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Area and Ethnic Studies > African American and African Diaspora Studies

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Along the Streets of Bronzeville Cover

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Along the Streets of Bronzeville

Black Chicago's Literary Landscape

Elizabeth Schlabach

Along the Streets of Bronzeville examines the flowering of African American creativity, activism, and scholarship in the South Side Chicago district known as Bronzeville during the period between the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Poverty stricken, segregated, and bursting at the seams with migrants, Bronzeville was the community that provided inspiration, training, and work for an entire generation of diversely talented African American authors and artists who came of age during the years between the two world wars. In this significant recovery project, Elizabeth Schlabach investigates the institutions and streetscapes of Black Chicago that fueled an entire literary and artistic movement. She argues that African American authors and artists--such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, painter Archibald Motley, and many others--viewed and presented black reality from a specific geographic vantage point: the view along the streets of Bronzeville. Schlabach explores how the particular rhythms and scenes of daily life in Bronzeville locations, such as the State Street Stroll district or the bustling intersection of 47th Street and South Parkway, figured into the creative works and experiences of the artists and writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Providing a virtual tour South Side African American urban life at street level, Along the Streets of Bronzeville charts the complex interplay and intersection of race, geography, and cultural criticism during the Black Chicago Renaissance's rise and fall.

Alpha Phi Alpha Cover

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Alpha Phi Alpha

A Legacy of Greatness, The Demands of Transcendence

edited by Gregory S. Parks and Stefan M. Bradley

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks. In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

The Amazing Jimmi Mayes Cover

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The Amazing Jimmi Mayes

Sideman to the Stars

Jimmi Mayes

For more than fifty years, Chicago drummer Jimmi Mayes served as a sideman behind some of the greatest musicians and musical groups in history. He began his career playing the blues in the juke joints of Mississippi, sharpened his trade under the mentorship of drum legends Sam Lay and Fred Below in the steamy nightclubs of south Chicago, and hit it big in New York City behind such music legends as Tommy Hunt from the Flamingos, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown.

Mayes played his drums behind blues giants Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Reed, Robert Junior Lockwood, Earl Hooker, Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He lived for a while with Motown sensation Martha Reeves and her family and traveled with the Shirelles and the Motown Review. Jimi Hendrix was one of Mayes's best friends, and they traveled together with Joey Dee and the Starliters in the mid-1960s.

Mayes lived through racial segregation, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the integration of rock bands, and the emergence of Motown. He personally experienced the sexual and moral revolutions of the sixties, was robbed of his musical royalties, and survived a musical drought. He's been a pimp and a drug pusher--and lived to tell the tale when so many musicians have not. This sideman to the stars witnessed music history from the best seat in the house--behind the drum set.

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American Bards

Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet

Edward Whitley

In this ms Whitley works to defamiliarize and so explore in a fresh way the literary landscape of the mid-19th century into which Whitman emerged. He explores how the idea of a national poet resonated at that time as well as how Whitman stepped into that role. To accomplish this, Whitley traces the histories and literary achievements of three other antebellum poets whose names are not nearly so well-known but whose work paralleled Whitman’s in unexpected ways: James M. Whitfield, Eliza Snow, and John Rollin Ridge. He puts their work in dialogue with Whitman’s poetry--both as it functions now and as it reflected and affected the literary landscape of 19th-c. America. Each of these American poets adopted a posture similar to that of Whitman’s antebellum persona of a social outsider who audaciously claims to be a representative national bard. Rereading Whitman’s place in the nationalist literary milieu of the 1850s through Whitfield, Snow, and Ridge suggests cultural alternatives to the nation-centered discourse that has come to characterize received notions of the antebellum period.

