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In grainy black and white, Howlin Wolf's raw sexual power and artistry

is made plain. Son House, Bukka White, Otis Spann, Muddy Waters-

all appear sometime or another in this documentary.



Books by and About Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson (Lives of the Left)  / Here I Stand  / Paul Robeson Speaks  /

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson , An Artist's Journey, 1898-1939  /  Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise And Achievement

Raul Robeson: Citizen of the World The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now

Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner /  Paul Robeson the Life and Times of a Free Black Man 

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On BET Scandalize My Name and The Howlin Wolf Story

Interesting Website & Other Events

Good Looks: Scandalize My Name on BET
Reviewed by
Amin Sharif


I am not a great fan of BET. But occasionally, there is something worth watching on the channel. This month they offer two documentaries that are well worth watching: Scandalize My Name and The Howlin Wolf Story. Each, in its own right, is a unique contribution to the African-American experience. Scandalize My Name is, perhaps, the more exceptional of the two pieces.

Most scholars of African-American history are well aware of the impact of the anti-communist McCarthy period had on the careers of such notables as Paul Robeson.  Scandalize My Name  fully fleshes out the true impact on the black artist of that period. What I like about this documentary is that it devotes a significant amount of time to the story of Canada Lee-one of the most interesting actors of the period.

Canada Lee was born in 1907 and made movies from 1939 to 1951. He worked with both Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock. Canada Lee was cast as Bigger Thomas in Wells' production of Native Son. But a greater audience came to know Lee in films such as Lifeboat, Cry, the Beloved Country, and his work with John Garfield in Body and Soul. Lee’s role in the latter was particularly poignant since he was also a well-known prizefighter. By the way, it would be nice to see BET run all of Lee's films during Black History Month. But for now, I highly recommend that you watch this documentary.

The Howlin Wolf Story will bring smiles to the face of any serious Blues fan. This documentary follows the career of one of the most dynamic performer in Blues history. In grainy black and white, Howlin Wolf's raw sexual power and artistry is made plain. Son House, Bukka White, Otis Spann, Muddy Waters-all appear sometime or another in this documentary. And, then there is the music. From the Delta to the streets of Chicago, Howlin' Wolf roams and sings. There is a lot of good fun to be found in this film.

posted 18 December 2004

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Paul Robeson was the epitome of the 20th-century Renaissance man. He was an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist. His talents made him a revered man of his time, yet his radical political beliefs all but erased him from popular history. Today, more than one hundred years after his birth, Robeson is just beginning to receive the credit he is due.

Born in 1898, Paul Robeson grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. His father had escaped slavery and become a Presbyterian minister, while his mother was from a distinguished Philadelphia family. At seventeen, he was given a scholarship to Rutgers University, where he received an unprecedented twelve major letters in four years and was his class valedictorian.

After graduating he went on to Columbia University Law School, and, in the early 1920s, took a job with a New York law firm. Racial strife at the firm ended Robeson’s career as a lawyer early, but he was soon to find an appreciative home for his talents.

Returning to his love of public speaking, Robeson began to find work as an actor. In the mid-1920s he played the lead in Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings (1924) and The Emperor Jones (1925). Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, he was a widely acclaimed actor and singer. With songs such as his trademark “Ol’ Man River,” he became one of the most popular concert singers of his time.

His Othello was the longest-running Shakespeare play in Broadway history, running for nearly three hundred performances. It is still considered one of the great-American Shakespeare productions. While his fame grew in the United States, he became equally well-loved internationally. He spoke fifteen languages, and performed benefits throughout the world for causes of social justice. More than any other performer of his time, he believed that the famous have a responsibility to fight for justice and peace. . . . He retired to Philadelphia and lived in self-imposed seclusion until his death in 1976.

