ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Constraints on freedom, education, and individual dignity have always been

fundamental in determining who is able to write, when, and where. . . .

William W. Cook and James Tatum here argue that African American

literature did not develop apart from canonical Western literary

traditions but instead grew out of those literatures.



Books by Michele Valerie Ronnick


Cicero's "Paradoxa Stoicorum"The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough  / The Works of William Sanders Scarborough


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Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS)

 is holding its annual meeting in Oklahoma City

at the invitation of Oklahoma University from March 23rd to 26th.

Practice and Perception of Black Classicism, Part I and Part II

This year Michele Valerie Ronnick is president of CAMWS and she willl present some of her findings in her presidential address, which will  be an original lecture entitled "Black Classicism: 'Tell Them We Are Rising'." She plans to include a good deal of history in Oklahoma before moving to other events/people in Georgia (Oklahomans to be mentioned: Inman Page, Ralph Ellison, John Hope Franklin, Melvin B. Tolson, Margaret Wade-Lewis, Monroe Work. Georgians: John Hope, William Henry Crogman, William Sanders Scarborough, John Wesley Gilbert, Fletcher H. Henderson Sr., R. R. Wright, Sr., his family and his grand-daughter, Ruth).

In addition the Nigerian classicist Dr. James Eezzuduemhoi and his daughter Dr. Deborah Eezzuduemhoi will be at our meeting and at the banquet.

The program for the conference is up on the web. It is divided into days, and so you'll find the panels on black classicism listed on Friday.

On Friday in Meacham on O.U.'s campus there will be 2 panels (7 papers total) entitled "Practice and Perception of Black Classicism, Part I and Part II." The titles and presenters are described below.

Presidential Panel I

1:15 p.m. -2:45 p.m. (Meacham)

Practice and Perception of Black Classicism: Chavis, Tolson and Eezzuduemhoi

1. John Chavis, African American Latin Teacher in the Antebellum South. John H. Starks, Jr. (Binghamton University, State University of New York )

2. The Pindar of Harlem: the Life and Work of Melvin B. Tolson (1898-1966). James H. Tatum (Dartmouth College)

3. An African-US Collaboration on a New Elementary Text for Ancient Greek. Glenn Storey (University of Iowa)

4. Response by Catherine A. John (University of Oklahoma)

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The first professional classicist of African American descent, William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) rose from slavery to become president of Wilberforce University in Ohio. Excelling at Latin and Greek, he crossed the color line both socially and intellectually with his entry into a field of study commonly seen as elitist and dominated by white men. Although unknown to classicists today, Scarborough had a distinguished career in the field and held membership in many learned societies and had an active publication record. His life as an engaged intellectual, public citizen, and concerned educator was admired and emulated by W. E. B. Du Bois.

This collection, which spans a half a century from the end of Reconstruction through the vagaries of World War I and the rise of Jim Crow, gives us a window we have not had before into the challenges and ambiguities of this period. As a committed intellectual, concerned educator and loyal citizen, he served as an ambassador to and for his race to several generations of people both in the U.S. and abroad. In Scarborough's writings we have a portrait of a man whose struggle for physical and intellectual freedom can inform us all.

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Presidential Panel II

3:00- 5:00 p.m. (Meacham)

Practice and Perception of Black Classicism: Representations of Race in Films and Television about the Ancient World

1. Magic, Music and Race: The Black Orpheus Effect. Monica S. Cyrino (University of New Mexico)

2. The Defiant Ones: Black and White in the Arena. Martin M. Winkler (George Mason University)

3. Fade to Black: Reflections of Race in Film and Television Versions of the Cleopatra Legend. Gregory N. Daugherty (Randolph- Macon College)

4. From Black Caesar to Freedom Writers: The Black Experience via Greco-Roman Allusions in Popular Cinema. Jon Solomon (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

5. Response by Catherine A. John (University of Oklahoma)

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There is a new book entitled African American Writers and Classical Tradition by William W. Cook and James H. Tatum (University of Chicago Press, 2010)

Constraints on freedom, education, and individual dignity have always been fundamental in determining who is able to write, when, and where. Taking the singular instance of the African American writer to heart, William W. Cook and James Tatum here argue that African American literature did not develop apart from canonical Western literary traditions but instead grew out of those literatures, even as it adapted and transformed the cultural traditions and religions of Africa and the African diaspora along the way.

Tracing the interaction between African American writers and the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome, from the time of slavery and its aftermath to the civil rights era through the present, the authors offer a sustained and lively discussion of the life and work of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and Rita Dove, among other highly acclaimed poets, novelists, and scholars. Assembling this brilliant and diverse group of African American writers at a moment when our reception of classical literature is ripe for change, the authors paint an unforgettable portrait of our own reception of “classic” writing, especially as it was inflected by American racial politics.

posted 10 March 2010

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.

The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation?

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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

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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 17 May 2012 




Home  Wilson Jeremiah Moses

Related  files: The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough   The Works of William Sanders Scarborough  Practice and Perception of Black Classicism  Celebrating Alexander Crummell  

Classicism within Black Consciousness   Frank Snowden Now An Ancestor  Ten Vital Principles for Black Education   Black Nationalism in America  Albert Murray on Ralph Ellison Aesthetics  

What America Would Be Like Without Negroes  The Omni Americans Excerpts