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American Poetry in Performance

From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop

Tyler Hoffman

American Performance Poetry is the first book to trace a comprehensive history of performance poetry in America from Whitman through the rap-meets-poetry scene and to show how the performance of poetry is bound up with the performance of identity and nationality in the modern period. This book will be a meaningful contribution both to the field of American poetry studies and to the fields of cultural and performance studies, as it focuses on poetry that refuses the status of fixed aesthetic object and, in its variability, performs versions of race, class, gender, and sexuality both on and off the page. Relating the performance of poetry to shifting political and cultural ideologies in the United States, Hoffman argues that the vocal aspect of public poetry possesses (or has been imagined to possess) the ability to help construct both national and subaltern communities. In doing so, American Performance Poetry explores public poets’ confrontations with emergent sound recording and communications technologies as those confrontations shape their mythologies of the spoken word and their corresponding notions about America and Americanness.

American Slavery As It Is Cover

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American Slavery As It Is

Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses

Theodore Dwight Weld

Compiled by a prominent abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, ###American Slavery As It Is# combines information taken from witnesses, and from active and former slave owners, to generate a condemnation of slavery from both those who observed it and those who perpetuated it. The narrative describes the appalling day-to-day conditions of the over 2,700,000 men, women and children in slavery in the United States. Weld demonstrates how even prisoners--in the United States and in other countries--were significantly better fed than American slaves. Readers will find one of the most meticulous records of slave life available in this text. Unlike personal slave narratives, which focus on a single man or woman's experience, ###American Slavery# details the overall conditions of slaves across multiple states and several years.

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American Socialist Triptych

The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois

Mark W. Van Wienen

"A meticulously researched, highly informed, carefully argued, and very accessible account of American socialism, socialists, and socialistic thinking, from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s . . . challenges the intellectual and political legacy of Werner Sombart's Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?, whose spirit still hovers over animated discussions about the 'failures' of socialism in the United States." ---James A. Miller, George Washington University "A valuable rethinking and reframing of the traditions of leftist literary scholarship in the U.S." ---Sylvia Cook, University of Missouri, St. Louis American Socialist Triptych: The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois explores the contributions of three writers to the development of American socialism over a fifty--year period and asserts the vitality of socialism in modern American literature and culture. Drawing upon a wide range of texts including archival sources, Mark W. Van Wienen demonstrates the influence of reform-oriented, democratic socialism both in the careers of these writers and in U.S. politics between 1890 and 1940. While offering unprecedented in-depth analysis of modern American socialist literature, this book charts the path by which the supposedly impossible, dangerous ideals of a cooperative commonwealth were realized, in part, by the New Deal. American Socialist Triptych provides in-depth, innovative readings of the featured writers and their engagement with socialist thought and action. Upton Sinclair represents the movement's most visible manifestation, the Socialist Party of America, founded in 1901; Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflects the socialist elements in both feminism and 1890s reform movements, and W. E. B. Du Bois illuminates social democratic aspirations within the NAACP. Van Wienen's book seeks to re-energize studies of Sinclair by treating him as a serious cultural figure whose career peaked not in the early success of The Jungle but in his nearly successful 1934 run for the California governorship. It also demonstrates as never before the centrality of socialism throughout Gilman's and Du Bois's literary and political careers. More broadly, American Socialist Triptych challenges previous scholarship on American radical literature, which has focused almost exclusively on the 1930s and Communist writers. Van Wienen argues that radical democracy was not the phenomenon of a decade or of a single group but a sustained tradition dispersed within the culture, providing a useful genealogical explanation for how socialist ideas were actually implemented through the New Deal. American Socialist Triptych also revises modern American literary history, arguing for the endurance of realist and utopian literary modes at the height of modernist literary experimentation and showing the importance of socialism not only to the three featured writers but also to their peers, including Edward Bellamy, Hamlin Garland, Jack London, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Claude McKay. Further, by demonstrating the importance of social democratic thought to feminist and African American campaigns for equality, the book dialogues with recent theories of radical egalitarianism. Readers interested in American literature, U.S. history, political theory, and race, gender, and class studies will all find in American Socialist Triptych a valuable and provocative resource.

