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The picture, like the book, had a difficult time coming to birth. Greenlee's manuscript

had been turned down by every publisher to whom he submitted it. --

largely because of its frightening depiction of the "rioters" as winning.

Sam Greenlee

 

 

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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How the Riots Might Have Turned Out

 

By Cornish Rogers

 

The most persistent and painful images of the urban riots of the 60s that I retain are of young black men grotesquely lying in pools of blood in the gutters, while policemen or national guardsmen, looking self-satisfied, hover above them with drawn guns. Although I deplored the senseless burning and looting, I nonetheless recall within me a visceral longing that the outcome of the confrontation might be different.

And now the materialization of that longing leaps from the screen in The Spook Who Sat by the Door. A motion picture recently released by United Artists, it is a faithful adaptation of Sam Greenlee's bestselling late-60s novel of the same name. produced by Ivan Dixon and Greenlee (the latter also coauthored the screenplay), the film tells the story of Dan Freeman, a young black social worker trained uncover guerilla tactics as a CIA agent; he decides to organize a black revolution in the United States -- a revolution to be carried out under cover of the urban riots. He returns to his native Chicago and, using all the guile and deftness taught him by the CIA, in turn trains street gang members in the art of guerilla warfare.

Linking into his plan the "brothers" in other major black urban centers, he is then ready for the incident that triggers the riots and provides the signal for his revolutionary cadre to go into action. A series of lightning forays by the young gang members during the riots comes off convincingly, and the picture ends while the fighting is still going on but with the clear implication that the guerillas will not be defeated. (Freeman, played by Lawrence Cook, reminds his youthful followers that guerillas win when they are not defeated.)

The picture, like the book, had a difficult time coming to birth. Greenlee's manuscript had been turned down by every publisher to whom he submitted it. -- largely because of its frightening depiction of the "rioters" as winning. the book was eventually published in England, where it became a bestseller before it finally came out in the United States. Since then it has been translated into Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, Italian, German, Japanese and French.

For the motion picture, Greenlee and Dixon first had to overcome severe difficulties in funding, and then had to film it in Gary, Indiana, because the Chicago authorities refused to cooperate in securing manpower, as well as the firearms and other equipment called for in the script. Richard Hatcher, the black mayor of Gary, cooperated fully and enthusiastically.

Spook will horrify many white viewers for a number of reasons. Some will see it as a possible incitement to blacks to stage an organized revolution. Others will recoil from the visual depiction of what were their deepest fears at the time of the riots -- fears that the blacks were in fact engaged in a revolt and were out to kill them. On this point the film makes it clear that the revolution arose not out of hate toward whites, but out of love for the black people and their liberation.

In dialogue with the gang members, Freeman maintains that the revolution may be joined by whites at a later stage. Further, he warns his young charges that some of their enemies are black -- a fact that is highly significant in the plot's denouement.

The most unfortunate reaction that the film may trigger for some whites, however, is a confirmation of their conviction about black intentions and thus a reinforcement of their support for the future use by the state of excessive force to put down every minor racial disorder.

Viewing what might have been may lead some to the judgment that the Nixon administration's exaggerated efforts to quash dissent in recent years were appropriate and necessary after all.

But the risks of negative reactions to the film are worth taking because, in a paradoxical way, it deals more realistically with the terrifying but logical extension of black response to oppression than did the actual events of the 60s. For instance, during the height of the Watts riots in 1965, a young white female revolutionary rushed into my church office shaking her head in disappointment. The rioters had ignored her suggestion that they go out to Hollywood and knock out the huge electric power station that provided electricity for the entire area.

They're not really interested in revolt, as they should be," she said. "They're only interested in burning down the symbols of their brutalization."

The real riots did demonstrate black obsession with degrading myths and symbols, rather than with reality. Spook deals with what might have occurred had black rage been channeled in a consistent and disciplined effort to strike for real freedom.

Source: The Christian Century (3 October 1973)

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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.

For those uninitiated to this film, or the book it is based upon, here's a quick summary...

A White U.S. Senator, looking to improve his standing among Black voters, sponsors a drive for the CIA to recruit Black agents. However, everyone is graded on a curve, so all are condemned to flunk...save for soft-spoken Dan Freeman. After going through grueling training in self-defence, guerilla warfare and underground operations, he is recruited to be a "reproduction chief" (he runs a photocopier in the sub-basement), and serves the CIA as a token Black employee (the term "spook" used here is both a racial slur, and a slang term for a spy).

After 5 years, he leaves the CIA to work in his native Chicago for a social services agency...by day. By night, he's using his CIA training to teach a street gang to be the vanguard in an upcoming race war...

Understandably, this film raised a lot of fears among Whites when released, and despite box office success, it vanished from distribution after only three weeks. The film-makers insist it was pressure on the film's distributors by the FBI and their COINTELPRO program against Black Nationalist groups.

Long available only on bootleg video copies and screened only on college campuses, it became an underground classic. And now, it's legitimately available on DVD.

The DVD includes the rarely seen coming attractions trailer and TV spot, as well as interviews with the book's author, Sam Greenlee (in his 70's and still as vocal as he ever was!) and film-maker Robert Townsend, who says that this film literally changed his life.

Believe the hype! This film was made against the odds (The producer struggled just to make payroll, and the outdoor scenes in Chicago were shot without permits!), and despite the years, has not lost any of it's punch! Steven F. Scharff

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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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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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 Eroticanoir.com 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

Non-fiction

#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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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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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 25 February 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: Sam Greenlee's Book (Wickham)  How the Riots Might Have Turned Out   Be-Bop Man/Be-Bop Woman   When Desoree Danced 

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