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Lincoln, a Methodist minister now teaching at Clark College in Atlanta,

is equally influenced by the Christian integrationist viewpoint


Photo left: Gayruad S. Wilmore Jr.



Books by C. Eric Lincoln


The Black Experience in Religion   /  The Black Muslims in America / The Avenue, Clayton City  / My Face Is Black 


The Black Church in the African-American Experience Coming Through Fire  /   Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Profile


The Negro Pilgrimage in America  /  Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma 


Reclamation of Black Prisoners  /  A Pictorial History of the Negro in America


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My Face Is Black

By C. Eric Lincoln

Reviewed by Gayraud S. Wilmore, Jr.


Mood Ebony

Probably no one in America fears and respect Malcolm X more than does C. Eric Lincoln. The author of The Black Muslims in America presents in this slim volume his most persuasive polemic against the complex and dissident leader of the Muslim group. He concludes that Malcolm is unquestionably “the most powerful and potentially the most dangerous Negro in America.”

Fear and respect often walk hand in hand. In his discussion of the Negro’s new solidarity and pride of race, Lincoln is not unappreciative of Malcolm’s contribution to the revolution. For all of his sharp critique of racism, the author, like Louis Lomax, James Baldwin, Lerone Bennett and other contemporary Negro intellectuals, welcomes what he calls the new “mood ebony” of which the Black Muslims are the principal exponents.

Ironically, the success of the integration movement in the ghetto is in part due to a new sense of worth and power in blackness. The problem Lincoln skirts in My Face Is Black is how one walks the tightrope between an acceptance of being black and a more separatist disposition. “It [the “mood ebony”] expresses itself as a rejection of integration. It does not imply a hatred for the white man, but it does imply a negation of the symbols of his culture, his power, and his status.” Well and good. But is this willingness to separate from a culture to which the Negro himself has made a powerful contribution as inevitable result of discovering one’s identity—of being able, as one Negro business man expressed it, to “enjoy ham hocks and turnip greens . . . without caring whether or not the white man is watching, and giving a damn if he is’?

Lincoln, a Methodist minister now teaching at Clark College in Atlanta, is equally influenced by the Christian integrationist viewpoint—his first chapter is titled “American Tragedy: Christian Dilemma.” His criticism of the Negro church, while not as extreme as Joseph Washington’s almost angry attack in Black Religion, follows the same general line. Hence he makes such statements as “The Negro’s religion is too often superficial, too ego-centered, too pragmatic and too reflective of the exigencies of the social milieu,” and “Too many Negroes have prematurely reached the conclusion that the church has already become . . . a fraternal order with designated chapters for whites and others restricted to Negroes.”

A considerable portion of the book is devoted to what appears to be a hastily pulled together “Negro history” which reiterates the we-did-not-like-slavery theme of Bennett and others and is, on the whole, unimpressive. The most significant sections deal with the area of Lincoln’s greatest competence—the Black Muslims and Malcolm X. Lincoln declares that Malcolm’s new image is only a deception; he does not believe that his racism was abated by his sentimental journey to the Middle East.

While in this book Lincoln announces almost arrogantly “My face is black,” he squarely opposes Malcolm’s antiwhite bias and in the need acknowledges that “the Negro needs the white man. He needs him to make his freedom complete and meaningful.” It may be possible to have it both ways. We shall see.

Source: The Christian Century (January 20, 1965)

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Gayraud Stephen Wilmore—writer, historian, educator and theologian—was born on December 20, 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother was a domestic worker and his father, a World War I veteran, was an office clerk. His parents were active in the community where he grew up, and his father founded the first Black American Legion Post in Pennsylvania. . . . Wilmore has written and edited sixteen books including Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans, which was published in 1998, and Pragmatic Spirituality, which was published in June 2004. He is also the recipient of innumerable awards and honors. . . . From 1959 to 1963, Wilmore was an assistant professor of social ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. From there, he served as the executive director of the United Presbyterian Commission on Religion and Race until 1972. In that position, he helped to organize and train ministers who participated in boycotts and protests in the South during the Civil Rights movement. From 1972-1974, he taught Social Ethics at Boston University School of Theology, and then taught Black church studies at Colgate Rochester Divinity School until 1983. Wilmore served as the dean of the divinity program at New York Theological Seminary until 1987 before becoming a teacher of church history at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. In 1990, he became the editor of The Journal of the ITC, and he remained in that post for five years. From 1995 to 1998, Wilmore was an adjunct professor at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Wilmore has written and edited sixteen books including Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans, which was published in 1998, and Pragmatic Spirituality.—Historymakers

