by Michele Valerie Ronnick
Cicero's "Paradoxa Stoicorum"/
Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough /
The Works of William Sanders Scarborough
* * *
"Tell Them We Are Rising!”
Presidential Address (CAMWS 2010)
It is great to be in the
state—a state whose very geography offers
evidence of its classical connections! From a map drawn
by Dr. Michael Masopust who teaches here at the
University of Oklahoma we can see these towns:
Ceres, whose fruitful earth produces oil; Omega which is
five and a half miles from Alpha; Arcadia, whose website
mentions the town’s peacefulness; Antioch, which is—sad
to say—now a ghost town; and Troy, not named, as is
sometimes thought, for Troy Aikman, who played for the
Sooners as quarterback in the mid 1980s.
aside, I want to talk to you tonight about African
American history—here in Oklahoma and beyond, and to
connect this with the study of Greek and Latin, and to
African American intellectual work in general. Oklahoma
is the home state of
Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor of
Religion at Princeton University who was born in Tulsa
in June of 1953. As you know, his colleague at Princeton
Toni Morrison, the newly retired Robert F. Goheen
Professor of Humanities, who was the first black woman
to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. She graduated from
Howard University in 1953 with a minor in classics, and
tonight I call your attention to her haunting novel
Paradise (1997), which is set in a rural area of
Oklahoma populated by characters such as Juvenal DuPres,
the Cato Family, and two women named Seneca and Pallas.
is also the home of
Watts, Jr.—that is, Julius Caesar Watts, Jr., who as
quarterback led the Sooners to consecutive victories in
the Orange Bowl in 1980 and 1981. From 1995 to 2003,
Watts represented Oklahoma’s 4th
Congressional district in the U.S. House of
Representatives. He was the first African American from
either party to deliver an official response to a State
of the Union address (which he did following President
Clinton's speech in 1997). Watts carries his father’s
name, J. C. “Buddy” Watts, Sr., and the initials J. C.
didn't stand for anything until the day
father’s elementary school teacher asked him to provide
a full name. Remembering that one of his sisters had
been studying the Roman Empire, the young J. C. Watts,
Jr. proudly said: “Julius Caesar!”1
is also the home state of
Margaret Wade-Lewis. After graduating from Tulsa’s
Booker T. Washington High School in 1973, she earned a
B.A. in English from Langston University and an M.A. in
English from Oklahoma State University. In 1988 she
completed her doctorate in linguistics at New York
University and was the first African American woman to
do so.2 She died in December of 2009 and I
dedicate this essay to her. We became friends through
our common interest in the history of black philology:
mine in the black classicist
William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) and Howard
University’s first black professor of Greek,
Wiley Lane (1852-1885), and hers in the son of
Lane’s friend, Rooks Turner (1844-1926).3
Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972) who after earning his
doctorate in English at the University of Chicago in
1940 pioneered the study of the Gullah language. He
proved that Gullah was not a form of substandard English
as many established scholars believed, but was instead
descended from African languages. Turner’s work helped
pave the way for Gullah studies, dialectgeography and
leads us to the main topic of my address: black
classicism and the influence of Graeco-Roman heritage
upon the professional and creative lives of people of
African descent. It may surprise some of us to know that
the classical curriculum was the foundation of black
education for many years in the United States. It was in
fact the springboard for philological work in any
language, ancient or modern, by people of African
descent. We classicists can take great pride in William
Sanders Scarborough, whose work marks the beginning of a
line of African American academics from our own fellow
Snowden (1911-2007) to
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,
Houston Baker, and
Oklahoma until 1897 (the year after the Supreme Court’s
verdict in the
Plessy v. Ferguson case that decided
schools should be “separate but equal”), it was at least
in theory possible for an African American student to
apply for admission at the University of Oklahoma, for
each county made its own rules. Before that system was
discarded and segregation was mandated throughout the
territory, the question of integration arose during the
term of the University of Oklahoma’s first president,
David Ross Boyd.
his faculty (four in number) had strong opinions on the
subject. President Boyd, the son of James Ross Boyd, an
Ohio abolitionist, favored integration. But
professor of chemistry, was strongly opposed. DeBarr had
a life-long and irrational fear of black people and had
been active in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Supporting
President Boyd was William N. Rice—a classicist—who
approved of mixed race schools. The issue came to a head
in 1892 when a talented young black student named
Work (1866-1945) came to campus and tried to enroll.4
President Boyd had taken a strong interest in
meeting him some time before at Arkansas City High
School in Kansas. Work was a student there and Boyd an
administrator. But the townsmen were upset, and
President Boyd thought it unwise to press the issue.
