Books by Marcus Bruce
Song of the Black Valiants: Marching Tempo
High Ground: A Collection of Poems /
Negro soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans
I am New
Orleans: A Poem
Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900 /
The Liberty Monument
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Lonely--Chicago Wears Thin
Thinks About Returning Home
ARMY SERVICE FORCES
Chicago Signal Depot
1093 West Pershing Road
Chicago 9, Illinois
July 14, 1945
My Dear Bruce,
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. Glad also that you liked the program, it's
yours. I thought you would like to have it. I had wanted to send you a souvenir of
Katheryn Dunham and her troupe but unfortunately that night I had only enough for one program. Her programs cost 75 cents
each. That was the highest I had ever paid for a program but I assure you it was worth it.
Did I tell you that while Robeson was playing
he and Uta Hagan made the front page of the magazine section of the Chicago
Tribune? Since I have been here I have been saving my clippings. Anything of importance to the Negro. Know what?
When I moved here the party who previously occupied this room left some old Life magazines. I went through the lot of them
and whattayaknow, I found the issue of Life with the Detroit Race Riot.
I got awfully angry with Life magazine when I read an
article on the soldier and noticed particularly that Negroes
at Mess call eat more than they are able "their eyes being bigger than their
stomach." I saved it anyhow.
I have sent a lot of these clippings home because I
began compiling so many things that if I ever intended to leave Chicago in a hurry I would probably need a trunk or two and I
never like too much baggage. But, if you would like to see these articles and return them to me when you have finished
with them I shall send them to you.
One thing I have found out about Chicago. Though it's a convenient place to live, everything handy, still it hasn't
got that clean fresh odor of New Orleans air. There are so many factories over here, keeps the air polluted with soot and
dust. Being the Windy City it also isn't very clean. There are so many allys here. Crime is actually inviting.
Bruce, I have never seen so many Negroes in my life.
It's so noticeable because most of the Negroes are found on
Chicago's south side. People are coming up here in droves, the stations are always crowded. It isn't such a bad idea for people to
come up here but most of them are the ignorant poor types who make everything bad for the rest of the Negroes who actually
know how to use their freedom.
There are so many Negroes from the worst Southern states that sometimes it's hard to believe that you're in a
Northern State. Those who are born here don't seem to be any better educated than our folks back home. The school kids strike me
as though they're still ignorant, the rough and ready type who'll give you plenty of trouble. By no means do they look
progressive. Bruce, you should hear the language kids five and six use, it's terrible!
You know Bruce, many Negroes from the south come up here with no idea at all of the high
cost of living . . . Jumping from $12 and $15 a month rent in N.O. to $50 and $60 a month
here in Chicago is a devil of thing, as a result, many of them are crowded into filthy stink hovels and live in the most
For a room for myself alone I pay $7.50 a week. It's a nice little room and I like it.
The buildings here in Chicago look like the houses I suppose England would have. The little
house which I live looks like an old English Castle. Upper and lower floors, with rooms only on one side of the hall.
The place where I live is old but in good condition. We have a very beautiful lawn out front and a rock garden in the
back yard which is slowly covering up a concrete pool which at one time must have been for small children. There are also a
few trees in the yard. One right near my window. I am in a
very convenient place -- right next to the bathroom. Bath tub is
big enough to swim in. The wash basin is very antique. I think you would agree with me.
There aren't any stores on our street, we have to go
over to Indiana Ave., or on the the intersections of our street. Being a street of mostly residences, it's naturally quiet.
The parks are very beautiful and now that summer's here one can see couples picnicing there or tanning themselves in
The huge library down on State Street is a dream. I have been in it only once. The reason being--a library in the next
block from my place. The Cleveland Hall Branch. Rosenwald was the donor of the site.
In this particular library there is a special room for Negro Books. Know what? I found a copy of
Of course, I took it to work with me and showed it to the girls and where once they called me
"Ruth" some now call me Mrs. Christian and others don't speak to me at all.
The longer I live, the more I understand you. . . .For instance, you never believed in meeting insignificant people.
I couldn't understand why, but I do now. You see, I've found out it just doesn't pay to crowd your mind with
"friends." They're never really friends anyhow. The best friends and company I
could ever have is my radio which I bought second hand but which is very good.
