ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Komunyakaa and Lewis, along with Ahmose Zu-Bolton, created and built the cultural

center Copacetic on Piety Street, which  lasted tragically only six months. Under Yusef’s

encouragement, Lewis joined in 1984 the New Orleans Poetry Forum, headed by Lee Grue.

In this milieu he gained many valuable friends and experiences. Gaining some literary skills,

Lewis wrote poems that were published by The New Laurel Review


Bio Overview

of Rudolph Lewis

Editor and Founder of ChickenBones: A Journal


Rudolph Lewis (born 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland) was raised by his grandparents William and Ella Lewis of Jarratt, Virginia—in the Village of Jerusalem. He attended Creath, No. 5 and later graduated from Central High (Sussex). In 1965. He left Jarratt  1965to attend Morgan State College (Baltimore). After hearing Stokely Carmichael, Walter Lively, and Bob Moore speak on black responsibility in Fall 1967, he left Morgan State “to join the Revolution” by working closely with Bob Moore and Walter Lively from 1968 to about 1972.

He spent several years as an organizer for Local 1199, married in 1972 Evelyn Duncan, which was of a short duration (divorced 1976). Resigning from 1199 in 1974, he worked a number of temporary jobs, including that of a porter and pot-washer at Maryland General Hospital.

Under the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Max Wilson, he registered for Morgan State University’s University Without Walls and then the University of Maryland (College Park), from which he graduated with a B.A (1978) and M.A. (1981) degrees in English. After graduation, he taught writing and literature on an adjunct basis at University of the District of Columbia and the University of Maryland. In 1982, he spent ten weeks with the Peace Corps in Zaire.

Returning to College Park, he was encouraged by Drs. Lewis Lawson and Donna Hamilton to take a teaching position in Louisiana. He taught for a year a Northeast Louisiana University (NLU, 1983) and then the University of New Orleans (UNO, 1984-1986). At a presentation at UNO, Lewis made the acquaintance of Lee Meitzen Grue and Yusef Komunyakaa. Yusef and Rudy became fast friends, with Yusef serving as a mentor in the writing of poetry. Komunyakaa and Lewis, along with Ahmose Zu-Bolton, created and built the cultural center Copacetic on Piety Street, which lasted tragically only six months.

Under Yusef’s encouragement, Lewis joined in 1984 the New Orleans Poetry Forum, headed by Lee Grue. In this milieu he gained many valuable friends and experiences. Gaining some poetic skills, Lewis wrote poems that were published by The New Laurel Review (NLR), edited by Lee Meitzen Grue. He also began his own rag, Crickets: Poems & Other Jazz, which lasted several issues. As editor of Cricket, Lewis published poems of some of his UNO colleagues, Yusef, and of the late Marcus Bruce Christian. As a contributing editor of the NLR, Lewis accepted several writing assignments, including pieces on the socially-conscious Jessie Covington Dent and the poet Yvegeny Yevtushenko.

After leaving UNO, Lewis spent a year in an English doctoral program at Louisiana State University. He returned to his Village of Jerusalem for six months (the longest extent since leaving in 1965) continuing to write and research. During this period he wrote and corresponded with friends in Louisiana and Baltimore. In 1987, he returned to Baltimore and worked a couple of years for Local 1199 as editor and organizer.

From 1991-1997, Lewis taught writing and other subjects in several adult education programs. During this period he spent a year in Morgan State’s doctoral program in education (1991-1992), and completed from 1994-1997 a masters program in library science. From 1997-1999, he worked as a librarian for Enoch Pratt Free Library. After the publication of his edited volume of I Am New Orleans & Other Poems By Marcus Bruce Christian, Lewis again returned to the Village of Jerusalem where he collected the letters and stories of his grandmother Ella Lewis.