Suffice it to say Professor Rice left the university at
the end of that school year. On Work’s behalf, however,
President Boyd contacted
William Rainey Harper, the
first president of the
University of Chicago.5
went there and earned a B.A. in philosophy in 1902 and
an M.A. in sociology in 1903, at which point Boyd tried
without success to interest Work in becoming the second
president of Langston University. Langston University’s
first president was
Inman Page (1853-1935).6
Page was one of the first African Americans to graduate
from Brown University. After years of service to
Langston University, he became principal of the
Frederick Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. One of
the students he impressed at Douglass was Ralph Ellison,
another of Oklahoma’s native sons, who was born in
Oklahoma City in 1914. Ellison saw Page as a culture
bearer—one who implanted the ideals of “New England
Education out in the territory.”7
University opened its doors in September of 1898 as a
Plessy v. Ferguson. Amid much controversy
the school maintained a classical program (that “New
England education” mentioned by Ellison) until the
1920s. Serving at various points during these years in
the Classical Languages Department were five faculty
members: Moses J. Ferguson was the first, followed by
William E. Guy, Gilbert Jones, S. L. Hargrove and Peter Meiggs.
Plato, along with various
history classes, until the clamor for industrial
education and growing interest in the modern languages
gained the upper hand.8
is famous for another native son,
John Hope Franklin
(1915-2009). His father, Buck Colbert Franklin, was an
attorney, farmer, newspaper editor and postmaster, and
his mother, Mollie, taught school. Early in 1921 Mr.
Franklin moved to Tulsa; his wife and children were to
follow him a short time later. But their plans were
undone by the
Tulsa race riot of 1921, which occurred on
the very week that young Franklin, his mother, and his
sister arrived. Their new home was destroyed, and the
family lived apart for four years—events that left a
deep impression upon the young boy. After graduating
from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School in 1931,
Franklin went on to
Fisk University and to Harvard
University, where he earned a master’s degree and
doctorate in history. After a distinguished career at
Brooklyn College, the University of Chicago and Duke
University, he received the Presidential Medal of
Freedom in 1995.
tell you how he got his name. He was named after a black
man who valued Greek and Latin as much as we do. This is
John Hope (1868–1936). Born in Augusta, Georgia, he was
the son of James Hope, a white Scottish immigrant and
wealthy businessman, and Mary Frances Butts, a free
black woman. Interracial marriage was prohibited in
Georgia, but the couple lived together as man and wife.
Sad to say after James Hope died in 1876, his executors
failed to carry out his instructions to provide for Mary
Frances and her children. And although the family
belonged to the black elite, they entered a period of
struggle. Hope himself could have passed for white, but
he was proud to identify with his black heritage.
youth he was taught to love the classics by
a black educator from Macon and a graduate of Atlanta
University’s normal school, class of 1873.9
Hope was also inspired by
John Wesley Gilbert
(1864-1923), the first black professor at Augusta’s
Paine College, who had earned an M.A. in
ancient Greek at Brown University in 1891.
The year before Gilbert had
been the first black student to attend the American
School of Classical Studies.10 After some
years of struggle, Hope won a scholarship to Worcester
Academy in Massachusetts, and studied Greek and Latin
with the school’s headmaster, Mr. Abercrombie.11
[Reverend Daniel Webster]
Abercrombie, a Brown University trustee, helped Hope
join Brown’s class of 1894, and there Hope continued his
work in classics under
Albert Harkness and John Larkin
Lincoln. Upon graduation he joined the faculty of
Williams University, a small black liberal arts college
in Nashville, Tennessee where he taught Greek, Latin,
and science. In 1898 Hope moved to Atlanta and became
professor of classics at Atlanta Baptist College (now
Morehouse College, Martin Luther King’s alma mater). He
taught his students to see in ancient texts guides for
Dr. Charles D. Hubert, said that “in his
Greek classes,” Hope “taught everything from Homer to
table manners,” and he could be “stern as Caesar and
tender as a mother.”12 Hope quoted from or
alluded to classical texts throughout his life. In a
speech at Spelman, a private liberal arts college for
black women, he asked the young women to compare
Penelope with Lady Churchill.13 On another
occasion when star athletes at Atlanta Baptist College
refused to play against Atlanta University, he reminded
them of the Trojans, saying: “The sons of Priam will
greatly rejoice when they know that the two far-famed
Achaeans are at war with each other.”14 We
recognize the source of Hope’s warning as lines I.
