ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home   ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music)  


In the case of public schooling, the hate might be equated with mechanisms such as No Child Left Behind, policies that quite effectively retard and close young American minds to the acquisition of historical sense and background knowledge that is not exactly quantifiable and test-friendly.



Books by Richard Wright


Richard Wright: Early Works  / Black Boy  / Native Son  / Uncle Tom's Children / 12 Million Black Voices  / Richard Wright: Later Works


The Outsider  /  Pagan Spain Black Power  /  White Man Listen!  / The Color Curtain Savage Holiday / The Long Dream

Eight Men: Short Stories  / Haiku / American Hunger / Lawd Today!  /  A Father’s Law

*   *   *   *    *

Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

*   *   *   *   *

Making the Wright Connections: A Special Education Report

By Jerry W. Ward


In his review of Diane Ravitch’s conversion polemic, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education [New York Review of Book, May 13, 2010, pp. 16-19 ], E. D. Hirsch, Jr. makes a point worth pondering:

She [Ravitch] concludes that many public school teachers are currently ineffective partly because they have been poorly educated (17).

Let us be skeptical about Ravitch’s conclusion until we have more information about the quality of research that warrants such an indictment, and we need to ask what the phrases “currently ineffective” and “poorly educated” actually mean in the context of American public education.  Are they codes for a particular ideology?  My slowly growing background knowledge about public school teachers, mainly from talking with a small number of them (only 80 teachers) between July 11 and August 12, 2010, suggests that the constraints of American public schooling force some teachers to minimize their innate creativity and to repress much that they do know from formal education and accumulated experiences. 

The onus for “ineffectiveness” is jointly shared by federal, state, and local educational agencies, mass media and censorship, wayward or misinformed parents, students who rank marketable skills above conservative or liberal development of the mind, new and highly seductive technologies, and other factors.  A pinpoint of hope, however, does gleam in the dark matrix of American educational crises.

Two programs sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) can serve as models for addressing a very limited number of problems in contemporary schooling.

Program One

Each summer, the NEH offers institutes for school teachers which are “designed to present the best available scholarship on important humanities issues and works taught in the nation’s schools.”  Thanks to the unflagging efforts of Dr. Maryemma Graham, founder and director of the Project on the History of Black Writing, the University of Kansas offered “Making the Wright Connection: Reading Native Son, Black Boy, and Uncle Tom's Children,” July 11-24, 2010.  Thirty teachers from fifteen states participated in this Institute, an opportunity for them to do more than learn about critical and creative scholarship pertaining to Richard Wright and to read  Wright’s works most frequently taught in American schools. They were invited to discover that all of his published works are related in varying degrees with the works targeted for the Institute. 

They were encouraged during the two weeks to experiment with new technologies, including Facebook, YouTube, and other digital forms which operate very powerfully in the mindscapes of the young and the old.  They were obligated to design activities for the diverse students they teach.  Thus, they made desirable connections with the legacy of Richard Wright: sustained examination of his word and ideas and some inquiry about why Wright, it might be argued, was in advance of other American and African American writers in dealing with the primal issues which continue to unsettle us in the 21st century.

The intensity of the Institute might be suggested by a chronological listing of activities:

·        Seminar with Hazel Rowley, author of Richard Wright: The Life and Times

·        Discussion with Rowley, Jerry Ward, and Maryemma Graham of “Making Connections through Biography”

·        Technology workshop: Introduction to online collaborative work and teleconference software

·        Viewing and discussing Richard Wright-Black Boy (1995) with the film’s director Madison Davis Lacy

·        Seminar with Jerry Ward on “Between the World and Me”: The Wright Paradigm

·        Discussion with Ward and Howard Rambsy of "Making Connections through Poetry"

·        Seminar with Trudier Harris on “Reading Wright through Folklore: An Introduction”

·        Tour and Presentation by Saralyn Reece Hardy, Director of the Spencer Museum of Art on “Reading Wright through Images and Text”

·        Seminar with Howard Rambsy on “Boys to Men in Three Wright Short Stories”

·        Discussion with Tonya Wells-Abari and Marjorie Lancaster of “Wright: ‘Fighting with Words’ in the Contemporary Classroom"

·        Seminar with Carmaletta Williams on “Making Connection through Wright’s Short Story Cycle"

