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Lord said in Her mighty voice, ‘You better respect the power I gave you and stop killin'

and intimidatin' folks for no reason.  You can't go around upsetting the delicate balance

of nature I created.  I mean, just who do you think am the Lord around here, anyway?'



Books by Sam Greenlee

The Spook Who Sat By the Door  / Ammunition! Poetry and Other Raps

Baghdad Blues: A Novel  / Blues for an African Princess

"Be-bop man/be-bop woman" 1968-1993: Poetry and other raps

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Snake in the Garden of Eden

 A Negro Folktale

from Sam Greenlee's "Djarkarta Blues"


"Go on about this dude in Dacca."

"One night, he was coming on stronger than usual, so I hissed; he backed off and from that time on he left me alone."

"You hissed?" he asked, puzzled.

"Just like the snake in the Garden of Eden. Don't you know that folk tale?"

"No, tell me."

"Well," I said. "It was back in the days before the good Lord had invented human beings and only animals lived in the Garden of Eden, along with birds, insects and plants, of course.

"Since the Lord wasn't finished with the Creation, She would often leave the snake in charge to keep things cool until She got back, because She had to go about the business of carving out the western hemisphere and stuff like that and She'd given the power of death only to the snake."


"Sure. Didn't you know the Lord's a black woman?"

He laughed; then tapped the ash from his cigarette.  His hands were small and well formed.  I noticed his nails were carefully cut and buffed to a sheen, his short sleeved white shirt starched and ironed, sharp crease in his blue cord slacks, rep tie carefully knotted in a small Windsor.

"What color was this snake?" asked Chris. "As if I didn't know."

"White, of course," I said. "One time, the Lord got back and there wasn't an animal in sight except for the snake, sunning himself on a rock.

"The Lord yelled out, 'All y'all come on out here!'  One by one, they crept out from holes and behind bushes, looking like they were scared to death, so the Lord asked Brer Rabbit, 'What the hell is goin' on 'round here?'

"Brer Rabbit told the Lord the snake had been striking folks dead, left and right, up, down and sideways for every little old thing, so the Lord really chewed the snake's ass. 'Snake,' the Lord said in Her mighty voice, ‘You better respect the power I gave you and stop killin' and intimidatin' folks for no reason.  You can't go around upsetting the delicate balance of nature I created.  I mean, just who do you think am the Lord around here, anyway?'

"'Now looka here, snake,' said the Lord, 'I don't want to hear no more shit about you terrorizin' nobody around here while I'm gone, you hear me?  Cause if I do, your white ass belongs to me.  As it does anyway,' the Lord said, as an afterthought."

It was becoming hot in the room.  Chris had begun to sweat and took a handkerchief from his pocket to mop his brow.  I walked over to the air conditioner and turned it on, hitting the button for exhaust, then sat back down in the mahogany swivel chair.

"Well, the snake was mighty pleased to be let off so light," I continued, "knowing full well the wrath of the Lord.  So after the snake swore up, down and sideways that he would become the sweetest snake in all Creation, the Lord went back to work carving out the Mississippi River, only to find She had to dig the Gulf of Mexico for somewhere for the water to flow, because otherwise there would not have been no New Orleans, no Jazz and no Louis Armstrong.

“Anyway, once the Lord finished the Western hemisphere, She got back to the Garden of Eden later than planned and found out everything was a mess; no law and no order; garbage everywhere and Brer Snake nowhere to be found.

"The Lord threw back Her head and let out a mighty roar that started the hurricane that caused the Japanese, Philippine, and Indonesian islands to break off from the mainland.

"'Snake, get your skinny white ass out here!'  She thundered.  Well, the snake slid out from under a big rock lookin' like forty miles of bad road.  Looked like everybody done whipped his ass at least twice and to confirm it, Brer Rabbit kicked the snake upside the head as he strolled by and the Lord said, 'Snake, what the fuck is wrong with you? I leave you here to keep things cool; and come back here to anarchy and chaos, and you lookin' like everybody done kicked your ass! What you got to say for yourself?'