255-57 from the Iliad. Later in life, Hope was
especially thrilled when he was able to visit Rome and
Athens and see the Hellespont.15
he was appointed Morehouse College’s first black
president. In 1929 after
Spelman College, and
Atlanta University affiliated with each other, Hope was
unanimously chosen to be president of Atlanta University
and held the position until his death in February of
1936. Just days before his death, he was here in
Oklahoma City, attending the Oklahoma State Teachers
Association, whose president was one of his favorite
students, W. E. Anderson. He stayed at the home of Dr.
A. I. Davis, visited with the parent of John Hope
Franklin in Tulsa and spent a morning with
whose father Reverend
John Dungee had helped Hope find
funds for school when Hope was a child in Georgia.16
Dunjee was well known in Oklahoma as the editor of the
Black Dispatch from 1915 to 1965, and in 1948 he led the
legal battle to integrate the University of Oklahoma.17
Atlanta University Hope had a school whose connections
with classics ran deep. Atlanta University was the first
institution of higher learning established for blacks in
the state of Georgia. It opened its doors in 1869 during
the period according to
Booker T. Washington when two
ambitions were “constantly agitating the minds of
colored people”—to hold political office and to master
Greek and Latin.18 Washington, however, said
this in ridicule.19 At no time in his life
did he support the teaching of classics to blacks. Race
prejudice loomed large and many did not believe that
blacks could or should be educated beyond the menial
level. Well known was the comment credited to
Calhoun: “If you can show me a Negro who has mastered
the Greek syntax, then I’ll believe he has a soul.”20
statements like this one in the air, Atlanta
University’s faculty and staff were determined to offer
a classical curriculum and their students were
determined to master the subjects. The first pupil to
complete Atlanta University’s roster of classical
William Sanders Scarborough. By 1869 he had
taken all the courses Atlanta University had to offer.
Born in slavery in Macon, Georgia he had studied in
secret before the Civil War with helpers black and
white. He was the most advanced student at the school,
and in fact the only member of the senior class of 1869.
Since Atlanta University would not graduate its first
college class until 1876, there was no point in waiting
until his classmates could catch up with him.
in 1870 he matriculated at
Oberlin College and earned
his B.A. and M.A. degrees there. He was a member of the
American Philological Association for forty-four years,
author of a Greek textbook published in New York City in
1881, and the first black member of the Modern Language
Association. I am delighted to tell you that he received
a notice asking him to join CAMWS when we first
organized.21 Another student at Atlanta
University who completed the classical course was
William Henry Crogman (1841-1931) who belonged to the
American Philological Association for thirty-two years.22
He taught Greek for forty years at Clark College in
Atlanta. His daughter Charlotte also taught classical
languages at the school.
was both scholar and leader—he was
co-founder of the American Negro Academy and
steered Clark through the Atlanta race riots
Both men were friends with
Richard Robert Wright, Sr. (c.1853-1947).
By now it should be no surprise to you to learn that
Wright also entered eagerly into the study of Greek and
Latin. After graduation with Atlanta University’s first
class in 1876, a group of six young men who were the
first black students to earn a B.A. in the state of
Georgia, he spent more than four decades as an educator
in the state. Wright was a remarkable man who lived to
be ninety-four. He was as resourceful as Ulysses and
always able to think on his feet.
was born in slavery around 1853. Suffice it to say,
times were very tough, but his mother and he knew the
value of school and so he made his way to Atlanta
University with a the goal of studying Greek with
Reverend Cyrus W. Francis (1838-1916), who had earned
his B.D. at Yale University in 1867.23 From
the start, Wright and his fellow students were closely
scrutinized. At one point—while still a student—Wright’s
name was mentioned in regard to a summer teaching job in
Wilkes County, Georgia.
summoned to the Hall of Representatives at the state
capitol in Atlanta for an oral examination. His
performance in Greek and Latin was more than adequate,
stunning the crowd. Among his examiners was former
Confederate General Robert Toombs. Toombs was a bitter
foe of higher education for blacks, and impressed with
Wright but still opposed, gave Wright a fifty cent piece
towards the cost of an industrial education. Wright kept
the coin as a souvenir before giving it to the President
of Atlanta University years later.24 For the
next fifteen years, Wright supervised the operation of
two high schools in Georgia. These were Ware High School
in Augusta and Howard Normal School in Cuthbert. When
Wright left in 1890 to become the first president of the
Georgia State Industrial College for Negro Youth
in Savannah, his position was taken by Fletcher Hamilton
Henderson, Sr. (1857-1943).