·        Viewing and discussion of the HBO film Long Black Song (1996) with Madison Davis Lacy

·        Lecture “Background to Native Son” by Jerry Ward

·        Demonstration by Tonya Wells-Abari of “Making Connections to Native Son for 21st Century Students

·        Discussion of “Reading Wright, Reading Our Students” with Tonya Wells-Abari and Marjorie Lancaster

·        Three part seminar with Deborah McDowell on “Without the Consolation of Tears: Understanding Emotion in Native Son

·        Discussion of “Wright and Migration: The Mississippi to Chicago Connection” with Tony Harris and Howard Rambsy

·        Viewing and discussion of the film Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story (2009) with David Taylor, the film’s writer and co-producer

·        Field Trip and Tour of American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, 18th and Vine)

·        Lecture by Tony Bolden on “Richard Wright, Jazz and Blues”

·        Lecture by Julia Wright (Wright’s oldest daughter) on “A Hurricane Called Bigger

·        Presentation by Ward on “Six Versions of Native Son: The Novels, the Plays, and the Films”

·        Viewing the film Native Son (1951) and discussion with Julia Wright and Ward

·        Discussion of “Richard Wright and Religion: Personal Reflections” by Randall Jelks

·        Demonstration: Richard Wright in the Digital Classroom by Howard Rambsy and Tony Harris

·        Viewing of the film Almos a Man and discussion with Rambsy and Jelks

·        Seminar with Carmaletta Williams on “Reading Wright’s Women”

·        Workshop: Reading/Teaching Wright through Material Culture with the textile artist Marla Jackson

·        Discussion of “Teaching Wright and Curriculum Standards” by Frazier O’Leary

·        Seminar with James A. Miller on “Art as Life: Narrating Lived Experience”

·        Discussion of “Public/Private Schools and Richard Wright” by Frazier O’Leary and Emily Robbins

·        Seminar with James A. Miller on “The Politics of Art: Loss and Recovery”

·        Presentation by Howard Rambsy on “Covering Black Boy: A Visual Literary History of Wright’s Autobiography"

·        Working sessions with resident scholars and discussion leaders to produce materials for Sourcebook Demonstrations

It would be unwise to make conclusions about outcomes and the ultimate impact of the Institute.  It is reasonable to guess that more teachers and students will deal with Wright’s remarkable powers of thought and literary presentation and with the prophetic dimensions of his writings.  Perhaps teaching and American schooling will certainly not be dull and obedient in a few American communities. Perhaps education will be enhanced rather than undermined.

*   *   *   *   *

Between the World and Me

By Richard Wright

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled
    suddenly upon the thing,
Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly
    oaks and elms
And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting
    themselves between the world and me. . . .

There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly
    upon a cushion of ashes.
There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt
    finger accusingly at the sky.
There were torn tree limbs, tiny veins of burnt leaves, and
    a scorched coil of greasy hemp;
A vacant shoe, an empty tie, a ripped shirt, a lonely hat,
    and a pair of trousers stiff with black blood.
And upon the trampled grass were buttons, dead matches,
    butt-ends of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a
    drained gin-flask, and a whore's lipstick;
Scattered traces of tar, restless arrays of feathers, and the
    lingering smell of gasoline.
And through the morning air the sun poured yellow
    surprise into the eye sockets of the stony skull. . . .

And while I stood my mind was frozen within cold pity
    for the life that was gone.
The ground gripped my feet and my heart was circled by
    icy walls of fear

The sun died in the sky; a night wind muttered in the 
    grass and fumbled the leaves in the trees; the woods
    poured forth the hungry yelping of hounds; the
    darkness screamed with thirsty voices; and the witnesses rose and lived:
The dry bones stirred, rattled, lifted, melting themselves
    into my bones.
The grey ashes formed flesh firm and black, entering into
    my flesh.

The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth, cigars and
    cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red
    upon her lips,
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that
    my life be burned. . . .

And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth
    into my throat till I swallowed my own blood.
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my
    black wet body slipped and rolled in their hands as
    they bound me to the sapling.
And my skin clung to the bubbling hot tar, falling from
    me in limp patches.
And the down and quills of the white feathers sank into
    my raw flesh, and I moaned in my agony.
Then my blood was cooled mercifully, cooled by a
    baptism of gasoline.
And in a blaze of red I leaped to the sky as pain rose like water, boiling my limbs
Panting, begging I clutched childlike, clutched to the hot
    sides of death.
Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in
    yellow surprise at the sun. . . .

