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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Dom Basil Matthews and Charles B. Rousseve

Dom Basil Matthews

Dom Basil Matthews was born in Trinidad, B.W.I., September 2, 1911, the son of Mr. And Mrs. James Lewis Matthews. He attended the elementary catholic schools in Trinidad from 1915 to 1924, and St. Mary’s College, Trinidad, 1924 to 1928.

He entered the Benedictine Seminary, Mt. St. Benedict, Trinidad, in 1928 and was professed August 6, 1930. He studied at the Benedictine College of Theology, Louvain, Belgium, from 1933 to 1935 and was ordained December 21, 1935, having the distinction of being the first colored priest in the Benedictine Order in all its fifteen hundred years of existence. After teaching theology and philosophy for five years in Trinidad, he came to the United States in 1941 to study at Fordham University and obtained his M.A. in political philosophy and sociology in 1943.

During the year 1942-1943, Father Matthews was assistant professor of Religion at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, New York City.

He has completed his studies for his doctorate at Fordham, and has returned to Trinidad to study Negro family organization, as a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Address: Benedictine Seminary, Mt. St. Benedict, Trinidad, B.W.I.


Africa and America meet in Trinidad. America 70:148-149 November 13, 1943. Social and economic life, developed under the colonial plantation system, have produced undernourishment, disease, and disreputable housing. Reconstruction of the social order in Trinidad is an urgent matter.

Calypso and Pan-America. Commonweal 37:91-93 November 13, 1942.

The British West Indies represent an organic mixture of Spanish, French, African, Anglo-Saxon manners and customs. The most striking symbol of this fact is the native folk-music, Calypso.

The Negro in the West Indies. Interracial Review 15: 43-45 March 1942.

An interesting summary of the ethnic development of the Creole in the West Indies and its effect upon social conditions.


Charles Barthelemy Rousseve

 Charles Barthelemy Rousseve was born November 4, 1902, in New Orleans, the son of Barthelemy and Valentine Mansion Rousseve. His great-great grandfather was Dominique Foster, a veteran of the battle of New Orleans in 1815. He is the older brother of Father Maurice Rousseve (q.v.) and he has a sister a religious, Sister Mary Theresa Vincent, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, and principal of St. Paul's High School, Lafayette, La. Three other brothers and two more sisters are also engaged in educational work. His mother speaks both French and English and is an accomplished pianist.

Charles Rousseve completed his high school education in 1920, graduating from Xavier High School, New Orleans, and entered Marquette University which he attended for one year. He received his A.B. from Straight College, New Orleans, in 1926, accepting a position as Instructor in French and Education at McDonogh High and Normal School, New Orleans. During the summer session of 1928, he was an instructor at Straight College.

On February 2, 1924, he married Valerie Theresa Bowie of New Orleans who died January 3, 19Z9. On January 31, 1931, he married Mildred Celeste Robichaux of New Orleans. They have three sons and two daughters.

He continued his education, receiving his M.A. from Xavier University. In 1935. He has done graduate work toward his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Since 1931 he has been instructor in English and Education at Jones Normal School. During the summer session of 1934 he was an instructor at Southern University, and in 1935-l936, and 1937 at Xavier University .

He is a member of the Catholic Poetry Society of America, the Knights of Peter Claver, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Educational Association. He was vice president, 1937 to 1938, of the Xavier University Alumni Association, and president in 1940 of the New Orleans Teachers Federal Credit Union. Address: 1323 Columbus. Street, New Orleans, La.


Domine' ut videam, "Napoleon's return": translation from the French of Victor Sejour, "Sequence," "The teacher," "To Alonza Pietro," "To her I love": translation from the French of Camille Thierry and "Vision": translation from the French of Joanni Questy, in Arrows of Gold, the Xavier University poetry anthology, ed by P W. Clark, q.v.

Seven poems

Madame Bernard Convent's vision. Mission Fields 27-8 N '31

A brief history of St. Louis School, New Orleans

The Negro in Louisiana, New Orleans, Xavier University Press, 1938

The Louisiana Negro in his true relation to his state, with evidence that the colored Creoles reached a high degree of culture.

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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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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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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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