Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New York "Big City Book Club" will read James Baldwin's Another Country

A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell
Another Country
This note recently appeared in the New York Times:

In honor of the long-awaited return of “Mad Men” on March 25, the Big City Book Club  [a discussion group moderated by New York Times columnist, Ginia Bellafante].is getting in the spirit of 1960s Manhattan. Our next selection is James Baldwin’s 1962 novel, “Another Country,” which chronicles the descent of the jazz drummer Rufus Scott.
Baldwin recreates the world of Greenwich Village bohemians for an examination of race, emotional denial, professional rivalry, tortured marriages and other subjects that the AMC series has mined so well. Join us for an online conversation April 4 at a new time, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

9th Annual Walter Rodney Symposium

Join Black Classic Press Director W. Paul Coates and members of the Walter Rodney Foundation next Friday, March 23 for the 9th Annual Walter Rodney Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Walter Rodney Foundation is a non-profit organization working to advance education, health, and development by promoting human rights, social justice and sustainable development.

Since 2004, an annual symposium has been held in Atlanta, Georgia to honor the work of Dr. Walter Rodney (1942-1980), Pan-Africanist historian, educator and political activist widely known for his seminal work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, first published in 1972.  The goal of the symposium is to bring together scholars, researchers, activists, students and the community to discuss contemporary issues from a Rodney perspective.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man: Centennial

Source: The Daily Beast,
Penguin Classics, $6.10
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the publication of James Weldon Johnson's novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. "Daily Beast" columnist Nathaniel Rich featured Johnson's novel recently in his series, American Dreams, which looks back at works of fiction that helped to define the last American century. Rich makes the point that The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man was a pivotal work that took the bold artistic leap in 1912 to portray an African American man wrestling intellectually with his decision to cross the color line to pass as a white man. Through his character's reasoning about the impact of racial identification, Johnson depicts the ex-colored man, and by implication African Americans generally, as socially and psychologically complex. The novel, Rich says, influenced Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Claude McKay among others to write autobiographical fiction depicting realistic portraits of Black people. This move contrasted the simplistic caricatures of Blacks (such as the "happy darky") that were exported from 19th century sterotypes and that--without the assertion of realism in American fiction--threatened to dominate the lens through which African Americans would be seen for another hundred years.

Successful songwriter, poet, novelist and author of the personal narrative  (check out his autobiography, Along this Way), James Weldon Johnson was a renaissance man who not only penned lyrics that came to be embraced as the Negro national anthem but with The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man, signaled a trend to render the national character of African American people authentically, in all of our diversity and as our richly-layered selves.