ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)  


 The next time, I became aware of my color was when my mother and stepfather lived on Mr. Grant’s plantation.

So at lunch time I played with the Grant’s children—Bobby, Larry, and Fred. We combed each other’s hair. They

asked me why I’m black and not white. I did not know what to say. So I said I must have stayed in the oven too long.



Remembering My Adult Education Students

The Learning Place Northwest (1990-1993)

By Rudolph Lewis


*   *   *   *   *

Learning the Differences

By Lorraine Petitt


In 1967, at the age of six years old, I realized that I was black. My maternal grandmother told us about how she used to work back in the 40s in Durham, North Carolina, in a cotton field, picking cotton. She made very little money, but would work hard, long hours. Grandma used to tell us how tired she was. She would have so much pain in her feet and hands.

But the white man didn’t care about what pain she had as long as his work was done. My grandmother would come home and just drop in the closest chair. Despite her physical exhaustion, she always had time to love her “grands,” no matter how much pain she was in.

Grandma moved to Baltimore in 1966. She took on a new job, working in a white lady’s house—cleaning floors, washing clothes, and cooking. The white lady was Miss Edith. She was older than Grandma. Miss Edith was nice and sweet as can be. She respected Grandma.

She was a loving and caring type of white person. She not only loved my grandmother, but she would come over to our house on Forest Park Avenue to visit Grandma. Miss Edith would bring food for Grandma and goodies for us.

Because of stories I had heard, I thought all white people were mean and evil. I told grandma that I would never work for white people. But when I met Miss Edith I told my grandmother that Miss Edith was very nice. My grandmother said, “All white people are not the same. You not only have nasty whites, but you have nasty blacks, too.” Miss Edith was only one of the whites that don’t mind the color of your skin. She treated all people the same. God will bless her.

In 1968, my mother and father told me Martin Luther King had been gunned down and killed. Dr. King tried so very hard to get blacks and whites together. I know I will be part of this great man’s dream. Dr. King’s dream will one day come true for some people, but there are some people out here today that don’t believe we are equal to whites. There are still many of us who suffer from an inferiority complex because of the devastating effects of racism.

In 1970, when I was about ten years old, I attended Liberty Elementary School. Mrs. Collins, my fifth-grade teacher, told my class that it was hard for our parents and their parents and all African-Americans who lived under the system of Jim Crow. She told us they would get beaten by white men for looking at white women or talking to a white man in the “wrong” manner.

Mrs. Collins also taught us about the arrest of Rosa Parks because she wouldn’t move to the back of the bus. I realized that if I had been on that bus I would have received the same treatment. I knew my complexion was just as dark as or darker than hers. I felt that we were being punished for the color of our skin.

Mrs. Collins also told us that blacks had to go to different schools from the whites. Blacks weren’t allowed to drink from the same water fountains as the whites. Racial bias existed prevalently in all areas of employment. For example, black talented actors and actresses weren’t able to get work unless they could pass for white or were willing to play stereotypical roles.

These history lessons made me feel sorrow about what African-Americans had had to tolerate. I was very glad slavery was over and that Jim Crow was coming to an end. For all blacks had been through, I felt that I really could hate whites justifiably. But I remembered that my grandmother said all white people were not the same.

Mr. Howard, my sixth-grade teacher, taught us a song by James Weldon Johnson, a black poet and a former official of the NAACP. This son, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was adopted as the Negro National Anthem, filled me with hope, pride, and joy. This song will remain with us for the rest of our lives. I realize that the things that were taught me have to be told to my children.

*   *   *   *   *

Across the Mason/Dixon Line

By Frank Bowens


I was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, seventeen miles southeast of Pittsburgh. In September 1940, I started the first grade. My class was mixed with white and colored students. I not only went to school with them, but I also went to their homes and ate at their family table. Some of my white friends did the same at my house.

I recognized the differences in the color of our skins, but from what I could see everything was the same. I was raised by my grandmother, and, in the thirties, forties, and fifties, you didn’t ask questions about such things. People didn’t talk openly about racial matters.

When I was young, I wondered why some were Black, some were White, some tall, some short, some boys, some girls. After a few years older, I saw the difference between boys and girls. At that time a lot of things were not answered, and at that time they didn’t get answered. I started school September 2, 1940, and all the teachers were White and the race issue was not a big subject.

In July of 1950, I was 16 years old, my birth day was November 8, but before I reached my next birthday I joined the Army. We all being from the same city got on the same train. We went to Pittsburgh to meet all the rest of the people going to the service. Believe me, there was a lot of us from all city in the north heading to Washington, D.C.

When we got there to the Washington train station they took all the colored people and put us in front of all the other train carts right behind the engine. We asked the porter working that area, why did they separate us. He said, “You are heading south and that’s the way they do things down here.” I heard an older man with us talking about the South and the way white people treated colored people in the South.