To this day, Paul Robeson’s many accomplishments remain obscured by the propaganda of those who tirelessly dogged him throughout his life. His role in the history of civil rights and as a spokesperson for the oppressed of other nations remains relatively unknown. In 1995, more than seventy-five years after graduating from Rutgers, his athletic achievements were finally recognized with his posthumous entry into the College Football Hall of Fame. Though a handful of movies and recordings are still available, they are a sad testament to one of the greatest Americans of the twentieth century. If we are to remember Paul Robeson for anything, it should be for the courage and the dignity with which he struggled for his own personal voice and for the rights of all people.PBS

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The Professor and the Pupil

The Politics and Friendship of W. E. B Du Bois and Paul Robeson

By Murali Balaji

Though honored as two of the most influential African-American leaders of the past century, journalist and novelist Balaji (House of Tinder) compensates in this political biography for "revisionist" historians who regularly omit Du Bois and Robeson's long-standing involvement with the Communist Party, distorting their impact on anti-colonial and radical political thought, eroding their legacies and diminishing their courage in the face of McCarthyism. Du Bois (1868-1963) began his career as an academic and authored 34 books, most notably The Souls of Black Folk, co-founded the NAACP and was an early advocate of Pan-Africanism.

Best known for his Show Boat performance of "Ol' Man River" and his portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello, Robeson (1898-1976) gained international celebrity status (called "America's No. 1 Negro") with starring roles on Broadway and the London stage.

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Robeson, The Council on African Affairs, and Anti-Colonial Politics

Paul Robeson’s pride in Black American culture and identification with African culture began at a relatively early age.  His father, an escaped slave of Igbo heritage, together with the Princeton Black community, strongly inspired and shaped Robeson’s identity as a Black man.  In the midst of segregated Princeton, the Black community of ex-slaves introduced Robeson to an appreciation of African culture through their performance of spirituals.  This reality served as a foundation for his later desire formally to study African cultures, particular West African languages, while living in London, England, during the 1930s.  Hence, it was at the London School of Oriental Languages that Robeson came to understand and value African cultures; it also was in London that he gained an appreciation of African nationalism.  These experiences shaped his personal development and political consciousness, leading him to conclude that African peoples should be free of European imperialism and colonialism (Duberman 1988; Robeson 1958; Robeson Jr. 2001). 

As his pride in and knowledge of Africa grew, and as he met African nationalists and intellectuals in London, Robeson saw it as his responsibility to speak out publicly against the oppression and exploitation of Africans. Moreover, he and others linked imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy, pointing out that the dehumanization and humiliation of Black Americans, Asians, and even ethnic Russians were generated by the same global system of domination.  It was in this way that he began to call for the revolutionary overthrow of global white supremacy and the implementation of scientific socialism and popular democracy on a world scale.  This was the context in which Robeson, together with other leading Black creative intellectuals, set in motion the development of an organization they employed to engineer an African Diaspora anticolonial movement (Robeson 1958; Stuckey 1987).

Moreover, in the face of the racist humiliation and degradation of Black Americans—one that portrayed them as a class of sub-humanity—Robeson and others sought to project a new cultural image by encouraging a progressive Black nationalist consciousness that had its foundation in the value of African cultural nationalism.  Hence, Robeson early on linked Black American cultural nationalism with African cultural nationalism.  In this regard, Sterling Stuckey argues: “His most daring intellectual achievement, however, was in positing the fundamental Africanity of black culture in America…” (Stuckey 1987: 352).  For Robeson, progressive Black nationalism had to be guided by scientific socialism, which was the revolutionary theory and practice that was energizing anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles around the world (Robeson 1958).

By the late 1930s, Robeson returned to the United States and helped to found an organization that would give expression to an African Diaspora politics designed to liberate Africa from colonial domination.  As Penny Von Eschen recounts in her important study, Race Against Empire (1997), the engine driving that effort was the Council on African Affairs (CAA), which emerged from the 1942 reorganization of the International Committee on African Affairs (ICAA).  Established with the assistance of Robeson in 1937, under the leadership Max Yergan, a Black American leftist from Raleigh, North Carolina, the ICAA mainly was an educational organization, comprised of leading Black educators, lawyers, and artists such as Mordecai Johnson, Ralph Bunche, and the Paris-based but Martinique-born intellectual Rene Maran.  ICAA’s mission was to inform the American public about Africa.  In the same year Ralph Bunche introduced Yergan to several African and Caribbean intellectual warriors in London, including Jomo Kenyatta (the future president of independent Kenya), George Padmore (the Caribbean Pan-Africanist), and I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson (the Sierra Leonean trade unionist and journalist). However, Yergan’s membership in the Communist Party and later assumption of the leadership of the National Negro Congress de-emphasized his involvement in the ICAA and resulted in numerous resignations from the ICAA (Von Eschen 1997).Dr. Floyd W. Hayes, III The Cultural Politics of Paul Robeson and Richard Wright