I buy whatever I consider necessary towards making my life happy. Am trying also to save so that one day I'll have
everything I want. I am working overtime today for something special. I saw something downtown I know you'll be quite
surprised and enthused over it. The man told me it was
genuine, I don't know if it is or not but at any rate I know you'll appreciate it.
Bruce, I suppose you're wondering--why the long letter
or why a letter at all? Well, for months I hadn't given you a thought. I had a dream about you not long ago and the next day
your little booklet came. The booklet showed me somehow you were thinking about me, whether it meant thinking of me little
or much I do not know. But I did begin to think about us . . . what you had tried to do for me and why we didn't succeed. I
dreamed about Caliban the other nite. Perhaps because there's
a dog next door who looks like him and who does a lot of
I am wondering my dear, if 16 months have changed you. I have learned to do many things, to think quite differently
about a lot of things I used to hold against you. I mingle
with people but not to the extent of becoming too friendly.
Take good care of yourself and eat your meals regularly. And above all . . . finsih the book . . . or . . . Are you
waiting for your Skipper to come back and help you with it? I thought surely -- that when I left you, you would have found
time to finish the book. It always seemed as though I got in your way.
All of this writing and all I really want to know is -- Do you miss me? have I ever really meant anything to you or .
. . do I still mean anything to you? Write soon and let me know.
P.S. Give Dr. Quarles my regards. Also tell Sister and
all the folks "hello" for me. I thought your letter very
sweet, especially the last part. Didn't know you were ever proud of me.
<<---Previous 31 Next--33->>
* * *
(22 June 1909 – 21 May 2006)
was born June 22, 1909, in
Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her parents--Albert
Millard Dunham, a tailor and Fanny June Guillaume Taylor, an
assistant principal -- afforded her a rather middle class
existence. As a teenager her life became a bit rocky with her
mother's death, her father's remarriage, and with her father
being a strict disciplinarian.
In 1928, Katherine Dunham, with help from her brother Albert
Jr., moved to Chicago and began classes at the University of
Chicago.Dunham would later earn bachelor, masters and doctoral
degrees in anthropology.
At the university, she, choreographer Ruth Page,
and ballet dancer Mark Turbyfill, both members of the Chicago
Opera Company, the three opened a short-lived dance studio and
Dunham called her dancers the "Ballet Negre." Dunham
continued to study dance with her teacher, Madame Ludmila
Speranzeva, whose mentoring led Dunham to dance her first
leading part in Page's La Guiablesse in 1933.
She was awarded in 1935 the prestigious Rosenwald Foundation
Fellowship, Dunham took her first field trip to the Caribbean to
study native dance. Haiti and Jamaica provided Dunham with new
insights; as the villagers began to trust her, Dunham joined
some of their most sacred dance rituals. She would ultimately
claim Haiti as her second home and even adopt their Vodum (or
In 1936, Dunham returned to the United States and
brought a wealth of ideas for exciting choreography, which she
used in her new appointments as dance director for the Negro
Federal Theatre Project in 1938, and the New York Labor Stage in
In 1940, Dunham's production of "Le Jazz Hot-From Haiti
to Harlem" established her as one of the most
celebrated dynamic choreographers for African American dancers.
Then came her production of "Cabin in the Sky," her
first Broadway musical.
During the 1940's and 50's, Dunham's School of Dance provide
the training ground for numerous African American dancers,
including entertainer, Eartha Kitt and actor Marlon Brando..
In 1962, Dunham's last Broadway appearance was in
"Banboche." That year she also choreographed
"Aida" for New York City's Metropolitan Opera Company.
This work brought her to serve as artist-in-residence at
Southern Illinois University, where she staged a brilliant
production of Charles Gounod's 1859 opera, Faust, after which
SIU offered Dunham a permanent position with the university as
Visiting Artist in the Fine Arts Division.