I still didn’t understand enough. When the train got to Columbia, South Carolina, we got off the train, but we could not go in the station where the Whites went. We went to the back of the building to a small room and that is where we stayed.

 *   *   *   *   *

Learning about Skin Color

By Bernadette Morant


I believe it was in the sixties, when I was about 10 or 12 years old, that I first learned the difference between the races. I had noted how some members of my family were very fair-skinned and others were very dark.

I began to talk to my mother because some of my people were white; some were Indian. And I wondered why. My mother told me why. During slavery time, we were sold and bought. The white man lay with black women; the white woman lay with black men. That was what caused our genes to be mixed and different skin colors to appear among African-Americans. That is why some of our relatives look white, my mother explained.

My mother also told me how we got our last name. During that time the white man was wealthy and rich. When they bought our fore parents as slaves, they gave them their last name. As they continued to buy them, they named them because they owned them. Their names, however, might be changed if sold to someone else.

I also learned as a child Negroes couldn’t go any and everywhere and be welcomed. When they got on the bus they had to set in the back of the bus. They couldn’t drink out the same water fountain. We were unable to eat in the same restaurant together. We had certain seats assigned to us because of our race.

Our race has had to suffer many things and endure them. We’ve never seen life easy. We always had to struggle; we’ve had to take hard knocks. We were looked down on as nothing and nobody.

We’ve had to fight for our rights and privileges. Nothing was comfortable or pleasant. For Negroes even now it still makes a difference. Some are still hung up on their skin color. They believe because they are white they are right; because we are Negroes, we have to get back. Not any more.

Today as a Negro parent, I have talked to my children and explained to them the same way my mother took time to talk to me about skin color. Never be ashamed of your race or your color because we have had to pay a price for that. But one day we were given our equal rights and freedom because somebody had a vision and a dream and kept on fighting until it came to pass.

 *   *   *   *   *

Down from the Big House

By Pamela White


My grandmother was born and raised in Sumter, South Carolina. As a child, I can remember her talking about what she encountered as a black woman in the South. She worked for a white family that owned a huge plantation that mainly grew vegetables. She told us the white man didn’t want them to learn to read. She was told that reading wasn’t the right of a black person in the South. But she learned to read anyway. The first book she remembers reading was titled Black Sambo.

She would tell us stories about herself as a child growing up in the South. One particular story which stuck in my mind was about my grandfather. He was arrested for hitting a white man because he refused to shine his shoes. That refusal cost him two years of his life. And there was nothing we could do to help him.

My grandmother would always tell us, “If you don’t do nothing else in life, learn to count your money. The white man will cheat you if you don’t know better.” She remembered working at the big house, doing housework and the laundry for six days a week at a dollar a day. And when she would go to get paid, they would try to give her $4.25, $4.50, or $5.25. But because she knew how to count, she would speak up for the rest of her money.

One time or another, we all have felt some kind of racial prejudice in our lives. I personally experienced bigotry as a child, I was seven years old. A friend of mine, a white boy invited me and my sister to his house for dinner. We were all sitting at that table, getting ready to chow down. Then his parents came home from and work and started yelling at us and him. “What are these niggers doing sitting at my dinner table?”

At that point, my sister and I ran out the back door. I felt bad being called a “nigger,” but I knew we didn’t do anything wrong because he had invited us. It wasn’t long after that they moved. He said his parents told him that too many “niggers” were moving into the neighborhood, bringing down the value of their property.

It was at this point, the reality of being “black” in America hit home. Back in those days, the term NIGGER was only for the black race. I would ask my mother, “Why am I black?” She would respond by saying, “God made white people and black people, and all of us can’t be white. So he made us black. But God loves us all.” This helped me adjust to being black in a white man’s world.

As an adult, I have experienced all types of discrimination by being black and a female. I try to educate my children about bigotry and racial discrimination. I let them know that racism is here to stay and that they are of the black race and live in a white’s man world.

I tell them also that we all have to live in this world together and that we should never let the color of our skin stop us from trying to reach our goals in life. We have laws to curb racism. If they encounter any discrimination in life because they’re black or their sex, laws are on the books to protect them.

 *   *   *   *   *

Pitching for Honesty on Race

By Lenora Washington


I realized the difference between black and white people in America when I was just a little girl. My mother would take me to the hospital, and the doctors and nurses would make us wait so long. But when a white person came in with their child they would take them in the back of the hospital to see the doctors right away.

I felt bad. I felt like it was wrong to take that person ahead of me. I felt they were doing it just because they were white.

I turned and looked at my mother. I said, “That’s not fair. They took them before us, and we have been sitting here for hours.” But I found out in life this happens all the time.

Blacks have to wait longer in life than whites in a lot of places. That’s because this is a white man’s world, and we just live in it.

 *   *   *   *   *

Mother's Thoughts and Me

By Tia Martin


I was a little girl about eight years old when my mother told me about her past. She looked into my eyes and told me how she had to walk to school in rain, sleet, snow, and hot sun. She told me also how she had to scrub floors for white people. She said they were nice to her, but she had to make a living for her eight children.

