ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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All entries included have appeared in the United States since 1900; all the writers are colored Catholics. This limitation excludes some interesting items. One of the finest poems in the Spanish language, "La Austriada," by Juan Latino,

is omitted on the basis of nationality. It is concerned chiefly with Don John of Austria and the victory of Lepanto.




Negro Catholic Writers (1900-1943):

A Bio-Bibliography (1945)

By Sister Mary Anthony Scally, R.S.M.

Librarian, Mount St. Agnes College Baltimore

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Alexander J. Leedie and Theophilus Lewis

Rev Alexander J. Leedie, S V D.

Alexanaer J Leedie was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. on June 16, 1912, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Julian C. Leedie. He attended St. Peter's School, Yonkers, 1919 to 1926, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jr. High School, 1926 to 1927, Yonkers High School, 1927 to 1929, and Haarem High School, New York City, 1929-1930.

He entered St. Augustine's Seminary, Bay St. Louis, Miss, and studied in the preparatory seminary 1932 to 1934. From here he went to the Holy Ghost Novitiate East Troy, Wis., returning in 1936 to St. Augustine’s Major Seminary for the study of theology. He made his perpetual vows in the Society of the Divine Word on September 8, 1939.

When the ninth National Eucharistic Congress was held in the Twin Cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis, June 23 to 26, 1941, the thousands of visitors might have seen a colorful booth headed by the caption: St. Augustine’s Seminary for Negro Priests and Brothers. It was Father Alexander Leedie then a deacon, who addressed the throng crowding about the booth.

On October 11, 1941, he was ordained at the sixth ordination ceremony to be held at St. Augustine's Seminary, by the Most Reverend Richard 0. Gerow, Bishop of Natchez. On the following day he celebrated his first Mass, which was served by his father, Mr. Julian Leedie, who had taught his son to serve Mass some twenty years before.

Since his ordination, Father Leedie has been assistant pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Lafayette, La. Address: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Lafayette, La.



The Negro apostolate in Minnesota. St. Augustine Messenger 19:194-197 October 1941.

The Negroes in Minnesota are established predominantly in three cities of business and industry: Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Mission work in the Twin Cities is carried on in a trio of churches. St. Peter Claver's was formerly under the care of Father Stephen Theobald. St. Martin's and St. Leonard's are both new, with earnest and zealous parishioners, cooperating with their active and energetic pastor.

The turn of a century. St. Augustine Messenger 20:218-223 November 1942.

In 1942 the Sisters of the Holy Family completed 100 years of service in the colored missions. Founded through the zeal of Josephine Alicot in gratitude for her rescue by a Negro from a watery grave in the Mississippi, the Sisters now have a flourishing community well represented in the field of education and other charitable works.


Theophilus Lewis

Writer for the Catholic World

Theophilus Lewis was born March 4, 1891 in Baltimore, Md., the son of Thomas and Anne Lewis. He received his elementary education in the public schools of Baltimore and his high school education at the evening classes of the Dewitt Clinton High School, New York City.

After graduation from grammar school, he became a jack-of-all-trades, working in various places at numerous occupations among which might be listed steamboat waiter bell hop, store porter, and laborer in automobile industry At the outbreak of World War I he enlisted, in the A.E.F and served seven months overseas as corporal in the 367th Infantry. He is at present employed as Post Office Clerk in New York City.

He was married January 17, 1933, and has three children: Selma Marie, born 1934, Alfred Charles, born 1935, and Lowell Francis, born 1938.

He sometimes mentions his children in his column "Plays and a point of View" in Interracial Review. In May 1943 issue, under the caption "A Black Number," he describes the feelings of an ex-soldier condemned during this conflict to wear civilian clothes and especially of a father who "discovers his own children suspecting that his mufti is a sign that their old man is wanting in either virility or patriotism." And he goes on to tell how he had established the family custom of gathering his children on Armistice Day to tell why we fought the war, and how we won it. At this ceremony one of the children once asked him, "Daddy couldn’t you get anybody to help you beat the Germans?" He suspected that his failure to join the armed forces this time made them feel that he had let them down.

To any reader of the interracial review, the sometimes smiling and sometimes serious countenance of Theophilus Lewis is a very familiar sight, appearing as it does each moth beside his regular column "Plays and a Point of View." This feature article sometimes describes the current plays and at other times comments on books or on topics of current interest. He also writes numerous book reviews for Interracial Review

Although his writing is done on the side and he has had no formal training for literary work, Theophilus Lewis is one of the best known and most popular of Catholic Negro writers. Besides writing for Catholic magazines, he has written extensively for the Negro press, notably Pittsburgh Courier, People's Voice, Inter-State Tattler (now suspended), and the Messenger. For five years he was columnist for the New York Amsterdam Star-News, and is at present columnist for the Ohio Express.

Mr. Lewis is a convert to the Catholic faith. He was baptized August 23, 1939, at the Mission of St. Benedict the Moor, Jamaica, Long Island, after receiving instructions from Father Benjamin Masse, S.J., and he received his First Holy Communion the next day at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City.

He is at present working on a novel. Address: 41Convent Avenue, New York, N.Y.


