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Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants

Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s

Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated. The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.

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Anthropology and Egalitarianism

Ethnographic Encounters from Monticello to Guinea-Bissau

Eric Gable

Anthropology and Egalitarianism is an artful and accessible introduction to key themes in cultural anthropology. Writing in a deeply personal style and using material from his fieldwork in three dramatically different locales -- Indonesia, West Africa, and Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson -- Eric Gable shows why the ethnographic encounter is the core of the discipline's method and the basis of its unique contribution to understanding the human condition. Gable weaves together vignettes from the field and discussion of major works as he explores the development of the idea of culture through the experience of cultural contrast, anthropology's fraught relationship to racism and colonialism, and other enduring themes.

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Anywhere But Here

Black Intellectuals in the Atlantic World and Beyond

edited by Kendahl Radcliffe, Jennifer Scott, and Anja Werner

Anywhere But Here brings together new scholarship on the cross-cultural experiences of intellectuals of African descent since the eighteenth century. The book embraces historian Paul Gilroy’s prominent thesis in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness and posits arguments beyond The Black Atlantic’s traditional organization and symbolism. Contributions are arranged into three sections that highlight the motivations and characteristics connecting a certain set of agents, thinkers, and intellectuals: the first, Re-ordering Worldviews: Rebellious Thinkers, Poets, Writers, and Political Architects; the second, Crafting Connections: Strategic and Ideological Alliances; and the third, Cultural Mastery in Foreign Spaces: Evolving Visions of Home and Identity.

These essays expand categories and suggest patterns at play that have united individuals and communities across the African diaspora. They highlight the stories of people who, from their intercultural and often marginalized positions, challenged the status quo, created strategic (and at times, unexpected) international alliances, cultivated expertise and cultural fluency abroad, as well as crafted physical and intellectual spaces for their self-expression and dignity to thrive.

What, for example, connects the eighteenth-century Igbo author Olaudah Equiano with 1940s literary figure Richard Wright; nineteenth-century expatriate anthropologist Antenor Fermin with 1960s Haitian émigrés to the Congo; Japanese Pan-Asianists and Southern Hemisphere Aboriginal activists with Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey; or Angela Davis with artists of the British Black Arts Movement, Ingrid Pollard and Zarina Bhimji? They are all part of a mapping that reaches across and beyond geographical, historical, and ideological boundaries typically associated with the “Black Atlantic.” They reflect accounts of individuals and communities equally united in their will to seek out better lives, often, as the title suggests, “anywhere but here.”

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Aphrodite's Daughters

Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Maureen Honey

Aphrodite’s Daughters introduces us to Angelina Weld Grimké, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, and Mae V. Cowdery, African American poetic iconoclasts who viewed the female body as a source of strength and transcendence as they pioneered forthright modes of erotic self-expression during the Harlem Renaissance. Drawing from their published and unpublished poetry, along with rare periodicals and biographical materials, Maureen Honey immerses us in the lives of these remarkable women and the world in which they lived.

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Apocalypse South

Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary

While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture. Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures. 

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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention

The Old Negro in New Negro Art

Phoebe Wolfskill

An essential African American artist of his era, Archibald Motley Jr. created paintings of black Chicago that aligned him with the revisionist aims of the New Negro Renaissance. Yet Motley's approach to constructing a New Negro--a dignified figure both accomplished and worthy of respect--reflected the challenges faced by African American artists working on the project of racial reinvention and uplift. Phoebe Wolfskill demonstrates how Motley's art embodied the tenuous nature of the Black Renaissance and the wide range of ideas that structured it. Focusing on key works in Motley's oeuvre, Wolfskill reveals the artist's complexity and the variety of influences that informed his work. Motley's paintings suggest that the racist, problematic image of the Old Negro was not a relic of the past but an influence that pervaded the Black Renaissance. Exploring Motley in relation to works by notable black and non-black contemporaries, Wolfskill reinterprets Motley's oeuvre as part of a broad effort to define American cultural identity through race, class, gender, religion, and regional affiliation.

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Archives of Flesh

African America, Spain, and Post-Humanist Critique

Robert F. Reid-Pharr

Enlists the principles of post-humanist critique in order to investigate decades of intimate dialogues between African American and Spanish intellectuals 
 
In Archives of Flesh, Robert Reid-Pharr reveals the deep history of intellectual engagement between African America and Spain.  Opening a fascinating window onto black and anti-Fascist intellectual life from 1898 through the mid-1950s, Reid-Pharr argues that key institutions of Western Humanism, including American colleges and universities, developed in intimate relation to slavery, colonization, and white supremacy.  This retreat to rigidly established philosophical and critical traditions can never fully address—or even fully recognize—the deep-seated hostility to black subjectivity underlying the humanist ideal of a transcendent Manhood.               

