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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Johnson-Goodwyn's journey began when she graduated from VSU with her bachelor's

 degree in 1946. Since she retired from teaching, she has written a book of poetry and

two novels and a fourth book is in the works. She said she decided to be a historian . . .





Flowers for the Trashman

       —for Grace Claiborne Johnson

                                              By Rudolph Lewis

At 91 she’s a Jet achiever—

her fourth graduate degree from VSU—

novelist, artist, dancer, a teacher—

a published poet—a Renaissance woman.


I found the artifacts of her long life

at a dumpster—two framed certificates

of “appreciation”; a framed clipping

from a Petersburg paper; framed artwork.


How came this poet to this ugliness, I

wondered? A "white man" & his wife pulled down

her skeletal life from a bought trailer.

By frames, they set her up against a wall

thinking some soul might find a home for her.

I’ll shed no tears: all beauty comes to dust.

13 March 2007

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Woman at 91 receives master's degree

Education - Grace Claiborne Johnson-Goodwyn, historian


Grace Claiborne Johnson-Goodwyn, 91, recently received her master of arts degree in history from Virginia State University (VSU). This is Johnson-Goodwyn's fourth graduate degree. "I love it," said Johnson-Goodwyn, a former elementary school reading teacher. "Next year I'd like to go for another. One of the teachers said, `Grace, go over there to Richmond and take law.' I would do it if it wasn't for the driving." Johnson-Goodwyn's journey began when she graduated from VSU with her bachelor's degree in 1946. Since she retired from teaching, she has written a book of poetry and two novels and a fourth book is in the works. She said she decided to be a historian, so she returned to VSU in 1997 to further her education.

Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner spoke at the graduation and characterized Johnson-Goodwyn, a Petersburg native, as a true hero for her educational persistence. "She gives a whole new meaning to the phrase lifelong learning," said Warner, who was honored by VSU with an honorary doctor of law degree. Joseph Goldenberg, chairman of VSU's history department said, "She's been very persistent. We have a foreign language requirement, and she got through two years of Spanish. It's not easy to learn a foreign language at that age." Goldenberg said the sight of Johnson-Goodwyn slowly making her way to the classroom with the aid of a cane inspired classmates who were 70 years younger.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Johnson Publishing Co.

Source: Jet,  May 27, 2002  

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Local lady named model for others

By Kim Coghill


Petersburg — In many cases the intangible selfless gifts offered by “saints’ go unnoticed and unrewarded. But thanks to area residents, one local woman who has spent a lifetime giving back to the children and adults of her community, will receive special recognition. Norma Jean Blalock, of WTVR Channel 6 said “from what I’ve read about Grace Claiborne Johnson—she sounds like a wonderful lady.” And Johnson is just that.

The lifelong Petersburg resident is known as a writer, author, teacher, musician, poet, artist, storyteller—and, of course, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Friday at 6 p.m., Johnson will be spotlighted as one of eight Central Virginians selected by Channel 6 and Consolidated Bank as this year’s “Excellence in Community, African-American Role Model.” Blalock said hundreds of names were nominated, yet only eight are named winners by the selection committee.

As part of her recognition, a news article featuring Johnson will appear in “For Kid’s Sake” magazine, and her story, along with the other winners, will once again run Saturday, March 4. Anyone who have lived in the Petersburg area during the years has probably at some time come in contact with Johnson. As a small child of 12, Johnson was the beautician of Delectable Heights, as well as the teacher.

“My mother taught me to read when I was 4,” she said. “By the time I was 12, I was teaching adults in the neighborhood to read.” Additionally, as a child Johnson’s mother insisted that she take a cosmetology class because, “eventually you may need it.” Those lessons led Johnson into cutting hair and later sewing dresses.

“I was always a momma’s girl,” she said. “While everyone else was out with their boyfriends, I was at home with my momma reading and writing, cooking and sewing.” Johnson, the mother of two, grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of seven., is a retired Surry County educator who holds a master’s degree in early childhood education.

She assisted in implementing Surry County’s remedial reading program and was also part of the drama and speech department. Closer to home, Johnson opened one of the city’s first daycare centers in Delectable Heights. Johnson is the brains behind the Petersburg Girl’s Choir and the Royale Festival Theater of Petersburg.

In her spare time, Johnson has published several books including one of poetry, Sitting in the Window Looking Out, a historical novel “Great and Honorable Departure,” and “Sootie Lu,” a novel of ugliness turned to beauty and an additional novel centeres around harassment. In February, during Black history Month, Johnson is slated to speak at Powhatan’s Beaumont Correctional Facility “to the men,” she said. The Petersburg resident is also a member of St. Stephens Episcopal and participates in radio talk shows at Virginia State University.

Source: The Petersburg Monitor February 1, 1995

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Grace Claiborne Johnson-Goodwyn Awards

Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding service and contributions to The Black History Celebration—The Black Family. February 25, 1995. Olive Branch Baptist Church, Dinwiddie, Virginia. Rev. Alfred L. Thompson.

Certificate of Appreciation—A true African-American Artist, who has distinguished herself in the area of dance, drama, music, and creative writing. A stalwart supporter of her community, Petersburg, Virginia, she is Founder  of the Petersburg Girls Choir, The Royal Festival Theatre, and many other groups. February, 1995. National Association of African-American Studies.

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Uncrowned Queen at the Trash DumpWe decided to honor Grace Claiborne Johnson-Goodwyn as the first Uncrowned Queen who actually got rescued at the trash dump.  She was truly a “flower for the trashman.” We would love to have more information on Ms. Johnson-Goodwyn so that we can tell her story in greater detail.  Please contact us at or Peggy Brooks-Bertram

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Note from the author: The poem above is a double remembrance, not only for Ms. Johnson, but also for Marvin X's play Flowers for the Trashman, anthologized in Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, edited by Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal. The "Trashman" in the play is a florist (father of two sons, both in prison) and he is called a "trashman" by his incarcerated son because he talks "trash." At the end of the play the father dies of a heartache on the way to bail his younger son out of prison.

posted 13 March 2007

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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Civilization: The West and the Rest

By Niall Ferguson

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic. These were the "killer applications" that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic. Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.

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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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What This Cruel War Was Over

Soldiers Slavery and the Civil War

By Chandra Manning

For this impressively researched Civil War social history, Georgetown assistant history professor Manning visited more than two dozen states to comb though archives and libraries for primary source material, mostly diaries and letters of men who fought on both sides in the Civil War, along with more than 100 regimental newspapers. The result is an engagingly written, convincingly argued social history with a point—that those who did the fighting in the Union and Confederate armies "plainly identified slavery as the root of the Civil War." Manning backs up her contention with hundreds of first-person testimonies written at the time, rather than often-unreliable after-the-fact memoirs. While most Civil War narratives lean heavily on officers, Easterners and men who fought in Virginia, Manning casts a much broader net. She includes immigrants, African-Americans and western fighters, in order, she says, "to approximate cross sections of the actual Union and Confederate ranks." Based on the author's dissertation, the book is free of academese and appeals to a general audience, though Manning's harsh condemnation of white Southerners' feelings about slavery and her unstinting praise of Union soldiers' "commitment to emancipation" take a step beyond scholarly objectivity.—Publishers Weekly

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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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