Monday, June 10, 2024

African American literature and the Cold War period

A short take on African American literature and the Cold War period. The episode was written in relation to an institute organized by Humanities Texas.

Written by Howard Rambsy II
Read by Kassandra Timm


Related: 

Sunday, June 9, 2024

The Important & Exciting Work of Humanities Texas


From June 3 - 6, Humanities Texas partnered with the LBJ Presidential Library and the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and held an institute for schoolteachers focusing on the history, literature, and culture of the Cold War. 

The institute includes 50 social studies, English language arts, and history teachers from schools across the state of Texas. They gathered to listen to presentations and exchange ideas about best practices. 

I was invited to participate and provide information about African American literature in the context of the Cold War era, 1945 - 1991. I discussed some of the major works published during that time--Richard Wright's Black Boy (1945), Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), and most notably Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987).


I noted that African American literary histories of this moment often start before the Cold War period with Wright's Native Son (1940). That novel is often viewed as a starting point for what we refer to as modern African American literature. I noted the Black Arts Movement (mid-1960s - mid-1970s) as another important moment of the era. 

Beyond my formal presentation, I really enjoyed interacting with the teachers. They represented multiple kinds of schools from different regions of Texas. I benefitted hearing the challenges that they face as teachers navigating landscapes where some students and parents crave particular subject matter while others find it challenging. 

Humanities Texas is really on it. In addition to running educational programs to assist teachers, they support libraries and museums and offer programming for lifelong learning series.
 
This Cold War Institute was just the start of their summer. Over the next few weeks, they are coordinating various activities, including an institute on Teaching the Literatures of Texas, a workshop on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, an institute on The New Nation: American, 1800-1860, and a webinar on Taylor Swift in the Literature Classroom

In short, they're doing important and exciting humanities programming. 

I've directed two National for the Endowment (NEH) Institutes focusing on Frederick Douglass, and I've participated in a few. So I have a sense of how much work goes into the programs. Seeing the lineup of various programs offered by Humanities Texas lets me know that they're putting in a serious time and effort. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

A Notebook on Black Arts & Bibliographies

I've been talking and will soon talk again soon with folks from the Black Bibliography Project. So I wanted to provide a lil notebook here identifying a few projects I've worked on. 

Tracking Seven Widely Anthologized Poems (data visualization) 

Covering Amiri Baraka in Negro Digest/Black World magazine


There's no doubt that Amiri Baraka's talents and productivity as a literary artist, critic, and activist made him one of our most important writers and cultural figures. But just as important, the coverage of him, his works, and activities contributed to the elevation of Amiri Baraka. 

I was taking a look at old issues of the magazine Negro Digest, later named Black World, and I noticed that Baraka was mentioned dozens of entries. Writers for the publication would cite his works, list his upcoming publications, or mention his presence at various literary gatherings.

In one instance, Baraka, then known as LeRoi Jones, was not in attendance at an event, but people wondered about him. "Is that LeRoi Jones?" someone asked, reported David Llorens at a Black Writers Festival in 1966.  

Baraka even appears on the covers of various issues, including headshot images in September 1965, April 1966, April 1970, and November 1974. He appears alone in a full image on the April 1967 cover. He appears alone again in a headshot image on the cover of the January 1969 issue.

And that's to say nothing of the many times photos of Baraka appeared throughout the publication. My sense is that between 1964 and 1976, Baraka appeared more than any other writer. He appeared as contributor, reference, and photographic subject.  

As the most frequently referenced Black writer in the most widely available Black magazine, there's no small wonder Baraka became and remains so important.

An Amiri Baraka and Negro Digest/Black World Bibliography (by publication)



In 1970, Negro Digest became known as Black World. Amiri Baraka published before and after the name change. Here's a bibliography by publication.

Negro Digest
Jones, LeRoi. “The Negro Middle Class Flight from Heritage.” Negro Digest (February 1964): 80-95.
 -----. “What Does Non-Violence Mean?” Negro Digest (October 1964): 4-19.

-----. “The Black Artist’s role in America…” Negro Digest (April 1965): 65, 75-76.

-----. “Three Modes of History and Culture.” Negro Digest (April 1965): 38.

-----. “In Search of the Revolutionary Theatre.” Negro Digest (April 1966): 20-24.

-----. “Jitterbugs.” Negro Digest (April 1966): 24.

-----. “Biography.” Negro Digest (September 1966): 65. 

-----. “What the Arts Need Now.” Negro Digest (April 1967): 5-6. 

An Amiri Baraka and Negro Digest/Black World Bibliography (by composition type)



Amiri Baraka published poems, essays, and a play in Negro Digest/Black World. Here's a bibliography.


Play
Jones, LeRoi. “Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant.” Negro Digest (April 1967): 62-74. 

Poems
Jones, LeRoi. “Three Modes of History and Culture.” Negro Digest (April 1965): 38.

-----. “Jitterbugs.” Negro Digest (April 1966): 24.

-----. “Biography.” Negro Digest (September 1966): 65. 

-----. “Who Will Survive America? Few Americans Very Few Negroes No Crackers at All.” 
Negro Digest (July 1968): 20-21.

Baraka, Ameer. “The Evolver.” Negro Digest (September/October 1968): 59-60.

An Amiri Baraka and Negro Digest/Black World Bibliography (by author name)



He published as LeRoi Jones, Ameer Baraka, Imamu Amiri Baraka, and Amiri Baraka. Here's a bibliography of his publications in Negro Digest/Black World


Baraka, Ameer. “The Evolver.” Negro Digest (September/October 1968): 59-60.

-----. “We Are Our Feeling: The Black Aesthetic.” Negro Digest (September 1969): 5-6.

Baraka, Amiri. “The National Black Assembly and the Black Liberation Movement.” Black World (March 1975): 22-27.

-----. “Why I Changed My Ideology: Black Nationalism and Socialist Revolution.” Black World (July 1975): 30-42.

-----. “Statement on the National Black Political Assembly.” Black World (October 1975): 42-43.

Baraka, Imamu Amiri. “Black Woman.” Black World (July 1970): 7-11.

-----. “Tanzania: Independence Celebration.” Black World (March 1972): 65-67.

-----. “Black Revolutionary Poets Should Also Be Playwrights.” Black World (April 1972): 4-6.

-----. “Toward the Creation of Political Institutions for All African Peoples.” Black World (October 1972): 54-78.

-----. “OK.” Black World (May 1973): 40.

An Amiri Baraka and Negro Digest/Black World Bibliography (chronological listing)



Here's a bibliography of Amiri Baraka's publications in Negro Digest/Black World


Jones, LeRoi. “The Negro Middle Class Flight from Heritage.” Negro Digest (February 1964): 80-95.
 
-----. “What Does Non-Violence Mean?” Negro Digest (October 1964): 4-19.

-----. “The Black Artist’s role in America…” Negro Digest (April 1965): 65, 75-76.

-----. “Three Modes of History and Culture.” Negro Digest (April 1965): 38.

-----. “In Search of the Revolutionary Theatre.” Negro Digest (April 1966): 20-24.

-----. “Jitterbugs.” Negro Digest (April 1966): 24.

-----. “Biography.” Negro Digest (September 1966): 65. 

-----. “What the Arts Need Now.” Negro Digest (April 1967): 5-6. 

-----. “Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant.” Negro Digest (April 1967): 62-74.