Calling for a specifically anti-white supremacist reexamination of the archives of black subjectivity and resistance, Reid-Pharr enlists the principles of post-humanist critique in order to investigate decades of intimate dialogues between African American and Spanish intellectuals, including Salaria Kea, Federico Garcia Lorca, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Lynn Nottage, and Pablo Picasso. In the process Reid-Pharr takes up the “African American Spanish Archive” in order to resist the anti-corporeal, anti-black, anti-human biases that stand at the heart of Western Humanism. 

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The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes

R. Baxter Miller

Langston Hughes was one of the most important American writers of his generation, and one of the most versatile, producing poetry, fiction, drama, and autobiography. In this innovative study, R. Baxter Miller explores Hughes's life and art to enlarge our appreciation of his contribution to American letters.

Arguing that readers often miss the complexity of Hughes's work because of its seeming accessibility, Miller begins with a discussion of the writer's auto-biography, an important yet hitherto neglected key to his imagination. Moving on to consider the subtle resonances of his life in the varied genres over which his imagination "wandered," Miller finds a constant symbiotic bond between the historical and the lyrical. The range of Hughes's artistic vision is revealed in his depiction of Black women, his political stance, his lyric and tragi-comic modes.

This is one of the first studies to apply recent methods of literary analysis, including formalist, structuralist, and semiotic criticism, to the work of a Black American writer. Miller not only affirms in Hughes's work the peculiar qualities of Black American culture but provides a unifying conception of his art and identifies the primary metaphors lying at its heart.

Here is a fresh and coherent reading of the work of one of the twentieth century's greatest voices, a reinterpretation that renews our appreciation not only of Black American text and heritage but of the literary imagination itself.

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The Art and Life of Clarence Major

Keith E. Byerman

Clarence Major is an award-winning painter, fiction writer, and poet—as well as an essayist, editor, anthologist, lexicographer, and memoirist. He has been part of twenty-eight group exhibitions, has had fifteen one-man shows, and has published fourteen collections of poetry and nine works of fiction. The Art and Life of Clarence Major is the first critical biography of this innovative African American writer and visual artist. Given the full cooperation of his subject, Keith E. Byerman traces Major's life and career from his complex family history in Georgia through his encounters with important literary and artistic figures in Chicago and New York to his present status as a respected writer, artist, teacher, and scholar living in California.

In his introduction, Byerman asks, “How does a black man who does not take race as his principal identity, an artist who deliberately defies mainstream rules, a social and cultural critic who wants to be admired by the world he attacks, and a creator who refuses to commit to one expressive form make his way in the world?” Tasking himself with opening up the multiple layers of problems and solutions in both the work and the life to consider the successes and the failures, Byerman reveals Major as one who has devoted himself to a life of experimental art that has challenged both literary and painterly practice and the conventional understanding of the nature of African American art. Major's refusal to follow the rules has challenged readers and critics, but through it all, he has continued to produce quality work as a painter, poet, and novelist. His is the life of someone totally devoted to his creative work, one who has put his artistic vision ahead of fame, wealth, and sometimes even family.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication.

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Art for Equality

The NAACP's Cultural Campaign for Civil Rights

Jenny Woodley

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest civil rights organization, having dedicated itself to the fight for racial equality since 1909. While the group helped achieve substantial victories in the courtroom, the struggle for civil rights extended beyond gaining political support. It also required changing social attitudes. The NAACP thus worked to alter existing prejudices through the production of art that countered racist depictions of African Americans, focusing its efforts not only on changing the attitudes of the white middle class but also on encouraging racial pride and a sense of identity in the black community.

Art for Equality explores an important and little-studied side of the NAACP's activism in the cultural realm. In openly supporting African American artists, writers, and musicians in their creative endeavors, the organization aimed to change the way the public viewed the black community. By overcoming stereotypes and the belief of the majority that African Americans were physically, intellectually, and morally inferior to whites, the NAACP believed it could begin to defeat racism.

Illuminating important protests, from the fight against the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation to the production of anti-lynching art during the Harlem Renaissance, this insightful volume examines the successes and failures of the NAACP's cultural campaign from 1910 to the 1960s. Exploring the roles of gender and class in shaping the association's patronage of the arts, Art for Equality offers an in-depth analysis of the social and cultural climate during a time of radical change in America.

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