"'Well, Lord,' said the snake, 'you told me not to strike nobody dead with my deadly venom'.

"The Lord just shook her head and said. 'Yeah, dummy, but I didn't say you couldn't hiss!'"

Source: “Djarkata Blues” unpublished novel by Sam Greenlee

posted 6 March 2009 

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Other Passages from "Djarkarta Blues”

Nobody messes with the bankers of the world.—Narrator Dave Burrell, “Djarkarta Blues”

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“There will always be a threat to national security, and when there is none, they’re easy to create” He said.  First, you demonize the threat: Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler, Castro, whoever.  Then you indicate that persons like me stand between the people and the threat.  It’s a titillating morality play, right out of a western movie.  We wear the white hats, Dave.  James Bond is no more than Wyatt Earp in a tuxedo.  There will always be jobs for people like me.”—Al Nelson, “Djarkarta Blues”

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He's a Midwestern Methodist: work hard, obey the law, pay your taxes, and go to church; they’re law abiding, hard working, and basically decent."

"Singleton's a damn bigot!"

"He probably is."

"And you call him decent?"

"Chris, you miss the point."

"So what is the point?"

I turned my head and looked at him.   "The point is that, in America, you don't have to be a monster to be a racial bigot!"— Dialogue between Chris Johnson and Dave Burrell, “Djarkarta Blues”

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“I didn't grow up in a slum or the projects, as the cookie pushers like to think.  West Woodlawn was a good place to grow up in; skilled and unskilled workers, affluent middle class professionals, people just gettin' by, shoulder to shoulder, looking out for one another; tight, man, tight.  Nowadays we're sliding into class divisions; poor folks over there, in the projects and slums and the folks that are better off somewhere else; out in the suburbs, if they can get there."

"Isn't that the way things are the world over?" asked Chris.  He took out his pipe and started cleaning the bowl with a penknife, using automatic ritualistic movements.

"It was a lot better when we all stuck together," I said.  "When we still knew it's about who and what people are, instead of what they own."—Dave Burrell, “Djarkarta Blues”

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“I finally realized there’s little similarity between novels and short fiction.  At first, I was trying to write every chapter as a short story; rather than as components in a larger tale.”—Dave Burrell, “Djarkarta Blues”

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Sam Greenlee—novelist, poet, screenwriter, journalist, teacher and talk show host—was born 13 July 1930 in Chicago. He attended Chicago public schools. At age fifteen,  Greenlee participated in his first sit-in and walked his first picked line. His social activism continues.  In 1952, Greenlee received his B.S. in political science from the University of Wisconsin and the following year attended law school. He transferred to the University of Chicago to study international relations from 1954 to 1957. In 1957, he began a seven-year career with the U.S. Information Agency as a foreign services officer, serving in Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Greece, and in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for bravery during the Baghdad revolution.

Greenlee's novel The Spook Who Sat By the Door, was published in 1968. Prize-winning its fictionalization of an urban-based war for African American liberation became an underground favorite. Greenlee co-wrote a screenplay adaptation of the novel, and in 1973 The Spook Who Sat by the Door was released on film. The film was an overnight success when it was released but was unexpectedly taken out of distribution.

Greenlee has written numerous novels, stage plays, screenplays and poems. He moved back to Chicago after several years of voluntary exile in Spain and West Africa and is hosted a radio talk show program. He is presently working on his autobiography.

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Sam Greenlee (born July 13, 1930) is an African American writer, best known for his novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, first published in London by Allison & Busby in March 1969, which was made into the 1973 movie of the same name and won The Sunday Times Book of the Year award. Other works include Baghdad Blues, a 1976 novel based on his experiences traveling in Iraq in the 1950s, Blues for an African Princess, a 1971 collection of poems, and Ammunition, a 1975 collection of poems. In 1990 Greenlee was the Illinois poet laureate.