Source: MUN Faculty

*   *   *   *   *

Richard Wright—Black  / Richard Wright—Native Son (1951)

A biography of Richard Wright, author of Black Boy and Native Son from his impoverished childhood, involvement in left-wing politics and literary relationships, to his exile and death in Paris.

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story is the story of the most chaotic and influential publishing venture in history. In the Great Depression, while hundreds of thousands survived by wielding picks and shovels on WPA jobs, a smaller cadre used pen, paper, and the spirit of invention. Their task: create America's first-ever self-portrait in the WPA guides. This documentary offers a compelling window into that experience

*   *   *   *    *

Program Two

Picturing America: The Jacob Lawrence Migration Series,” a NEH We the People Project draws attention to multiple forms of literacy which might be used productively in schooling.  One instance consisted of two-day conferences for South Carolina high and middle school teachers (August 0-10 and August 11-12, 2010) at the Sumter County Performing Arts Center (Sumter, SC).  These conferences focused on the many facets of African American migration contained in visual histories (Lawrence’s series, Romare Bearden’s collages), print histories of migration, music (jazz before, during and after the Harlem Renaissance), WPA documentary photographs such as those used in Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices, maps and census statistics, the migration theme in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

Over the period of four days, a total of fifty teachers were exposed to a rich array of primary and secondary resources available from the NEH, the National Humanities Center, South Carolina ETV Artopia, the South Carolina Humanities Council, the Sumter County Library, and websites.  The teachers had brief but information-packed discussions with such scholars as Tom Powers, Suzanne Wright, Jerry Ward, Valinda Littlefield, Robert Harden, Phil Schaap, Minuette Floyd, and Eric Bultman.

The connection with Richard Wright came by way of the teachers’ reading Black Boy (American Hunger), the 1991 restored edition of Wright’s autobiography.  From their reading of the book, they gained insights about the ethics of living Jim Crow, internal migration within the South, and the implications of African American migrations to the North, Mid-West, or West.  They had to confront the hard facts of urbanization as depicted in “The Horror and the Glory” portion of the autobiography, facts which can be verified from historical documents and creative migration narratives. 

Obviously, the teachers could not digest the large amounts of information shared within the brief span of two-day sessions.  They acquired vivid impressions and new ideas to be reflected upon and eventually used in classroom instruction.  Their continuing work also involves considering what they learned in light of what James Grossman calls “a new standard for studies of internal migration” established by James N. Gregory’s The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migration of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), the fact that many African Americans stayed at home in the South, the fact that in the 1970s patterns of reverse migration to the South began to emerge.

Both NEH-sponsored summer activities provided opportunities for immersion and intellectual renewal.  Both may inspire teachers to energize students with lines from Claude McKay’s poem “America”: "Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,/ Giving me strength erect against her hate " [See poem below].

In the case of public schooling, the hate might be equated with mechanisms such as No Child Left Behind, policies that quite effectively retard and close young American minds to the acquisition of historical sense and background knowledge that is not exactly quantifiable and test-friendly.  For the multiple problems of American public schooling no quick fixes exist.  Nevertheless, the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Educational Programs re-echoes the final words of Black Boy:

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.

American public school teachers do have advocates committed to helping them escape “ineffectiveness.”

16 August 2010 

*   *   *   *    *


                By Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

*   *   *   *   *

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series  /  The Great American Epic: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series  /  Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 - June 9, 2000) was an African American painter; he was married to fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.

Lawrence is among the best-known twentieth century African American painters, a distinction shared with Romare Bearden. Lawrence was only in his twenties when his "Migration Series" made him nationally famous. The series of paintings was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune magazine. The series depicted the epic Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. (Wikipedia)

*   *   *   *   *

Making the Wright Connection

Reading Native Son, Black Boy, and Uncle Tom’s Children

Institute Faculty

Dr. Maryemma Graham is a Professor of English at Kansas University. Her inspiration for the Wright Connection Institute stems from her long-term professional and scholarly interest in Richard Wright’s work and her desire to consistently integrate her scholarly interests and teaching. Dr. Graham has previously directed several NEH Institutes, including an International Wright Conference in 1985, “Mississippi’s Native Son.” She also co-chaired the internationally significant Richard Wright Centennial Committee and coauthored Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice. Her numerous other publications include The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker (in progress) and the Richard Wright Newsletter.

