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Booker T & Them

A Blues

Booker T & Them A Blues As Presented by Bill Harris

Publication Year: 2012

The early 1900s was a dangerous time for African American men, whether famous or nameless. Punishment from any perceived transgression against the Jim Crow power structure came swiftly in legislative, emotional, or physical form, and it could well take one’s life. Despite this reality, however, a number of African Americans still lifted their heads, straightened their spines, and spoke and acted against the mainstream. In Booker T. & Them: A Blues, poet and playwright Bill Harris examines what he calls “the age of Booker T.” (1900–1915), when America began flexing its imperialistic muscles, D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was released, and Thomas Edison’s many technological innovations set the tone for the United States to be viewed as the nation of the century. In the historical and imaginative narrative of this “bio-poem,” Harris considers several African Americans who sought to be men that mattered in a racist America, including Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, George Washington Carver, and Jack Johnson, as he traces their effects on history and each other. In tandem, he visits white historical figures like Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and D. W. Griffiths as well as some invented characters like students and professors at the Tuskegee Institute. Throughout, Harris shows that the rapid pace of early twentieth-century American change, progress, and science coincided with persistent and reinvented forms of white supremacy. Harris’s exciting structure offers varied rhythms and a blues sensibility that showcases his witty lines and vivid imagery. As a follow-up to his 2009 work Birth of a Notion; Or, the Half Ain’t Never Been Told, this book extends Harris’s critical and experimental examination of American history by presenting evidence for a greater understanding of these men and the cultural forces that shaped them. Readers interested in African American studies, American culture, and contemporary poetry will appreciate the unique perspective of Booker T. & Them: A Blues.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Title Page

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Contents

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pp. v-vii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

Imagine with me, if you will, what it was like to be a black person of note at the beginning of the twentieth century. The early 1900s was a (particularly) tough time for Negroes, famous or nameless. It was an era when the only acceptable...

1. Which Treats the New Century in the New Nation & a Couple of Movers & Shakers Who Shake & Move It

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pp. 1-5

2. Which Treats of the Station in Life & the Pursuits of the Famous Colored Gentleman, Booker T. Washington, & His Sally to Break Bread with President Theodore Roosevelt TR, & That Meal’s Aftermath

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pp. 6-17

Interlude 1

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pp. 18-20

3. Which Treats of “The Great Negro Educator’s” Sally along the Avenue; Frederick Douglass

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pp. 21-28

Interlude 2

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pp. 29-33

4. Wherein Are Related Matters Trifling & Historic, Lame-Brained & Etymological, Relating to Jim Crow & His Formidable Rise

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pp. 34-40

Interlude 3

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pp. 41-44

5. Which Treats of the Last Stop of the Montgomery & West Point Railroad before BT’s Return to Tuskegee, & Philosophical/Political Musings on Music & Time Travel

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pp. 45-50

Interlude 4

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pp. 51-57

Interlude 5

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pp. 58-67

Interlude 6

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pp. 68-71

6. Which Treats of George Washington Carver (1864–1943, Inventor, Tuskegee Professor); Invent, Inventor, Inventing & Polaris

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pp. 72-75

Interlude 7

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pp. 76-91

Interlude 8

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pp. 92-96

7. Of the Migration Blues, Ship of Fools & State, & Moving on Up with Moving on Up

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pp. 97-101

Interlude 9

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pp. 102-104

8. Of a Booker T. Ditty, & an Imagined Want Ad

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pp. 105-106

9. In Which Is Related the Unfortunate Adventure That Befalls Booker T. When He Encounters Certain Wicked Upstarts in Boston

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pp. 107-118

Interlude 10

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pp. 119-120

10. On Niagara Falls, Brownsville, Atlanta, & Newton’s 3rd Revisited, TIP & TILT

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pp. 121-125

11. Flashback c. 1903. Which treats of Hollywood’s 1st flicker; Seeking Freedom; Opposites Attracting; Fair Usage; Uncle Tom; Syncretism; & Attempted Unions

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pp. 126-128

12. Of Use, Used; The Clansman; Interacting Entities & Denial of Influences; Berlin; Picasso; Abbott & Costello; & the Loas Showing Up

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pp. 129-134

Interlude 11

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pp. 135-138

13. 1909. An Arctic Episode in Which Is Related the Frigid Adventure of Matthew Henson When, in the Era of White Hopes, He Stands on Top of the World. & in Which Mr. Johnson Meets Mr. Burns under the Sharp Eye & Pen of Mr. London

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pp. 139-142

14. Of What Happens (in a Tuskegee Senior’s Daydreams) When the Galveston Stevedore Meets the Tuskegee Wizard

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pp. 143-149

15. 1909–1910. Treats of the Blues, Black Movies, & NAACP Coming into Focus as Whitefolks Act Ugly, Puff, Pow

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pp. 150-153

16. In Which Is Related the Unfortunate Adventure That Befalls Mr. Jeffries When He Encounters 2-Fisted Mr. Johnson . . . & Other Unlooked-for Happenings

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pp. 154-162

17. 1912–1914. In Which Woodrow Wilson, Jack Johnson, & James Reese Europe Figure . . . & Other Unsought Happenings

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pp. 163-167

18. 1913–1914. In Which the Smart Money Was Still Not in Coon Futures . . . William Monroe Trotter Confronts Woodrow Wilson, & Other Unpleasant Matters That Deserve to Be Recorded

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pp. 168-169

19. Of D. W. Griffith

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pp. 170-172

20. Which Treats, circa 1911, of Trust & Fulfillment, & the First Sally that Booker T. Takes to View the Ingenious Work of D.W.

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pp. 173-179

21. Of Potential, Energy, Counterweight, Counterbalance, Elevator, & Booker T. Going Up the Shaft & Down Again

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pp. 180-187

22. Which Treats of the Stations in Life & Pursuits of the Famous Southern Gentlemen, Masters Griffith & Dixon, & of What Happens When They Sally Forth in Their Twin Tiltings Against the Windmills Obstructing Their U-turn to & Recapturing of Their Imagine

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pp. 188-199

23. Of What Happens When Birth of a Nation Comes to Tuskegee

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pp. 200-219

24. Wherein Is Related the Rush of Defenders to Griffith’s Defense . . . Along with Other Events to Do with Mr. Mayer

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pp. 220-224

25. Is Devoted to a Description of BT’s Final Sally; His Homecoming, His Last Encounter with His Arch Nemesis, & His Last Considerations & Reconsiderations

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pp. 225-235

Interlude 12

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pp. 236-238

Interlude 13

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pp. 239-242

26. Of Eulogies, in Which Mrs. Wells & Mr. Du Bois Have the Final Word

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pp. 243-244

After Words

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pp. 245-246


E-ISBN-13: 9780814337172
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814337165

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Made in Michigan Writers