ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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


Letters from the

Archives of Marcus Bruce Christian

From & To Friends, Colleagues, & Wife



Books by Marcus Bruce Christian

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

*   *   *   *   *


Letter 34


Ruth Warm again on Life in Chicago

Gives Christian Her View of Conflict





Chicago Signal Depot

1903 West Pershing Road 

Chicago 9, Illinois 

July 30, 1945 


My dear Bruce,

Received your letter yesterday. It came when I most needed it. I was feeling a bit out. I suppose I have been working too hard lately. 7 days a week. . . I have some vacation days with pay coming coming up but I am thinking of either being paid cash for it or perhaps taking it about Christmas this year. We also get sick leave with pay. Free use of the Clinic upstairs.

Sometime ago I received my raise . . . CAF$1620.00 a year but the government is giving an increase in Civil service work making my salary $1902.00 a year. Equivalent to about $47.00 a week. Not bad uh? The New increase plus my overtime showed on my check which for three weeks was $156.00. After all tax was taken out I received but $112.00. I save all of my bonds and I have a desire to open a bank account. I would have had a bond for each month I have worked but there were some things I just had to get such as a good winter coat and my radio. I managed to buy during my first few months of working . . . a swell furlined black Chesterfield sport coat . . . ran into about $66.00.

Though my little radio is second hand and I had to pay $35 for it, it's a very good one and my best friend. I must admit while listening to the Contented program as I am now doing, brings back memories of us. I am afraid I didn't know what happiness that was. Even now though, I am not unhappy. I think the trip away from home has done a lot of good. It has given me a chance to be alone, to think things out. And in all, I have never done anything to be ashamed of. In fact I have too many squeamish ideas about sex to ever overstep myself. 

Whatever happened between us, I believe, happened for the best. Otherwise it would have taken many years trying to be what you wanted me to be without my knowing just what you wanted me to be.. I would still be the same hard-headed narrow minded cuss who didn't know enough to put her cares away and smile when her husband told her too. I see now what you mean. For instance there are many people I don't like but when they smile with me . . . I return that smile. And before I know it -- I don't really hate that person after all. The only reason for my behavior is that I was reared with such funny ideas that I couldn't quite see any other side of a question but my side.

You said you never missed me but at Christmas time. On Christmas I didn't miss you either. I still held some bitterness against you. Then too, Xmas was so lovely here in Chicago. I didn't miss anything or anybody much. The first snow fell on Thanksgiving day. I was on my way to work at 6:30 a.m. that morn when I felt the soft flutter of snow gently falling on my bare head. I held out my hand to really get the feel of it. I couldn't resist picking some up out of the gutter and making a nice snowball with it.

When the folks here told me they hadn't had snow on Xmas since 1939 or so I told them we would have a white Xmas because I was here now. Christmas morn found the streets, the sidewalks, tops of automobiles and window ledges everything covered with a beautiful white blanket of snow. The kids had built a swell snow man 4 ft. high and all that day they amused themselves pitching snowballs at it.

At that time I was living with the Pratts family who were very nice to me. On Christmas Mr. & Mrs. Pratts gave me a genuine Indian bracelet. I like it very much and wear it often. On my birthday -- Matt and Nesby, that's their names, stood beside my bed and sang Birthday greetings to me. Presented me with a beautiful slip which I still have. Mr. Pratts was a railroad man therefore -- had money to burn. He could get at the time, turkeys, meat anything he wanted out in the country parts much cheaper than in the city and because of this they refused to take more than $8.50 a week for room and board and any amount of ironing I wanted to do.

They insisted on taking me places. First the Rhumboogie Club, at which I witnessed a wonderful floor show and difficult acrobatic stunts. Then they asked me if I had ever seen Sissies. I told them I hadn't so they took me over to Joe Hughes place. It was halloween nite and that nite you are allowed to masquerade on the streets. So it was the sissies nite. They went caberating after their act was over.

There's one who's name is Valda. Bruce, you couldn't tell him from a woman the only difference was his voice is somewhat heavy. He and his followers are called 'The Female Impersonators'. This Valda is supposed to be queen of the Sissies, beautiful figure and legs worth looking at. I also observed sitting in the audience a couple of white sissies. They all dress lavishly . . . the best furs and gowns money can buy. Long eyelashes and wigs that look like the real McCoy. Some have good hair which is fairly long. They double it up on top their heads and wear a hat which is fairly long. Some very prominent people are considered as being linked with such freaks . . . some day I'll tell you who. "Nite clubs all seem to be the same. You see one you see them all. The blues singers make their blues sound as loud and sexy as they possibly can. At one niteclub I got fairly sick just listening to the words of the song. 

Sometime ago I went down to the Downtown theater to see and hear Marva Louis in person. I was a bit disappointed. She is by no means ready for her audience. She needs lots more practice. Incidentally . . . this theater Marva appeared at was at one time a Burlesque show but they closed down and later reopened as the Downtown Theater. It's former name was the Rialto. they featured famous Negro Named Bands. Lionel Hampton played there and I went to see him. Our folks, I am sorry to say behaved so outrageously that the management closed the theater and later reopened it again as the Rialto, a burlesque show. There was an article in the paper which reprimanded them for their behavior and telling them they had lost a chance to see some of their greatest Colored Band leaders. Sometimes one can see our Colored bands on stage at the Chicago, but not often.

As for Churches . . . Negroes here, like anywhere else . . . pick anyplace for a house of God, dirty, filthy, broken down structures I wouldn't want to put garbage in. Of course there are some very beautiful Churches but I am speaking of the more ignorant class. Most of the men are rowdy, ugly, and overbearing. They'll knock you down to get ahead of you on street cars.