*   *   *   *   *

Dr. Howard Rambsy II is an Assistant Professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Dr. Rambsy works closely with a charter school in East St. Louis, and he is particularly qualified to address the benefits of teaching Richard Wright in the secondary school classroom. Dr. Rambsy was the editor of the Paper on Language and Literature’s special edition on Richard Wright, and he is able to demonstrate the intersection of the visual and the literary with his innovative presentation, “Covering Black Boy: A Visual Literary History of Richard Wright’s Autobiography." His book, titled The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry, is scheduled for release December of 2010. More on Dr. Rambsy.

*   *   *   *   *

Tony Bolden was born and raised in the Oakland / San Francisco Bay Area, but became interested in African-American literature as a student at Dillard University in New Orleans where he became the youngest member of Congo Square Writers' Union. The group's informal discussions established a theoretical foundation for Bolden, who went on to earn his PhD in English and teach courses on black writing and music at The University of Alabama and The University of Kansas. His books include: Afro-Blue: Improvisations on African American Poetry and Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2004) and The Funk Era and Beyond: New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2008).

*   *   *   *   *

Saralynn Reece Hardy is the director of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. Previously, she was the Director of Museums and Visual Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts, where she received a Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Hardy coauthored Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide. Her interests include societal integration of art and the need for artistic experimentation in academic life.

*   *   *   *   *

Dr. Trudier Harris is the J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English and Comparative Literature Emerita at the University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill. She is a renowned author and scholar, has received numerous teaching awards, including the Award of Distinction for the College of Humanities from Ohio State University in 1994. Among her books are South of Tradition: Essays in African American Literature and her memoir Summer Snow: Reflections of a Black Daughter of the South. The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South, published in 2009, was designated by Choice Magazine as an “Outstanding Academic Title.”

*   *   *   *   *

Dr. Randal Jelks is an Associate Professor of American Studies with a joint appointment in African and African American Studies at Kansas University. He holds appointments in History and Religious Studies, and he has published both scholarly and journalistic articles. His research and writing interests are in the area of African American Religious, Urban, and Civil Rights History. Last year Dr. Jelks wrote a widely-cited article titled “Obama, Wright, and Trinity.” He is in the final edits of a new book on Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentor titled The School Master of the Movement: Benjamin Elijah Mays, A Religious Rebel in the Jim Crow America. More on Dr. Jelks.

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholar


Madison Davis Lacy is an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas. He is also an award-winning film director, writer, and producer. His four Emmys include one for the critically-acclaimed documentary, Richard Wright: Black Boy. More on Mr. Lacy.

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholar

Dr. Deborah McDowell is the Alice Griffin Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Virginia. She is foremost an editor of African American literature projects, including The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. Dr. McDowell also founded the influential African-American Women Writers Series for Beacon Press. Her books include The Changing Same’: Black Women's Literature, Criticism and Theory and Leaving Pipe Shop: Memories of Kin. More on Dr. McDowell.

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholar:

Dr. James Miller is Professor of English and Chair of American Studies at The George Washington University. Dr. Miller authored the pedagogically essential Approaches to Teaching Wright’s Native Son. Dr. Miller also wrote “Bigger Thomas’s Quest for Voice and Audience in Native Son,” and acted as a Media Consultant on the BBC’s Richard Wright—Black Boy. More on Dr. Miller.

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholarl:

Dr. Hazel Rowley is the Australian scholar and author whose discovery of new materials prompted her to write the most recent Richard Wright biography, Richard Wright: The Life and Times. Dr. Rowley’s other widely-read and oft-translated books include the acclaimed Tête-à-Tête: The Tumultuous Lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Dr. Rowley’s other scholarship includes numerous articles, including “Richard Wright in Paris.” More on Dr. Rowley

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholar:

Dr. Carmaletta Williams is a Professor of African American Studies at Johnson County Community College. She is also the Executive Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Dr. Williams has extensive experience conducting teacher workshops, and she displays expertise on the topic of the short story cycle. Dr. Williams has extensive knowledge of Wright’s era due to her work and research on Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Her forthcoming book is titled My Dear Boy: The Letters from Caroline “Carrie” Hughes Clark to her son Langston Hughes: 1928-1938.

