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I observed in the museum today was a late fifteenth century German painting of the martyrdom

of St. Bartholomew.  In the painting he was being seriously scourged by five clearly and

distinctly African men.  I mean to tell you that these brothers were really giving him a bad time! 



Writings of Runoko Rashidi


Introduction to African Civilizations / African Presence in Early Asia / Introduction to the Study of African Classical Civilizations


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Runoko in Budapest

Travel Writing by Runoko Rashidi



I am in Budapest, Hungary.  I got here last night after flying from Cairo to Paris and then from Paris to Budapest.  It was a long day with a long layover in Paris and then a long flight delay after that.  But here I am!  Hungary is in the European Union but they still do business with their own currencythe Hungarian florint.  The spoken language and script is Hungarian or Magyar.

Budapest, a city of about two-million, is the capital of Hungary, and, as far as European cities go, it is very beautiful.  It reminds me of both Paris and Vienna with a little bit of Amsterdam thrown in.  English is widely spoken and people are not unfriendly.  Black folks are a rarity here and so far I have only seen about fifteen of us.  Hungary is one of those European nations without an African colonial legacy. 

I was met last night by brother Marc Washingtonan American born African teaching English here. He has been here since the early 1990s and seems to like the place.  The other sisters and brothers that I have said hello to are mostly African immigrants and business people.  One sister, from Accra, Ghana, I bumped into wandering in the hotel last night.  She made it very clear to me, if you know what I mean, that she was here doing business!  I wished her well, told her that I was not in Hungary to "do business," and bade her a pleasant evening. 

Some of the Black folk here seem genuinely glad to see you.  Others, when you greet them, kind of give you that "do I know you" look.  One young brother, in particular, was with two young blond white women and when I greeted him he had nothing to say to me.  He acted like he was in Hungarian paradise and simply ignored my presence.

So far I have not run into any clear racism, with one possible exception.  I was on the metro this afternoon and a little white kid pointed at me and said something that he seemed to think was very funny.  The lady next to him, I guess it was his mother, sternly rebuked him.  I did not need a literal translation for me to gather that he was not being complimentary towards me!  Good thing for all of us that whatever he said was in Hungarian. Otherwise, I would have probably wanted to throttle the little brat!  But children learn from adults, don't they?

I saw a lot today.  I started early.  I got directions and instead of jumping into a taxi like I usually do I took the metro.  Actually, it was pretty easy.  My first stopthe Museum of Fine Arts.  It was a good museum with a better than anticipated Egyptian collection.  There were several excellent pieces but two artifacts, in particular, stood out.  The first was an Eighteenth Dynasty sandstone image of a young African woman holding a standard of goddess Hathor.  The other was a stone image of a Ramesside king with dark brown skin and prominent happy to be nappy hair.  Those two pieces alone justified the trip for me.  

I also found a nice marble head of African Roman Emperor Severus Septimius.  There was also a painting of a white woman named Beersheba taking a bath assisted by an African woman servant.  Another interesting painting was of the Spanish saint James depicted conquering the Moors.  Last December while in Sevilla my tour guide affirmed for me that St. James was Spain's most important figure and that the single best way to offend a Spaniard was to disparage his likeness.  In the painting, the Moor under the hooves of St. James' horse is clearly Black.

Probably the most interesting single artifact that I observed in the museum today was a late fifteenth century German painting of the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.  In the painting he was being seriously scourged by five clearly and distinctly African men.  I mean to tell you that these brothers were really giving him a bad time!  I took photos of everything and hope to share them with you some day.

I also found in the museum an excellent full color post card of a portrait of Duke Alessandro De Medicithe sixteenth century duke of Florence.  In the portrait his African heritage is very prominent.  The actually painting, by Agnolo Bronzino,  is permanently housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  I bought several of the post cards and left the museum thinking that I had had a very, very good morning.