Then she moved onto better things. She worked at Pimlico Hotel cleaning shrimp for white people and taking trash out to the dumpster. At the same time, she was going to night school. She had stopped going to high school to take care of us.

I guess what she was trying to tell me was that I will face what she has been through. While my mother told me this story, I felt sad because my mom shouldn’t have had to face that alone.

It took me a long time to see what mom was saying to me “Strive baby, strive. You’re my child. You can do it. For I did it, so you wouldn’t have to scrub floors nor pick cotton for no one.”

I was mad at the white people; but I got over it because they couldn’t keep my mother down. Now I see I’m different that I can recall what mother has been through. So now I can strive for better things.

 *   *   *   *   *

Coming of Age

By Annie Langston


I lived on a plantation in Florence, South Carolina with my grandmother. On the plantation, we raised chickens, guineas, and hogs; we also had a cow, mule, and goat. Every evening, we had to free them after we got from school or when we came out of the field. We helped around the house, carrying water inside for the night, getting wood for the fireplace, cleaning the yard, and helping to wash our clothes. We also worked in the field planting all kinds of vegetables: okra, tomatoes, green beans, green peas, squash, corn, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, mustard greens, watermelons, cucumbers, turnips, cabbages, onions, hot pepper, garlic, and collards.

We raised tobacco, cotton, wheat, and ribbon cane. We also grew our fruit trees: grapes, peaches, pears, cherries, plums, and apples. In the afternoon all of the children in the neighborhood would get together to pick blueberries and honeysuckle. We would also gather pecans, walnuts, and hickory nuts.

In the summer of 1948 when I was about seven years old, my grandmother asked my cousin Cynthia, Daisy, Gloria, Bertha and I to walk three miles to the crossroad confectionary store to sell a dozen eggs. At the confection store, there were lots of white kids. They were saying “nigger” over and over.

Our school was named Elim High. We walked three miles to school and three miles back. The school was close by the store where the white kids lived. So at lunch time, they would come down to our school and pick at us calling us “nigger” for no reason. We couldn’t fight them because their parents would have killed us, or, at least, so we thought.

The next time, I became aware of my color was when my mother and stepfather lived on Mr. Grant’s plantation. So at lunch time I played with the Grant’s children—Bobby, Larry, and Fred. We combed each other’s hair. They asked me why I’m black and not white. I did not know what to say. So I said I must have stayed in the oven too long.

I believe I was about eight when I worked for the Grants, handing tobacco and working around the barn. I would overhear the white adults talk about our color in an unpleasant way. Later when I was ten, I went to work for the Grants, cleaning their house. I stayed the night with them, sleeping with them.

When I got older, colored girls and white boys liked each other. Then my grandmother explained to me that I was black and they were white. And they would kill us if it would go any farther. So we dealt with that in a nice way.

Mrs. Grant took me to town with her kids. I could not go in the movies with them, so they would go and buy me candies, popcorn, bananas, and peanuts. We got along all right by staying in our place, back down South.

I can say I had a good life of being black in some ways. Now I forget that I am black. I don’t see myself as black, but as a human being that God created.

posted 5 April 2006

*   *   *   *   *

The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

By Yvonne Thornton

Dr. Yvonne Thornton’s memoir The Ditchdigger’s Daughters has captured the hearts of readers everywhere since it was first published in 1995. Translated into 19 languages, featured on Oprah, and made into a TV movie, this heart-warming and inspiring story chronicles Yvonne Thornton’s family; at its center is her beloved, unschooled but wise father Donald Thornton, who demanded that all five of his daughters not only excel in school, but go on to become doctors. Four of them did; the other found her calling in law and became a lawyer instead.—Dafina

Thornton's frank, relaxed manner makes it accessible to general readers as well as students of women's or African American memoir. Worth considering also for those looking for inspirational reads.—Library Journal

*   *   *   *   *

Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark

By Katherine Mellen Charron

Freedom's Teacher traces Clark's life from her earliest years as a student, teacher, and community member in rural and urban South Carolina to her increasing radicalization as an activist following World War II, highlighting how Clark brought her life's work to bear on the civil rights movement. Katherine Mellen Charron's engaging portrait demonstrates Clark's crucial role—and the role of many black women teachers—in making education a cornerstone of the twentieth-century freedom struggle. Drawing on autobiographies and memoirs by fellow black educators, state educational records, papers from civil rights organizations, and oral histories, Charron argues that the schoolhouse served as an important institutional base for the movement. Clark's program also fostered participation from grassroots southern black women, affording them the opportunity to link their personal concerns to their political involvement on the community's behalf.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#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

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#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

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


  BCP Digital Printing 

BCP Digital Printing

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)  






update 6 March 2012




Home  Remembering  Poems  Heroes of the Hood  Thoughts from the Hood  On the Future