Thirteen years earlier,
Henderson had been studying at the University of South
Carolina and had passed his Greek exam in June of 1877,
when the state suddenly reversed its laws on
integration. Henderson was forced to leave the school,
and so at great sacrifice the family went to Atlanta so
he could complete his degree at Atlanta University.25A model
of discipline and learning, Professor Henderson made his
school in Cuthbert into one of the best black schools in
His namesake, Fletcher Henderson Muse,
recalled: “Anyone who thought Latin was a dead language
changed their minds when Fess walked in to the
classroom.”26 For those of us with an
interest in twentieth century music, you may recognize
the name—for Henderson’s son,
Fletcher Hamilton “Smack”
Henderson, Jr. (1897-1952), after graduating from
college and finding no jobs for black chemists in New
York City, turned to music. He developed one of the
earliest “Big Bands” and was a
pioneer of “swing” music.
While we are on the topic of music, it may interest you
to know that the first black record company was founded
by Harry Pace (1884-1943). Pace,
valedictorian of Atlanta University’s class of 1903, had
taught Greek and Latin at the Lincoln Institute in
Jefferson City, Missouri for two years before founding
Wright was president and professor of Latin
at Georgia State College (today Savannah State) from
1891 to 1920.27 He was firmly committed to
higher education and his work to maintain a classical
curriculum was often assailed. A former student recalled
a visit that one of the school’s commissioners, Otto
Ashmore, paid to Wright’s Latin class in the 1890s.
Ashmore listened for a while and, as he left the room,
said: “Wright, I want you to cut this Latin out and
teach these boys to farm.” In reply Wright said that the
students “were learning to farm, but he didn’t see why
they couldn’t learn a little Vergil too.”
Infuriated, Ashmore immediately contacted the president
of the school’s Board of Trustees, Peter Meldrim.28
Controversy raged. The editor of the
said that the school should offer “less Greek and Latin
and provide more instruction in the trades.”29
R. R. Wright, Jr. (1878-1967) who
graduated from Georgia State in 1898 described the
outcome: “I shall never forget the profound impression
made upon the students when President W. told us the
decision of the Commissioners to drop Latin and Greek.
He begged us not to leave the college.”
stated that “the teachers had agreed to give us lessons
in the forbidden courses at night and in the afternoon.
Consequently for more than a year, I studied calculus
and the Greek and Latin poets,
and Ovid, as extracurricular activities in the homes of
my teachers, who taught in their extra time although
they received no compensation. So surprised was the
Commission at the sincere interest and persistence of
both the students and the teachers that the classics
were restored to the regular curriculum.”30
orders came in 1903 down to end all courses in classics,
Wright still managed to keep the requirements in place.31
From 1910 to 1921, Wright “continued his fight to
maintain academic standards” and “secretly provided
lessons in Latin, Greek, and higher mathematics as well
as other courses objected to by the Commission.”32
John Hope, Wright was thrilled to travel abroad and
see the Colosseum, Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. He quoted
Cicero aloud while standing in the Roman Forum.33
Work, President Boyd’s nominee
for the presidency of Langston University in 1903? Well,
he came to the attention of
R. R. Wright, Sr.
accepted Wright’s offer to teach at Georgia State, which
he did from 1903 to 1907 before moving to the
Institute in Alabama where he spent the rest of his
Wright’s son married
William Crogman ’s daughter
Charlotte (1879-1959). She had received a masters degree
in education from Clark College, and attended the
University of Chicago while her husband was there
earning his M.A. She had been a teacher of English and
Latin at the
Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, and
of Greek and Latin at Clark until her marriage. The
couple moved to Philadelphia where Wright earned his
doctorate in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania
in 1911. In 1921 R.R. Wright, Sr. retired and joined his
son in Philadelphia. Soon after his arrival in
Philadelphia, he founded the Citizens and Southern Bank,
of which he was president until his death in 1947. His
daughter-in-law Charlotte Crogman Wright, now a
homemaker, did battle in Philadelphia so that
daughter Ruth could take Latin. Ruth’s father described
what happened in his memoirs.
