ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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A man of great spiritual strength and poetic veracity, Rich

Bartee will certainly leave an immense gap in our lives. He

will be missed, like an ocean evaporating out of nowhere,

leaving all who loved and respected him in oblivion.

Jose Angel Figueroa (poet, educator)









Remembering a Harlem Street Poet


A Community Testament

in Memory of Rich Bartee


I ran into Bartee on the uptown 'A' train during the Poettential Unlimited days. I was three-pieced, pinstriped, buttoned down, early on home from my corporate do. Rich entered the car and announced, “The Poets are coming, the Poets are coming,” Karma-style; he introduced himself and let the riders know that the 3:30 poetry reading was about to begin. He eyeballed me in the middle of his first piece and nodded. Then, when he was done, Bartee announced to the audience that another poet was on the car.  He then pointed me out and asked me to share the “stage.”

I stood up and waved a little, begging off the performance opportunity, being conscious of the contradiction of the opportunity and my attire. Later, I reflected that being a poet meant that if you were true to the muse, most times, the work would strip you naked.Ron Bascombe (poet)

*   *   *   *   *

Bartee. Man, I have thought about that brother periodically and often. The mark of great artists may be (among other things) how deeply their work seeps into your consciousness, to be invoked whole at unexpected moments. His song, "There Will Always Be A Time,..." has echoed in my mind for ages, at moments when his simple inspirational words were needed. Bartee certainly loved what he was doing, and he did it with much heart and a passion that was infectious. I'm not even in New York and haven't seen the brother in many a moon, but I am certainly feeling his loss out here in the Windy City.Dawoud Bey (photographer)

*   *   *   *   *

Sifa Zote Zende Kwa Mumba, Asante Sana (All praises due to the Creator), and much thanks for Rich Bartee. He has been a positive part of the poetic scene in the Big Apple for over three decades. He brought with him a positive, serious issue, a humorous and spiritual aura to The Word. His was a poetic essence as he created poetic slogans.

I met Rich Bartee at his Poettential Unlimited Poetry Theatre in Harlem in the early 70's, and our relationship has flourished and grown since that time. We, at the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, will miss his physical presence but will bathe in the essence of his spirit for years to come.
John Watusi Branch (Arts Administrator, writer)

*   *   *   *   *

I met Rich Bartee only once and that was at Sistas' Place. What I remember most was his genuine enthusiasm and his smile; he just had one of those infectious smiles that made you feel better than you may have been feeling. He will be missed.LeRonn Brooks (Ph. D. candidate)

*   *   *   *   *

Just heard about Brother Bartee's passing and it's still unbelievable to me. He was the very first person I met shortly before publishing African Voices. I remember sharing my concept for the magazine and he immediately embraced me and my fellow writers.

In a way, he is responsible for shaping the course of the magazine's history as a home for poets. Richard is the one who introduced me to Louis Reyes Rivera, Layding Kaliba, Atiba Wilson and countless other artists, writers, publishers. It's this circle that has kept the magazine moving forward and continuing Brother Bartee's vision of bringing artists together to work and build a conscious nation.Carolyn Butts (publisher)

*   *   *   *   *

I remember that on September 22, 2002, SPIN (the Africana Caucus of the National Writers Union) had presented a tribute to writer June Jordan at St. Peter's Jazz Ministry. The memorial went well and lasted a few hours over the allotted time.

As we were leaving the church, an elderly white woman about 5" tall, made a remark to a young black girl in full hearing of the child's mother. Although I didn't hear what was said to the child, I did hear her mother's response. "Don't say that to my daughter," she told the older woman.

To my surprise and to the mother's dismay, the elderly lady began arguing loudly and apparently out of proportion to whatever was happening. The girl, who was visibly frightened, started to cling to her mother. Some of the mother's friends began to form a circle around her and her daughter.  Obviously, they felt she and her mother were being threatened.

The white woman raised her voice a few more decibels. Passersby and people leaving the church noticed this and looked at her askance. She was destroying the spiritual and "meditative mood of the gathering." 