Born in Chicago, Greenlee attended the University of Wisconsin (BS, political science, 1952) and the University of Chicago (1954-7). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He served in the military (1952-4), earning the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently worked for the United States Information Agency, serving in Iraq (in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for bravery during the Baghdad revolution), Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece between 1957 and 1965. He undertook further study (1963-4) at the University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, where he lived for three years.Wikipedia

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Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps

By Sam Greenlee

Greenlee is also known for such works as Blues for an African Princess (1971), a collection of poems. His novel Baghdad Blues (1976) and Ammunition: Poetry and Other Raps (1975) both deal with African Americans’ pain, anger, and fear, particularly that of those who are caught up in the racism and oppression of government agencies.

Greenlee's contributions to the literary tradition in African American literature have caused his readers to examine closely the racial awareness or unawareness within agencies and institutions that are designed to serve all Americans. His presentation of African Americans’ duality and paradoxical existence in a racist society is still providing scholars with text to investigate the themes of racism. Greenlee is masterful in his presentation of characters and community; his work is saturated with the African American literary tradition.Answers

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Sam Greenlee is relaxed. He sits lotus style on a rainbow-striped blanket, rolling cigarettes and talking in reflective, short streams about the rage that fueled his 1969 underground classic The Spook Who Sat by the Door. "I planted the seed and I'll live to see it grow," says Greenlee. The seed was a portrait of a black CIA agent who trains a Chicago street gang to orchestrate a Mau Mau-style war on whitey. Its growth was stunted, Greenlee has long contended, by a campaign to keep the 1973 film version of the book out of theaters. "They haven't discouraged me," says Greenlee, 63. "I'm old but I'm not tired. I'm satisfied with my career, I've done the right thing."

Growing up in the 30s and 40s in west Woodlawn, Greenlee lived an "idyllic" childhood filled with Sunday school, Boy Scouts, and the rural, southern values of his parents. He went to Englewood High and earned a track scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in 1948. He began a graduate degree in international relations at the University of Chicago. "I went to two white, brainwashing institutions. But I'm the black dog that didn't fall for Pavlov's scam," he says with a chuckle.

Greenlee joined the foreign service in 1957. "I wanted to see the world," he says, stroking his silver beard. "Baghdad was my first post; they were having a revolution. I was in Pakistan and Greece while both countries were having a coup. What I've lived is far more exciting than anything I could make up."

After eight years, he left the foreign service but stayed on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he began writing his first novel. "I never could write while I was surrounded by those people," he says of his colleagues. "I was so enraged when I came home every night. I was watching them undermine whole cultures. The U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace there is."—the relaxed rage of Sam Greenlee 

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Baghdad Blues

The Revolution That Brought Saddam Hussein to Power

By Sam Greenlee

This book is based on the real life experience of a black man posted to Baghdad in the late 1950s and employed by the US Information Bureau. His white colleagues are totally out of touch with the emerging political unrest protesting the corrupt royalist regime and when the revolution erupts, the US embassy is shocked. The king it supports is killed and the entire city of Baghdad is plunged into political chaos and violence. Sam Greenlee is a most engaging story teller...a very interesting read! Gives insight into Saddam Hussein's ability to rise to power given the preceding historical events.—amazon customer

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 The Spook Who Sat by the Door is about a black CIA agent who masters the skills

of a spy and then  uses them to lead a black guerrilla movement in this country

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

On YouTube

The Spook Who Sat by the Door  / Part 2 of 11 / Part 3 of 11 / Part 4 of 11 / Part 5 of 11 / Part 6 of 11

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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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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

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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 29 February 2012




Home   Guest Poets  Short Stories  Film Review  We Are A Dancing People

Related files: Sam Greenlee's Book (Wickham)  How the Riots Might Have Turned Out   Be-Bop Man/Be-Bop Woman   When Desoree Danced     Autumn Leaves  Snake in the Garden of Eden  Autumn Leaves  

 Ammunition Poetry and Other Raps  Comments on Addae "ABCs"    Exploring Sexuality from a Black Perspective