“recollection I have was when Ruth’s advisor in West
Philadelphia High School refused to approve her
registration for a course in Latin. The advisor told her
that Latin was ‘absolutely out of the question’ and that
she should not think of going to college. The advisor
recommended home economics, where there was employment
opportunity, and said that was final. Ruth’s mother went
to the school and informed the advisor that it was not
only Ruth’s desire but that of Ruth’s parents that Ruth
study Latin. The advisor was emphatic, saying that it
was a waste of time and that her mother should talk her
out of the notion. ‘There is no opportunity for a
colored girl to teach Latin,’ she said. Mrs. Wright told
her that both of Ruth’s grandfathers had taught Latin
and Greek for a total of over sixty-five years; that
Ruth’s father had taught Latin and that her mother was
teaching Latin when she married, [and] that nobody in
Ruth’s family had been a domestic servant for three
generations. This called for a long conversation on
Ruth’s personal background of which the advisor had
never inquired. . . The advisor and Mrs. Wright became
good friends, the advisor admitting that Ruth had a
better scholastic background than she, the advisor, had.
Ruth studied Latin, was elected a member of the National
Honor Society, and won a scholarship to the University
of Penn and a state scholarship to the same
autobiography, Ruth said that she spent her high school
and college days “studying hard to become a teacher of
Latin and English in a Philadelphia secondary school.”
She said: “I was assigned to do my practice teaching at
a segregated junior high school in Chester, a small
blue-collar town outside Philadelphia. Twice a week for
three months I taught Latin to ninth-grade students.
had no problems except the big one: why did I have to
travel to another town for a required part of my degree
at the University of Pennsylvania when white fellow
students went just a few blocks to [teach at] West
Philadelphia High? I graduated with a B.S, in Education
in three and half years. Ruth hoped “to take
the examination for a high school teaching
job until a family friend showed me a letter
from the personnel office of the
Philadelphia School District.
There is no reason to apply for a position
in the secondary schools of the Philadelphia
School District. At present there are no
positions for colored persons.35
then accepted a job teaching English and Latin at the
Arkansas State College for Negroes in Pine Bluff, which
she held for two years. She later recalled: “If ever
there was an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher, it was
little Miss Wright. I taught five English classes a
day—grades nine through twelve—and one small Latin
class. Many professional parents had insisted their
children take Latin.”36 Ruth lived frugally
in Arkansas and she saved enough money for a trip to
Europe. “I was steeped in the Latin language [and t] he
wonders and beauties of Italy and its ancient heritage
[were to] be the capstone of my journey.”37
In 1940, ten years after policies of segregation had
kept her from even applying to teach in Philadelphia,
she took the National Teacher Examination. This was a
seven hour test and Ruth was one of two thousand other
scored a respectable 781 out of a possible 900 [and
t]hat summer I passed the qualifying tests for English
and Latin teaching positions.”38 In 1949
Wright Hayre earned a doctorate in education from the
University of Pennsylvania and went on to distinguish
herself by becoming the first full-time African American
teacher in Philadelphia’s public school system, the
first African American senior high school principal, and
the first woman president of the Philadelphia Board of
Education.39 But eighty years before this and
before Oklahoma became a state, her grandfather
R. R. Wright, Sr. responded to a question posed by
Otis Oliver Howard at the
Storrs’ School in Atlanta in
the fall of 1868. This school, a precursor of Atlanta
University was the successor to the Box Car (a.k.a.
Car-Box school) which had opened in 1863 in a railroad
car that the American Missionary Association had brought
Howard, who was the Commissioner of the
Bureau, was visiting the Sunday school class at the
Storrs School. Atlanta University’s young students were
William Sanders Scarborough was as well. General
Howard looked out and asked them what he should tell the
children in the North about them. “Wearing a clean white
jacket,” little R. R. Wright stood up and said: “Tell
them we are rising!”40
Greenleaf Whittier soon after immortalized Wright’s
response in his poem “Howard at Atlanta” (1869) with
this line: “They are rising, all are rising / the black
and white together.”
Today when we consider
Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise” (1978), and read
You may write
me down in history
bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me
in the very dirt
like dust, I’ll rise.
we hear the resounding
echo of a man who appreciated the classics as much as we
taught them, fought for them and raised a family with
the same values. And so I say to you tonight: “Hats off
to Richard Robert Wright, Sr. and his valiant classical
colleagues, in whom we can and should take great pride!”