As she launched into another or maybe the same tirade, Rich Bartee strode over and stood next to her. Then he put his arm around her shoulders, bent over a little so that they were almost facing each other, and said, "Hello."

His voice was a little loud but very soothing. It sounded like the voice adults use to comfort irritable children. The old woman stopped ranting in mid-sentence and gave him a look like he was her new best friend. Then he very gently began walking up the block with her encircled in his embrace. Apparently, he had sensed danger too, because, as the two of them walked away, one of the women in the circle said to the mother, "I was just about to slap her," meaning the elderly lady.

However, everybody in the circle and out of it was noticeably relaxed once Rich had removed the woman.

When she and Rich got to the corner, he stopped. They began to talk, still a little loudly. I could hear him saying stuff like, "Of course, we all need to respect each other's opinions... Your point of view has value."

All the time, he was using this very soothing voice and looking very intently into the woman's eyes. Suddenly, she began to harangue him. Her voice was rising to a shout, when Rich said, even louder and very clearly, "I have to go. My wife wants to talk to me."

Then he literally did this military about face and dashed away from her. For a few seconds, she looked bewildered. Then she went over to some homeless people who were sleeping near the church and began screaming at them.

I had been watching this scenario and was curious about this woman. So I asked Rich what was up her. Was she crazy? Was she drunk? He said he didn't know her. But then he said something that I remember him saying in our Steering Committee and SPIN meetings. "We don't have time for that [meaning, 'foolishness']! We're about building a community. We can't have people coming in and messing with what we're doing."

I will use that as my personal Mantra.Loretta Campbell (writer)

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I still have the Love Nut Bartee gave me some twenty years ago. I'll cherish it even more since, after all these years, he recently told me about how they came into existence and how some folks wanted them so much, they offered to pay for them! But there was no charge for the Love Nut. So if you have one, hold onto it. It's a piece of Bartee's prayer for all of us.Brenda Connor-Bey (writer, educator)

*  *  *  *  * 

I was shocked to get the news that my wonder-full friend of 32 years, Richard Bartee, has joined the ancestors. Known throughout the New York metropolitan area as the founder of Harlem's Poettential Unlimited Theatre and famed for his "More Hugging/Less Mugging" slogan, Rich Bartee spread cascading beams of Love and Light on whatever Pathway he trod. He was/is a Love Warrior ever in the forefront of causes for African descendants, writers, musicians and youth.

He launched into a decades-long career of writing, singing, ministering, promoting and motivating other writers, artists, musicians and good folks in general. If there was a noble cause afoot for mental, physical, spiritual and racial well-being, Bartee would devote countless hours of time, talent and resources to assist however, wherever, whenever he could. He was always sharing information, contacts, and referrals to motivate others to move to the highest possible level in a life, like his, of love and service. Bartee was and continues to be a life of enduring love and service. I cannot begin to express how much I will miss my friend, but I regale in his joy in being welcomed home by the Christ, the ancestors and the poets and writers from our circle who preceded him to that beyond-lovely Space.
Linda Cousins (writer, publisher)

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I will miss the energy of this marvelous poet-activist. He was always a force for creative encouragement, for artistic realization and for a better world. He has been a large marker in my cultural life, a beacon of example to follow the craft where it leads. Gatherings of wordsmiths will be the less for the absence of this cultural activist.Rasul Dorsai

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Rich Bartee: poet, preacher, prophet and humanitarian with a husky voice possessed the spirituality and Machiavellian acuity to "read" you inside out to determine how real you were about the difference between your promise, intentionality, action, and delivery. If you were not a poet or activist of serious conviction, stay out of his way!

Bartee was also a serious scholar who knew that the gift of poetry was not enough, particularly when it came to community empowerment, civil and human rights, or the rights of poets and artists to receive their artistic and economic due. He fought strong and hard to balance his poetic ability to say it like it is/was, while at the same time putting some flesh and blood into convictions and commitments that indeed made a positive difference in peoples' lives.