During this sojourn in Jerusalem, Lewis also continued his research on the region, including the development of Negro schools in Sussex and the history of the Nathaniel Turner Rebellion. After six months, he again returned to Baltimore and began work as a part-time librarian at St. Mary’s Seminary, where he continues to work. In November 2001, along with Kinya Kionygozi, he founded the website ChickenBones: A Journal , which he continues to edit and which has become one of the most popular African-American websites on the internet, enjoying over a half-million visitors in 2003.

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Curriculum Vitae

Rudolph Lewis



Editor (& Founder) ChickenBones: A Journal (, an online educational web site, 2001 to present.

Editor I Am New Orleans & Other Poems By Marcus Bruce Christian. New Orleans: Xavier Review Press, 1999.

Editorial Assistant Labor’s Heritage, Spring 1997.

Contributing Editor The New Laurel Review, Spring/Fall 1984; Spring/Fall 1987

Editor (& Founder) CRICKET: Poems and Other Jazz. New Orleans, 1985.


Librarian, Baltimore City College High School, 2004 to 2005

Circulation/Reference Librarian St. Mary’s Seminary & University, 2000--2004

Reference Librarian Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, 1997-1999

Reference Librarian Baltimore City Community College, Baltimore, 1997

Archival Consultant George Meany Memorial Archives, Silver Spring, 1996-1997


M.L.S., 1997 University of Maryland, College Park

Archival Internship George Meany Memorial Archives, 1997. Activities included reference, accessioning and processing and preserving AFL-CIO, records (paper and audiovisual), writing finding aids, records management  activities, editing Labor's Heritage

Reference Librarian Internship Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University, 1996. Activities included working at Reference Desk, and assisting in setting up archival web page; developed an alternative design for Milton's Web, the library's web page.

MA English, 1981, University of Maryland, College Park

Thesis Director Dr. Lewis A. Lawson, UM English, 1980-1981     

Teaching Assistant University of Maryland, 1980-1981. Taught Freshman Composition, under the supervision of Eugene Hammond, author of Teaching Writing

BA, English, 1978 University of Maryland, College Park

Minors: Math, Philosophy. Independent Study with Dr. Max Wilson, former Chair, Department of Philosophy, Howard University, 1974-1976


GED Instructor

Baltimore City Community College, 1993-1997

Civic Works, 1994-1995

Baltimore Reads, LPNW, 1990-1993

English and Literature Instructor

Coppin State College, Fall 2000

University of New Orleans, 1984-1986

Northeast Louisiana University, 1983-1984

University of District of Columbia, 1981-1983  


English Skills Specialist, IED Program, University of  Maryland, 1983. Made assessments of incoming high school graduates. 


Computer skills (including Internet, bibliographic searches, Web and HyperCard design); records management and preservation skills, editing, writing, visual arts layout, research, adult literacy consulting. 

PUBLICATIONS & Other Writings

“African Records and Technology: Issues in Increasing Access and Preservation.” (1997). Unpublished essay.

“AFL-CIO Department of Organization (1955-1973).” Finding Aid. The George Meany Memorial Archives, Silver Spring, June 1997.

“The Appraisal and Disposition of the Negro Federal Writer’s Project Records.”  Unpublished essay.

“Conjuring & Doctoring: A Modern Folk Tale.” The New Laurel Review, Spring 2000.

“Enoch Pratt Free Library and Adult Literacy Services.” Unpublished essay.

“The Ethnologic Image of Americans in Black and White: An Exploration of the Ethnic Writings of Martin R. Delany (1812-1885). Master’s Thesis, April 1981.

“Evtushenko in New Orleans.” The New Laurel Review, Spring/Fall 1987

“Extending the Boundaries of Liberal Educational Discourse: A Review of C.A. Bower’s Elements of a Post-Liberal Theory of Education.” 1990. Unpublished essay.

I Am New Orleans & Other Poems By Marcus Bruce Christian. Edited by Rudolph Lewis and Amin Sharif. New Orleans: Xavier Review Press, 1999.

“In Search of Books, Scholars, and Libraries in Sixteenth-Century Timbuktu.” 1996. Unpublished essay and HyperCard project.

