Friday, April 29, 2011

Pauli Murray (Returning Spring) Poetry - Black Poetry Post #18

Pauli Murray's poem, "Returning Spring," was highlighted in the Black poetry series for National Poetry Month 2010.
See a video featuring Rev. Pauli Murray from the TV series, "On the Road," hosted by Charles Kuralt, 1985

"I believe in reconciling the  descendants of all the slaves and the slave owners of the South.  And, by now, the genes have recirculated so, that I suspect if you put all of the people of the United States end to end according to true line blood relationship, we would all be in a long line,  all of us.
This is the fascinating thing about the South. Black, white and red are related by blood, and by culture, and by history, and by common suffering.
And so what I am saying is, ' Look, let's level with one another. Let's admit we are related, and let's get on with the business of healing these wounds--and we're not going to heal them till we face the truth.'"   
Pauli Murray, On the Road TV series, 1985

Song In A Weary Throat 
Born in Baltimore in 1910, and raised in Durham, North Carolina, Pauli Murray was a lawyer, civil rights activist, feminist and human rights advocate. She graduated from Hunter College in 1933 but was denied entrance to the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 1938, more than a decade before the campaign that successfully led Floyd McKissick to become the first African American admitted to UNC.  
Pauli Murray later graduated from Howard University Law School (1944), took her Masters of Law degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Yale University Law School, the first Afrrican American woman to do so.
Murray wrote various texts about race and equality: her noted poem on race is "Dark Testament," written about 1943, and her book, States' Laws on Race and Culture (1950) was praised by Thurgood Marshall as "the Bible for civil rights lawyers."
In 1977, Pauli Murray became the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. She died in 1985. In 1987 her autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage, was published posthumously. Series: 30 Ways of Looking at Black Poetry

Returning Spring by Pauli Murray

I’ll sink my roots far down
And drink from hidden rivers,
Renew my kinship with growing things—
The little ants will hold their congresses
Upon my arm, and cautious insects
Will make brief tours across my brows
And spiders spin webs from toe to toe.

The spears of sun will prick
No blade of grass to wakefulness
But I shall feel it tremble,
No further straw be laid upon a nest,
No twig but I shall see it quiver.

I’ll hear the symphonies within a stone,
Catch every murmur of the ground,
Travel the heavens with each vagrant cloud
And ark the golden islands in the sky.

“Returning Spring” by Pauli Murray in The Garden Thrives, edited by Clarence Major,
Pauli Murray, “Returning Spring” in Dark Testament, 1970.

   * Includes a video featuring Pauli Murray, from TV series "On the Road" host, Charles Kuralt, 1985

This post was updated on April 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Six Black publishers you should know and support

I know several publishers on this list who have been publishing for more than twenty-years; kudos to the Atlanta Post for highlighting these important pioneers. They are committed to providing Black people, particularly, with literature that informs us about our historical experience and inspires us about our potential and future. Check out their titles and support them. 

Wade Hudson (Just Us Books) and Paul Coates (Black Classic Press) (C 2008)

6 Black-Owned Book Publishers
MARCH 24, 2011 08:15 AM

You don’t have to look hard for predictions of the end of the publishing industry.   Frightening stuff if you’re a book lover, especially one for whom a book still means paper and a spine.   For now, however, presses continue to bring books to market.  Here are six African-American publishers who remain in the trade, committed to sharing high-quality literature and non-fiction to challenge and inform.

Haki Madhubuti entered the world of book peddling on a Chicago street corner.   At one dollar a pop he sold 600 copies of his poetry collection in a single day.   When a $400 literary award came through, he formalized the enterprise, purchasing a mimeograph machine, and with the aid of two friends, set up shop in his basement apartment.  The year was 1967 and it wasn’t long before Madhubuti, a lead figure in the Black Arts Movement, was distributing the work of his contemporaries — Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka among them.  Scholarly works joined literary texts, the result of which is one of the most extensive rosters of progressive black thought in the world.

See the full lists at:

This post was updated on April 22, 2011with a photograph of two publishers featured in the article, Wade Hudson (Just Us Books) and Paul Coates (Black Classic Press).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Richard Wright: Making the Wright Connection

If you've never read any work by Richard Wright, or if you are looking for a resource to indulge your appreciation of Wright, here is a website dedicated to all things Richard Wright: the Wright Connection.

Administered by the Project on the History of Black Writing at University of Kansas (Department of English), the Wright Connection website is an online community of teachers and scholars that discusses teaching strategies, theories and new books and material about Wright's work.

You might do well to explore it as a first step toward reading Black Boy (Wright's autobiographical narrative), Native Son (Wright's magnum opus novel), Uncle Tom's Children (short stories) or any other book or even haiku written by Richard Wright.

I was pleased last semester by how much some of my students were impressed with an excerpt of Black Boy (reprinted in an anthology) called "The Library."

The excerpt describes an episode of Wright's life in the segregated south, when Blacks were not allowed to use the public library. To get around the restriction, Wright convinces a white male co-worker to write a note to the librarian that says Wright is taking out books for the co-worker. That ruse is how Richard Wright gained access to literature by H.L. Mencken, and novelists such as Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, Alexander Dumas and Theodore Dreiser, among many others, whose skill at employing distinct points of view in their narratives shaped his early imagination as a writer.

If you've read Richard Wright, what is your impression of his work? Which of his works impressed you the most?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This guest post was published on the Book Expo Official BEA Librarian Blogger by CT State Librarian Linda Williams.  She is on point regarding American's deficient cultural literacy regarding African geography.  Her post begs the question about Americans' knowledge of U.S. geography.

