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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

 

 

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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Sam Greenlee's Book 

Is Still Making a Statement 

 By DeWayne Wickham

 

WASHINGTON – Thirty years after his movie, The Spook Who Sat by the Door was bum-rushed out of inner-city theaters, Sam Greenlee is still an angry  man.

Greenlee’s film was drawn from his book by the same name, which was published in 1969 – four years before his movie was released. Written in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and at the end  of a decade in which race riots threatened to spawn on the streets of  America the kind of guerrilla warfare that now rages in Iraq, Greenlee’s  book was not well received by this nation’s ruling class. As quickly as it  showed up in 1973, it disappeared from the big screen.

“The film was suppressed by the FBI. It was only out there four  months,” Greenlee said Wednesday after a special viewing of his movie at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference. A couple hundred people –  most of them old enough to have seen Greenlee’s film when it was in theaters  – watched it in a cavernous ballroom of the new Washington convention center.

If you’re too young to have seen the movie during its original  release, or too uninspired to have read the book,
The Spook Who Sat by the Door is about a black CIA agent who masters the skills of a spy and then  uses then to lead a black guerrilla movement in this country. While the  fighting pits blacks against whites, Dan Freeman – the CIA  agent-turned-black-revolutionary – tells one of his men that they are fighting for “freedom,” not against “whitey.”

If the film’s plot makes you uncomfortable, that’s exactly what  it was intended to do to white folks back in 1973. It was part of a genre of  black protest movies that were lumped together with other black films of  that era. Called “blaxploitation,” these movies have been widely dismissed  as a form of black slapstick – movies that glorify bad behavior or trivialize inner city life.

But Greenlee’s film doesn’t fit that mold. Nor do many others, like the 1971 film
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Melvin Van Peebles X-rated movie about a black sex performer who kills two cops after they brutalize a black boy; or Cornbread, Earl and Me, the 1975 story of a  black high school basketball star who is mistakenly killed by a cop.

Wedged  in between the release of those films were movies like Gordon’s War, in which four black Vietnam veterans join together to rid an inner city  neighborhood of drug pushers; and The Legend of Nigger Charley, the tale of three runaway slaves who outwit the bounty hunter sent to return them to captivity.

These movies were intended to make political statements, as much as they were meant to entertain black folks. They contained not-so-subtle  messages about black rage at a time when white indifference to the on-going  oppression of blacks was widespread. And some of them – like
The Spook Who Sat by the Door– may have been too controversial to stay in theaters very  long. What’s certain is that the fire that burned in Greenlee’s gut when he produced his book and movie still rage inside him today.

“I’m a street dude who went to three fine universities,”  Greenlee said of himself to those who hung around to hear him after the  screening of his movie. “If I had been praised and offered an Academy Award  (for
The Spook Who Sat by the Door ) I’d have to look at myself and figure out what I did wrong,” he said.

Like Oscar Micheaux, the largely forgotten black filmmaker who  produced 44 feature films in the first half of the 20th century, Greenlee thinks that if black stories are going to be told in the cinema – and told well – those movies must be produced by blacks. “If you want to make black  films,” he said, “you’ve got to have black money.” White money brings with  it white control, Greenlee said.

And in far too many instances today, white control of black movies has produced a new genre of blaxploitation films – movies that are largely devoid of any meaningful message. 

Source: Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com. DeWayne Wickham is a columnist for USA Today and the Gannett News Service,  which distributes his commentaries to more than 130 daily newspapers. He's a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and a scholar-in-residence and distinguished professor of journalism at Delaware State University.

posted 25 September 2003

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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 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)

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies. As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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     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