Dunham secured funding for the creation of the Performing
Arts Training Center, a school designed to offer city youth
constructive alternatives to violence. The school opened in
1967, and in 1970, Dunham took 43 children from the school to
Washington, D.C. to perform at White House Conference on
Upon her acceptance, Dunham consented to house her extensive
professional memorabilia nearby at SIU's East St. Louis
Miss Dunham’s intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian
contributions have earned her many coveted awards over the
years. She acted as advisor on the First World Festival of Negro
Arts, held in Senegal in 1965 and 1966. In 1980, she was the
subject of a television special entitled, "Divine
Drumbeats: Katherine Dunham and Her People." She also
received the Presidential Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center
Honors, French Legion of Honor, Southern Cross of Brazil, Grand
Cross of Haiti, NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, Lincoln
Academy Laureate, and the Urban Leagues’ Lifetime Achievement
In 1989, Dunham was given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame
for the field of Acting and Entertainment. She has also authored
numerous books and papers, which chronicle her experiences as
she explored the connection of culture to dance.
Her marriage in 1939 to Canadian-born, John Pratt, a painter
and costume and set designer who was also white, raised some
initial controversy. But the couple's obvious devotion to one
another (and later, to their adopted daughter, Martinique),
disarmed any skepticism from friends and family concerning the
interracial marriage, which would endure until Pratt's death in
continues her creative work as Executive Director and founder of
the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities in
East St. Louis (www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/kdunham/)
Drumvoices Festival of
* * *
Selections from the Katherine Dunham Collection at the Library
The Katherine Dunham Collection consists of materials purchased from the
archives of the Dunham Centers in East St. Louis, Illinois, and is made possible
through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Collection
comprises 1,694 items in a variety of video/motion picture formats. It documents
many aspects of Dunham’s dance career: her work as a choreographer, her dance
technique and teaching method, various of her performances and productions, and
her anthropological analysis of the dance and ritual of the African diaspora.
The Collection also testifies to her global activism and leadership in the field
of human rights and her advocacy of African American causes in her community.
The materials in this collection are housed
and available for use in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound
Reading Room. Viewing requests should be directed to the MBRS Reading Room at
202-707-8572. Items should be requestedusing the “Motion Picture ID#” given in
this document. The numbers found in the field labeled “Tape #” are only included
for use in provenance tracking. (Those are the numbers that were on the tapes at
the Dunham Center Archives in East St. Louis.)
Continued . . .
* * * *
Ruth Warm again on Chicago and Gives Christian Her View of
Ruth Unhappy with Christian's Response
Ruth Lonely for
Christian Chicago Wears Thin /
Ruth Enjoys Negro
Life in Chicago /
Ruth, the Bible, & a
Ruth Anxious Aout War's
End Plans to return to Will's Point
* * *
Selected Diary Notes
Memories of Marcus B. Christian
BioBibliographical Record Introduction to I AM NEW
Theory of a Black Aesthetic Magpies,
Goddesses, & Black Male Identity
Activist Works on Next Level of Change
Intro to I Am New
Letter from Dillard University
Labor of Genuine Love
Letter of Gift of
LSU and Skip Gates
* * *
Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900
By Marcus Bruce Christian
Study of the blacksmith tradition and New
Orleans famous lace balconies and fences.
Acclaimed during his life
as the unofficial poet laureate of the New Orleans
African-American community, Marcus Christian recorded a
distinguished career as historian, journalist, and literary
scholar. He was a contributor to Pelican's
Gumbo Ya Ya, and also wrote many articles that appeared
in numerous newspapers, journals, and general-interest
* * *
* * * * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
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.
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
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
* * * * *
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.—
* * *
The Warmth of Other Suns
The Epic Story of America's Great
By Isabel Wilkerson
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a
sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi
for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin
was falsely accused of stealing a white
man's turkeys and was almost beaten to
death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling,
a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem
after learning of the grove owners'
plans to give him a "necktie party" (a
lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster
made his trek from Louisiana to
California in 1953, embittered by "the
absurdity that he was doing surgery for
the United States Army and couldn't
operate in his own home town." Anchored
to these three stories is Pulitzer
Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's
magnificent, extensively researched
study of the "great migration," the
exodus of six million black Southerners
out of the terror of Jim Crow to an
"uncertain existence" in the North and
Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates
sociological and historical studies into
the novelistic narratives of Gladney,
Starling, and Pershing settling in new
lands, building anew, and often finding
that they have not left racism behind.
The drama, poignancy, and romance of a
classic immigrant saga pervade this
book, hold the reader in its grasp, and
resonate long after the reading is done.
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
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
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 2 March 2012