With the Fine Arts Museum behind me I went in search of my next objectivethe Asian Art Museums.  After a meandering walk I found them.  What a disappointment!  Two small rooms that I covered in less than ten minutes.  Even though I had purchased a photo permit there was nothing in the museums that inspired me to even take the camera out of my bag. 

From the Asian museums I got back on the subway and after a short journey found myself on banks of the Danube River.  I had said that I would have lunch on the Blue Danube and this was my chance.  So I found a rather expensive Hungarian restaurant and requested a menu.  I settled for a chicken steak with vegetables and sour cream, a strong Hungarian beer, and some sparkling Hungarian mineral water.  It was delicious.

Just across the river from the restaurant stands Castle Hilla huge limestone block that dominates the twin cities of Buda and Pest.  This was my next destination and specifically a place called Matthias Church.  I just couldn't figure out how to get up there.  I asked three or four people and they told me to take a train to the bridge, find a bus or walk across, and then climb up the hill.  I looked at all of them like I thought that they were insane and took a taxi!  It seemed to me that only a lunatic would do as they suggested, especially the part about climbing the hill!  

On Castle Hill I wanted to visit Matthias Church as my research suggested that there was a statue of a Black Madonna there.  Unfortunately, I found that the statue is in the church museum and this was closed for renovation.  So I had to settle for a photo of it which I found in a book.  I actually think that the statue is really only a copy of the Black Madonna statue at Loreto, Italy.  But at least I got the photo.

My last stop this afternoon was the National Gallery.  Unfortunately, I did not find anything even remotely African in it.  And that was basically my day. 

I am a little tired and both my feet and my knees are sore from all of that walking.  But I am pretty pleased with myself.  It is just five o'clock and I am thinking of what else I might do today.  Right now I have a wonderful view of the Danube and a beautiful hotel room to read, write, and relax in.  Tomorrow I am going to try to take a train or even a bus across Hungary's northern border to Bratislava, Slovakia.  There is another museum there with an Egyptian collection and I hear it calling me.  If I make it that will be country number ninety for me as I count up to one-hundred nations that I have journeyed through in search of the African presence.  So keep your fingers crossed for me and perhaps I will have another story or two for you in your next email.

Life is good and I am feeling most fortunate.

In love of Africa, Runoko Rashidi Okello, in search of the African presence in East-Central Europe.

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Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance

By Marshall Stearns and Jean Stearns

Marshall Stearns, who taught college English, specializing in Chaucer, loved jazz, thought about jazz, taught about jazz, wrote about jazz, and, as the foundation of all this, took jazz seriously. His The Story of Jazz became a standard work in its field, and he then went on to document the dancing that went with the music. With his wife Jean, he spent seven years doing research, not only in libraries but among the living archives of dancers' memories. They conducted interviews with every jazz dancer they could find, at a time when jazz dancers seemed to be members of an endangered species.

Now, thanks to Da Capo Press, Jazz Dance is again available, as a paperback ($16.95), augmented with a new foreword and afterword by Brenda Bufalino, artistic director of the American Tap Dance Orchestra.

Although the book takes its subject only up to 1966when Marshall Stearns died of a heart attack shortly after the manuscript was completedit's still essential reading for anyone interested in jazz, in dance, and in the American musical theater.FindArticles

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The Eyes of Willie McGee

 A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South

By Alex Heard

The Slave Ship

By Marcus Rediker

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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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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.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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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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posted 6 August  2008 




Home Black Librarians  Transitional Writings on Africa   

Related files:   African Libraries Project  Runoko Rashidi       The Black Presence in the Bible: A Selected Bibliography  Delany and Blyden  Tribute to Ivan Van Sertima  Runoko in Budapest   Niger and the National Museum   

 Photos of Global African Presence  Runoko in Papua New Guinea   Runoko Rashidi Speaks in Nigeria   Those Missing Noses in Kemet Sculpture    African Genesis Media Group    Nomads of Niger

An African Gathering in Senegal