“Instructional Materials Used By Baltimore Literacy Programs: An Evaluative Report.” 1997. Unpublished report.

“Interview with Yusef Komunyakaa.” New Orleans: May 1985.

Introduction  I Am New Orleans and Other Poems by Marcus Bruce Christian. Edited by Rudolph Lewis and Amin Sharif. New Orleans: Xavier Review Press, 1999.

“Jesse Covington Dent: Concert Artist & Humanist.” The New Laurel Review, Spring/Fall 1984.

Letters of an Abiding Faith—1976-1994: Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to Her Son. Baltimore: Tinka Enterprises, Publisher, 2001.

“Life Pieced Together: Ella Lewis, Quilt Maker, The New Laurel Review, Spring/Fall 1984.

“Magpies, Goddesses, & Black Male Identity in the Romantic Poetry of Marcus Bruce Christian.” Paper presented at College Language Association, April 2000, Baltimore, Maryland.

“Man on a Mission: A Rhetorical Analysis of Frederick Douglass’ Oration on Abraham Lincoln.” 1980. Unpublished essay.

Marcus Bruce Christian (1900-1976): A Compilation of Christian's Bio-Bibliographical  Material on a New Orleans Poet and Louisiana Historian. Copyright 2000. Baltimore.

“Marcus Bruce Christian and a Theory of a Black Aesthetic.” Paper presented at the Zora Neale Hurston Society Conference held June 1999 at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Published in The Zora Neale Hurston Journal, Spring 2000.

“My Room Without You.” Poem. The New Laurel Review, Spring/Fall 1987.

“A Preservation Report and Five-Year Plan for the Guy-Blache Moving Image and Sound Archive (GBMISA).” 1997. Unpublished.

“Setting Priorities and Making Compromises: The Artful Management of Materials in Electronic Formats.” 1996. Unpublished.

“Sons & Daughters of Sussex: A Family Memoir of Five Generations.” 1999. Unpublished manuscript.

“Tragedy of Real Estate.” Poem. Something Good: An Anthology of Poetry, Rap, Memoirs, edited by Nancy Travis. Newark, NJ: African American Word, Inc., 1987.

“Vanni Buscemi Montana Collection, 1925-1987.” Finding Aid. The George Meany Memorial Archives, Silver Spring, January 1996.


2000 Marcus B. Christian Community Service Award. University of New Orleans. Dr. Mackie Blanton, Dean

1995 Business and Continuing Education Center, Baltimore City Community College, Beverly Arah, Director of Literacy Programs

1991 The Learning Place Northwest, Baltimore Reads, the Mayor's Adult Education Program

*   *   *   *   *'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

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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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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The Courage to Hope

How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear  

By Shirley Sherrod

Sherrod sets the record straight on her forced resignation from the Department of Agriculture in 2010. The author. . .was director for the USDA's Rural Development in Georgia when conservative political blogger Andrew Breitbart attacked her for allegedly reverse racist comments she made at an NAACP event. The threat of exposure on national TV was enough to send the USDA running for cover, and she was dismissed. Sherrod decided she had to fight back. She and her husband have been directly involved in the struggles for political and economic justice in Georgia and elsewhere since the 1960s, and they were part of Martin Luther King's movement for civil rights. She writes about growing up in segregated Georgia and the circumstances surrounding her father’s murder and the arson of her family home—at that time, “fear was the daily diet that kept the status quo alive.” In the ’70s, Sherrod and her husband worked with other farmers in Georgia on experimental projects. Denied drought assistance funds by the USDA, they faced foreclosure and joined a class-action suit to redress the discrimination.

Eventually, they won the settlement, a decision strongly opposed by conservatives. Sherrod writes sharply about the continuing legacy of racism and how economic policy, hidebound bureaucracy and plain malice affect poor people everywhere, and why pretending that we are in a post-racial world doesn’t help anyone. An inspiring memoir about the real power of courage and hope.

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The Black Count

Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

By Tom Reiss

Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature. Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy.

Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

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






update 8 March 2012




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