A man of great spiritual strength and poetic veracity, Rich Bartee will certainly leave an immense gap in our lives. He will be missed, like an ocean evaporating out of nowhere, leaving all who loved and respected him in oblivion.
Jose Angel Figueroa (poet, educator)

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Rich Bartee was the warmest and "real" people I've ever met. I first encountered him at the Baby Grand when we had the most talked about poetic forum in the city and I was only beginning to "go public" with my poetry. He taught me how to hug! To this day, I can visualize his hugging lesson, and it made so much sense to hug heart-to-heart.  He was also someone I knew and felt was very spiritual, and he shared his spirituality equally with anyone who accepted it. I still have his "Less Druggin', More Huggin'" tee shirt. It has now become an important reminder of our friendship. He is most certainly in the arms of the heavenly spirits.CD GRANT (publisher)

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The Creator wanted a real hug... Richard's life was a blessing.Asantewaa Harris (activist)

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I can remember my first trip to the Club Baby Grand for the Wednesday night poetry reading (they weren't called 'slams' yet); it was 1978. My friendship with Louis Reyes Rivera extended back to the days of the Black & Puerto Rican Student Community and Utambuzi (our first Black publication on campus), and later "The Paper" at City College. We had run into each other somewhere and Louis inquired if I was still writing; when I responded affirmatively, he, in his inimical manner, insisted that I come the next week.

And so there I was riding the train from Brooklyn to Harlem and then walking into the bar and feeling fairly stupid, asking the bartender about a "poetry reading." He directed me to the back room. Thanking him, I walked past the drinkers and gabbers, would-be players and the soon-to-be played, and the juke box and that absolutely ravishing dancer in her G-string and bra, and entered the back room where Louis greeted me and introduced me to Richard Bartee who smiled broadly and then immediately asked if I were a poet or a writer. Lacking  confidence, especially since it had been a long time since I had written anything, I tried to avoid committing myself by mumbling a reply, and then Louis butted in, saying, "Yeah, he's a writer and a damned good one too." And Richard Bartee smiled and then insisted that I read and I tried to demur, but he somehow conned me into committing to read the next week. 

And so I returned a week later to recite two poemsone by Langston and the other by Dunbarand then Bartee insisted that the following week I read something of my own. The confidence both of them seemed to have in me and Richard's insistence brought me back the next week and the week after that, and we formed a relationship that grew over the next three years at the Baby Grand. And I found in Richard a gentleness and power and warmth and a friendship that I thought would last forever. The last time I saw Richard was at City (how ironic) this past Fall, when Elaine (my wife) and Lindamichellebaron and I went to see Sekou Sundiata perform. And we fellowshipped afterwards and I offered to drop Bartee off in Brooklyn, but he insisted on taking the train, 'cause he had a "few other stops to make." We always ran into each other in the oddest times and places, and it was always like seeing my brother. Once Richard asked to speak at our church's Men's Day program, which he did. And I almost forgot about 'Bama. Whenever I think of him, I always smile, remembering riding the train with Bartee and 'Bama, and Richard's 'love nuts' and the way he could sing spontaneously and always had some kind of flyer or card or something to give to you and I will miss him and carry him with me always.Gregory S. Holder (customs official)

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Rich Bartee and his Poetree Theater is one of New York's hidden treasures. He was always both the roots and the wings for poetree. I can't and won't believe he's gone.Bob Holman (poet, arts administrator)

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I first met Brother Bartee at an open poetry reading hosted by poet-at-war George Edward Tait. There I was sitting in a small Harlem storefront filled with fold-down chairs, listening to Brother Tait tell the audience of about twenty poets that there was a two poem limit, no exceptions. I sat in the far corner of the last row of seats, nervous as hell. This would be the first time I'd be reading my words in front of anyone. The reading was coming to a close, everyone had read but me. That's when Brother Bartee stood up and announced that there was one more poet to read. He turned and looked in my direction, his eyes pulling me up to the front.

