eternity as God wills it.

Source: PeoplesWorld

posted 23 November 2010 

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For Malcolm

 Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X

Edited by Dudley Randall and Margaret Burroughs (1967)

Forty-three poets [are] represented including established poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, and Robert Hayden; as well as a younger group associated with the Black Arts movement, such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, and Mari Evans. Burroughs's own poem on Malcolm X was also included. In this poem, “Brother Freedom,” Burroughs places Malcolm in a pantheon with Toussaint L'Ouverture, Joseph Cinque, Nat Turner, and other heroes of black consciousness.

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 Life with Margaret: The Autobiography of Dr. Margaret Burroughs

By Sterling Stuckey  (2003)

The Forerunners: Black Poets in America

Edited by Woodie Jr. King, Addison Gale, and Dudley Randall

(This volume contains the poem "Everybody But Me" by Margaret Goss Burroughs)

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Gallery D'Estee presents Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Dr. Margaret Burroughs speaks at Central

BAG: Point from which creation begins

The Black Artists' Group of St. Louis

The Black Arts Movement

By James Edward Smethurst 

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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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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. . . .

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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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 31 May 2012




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