Every morning I've got to fight my way on the car or be left behind. One hardly ever sees a man offer his seat to a woman. It just isn't done. Such a polite animal doesn't exist, here in Chicago, of course. Coming home on the subway one day . . . my arms ladened with bundles, feet hurting and having to stand I was suddenly taken by surprise when a white man smiled and offered me, not his seat, but to hold my bundles. Can you imagine? These men, they'll beat you to a seat then grin into your face.

When I speak of men, I mean of both or all races, if you please. There has actually been a case when people, crowding and pushing to get on the car have trampled the conductor almost to death. They're vicious. But don't worry, your sugar has learned to fight her way.

One reason for this bad transportation is the shortage of manpower. They're asking for trolley pilots, white or Colored, but don't seem to be answering the ads. Then too, the blocks here are so long. One block here is equivalent to two of New Orleans city blocks. It takes me 45 minutes just to get to work.

Speaking of our marriage . . . I agree with you when you speak of our marriage being successful if it were not for outside interference. The whole thing was . . . I loved my folks, and I loved you and which I loved the greater I didn't know. But, if upon seeing you I feel as I do now, I am sure of which I shall give up.

My sisters have built a swell house in Wills Point and have offered me a home with them but after living up here, with broadened ideas I am not sure I'll be able to ever really live with them again.

When I first wrote you I was intensely bitter towards you, I wanted to hurt you as you hurt me. At the time I wrote the letter I meant the two statements to stick to you. I see, it did. Whether the statements are true or not doesn't matter because you won't believe me one way or the other. 

Yes, I can search through my memory . . . and find things that are fine, loving and again there are things which you said I can't ever forget. True, you never professed to love me. You did everything in your power to keep from telling me so. It was mostly guess work with you. You've got to learn a woman needs more than just 'You're all right'. 'I like you all right'. It just doesn't show anything. Surely, you don't think I've forgotten the third party? And the remark you made after one of our foolish little quarrels. Mainly . . . "Just to think if I hadn't married you, when Irene came she would have had a place to stay." This, and other things, I shall be a life time forgetting.

As for children, I don't think that quite matters now. But anyway I wanted a child moreso because I thought even though we hadn't built so well together that this would be something we both built and created together. But, I don't know, some people are happy without children.

If you notice in my letter, I am not blaming you wholly, nor am I blaming myself wholly. And as you say, we both have our faults.

When I left you I didn't intend that you should live alone. I know a man must have a woman, you've taught me that. So, if you've become entangled elsewhere I don't blame you.

I don't remember saying I intended coming back to you though I suppose the letter may have carried that summation. But if I do, I don't know when, maybe one year, maybe two. At any rate, by reading your letter it seems to me that any entanglements you may have gotten into you are willing to break . . . that's what I read between the lines. Maybe I'm wrong.

I am so glad you liked the picture. You have the only pose like it. Do you suppose your sister would care for one?

If you want to know why a girl like me would be concerned about a guy like you who is all the things he says he is and more . . . I wouldn't differ with you on that score for anything in the world. You might even add the poor insignificant, rebellious pagan, make it good and strong while you're at it . . . . I know . . . maybe someday I'll tell you.

I'll always be a good girl, haven't been anything else. You just watch your end and if you do half as well as I am doing . . . I'll love you more.

Give my regards to Sister, and Dr. Quarles. Is Dr. Daly still with the University? If you should see him remind him of my folder of typewritten material which I want sent to me. I wrote him about it but have received no answer. I would like to have the folder as soon as possible.

In your next letter, include the phone number of the Library and tell me what time you're most likely to be at your desk. I may phone you one day.

I am working hard so that someday I'll be able to buy that Refrigerator, New gas stove, ironing board, etc. that I want so badly IF we should try again. Stay sweet,

Your Skipper, 


"P.S. About the present I wanted to send to you. While Downtown a few weeks ago I stopped in at The Tropical Trading Store and saw there a beautiful hand-carved African piece of work. The bust of an African carved out of wood. Very delicate finish. I planned to get it for you. I went back yesterday and it was gone. however, there is another one not quite as fine a piece of work but if you'd like to have it I could get it for you. If you're not interested maybe I could send you something that you'd be able to use. What did you think? They seem to be fair at this store. I asked about several other pieces which seemed African and they told me they were made in U.S. 

Bruce, I am sorry about this badly typed letter. You see, the only time I can type is on my rest periods or after work and I've really got to rush. I hope the letter doesn't prove too boring. If it is boring, will you let me know? And I'll limit it to shorter pages.

Sincerely, Ruth

<<---Previous33      Next--35->> 

*   *   *   *    *

Ruth Warm again on Chicago and Gives Christian Her View of Conflict  / Ruth Unhappy with Christian's Response

Ruth Lonely for Christian Chicago Wears Thin  / Ruth Enjoys Negro Life in Chicago   /  Ruth, the  Bible, & a Marriage Certificate 

Ruth Anxious Aout War's End Plans to return to Will's Point  

*   *   *   *   *

Selected Letters  Selected Diary Notes

Memories of Marcus B. Christian (CainsChristian's BioBibliographical Record    Introduction to I AM NEW ORLEANS 

A Theory of a Black Aesthetic   Magpies, Goddesses, & Black Male Identity

Activist Works on Next Level of Change   Intro to I Am New Orleans   Letter from Dillard University

A Labor of Genuine Love  Letter of Gift of Photos   Letters from 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 publications.

*   *   *   *   *'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

*   *   *   *   *

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 Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance

Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It

By Les Leopold

How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions:  Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

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






update 2 March 2012




Home     Marcus Bruce Christian  Selected Letters  Selected Diary Notes    I Am New Orleans Table (Poems)   Fifty Influential Figures