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American Voudou

Journey into a Hidden World

Rod Davis

Voudou (an older spelling of voodoo)—a pantheistic belief system developed in West Africa and transported to the Americas during the diaspora of the slave trade—is the generic term for a number of similar African religions which mutated in the Americas, including santeria, candomble, macumbe, obeah, Shango Baptist, etc. Since its violent introduction in the Caribbean islands, it has been the least understood and most feared religion of the New World—suppressed, out-lawed or ridiculed from Haiti to Hattiesburg. Yet with the exception of Zora Neale Hurston's accounts more than a half-century ago and a smattering of lurid, often racist paperbacks, studies of this potent West African theology have focused almost exclusively on Haiti, Cuba and the Caribbean basin. American Voudou turns our gaze back to American shores, principally towards the South, the most important and enduring stronghold of the voudou faith in America and site of its historic yet rarely recounted war with Christianity. This chronicle of Davis' determined search for the true legacy of voudou in America reveals a spirit-world from New Orleans to Miami which will shatter long-held stereotypes about the religion and its role in our culture. The real-life dramas of the practitioners, true believers and skeptics of the voudou world also offer a radically different entree into a half-hidden, half-mythical South, and by extension into an alternate soul of America. Readers interested in the dynamic relationships between religion and society, and in the choices made by people caught in the flux of conflict, will be heartened by this unique story of survival and even renaissance of what may have been the most persecuted religion in American history.

America's First Black Socialist Cover

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America's First Black Socialist

The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark

Nikki M. Taylor

In pursuit of his foremost goal, full and equal citizenship for African Americans, Peter Humphries Clark (1829--1925) defied easy classification. He was, at various times, the country's first black socialist, a loyal supporter of the Republican Party, and an advocate for the Democrats. A pioneer educational activist, Clark led the fight for African Americans' access to Ohio's public schools and became the first black principal in the state. He supported all-black schools and staunchly defended them even after the tide turned toward desegregation. As a politician, intellectual, educator, and activist, Clark was complex and enigmatic.

Though Clark influenced a generation of abolitionists and civil rights activists, he is virtually forgotten today. America's First Black Socialist draws upon speeches, correspondence, and outside commentary to provide a balanced account of this neglected and misunderstood figure. Charting Clark's changing allegiances and ideologies from the antebellum era through the 1920s, this comprehensive biography illuminates the life and legacy of an important activist while also highlighting the black radical tradition that helped democratize America.

Amiri Baraka Cover

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Amiri Baraka

The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual

Jerry Watts

Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones, became known as one of the most militant, anti-white black nationalists of the 1960s Black Power movement. An advocate of Black Cultural Nationalism, Baraka supported the rejection of all things white and western. He helped found and direct the influential Black Arts movement which sought to move black writers away from western aesthetic sensibilities and toward a more complete embrace of the black world. Except perhaps for James Baldwin, no single figure has had more of an impact on black intellectual and artistic life during the last forty years.

In this groundbreaking and comprehensive study, the first to interweave Baraka's art and political activities, Jerry Watts takes us from his early immersion in the New York scene through the most dynamic period in the life and work of this controversial figure. Watts situates Baraka within the various worlds through which he travelled including Beat Bohemia, Marxist-Leninism, and Black Nationalism. In the process, he convincingly demonstrates how the 25 years between Baraka's emergence in 1960 and his continued influence in the mid-1980s can also be read as a general commentary on the condition of black intellectuals during the same time. Continually using Baraka as the focal point for a broader analysis, Watts illustrates the link between Baraka's life and the lives of other black writers trying to realize their artistic ambitions, and contrasts him with other key political intellectuals of the time. In a chapter sure to prove controversial, Watts links Baraka's famous misogyny to an attempt to bury his own homosexual past.

A work of extraordinary breadth, Amira Baraka is a powerful portrait of one man's lifework and the pivotal time it represents in African-American history. Informed by a wealth of original research, it fills a crucial gap in the lively literature on black thought and history and will continue to be a touchstone work for some time to come.

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