* * *
4 Levy (2005)
49, 50, 53. For more on Work see Guzman (1949) 428-61.
5 Levy (2005)
(1979) 77, 213-6.
(1948) 10, 35, 54, 47.
(1948) 57-8; Ronnick (2001) 113-4.
(1948) 129, 138.
(1948) 178-79, 267, 286.
(2005) 342-3 n. 29.
(2002c) 263-6. For more on his career see Ronnick(2005)
and Ronnick (2006).
(1952) 32, 33, 45, 48.
(2004) xi, 16.
(1952) 90; Patton (1980) 572-4.
(1997) 49, 50, 52.
(1997) 58, 56-7, 81.
(1930) 9 n. 6.
read a variation of this poem, titled “Still We Rise,”
at the Million Man March held on October 16, 1995 in
* * *
Adams, Myron W. 1930.
A History of Atlanta University. Atlanta.
Davis, Leroy. 1998.
A Clashing of the Soul: John Hope and the Dilemma of
African American Leadership and Black Higher Education
in the Early Twentieth Century.
Athens, GA.: University of
Ellison, Ralph. 1986.
Going to the Territory. New York.
Jessie P. 1949. “Monroe Nathan Work and His
Contributions: Background and Preparation for Life’s
Career.” Journal of Negro History 34: 428-61.
Haynes, Elizabeth Ross.
The Black Boy of Atlanta. Boston:
House of Edinboro.
Hayre, Ruth Wright and
Alexis Moore. 1999.
Tell Them We Are Rising: A Memoir
of Faith in Education. New York.; Wiley.
Levy, David W. 2005.
The University of Oklahoma: A History, Volume I,
1890-1917. Norman, OK.: University of Oklahoma Press.
Magee, Jeffrey. 2004.
The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big
Band Jazz. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
McKellips, Karen. 2000. “Roscoe Dunjee Versus the
Pill-Peddler President: Politics, the Black Press and
Langston University.” Journal of the Philosophy and
History of Education 50: 142-51.
Patterson, Zella Black.
Langston University: A History. Norman, OK.
Patton, June O. 1980.
“Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr., and Black Higher
Education in Georgia, 1880-1920.”Diss. Chicago.
Valerie. 2000. “William Henry Crogman (1865-1930).” CO
——. 2001. “John Wesley
Gilbert (c.1865-1923).” CO 78: 113-4.
——. 2002a. “Wiley Lane.”
CO 79: 108-9.
——. 2002b. “William
Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) and the Early Days of
CAMWS.” CJ 97: 263-6.
——. 2002c. “A Look at
Booker T. Washington’s Attitude Toward the Study of
Greek and Latin by People of African Ancestry.” Negro
Educational Review 53:59-70.
Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An
American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship.
of William Sanders Scarborough: Black Classicist and
Race Leader. Oxford.
Torrence, Ridgely. 1948.
The Story of John Hope. New York.
Wade-Lewis, Margaret. 2007.
Lorenzo Dow Turner, Father of Gullah Studies.
Washington, Booker T.
Up From Slavery. New York.
Watts, Julius Caesar.
What Color is a Conservative? My Life and My
Politics. With Chriss Anne Winston. New York.:
Wright, Jr., Richard R.
87 Years Behind the Black Curtain: An
Ronnick is Professor in the Department of
Classics, Greek and Latin at Wayne State University. A
Latinist by training with a book on Cicero's Stoic
Paradoxes, she has published widely in journals here and
abroad and has won a number of professional awards for
excellence in scholarship, teaching and service on
regional and national levels. Ronnick's special interest
in the Classical Tradition led her to open up a new
subfield of reception studies, Classica Africana, a.k.a.
black classicism, which examines the influence of
classics upon the creative and professional lives of
people of African descent.
She is the editor of a
critical edition of
The Autobiography of William Sanders
* * *
The Classical Association of the
Middle West and South, Inc.[CAMWS], is a
professional organization for classicists and
non-classicists at all levels of instruction which
promotes the Classics through the broad scope of its
annual meeting, through the publication of both original
research and pedagogical contributions in The
Classical Journal, and through its awards,
scholarships, and outreach initiatives.—CAMWS
* * *
The Works of William Sanders Scarborough
Classicist and Race Leader
Edited by Michele
The first professional classicist of
African American descent, William Sanders
Scarborough (1852-1926) rose from slavery to
become president of Wilberforce University
in Ohio. Excelling at Latin and Greek, he
crossed the color line both socially and
intellectually with his entry into a field
of study commonly seen as elitist and
dominated by white men. Although unknown to
classicists today, Scarborough had a
distinguished career in the field and held
membership in many learned societies and had
an active publication record. His life as an
engaged intellectual, public citizen, and
concerned educator was admired and emulated
by W. E. B. Du Bois.
