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Diary Notes from 

The Marcus Bruce Christian Archives

University of New Orleans


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

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Saxon as Benefactor & Negroes of National Caliber


[not dated, probably after 1945]  

After Saxon promoted me to the head of the Dillard University Unit of the Writers' Project, he began to use me more and more as a sort of clearinghouse for all of his Negro contacts. In this way I and the members of my staff were brought into contact with Negroes of national caliber. Novelists, writers, poets, artists who came into the orbit of this kindly man could be named by the dozens.

It first began even before I was head when I was named Louisiana editor of all Negro material which was then being sent to Sterling A. Brown, who was then in Washington working on a composite study of the Negro in American life. Later came Roscoe Lewis, then whipping into shape the laudable book, THE NEGRO IN VIRGINIA. Richard Wright having lifted himself by his own bootstraps from Illinois Writers' project to front rank authorship came down and paid us a visit in our office at the University.

And there was J. Mason Brewer, warmly praised and vouched for by J. Frank Dobie, the Texan, who, like Saxon, had exploited his region's book about Texas Negro folklore. And there was Jacob Lawrence and his wife, Gwendolyn, both artists, with whom I became fast friends--Jake with his brown, striped mail-order suit and a portfolio of 11 pages of his pictures in FORTUNE. Or Sterling Brown, swinging his Phi Betta Kappa "jive key" from the end of a pocket chain, who because of his "white man's English" and collegiate personality, unconsciously and unintentionally gave birth to Saxon's posthumous book JOE GILMORE AND HIS FRIENDS.

Or there was the day when Saxon called me into town to meet a young woman who was inquiring into the possibility of getting on our unit. The young woman and I sat together in Saxon's outer office. I was tired at the end of the day. The young woman slightly ill-at-ease. I "took her in," unobserved, from head to feet. Her body was somewhat on the petite side, mouth somewhat large for her face and full-lipped. Saxon finally came to the door of his office and called me in and a few minutes later, called her in. The young woman was Margaret Walker, later winner of the Yale University Prize for Younger Poets.

There were many other prominent Negroes I met either directly or indirectly through Saxon. Owen Dodson, poet and playwright; Arna Bontemps, poet, novelist and writer, and many others.

As usual, Saxon did not confine himself to segregation. He seemed to be firmly of the belief that the more white people of good will met worthy Negroes, just so much would a small stone of prejudice be cast aside from the road of life. This belief he reiterated again and again. When, at last, under my supervision, he became pleased with the work of the Dillard Unit was doing, he became an open press-agent for all us working on the project and for me particularly.  

In speeches at colleges and universities, after telling of his work that his main project was doing he would take time out to praise the vast amount of research material that his Negro unit was piling up. Whites coming to New Orleans in search of Negro material or those on a traveling junket were frequently switched to us out at Dillard or else sent to me at my home.

One Saxon-sent visitor I still remember vividly, a fine-looking handsome young Englishman named Cohn. Particularly because he seemed to have enjoyed so much the tea I made for him and made such pleasing comments about the Kraft cheese I served with jam and brown bread that I prevailed upon him to stick a small carton of it into his pockets along with an Indian arrow-head as souvenir.

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Lyle Saxon (1891-1946) was known in his day as "Mr. New Orleans." Saxon lived the life of the Southern gentleman, championed the romance and tradition of old New Orleans and wrote history and biography as well as fiction. As director of the Louisiana Federal Writer's project of the Works progress Administration, Saxon contributed to and compiled Gumbo Ya-Ya, a collection of Louisiana folktales, and valuable and enduring guides to new Orleans and to the state. other Saxon titles include  Father Mississippi  (1927), Fabulous New Orleans (1928), Old Louisiana (1929),  Lafitte the Pirate (1930), and the novel Children of Strangers  (1937). Robert Tallant collaborated with Saxon and other FWP researchers on Gumbo Ya-Ya. Saxon also worked with Marcus B. Christian and the Dillard Project to develop a history of blacks in Louisiana. Christian ennobled view of blacks however differed from Saxon's more traditional view of the Negro in the South

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James W. Byrd, J. Mason Brewer: Negro Folklorist (Austin: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1967)

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Marcus Bruce Christian

Selected Diary Notes / Selected Poems  / Selected Letters

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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

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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.

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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

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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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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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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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update  2 March 2012




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