The Abbey Theatre reviewed in peace and comfort. America 49:442-443 August 13, 1938

The plays in the repertory of the Abbey Theatre make good reading which one can enjoy without fear of being disturbed by late arrivals.

Black retreat from Moscow. Sign 19:341-343 January 1940.

Negroes have a special reason for rejecting Marxism. They have discovered that Communism recognizes no principle but expediency.

Champion of charity. Interracial Review 15:12 January 1942~.

Joe Louis should be recommended for this title because of his generous appearance in a contest sponsored by the Navy Relief Society. The Navy is the citadel of American color prejudice. He risked his crown and donated his share of the purse to an organization he had little reason to befriend or respect.

The false start of Negro fiction. America 58: 186-187 November 27, 1937.

The dark side of Negro fiction; since art is supposed to be a distillation of life a number of the books that appeared eight or ten years ago have given a false impression of Negro life.

The frustration of Negro art. Interracial Review 15:5860 Ap '42.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the seriousness of the indirect but diabolically effective repression of Negro art. The economic disadvantages of Negroes act as a definite brake on the cultural progress of the race. Lacking an effective audience in his own race, the colored artist is forced to court the favor of a white public, and must employ his talents according to their preconceived ideas.

Mr. Lewis goes puritan. America 62:664 March 23 1940.

Art is the highest form of human expression next to pure religion because of the religious element involved. That the movies can be diverted from art to propaganda is a source of grave danger.

The Negro spirituals as hymns of a people. America 61: 43-4 April 22, 1939

The source of their emotional force is in the melody, though there are instances where the poem gives a song its strength and significance

The Saga of Bigger Thomas. Catholic World 153: 202-206 May 1941

The primary interest of Native Son is horror, one of the most fascinating themes of second-rate fiction. When the shocks and thrills cease, the interest flags, and the sociological implications lose their force The author deliberately makes Bigger Thomas a thoroughly worthless creature, an abnormal type who has no utility as asymbol of the consequences of race persecution. If the story had been written by a white author, both intellectuals and masses would denounce it as an attack on the race.

Note: The publications of Theophilus Lewis is here incomplete.


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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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Pelican Heart—An Anthology of Poems by Lasana M. Sekou

Edited by Emio Jorge Rodriguez

Passion for the Nation is what comes out of Sekou’s poems at a first glance and at a deeper reading. The book is a selection gathered from eleven of Sekou’s poetry collections between 1978 and 2010. Rodríguez is an independent Cuban academic, writer, and essayist. He has been a researcher at Casa de las Américas’s Literary Research Center and founded the literary journal Anales del Caribe (1981-2000). María Teresa Ortega translated the poems from the original English to Spanish. A critical introduction, detailed footnotes, and a useful glossary by Rodríguez are also found in the book of 428 pages. The collection has been launched at conferences in Barbados, Cuba, and Mexico. Rodriguez’s introduction to Pelican Heart refers to Dr. Howard Fergus’s Love Labor Liberation in Lasana Sekou, which is the critical commentary to Sekou’s work that identifies three cardinal points in his poetics. I would add as cardinal points: Belief or Driving Force of people in political processes, like his political commitment to make St. Martin independent, as the southern part of the Caribbean island is a territory of the Netherlands, while the northern part is a French Collectivité d’outre-mer; Excitement over his literary passions, which led him to found House of Nehesi Publishers at age 23; co-found the book festival of St. Martin, organized with Conscious Lyrics Foundation and to expand his culture considerably; Enthusiasm, which springs out of his eyes and words when you listen to his poetry being performed or when you speak to Sekou in person.—Sara Florian

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.—Publishers Weekly

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Becoming American Under Fire

Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship

During the Civil War Era

By Christian G. Samito

In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. . . . For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race. For Irish Americans, soldiering in the Civil War was part of a larger affirmation of republican government and it forged a bond between their American citizenship and their Irish nationalism. The wartime experiences of Irish Americans helped bring about recognition of their full citizenship through naturalization and also caused the United States to pressure Britain to abandon its centuries-old policy of refusing to recognize the naturalization of British subjects abroad. / For Love of Liberty

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Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher

By Leonard Harris  and Charles Molesworth

Alain L. Locke (1886-1954), in his famous 1925 anthology The New Negro, declared that “the pulse of the Negro world has begun to beat in Harlem.” Often called the father of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke had his finger directly on that pulse, promoting, influencing, and sparring with such figures as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthé, William Grant Still, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and John Dewey. The long-awaited first biography of this extraordinarily gifted philosopher and writer, Alain L. Locke narrates the untold story of his profound impact on twentieth-century America’s cultural and intellectual life. 

Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth trace this story through Locke’s Philadelphia upbringing, his undergraduate years at Harvard—where William James helped spark his influential engagement with pragmatism—and his tenure as the first African American Rhodes Scholar. The heart of their narrative illuminates Locke’s heady years in 1920s New York City and his forty-year career at Howard University, where he helped spearhead the adult education movement of the 1930s and wrote on topics ranging from the philosophy of value to the theory of democracy.

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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

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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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