This collection, which
spans a half a century from the end of
Reconstruction through the vagaries of World
War I and the rise of Jim Crow, gives us a
window we have not had before into the
challenges and ambiguities of this period.
As a committed intellectual, concerned
educator and loyal citizen, he served as an ambassador
to and for his race to several generations of people
both in the U.S. and abroad. In Scarborough's writings
we have a portrait of a man whose struggle for physical
and intellectual freedom can inform us all.
* * *
Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough
An American Journey from
Slavery to Scholarship
Edited with an Introduction by
Michelle Valerie Ronnick
This illuminating autobiography traces
Scarborough's path out of slavery in Macon, Georgia, to a
prolific scholarly career that culminated with his presidency of
Wilberforce University. Despite the racism he encountered as he
struggled to establish a place in higher education for African
Americans, Scarborough was an exemplary scholar, particularly in
the field of classical studies. He was the first African
American member of the Modern Language Association, a
forty-four-year member of the American Philological Association,
and a true champion of higher education.
Michele Valerie Ronnick contextualizes
Scarborough's narrative through extensive notes and by exploring
a wide variety of sources such as census records, church
registries, period newspapers, and military and university
This book is indispensable to anyone
interested in the history of intellectual endeavor in
America, Africana Studies, and classical studies as well
as those familiar with the associations and institutions
that welcomed and valued Scarborough.
* * *
John Greenleaf Whittier
Right in the track
Ploughed his red furrow,
Out of the narrow cabin,
Up from the cellar's burrow,
Gathered the little black people,
With freedom newly dowered,
Where, beside their Northern teacher,
Stood the soldier, Howard.
He listened and heard
Of the poor and long-enslaved
Reading the words of Jesus,
Singing the songs of David.
Behold! —the dumb lips speaking,
The blind eyes seeing!
Bones of the Prophet's vision
Warmed into being!
Transformed he saw them
Their new life's portal
Almost it seemed the mortal
Put on the immortal.
No more with the beasts of burden,
No more with stone and clod,
But crowned with glory and honor
In the image of God!
There was the human
Its manhood taking;
There, in each dark, bronze statue,
A soul was waking!
The man of many battles,
With tears his eyelids pressing,
Stretched over those dusky foreheads
His one-armed blessing.
And he said: "Who hears
Fear for or doubt you;
What shall I tell the children
Up North about you?"
Then ran round a whisper, a murmur,
Some answer devising:
And a little boy stood up: "General,
Tell 'em we're rising!"
O black boy of Atlanta!
But half was spoken
The slave's chain and the master's
Alike are broken.
The one curse of the races
Held both in tether
They are rising, —all are rising,
The black and white together!
O brave men and fair
Ill comes of hate and scorning
Shall the dark faces only
Be turned to mourning?—
Make Time your sole avenger,
Meet Fate half-way, and make it
A joy and blessing!
* * *
Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
* * *
* * * * *
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.—
* * *
Hopes and Prospects
By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky
surveys the dangers and prospects of our
early twenty-first century. Exploring
challenges such as the growing gap
between North and South, American
exceptionalism (including under
President Barack Obama), the fiascos of
Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli
assault on Gaza, and the recent
financial bailouts, he also sees hope
for the future and a way to move
forward—in the democratic wave in Latin
America and in the global solidarity
movements that suggest "real progress
toward freedom and justice." Hopes and
Prospects is essential reading for
anyone who is concerned about the
primary challenges still facing the
human race. "This is a classic Chomsky
work: a bonfire of myths and lies,
sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky
is an enduring inspiration all over the
world—to millions, I suspect—for the
simple reason that he is a truth-teller
on an epic scale. I salute him." —John
In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of
American empire and class domination, at
home and abroad, Chomsky continues a
longstanding and crucial work of
elucidation and activism . . .the
writing remains unswervingly rational
and principled throughout, and lends
bracing impetus to the real alternatives
* * * *
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posted 12 March 2011