I don't remember what I read that day or how I was received. I just remember afterwards walking across 125th Street with Brother Bartee. We were on our way to another open reading on the West side. During the journey, he looked at me and said, "You know something, brother? Your poettential is unlimited."

I looked over at him and smiled. From that day on, I was on a quest to fulfill my poettential. It wasn't long after that first meeting that I found out he told all wouldbe writers the same thing. Bartee believed that there was a poet in all of us.

To many people, Bartee was known as the "D Train Poet." To me, he will always be the Harlem Poet. Harlem is where his heart was; the D Train was just the transportation he used to get here everyday. Brother Bartee was the heartbeat of Harlem; he loved it more than almost anything. But Harlem has changed so much; all the old poetry spots we used to frequent are gone. Big business and gentrification have changed the rhythm. I never asked Brother Bartee how he felt about the changes; all I know is that he loved Harlem until the end.

I've been writing poetry now thirty years. And, if you throw in the ten years of writing song lyrics, that's forty years of pen to paper. Just the other day a young writer asked me what I thought about his work. I shared with him Bartee's wisdom-- his poettential was unlimited.

                    Cotton done started sproutin' in Harlem
                    Creatin' a prickly sea of white
                    Whose po chillin' gon pick dat cotton?
                    Whose dreams gon bleed tonight?
                    Whose po' mama gon' work dem fields?
                    Whose poppa's back gon' break?
                    Whose granny gon' preach sorrow's sermon?
                    Who the hell left open the gate?

Layding Lumumba Kaliba (poet)

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Richard Bartee introduced me to a lot of folks and places in the late 70's and 80's, when I had just begun to read for audiences. Every resource at his disposal, he offered genuinely. He wasn't about cliques. He was about unity and harmony, about educating and equipping the next generation. I count it a privilege to have known him, especially when I was a young poet needing support and direction. He gave it freely. He was, after all, the LOVE Poet with Poettential Unlimited! We can still learn a lot from the life that he led.

I can almost hear him singing as he often did. In the middle of a poem, he would sometimes break out into a song, some feel good, gospel medley of encouragement, something about pressing on! If any one knew how, he sure did press on, constantly on the go, on the subway, or anywhere was a forum for him to share everything and with everybody he knew while traveling this cultural circle.

I know wherever he is, he is singing! We who are here, left behind, are one gigantic voice short in the Poets' Chorus, but if we quiet our spirits we can hear the song of his life and pass it on!
Mildred Keel-Williams (writer)

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Harlem not only lost a poet who passionately loved Harlem, but lost a proud/humble Harlemite who lived the warm essence of Harlem by his genuine love for all humanity. The Schomburg would be a nourishing place to honor Richard. He has always been Harlem's engaging Good Will Ambassador.Yuri Kochiyama (activist)

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I am deeply sorry to hear about the death of our brother-minister-poet-friend Rich Bartee. He was an honorable African man who has my eternal love and respect. The Word lives forever and always! Rich Bartee is eternal because his poetry resonates on the streets of New York and the New City of poets where he and Zizwe Ngafua now stand together, musing over the perils of this earth.Malkia M'Buzi Moore (poet)

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i do not recall the first tyme eye met bro. bartee. but it must have been a little over five years ago. at the afrikan street festival. at boys & girls high school no less. his first wurds to me were: "are you a poet?" & before i could generate an adequate response he had handed me a business card that i ended up tucking into my back pocket & never responding to. i had no idea who he was. or the legacy that surrounded him. i would not bump into him again until louis reyes rivera started organizing meetings around putting together a cultural workers union.

i had the fortunate experience of sharing the stage with bro bartee two summers ago at the afrikan poetry theatre in a benefit to help rebuild the space after the fire. for months we had been playin phone tag because he taped the whole event. and captured me doing a spoken wurd freestyle over pharoah saunders' "the creator has a master plan," compliments of big brother wayne. he wanted me to have a copy of that.