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Interesting Website

Merira Kwesi (Richmond, Virginia) on "sistahs in the struggle"

Sistahs in the Struggle: A Tribute to Black Women LiberatorsAncient and Modern

This enlightening Power Point slide presentation lecture reveals the stories of well-known and little known African women throughout the diaspora. The focus is on those who fought against discrimination and oppression. Lives of ancient African queens are compared with women of African descent in later periods. Merira Kwesi is a lecturer on African culture and history. She links the past with the present by means of exciting and dynamic slide productions based on her travel and study on the African continent.

Sister Kwesi researches the many female personalities who have played an integral role in the history of Black people. She also investigates the many symbols and cultural practices that originated with our African and African American ancestors.  Merira Kwesi has researched and traveled in the African Nile Valley for the past twelve years. She also conducts the Kemet Nu "Know Thyself" educational tours to Egypt and Ethiopia with her husband, Ashra Kwesi. Sister Kwesi is co-owner of Kemet Nu Productions, a company that presents African history by means of video productions. / e-mail: /

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Howlin' Wolf Story 8 / Moanin/ at Midnight / How Many More Years

Smokestack Lightnin' / Back Door Man / Killing Floor / Spoonful 

 I Ain't Superstitious  / Evil  / Forty-Four / Little Red Rooster

Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976), Born in White Station, Mississippi, near West Point, he was named after Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. Known as Howlin' Wolf, he was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Burnett is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." A number of songs written or popularized by Burnett—such as "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Back Door Man," "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful"—have become blues and blues rock standards.

At 6 feet, 6 inches and close to 300 pounds, he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the "classic" 1950s Chicago blues singers. This rough-edged, slightly fearsome musical style is often contrasted with the less crude but still powerful presentation of his contemporary and professional rival, Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters are usually regarded in retrospect as the greatest blues artists who recorded for Chess in Chicago. Sam Phillips once remarked, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #51 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."

Burnett explained the origin of the name Howlin' Wolf thus: "I got that from my grandfather [John Jones]." His Grandfather would often tell him stories about the wolves in that part of the country and warn him that if he misbehaved, the howling wolves would "get him". According to the documentary film The Howlin' Wolf Story, Howlin' Wolf's parents broke up when he was young. His very religious mother Gertrude threw him out of the house while he was still a child for refusing to work around the farm; he then moved in with his uncle, Will Young, who treated him badly. When he was 13, he ran away and claimed to have walked 85 miles (137 km) barefoot to join his father, where he finally found a happy home within his father's large family. During the peak of his success, he returned from Chicago to his home town to see his mother again, but was driven to tears when she rebuffed him and refused to take any money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the "Devil's music."

In 1930, Howlin' Wolf met Charley Patton, the most popular bluesman in the Delta at the time. Wolf would listen to Patton play nightly from outside of a nearby juke joint. There he remembered Patton playing "Pony Blues," "High Water Everywhere," "A Spoonful Blues," and "Banty Rooster Blues." The two became acquainted and soon Patton was teaching him guitar. "The first piece I ever played in my life was . . . a tune about hook up my pony and saddle up my black mare" (Patton's "Pony Blues").

Wolf also learned about showmanship from Patton: "When he played his guitar, he would turn it over backwards and forwards, and throw it around over his shoulders, between his legs, throw it up in the sky." "Chester [Wolf] could perform the guitar tricks he learned from Patton for the rest of his life." "Chester learned his lessons well and played with Patton often [in small Delta communities]."Wikipedia

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#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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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection.

Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington's political outlook on race. The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters 

Edited by Michael G. Long

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the Civil Rights Movement, a master strategist and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a deeply influential figure in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters  are his words shining through a collection of more than 150 of Rustin’s letters. His correspondents include major figures of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. “I have file boxes full of Rustin’s letters that I tracked down in archives across the country,” said book editor Michael G. Long.

“The time it took to complete the research was much longer than I had predicted, not just because of the number of letters I had in hand, but also especially because for their high quality. It was incredibly difficult to weed out those letters I really liked but that did not serve the purpose of putting together a publishable narrative of letters. And there are quite a few of those that are topically fascinating but not easily fitting for a narrative.”phillytrib

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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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