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C. Eric Lincoln—born 23 June 1924 and died 14 May 2000— wrote The Black Muslims in America, the first scholarly examination of the movement, and was a co-author of The Black Church in the African-American Experience, a landmark study of the political and social influence of religious institutions in black America. Dr. Lincoln, professor emeritus of religion and culture at Duke University in Durham, N.C., where he taught from 1976 to 1993, wrote or edited more than 20 other books, including The Avenue, Clayton City, a novel published in 1988, for which he won the Lillian Smith Book Award for Best Southern Fiction, and a series of books in the 1970's called the C. Eric Lincoln Series in Black Religion.

An ordained United Methodist minister, his friendships and expertise were truly ecumenical. He was a friend of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Alex Haley, and in 1990 was cited by Pope John Paul II for ''scholarly service to the church.''

Charles Eric Lincoln was born in Athens, Ala., on June 23, 1924. He was abandoned first by his father, then by his mother, and was brought up by his maternal grandmother, Mattie Sowell Lincoln. . . . Dr. Lincoln's last book, Coming Through the Fire: Surviving Race and place in America, published in 1996, was a distillation of his thoughts on race. In the book, he calls for ''no-fault reconciliation—the recognition that we are all of a kind, with the same vulnerabilities, the same possibilities and the same needs for God and each other.''—NYTimes

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Malcolm X artifacts unearthed—Police docs and more found among belongs of 'Shorty' Jarvis—1 February 2012—Documents outlining the crime that landed Malcolm X in prison in the 1940s are among some 1,000 recently unearthed items purchased jointly by the civil rights leader's foundation and an independent collector of African-American artifacts. The documents and other artifacts belonged to late musician Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis, who served in prison with Malcolm X and was one of his closest friends. Jarvis' 1976 pardon paper also is part of the collection, which was recently discovered by accident. The items had been in a Connecticut storage unit that had gone into default, and were initially auctioned off to a buyer who had no idea what he was bidding on. The Omaha, Nebraska-based Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, which oversees the Malcolm X Center located at his birthplace, will house and display the just-arrived archives. It split the cost with Black History 101 Mobile Museum, based in Detroit—the birthplace of the Nation of Islam.—Mobile Museum founder and curator Khalid el-Hakim declined to identify the original buyer or the price the two organizations paid for the trove. Still, even after splitting the cost, he said it's the largest acquisition to date for his mobile museum, which includes Jim Crow-era artifacts, a Ku Klux Klan hood and signed documents by Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. . . . The collection also reveals an enduring connection between the two Malcolms after their incarceration, Malcolm X's conversion to Islam and his rise to prominence. There's a 72-page scrapbook of Malcolm X's life that was maintained by Jarvis until after his friend's 1965 assassination. One of the civil rights era's most controversial and compelling figures, Malcolm X rose to fame as the chief spokesman of the Nation of Islam, a movement started in Detroit more than 80 years ago. He proclaimed the black Muslim organization's message at the time: racial separatism as a road to self-actualization and urged blacks to claim civil rights "by any means necessary" and referred to whites as "devils."—TheGrio

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The Avenue, Clayton City

By C.Eric Lincoln

The Avenue in C. Eric Lincoln’s fictional town is the principal residential street of the black community in Clayton City, a prototypical southern town languishing between the two world wars. Unpaved and marked by ditches full of frogs, snakes, and empty whiskey bottles on one side of town, it is the same street, though with a different name, that originates downtown. Only when it reaches the black section of Clayton City do the paving stop and the trash-filled ditches begin. On one side, it provides a significant address for the white people who live there. On the other, despite its rundown air, it is still the best address available to the town’s black population. Some of them, in fact, are willing to go to any extreme, including murder, to get there.

In this novel, originally published in 1988, Lincoln creates with deft skill the drama that rises from the lives of the people of Clayton City. In turn amusing, disgusting, enraging, wistful, and, as one hears the secrets hidden deep in their hearts, shocking, they exist in a place whose vibrant personality is itself a unique configuration of geography, relationships, patterns of behavior, and events. It is also a place whose unspoken and hidden power lies in its crushing compulsion to maintain itself as it already is—a power that forces everyone to succumb to an inflexible social order.—Duke University Press

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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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.—WashingtonPost

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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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update 24 April 2012




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Related files: My Face Is Black   The Meaning Of Malcolm X