The Importance of Understanding Geography and Cultural Differences
Friday, April 1, 2011

 As a librarian serving children’s and teen librarians in Connecticut, and a staunch believer in the power of stories to teach, entertain, and generally broaden perspectives, I often find myself compiling lists of books that I hope will be used to this end.
I also serve as a co-representative to the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a collaborative of 49 states which plans and administers a theme-based library summer reading program. This year’s program for children, “One World, Many Stories,” has a global/multicultural theme. A-hah! A perfect opportunity to bring forth geography based lists of books for children and teens.
I often hear that school kids are studying “Africa.” And they don’t mean the ~54 countries of Africa. Do Americans know that Africa is not a country? I’m not the only one disturbed by this. Nigerian blogger, Molara Wood, posts: “It baffles me, this stereotype of an indistinct Africa. An Africa whose separate entities are not worth recognising or getting to know.” With Egypt and Libya in the news, can we assume Americans even know where these countries are? Highly doubtful given the news that “after more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map.” Even high level politicians don’t even seem to recognize that Africa is not “a nation.” This begs the question: Is it important in an increasingly global and connected society, to understand geography and cultural differences?
If we think it is, how are we teaching African geography here in the United States? Notice I didn’t say “here in North America.” Do we stress the diversity of African countries and cultures and are children getting it?
There are well-meaning lists and instructions out on the internet (example), but I haven’t yet found another one, like the lists of Africa – Picture Books and Africa – Fiction, posted to our summer reading planning blog, that are subdivided by country.
What I learned in compiling these lists was that many African countries are not represented by name at all in children’s books. The majority of books set in the countries that are represented are historical (a few) or are about Americans working or vacationing in that country. Where are the books about life in modern day Togo? Or hey, with all that’s going on in Libya, do you think I could find you a story that takes place there? According to the excellent searchable Africa Access database, there’s one – set a century ago.
Herein lies my plea to publishers. Please publish more books set in present day African nations. Our kids need interesting stories about native people and cultures in the separate countries of the African continent.
If you don’t think it’s important, look at this map. And test your knowledge - how fast can you do this Africa puzzle?


Monday, April 4, 2011

Octavia Butler revered for her science fiction vision

Actor Michael Boatman waxes warmly and wonderfully on one of his favorite authors, science-fiction writer Octavia Butler:

Octavia Butler: Celebrating the Writer Who Changed My World
By Michael Boatman on Mar 30th 2011 2:17PM

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
"Why are you reading all them books? White man ain't gonna let you do anything in them books."
I heard these words from an older cousin who expressed his opinion that I wasn't normal.

I read constantly, anything I could get my hands on: comics, spy stories, boys' adventures. I even "borrowed" from my mother's bookshelf in the dead of night. And I read lots of science-fiction and fantasy. But at some point I noticed that none of the fantastic events in the stories I loved ever seemed to happen to black people. Nothing cool ever seemed to happen to us.
No, we got threatened with eviction, or punched out at the local "Whites Only" dinner theater. I read 'The Lord of the Rings' at 9 years old. I was swept away by the wonder of J.R.R. Tolkien's vision.

But, almost shamefully, I would imagine that some of the characters were black; anything just to go along on a grand adventure from which I felt excluded: At that time, the only books by African Americans I'd read were about "the struggle" -- heavy, important books that illuminated for a young black mind how dire life must be.

But I wanted to explore haunted houses, visit distant worlds. I wanted to battle evil like millions of other American boys. Soon I was forced to accept the sad reality: Black characters belonged in stories about racism and oppression. My cousin was right. I was suitably depressed.

Then one day I was strolling through my local library and stumbled across the 'Xenogenesis' trilogy, by an author named Octavia Butler. 'Dawn,' 'Adulthood Rites' and 'Imago' were later compiled into a single volume titled 'Lilith's Brood,' but at that time, which was the late '80s, I eagerly awaited each installment, craving the adventures of Butler's protagonist, Lilith Iyapo.

Read the full article at:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Manning Marable dies: celebrate the life and legacy of a great scholar

Excerpt from a remembrance written by friend and colleague, Michael Eric Dyson, published on The

Manning Marable: A Brother, a Mentor, a Great Mind
| Posted: April 2, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I discovered Manning Marable as a 21-year-old freshman at Knoxville College, a historically black college I'd left my native Detroit to attend after working in factories and fathering a son during the time most college-bound kids are in school.

I was in the library stacks, browsing the sociology section, when I came upon a book that grabbed my attention: From the Grassroots: Social and Political Essays Towards Afro-American Liberation. It was clear that Marable's left politics reflected how he had baptized classic European social theory in the black experience. "Wow," I said to myself. "If Karl Marx was a brother, this is how he'd write and think."

The author photo on this intriguing book showed a young man with a handsome face that was crowned by a shock of black hair whose woolly Afro styling conjured a 20th-century Frederick Douglass. As I was to learn later, the comparison to Douglass didn't end at the 'fro, since Marable, like his 19th-century predecessor, was an eloquent spokesman for the democratic dreams of despised black people.

As I devoured Marable's brilliant work -- including his quick 1980 follow-up, Blackwater: Historical Studies in Race, Class Consciousness, and Revolution, and his pioneering 1983 work, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America -- I knew I was in the presence of a world-class intellectual who lent his learning to the liberation of the vulnerable masses. I was impressed that a man so smart and accomplished could so unashamedly identify with struggling black folk -- and I was really impressed that he was so young, only eight years older than I.

Read the full article at The Root:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Claude McKay on "If We Must Die"

Claude McKay
Poetry, like its sister, music, has the power to transcend barriers of race, culture and gender and communicate with the universal humanity in us all. That's the narrative Jamaican-born poet Claude McKay told about his acclaimed poem, “If We Must Die,” which is commonly embraced as an anthem of Black nationalism. Here's an account of McKay’s story, published in Devotion Journal in 2006:

Audio: Claude Mckay reads "If We Must Die" (1:00)