my most memorable moment shared with bro. bartee occurred at the tribute to the ancestors of the middle passage back in june. i was getting ready ta leave the boardwalk with a friend. jocelyn. stopping at a book vendor to buy this raw foods cookbook. when he pulled us into a conversation with a sista clinical psychologist. as we parted. in true richard bartee fashion. he taught us a "new" hug. right arm over left shoulder. left arm around the back. a hug that placed hearts in close proximity. one that was not casual. surface. superficial. one where the warmth. space. shared between two people can not be ignored. til this day. jocelyn greets me this way. everytime we see each otha. as i write this. eye am realizin too. this is news i shall have to share with her. i think this is how eye shall remember brother richard bartee. in that he was a revolutionary.

in a wurld. distant & cold. where we have become disconnected from ourselves. & afraid to touch one another. he dared to do just that. touch people. the d train will never be the same.beluvid ola-jendai (poet)

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The years that we were friends were bountiful and filled with hugs. He was a wonderful, warm and loving human being and I'm ever grateful that he included me in his circle of friends.Elizabeth Rankin-Fulcher (educator)

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Back in 1997, after one of our first shows at the Skylight Gallery, our "Uncle" saw us perform for the first time. Later that summer we were chillin' outside the landmark Brooklyn Moon Cafe, on the pavement. He sat with us and offered that we needed to change our name. He remarked that although we were dubbed based on nostalgia, we were nothing like our predecessors. We have been Second2Last ever since.

Second 2 Last (poets' ensemble)  

*   *  *  *   *

It saddens me so, every time I hear about the passing of one of our giants. More than any other people on the planet, we are the least equipped to recover from such a loss. The boldest and most revolutionary thing we can do as a people is to take full and complete control of our physical well being --what we eat, what we drink, the thoughts we entertain, the company we keep, and even the negative emotions we allow to take up residence in our spirits.

At a time in the history of humanity where living to 100 plus years is common place, it borders on criminal neglect for us to send our young elder to the ancestors at a mere 59 years of age.
Herman Smalls

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Rich always encouraged a smile simply because his was such an infectious one. His Spirit of Soul was happy and he kept himself intensely involved with the Circle of Love. It is hard to imagine that the spaces he occupied will no longer be filled like the spreading of branches from the Sweet Tree of Life.Tanya C. Tyler (poet)

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I met Richard one evening in the Village around West 4th Street. I was with a very nice young lady. Richard offered me one of his "More hugging, less mugging" cards. After I took the card, he asked me and my guest to hug. When the hug was over, he asked me for a dollar, which I gave him. It was a modest investment on what turned out to be a very nice evening. Whenever I think of Bartee I always think of that evening.Bernard White (WBAI broadcaster)

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The following was published in the Syracuse Post Standard on 4/16/2003.Richard L. Bartee Patterson 

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Richard L. Bartee Patterson (Tiger), formerly of Syracuse, died in Brooklyn, NY, April 2, 2003. A native of Florida, he lived in Rochester, NY, before moving to Syracuse. He graduated from Vocational Blodgett High School; he attended Alfred Technical College. In Syracuse he was in law enforcement. He was a man of many talents. He was a poet, songwriter, producer, activist and singer. He was preceded in death by one sister, Shirlynn Patterson. Survivors: his wife Vivian Skinner Bartee; five children, Veronica Harris of California, Demetria Gibson, Richelle Patterson, Richard Bartee Patterson of California, Ilani Bartee of Brooklyn; ex-wife Edith Patterson of California; adopted sons and daughters, Homer Woodall, Lynn Woodall, and Pearl Woodall; two brothers, Robert Callaway of Perry, FL, and Clifford Patterson of Syracuse; a host of nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends; two special cousins, Elizabeth Smith and Linda Mashack of Miami, FL. He was a member of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn where the services were held April [7], 2003.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist.

The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale." Tony Horwitz's riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

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Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

By John D'Emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America's consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D'Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin's intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, "You were capable of making the 'mistake' of thinking that you could be the leader in a the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification."

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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 18 June 2012




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Related files: On the Passing of Rich Bartee  In Confidence  For Rich Bartee  Tribute to Bartee  A Light in the Tunnel