*   *   *   *   *

Visiting Scholar

Julia Wright, the eldest daughter of Richard Wright, is a much sought-after writer and speaker. Ms. Wright’s upcoming memoir addresses the profound influence of her father as well as her diverse experiences as an African-American living in Paris. More on Ms. Wright.

*   *   *   *   *

Late in 1940, he began a stage adaptation of Native Son in collaboration with Paul Green. The production debuted in early 1941 on Broadway in a production staged by Orson Welles. The summer of that year saw the publication of a collection of photographs of black Americans, 12 Million Black Voices, accompanied by a discursive essay by Wright, and a collaboration with Count Basie on a jazz song, "Joe Louis Blues" ["King Joe" King Joe, Part 1 / King Joe, Part 2 ].

*   *   *   *   *

Native Son (1951) (B&W Ep) [VHS] (1949)

Richard Wright (Actor), Gloria Madison (Actor), Pierre Chenal

When originally released in Europe as Sangre Negra in 1950, Native Son—the film—was a long time coming for Wright. The author had fought for the integrity of his original novel enough to take up playing Bigger Thomas himself. When released for American audiences as much as 30 minutes of film was left on the editing room floor. It would be interesting to know what was left out, but one can make an educated guess.

For those of you who have read the novel this may not seem odd, but the main parts left out of the film have to do with miscegenation (Bigger kissing Ms Dalton) and Communism (the word isn't even mentioned!!). What is left is a dry husk of novel, but it leaves one to wonder what American audiences (or rather the censors) were ready to show in American theatres.

Several liberties were taken by the director (and Wright?) that may also prove interesting for further conversation. Bessie, Bigger's one-dimensional love interest, is killed in the movie also, but it comes to the reader/viewer in the form of a flashback in the prison scene (Fate).

Also, there is an interesting dream sequence where Bessie comes to Bigger like a Judas figure and Bigger runs through the cotton fields of his dream to his waiting father. . .  It's refreshing to see his father appear in the dream sequence considering that it's NOT in the book and Wright's father had left him at an early age. Wright may have been an excellent though 'confused' writer, but he is NO actor!! I just imagined Bigger to be a little more thuggish than Wright could pull-off. But he should get an E for Effort: Losing 50 pounds to play the role, fighting to get the film made in Europe since he had Communism affiliations during the Macarthy trials, and just being an all around 'Daemonic Genius.' I'd recommend the film for its extra-literary qualities. If your teaching the novel, give your self a 90-minute break!! But the Book is Better than the Film!!! T.A. Stewart

*   *   *   *   *

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story

By David Taylor

Americans faced crushing financial devastation during the Great Depression. But it was also a unique opportunity to capture the essence of our country . . . a people who refused to give up hope. Both witty and heartbreaking, Soul of a People is the powerful story behind a controversial public assistance program, the Federal Writers Project one of four arts programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration.

Thousands of writers including Richard Wright, Saul Bellow and John Cheever traveled throughout the country to interview ordinary people for a series of state guidebooks. But controversy ignited when they portrayed not only our triumphs but our tragedies. A unique portrait of 1930s Americana, what they uncovered profoundly impacted the project, the nation, and modern literature.

Features interviews with two of the Project's best-known workers, Studs Terkel (in one of his last interviews) and Stetson Kennedy; as well as a diverse group of authors, poets and historians, including Douglas Brinkley and David Bradley. Based on the book by David A. Taylor and narrated by award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson.

*   *   *   *   *

Soul of a People

The WPA Writers' Project Uncovers Depression America

By David A. Taylor

Soul of a People is about a handful of people who were on the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s and a glimpse of America at a turning point. This particular handful of characters went from poverty to great things later, and included John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Studs Terkel. In the 1930s they were all caught up in an effort to describe America in a series of WPA guides. Through striking images and firsthand accounts, the book reveals their experiences and the most vivid excerpts from selected guides and interviews: Harlem schoolchildren, truckers, Chicago fishmongers, Cuban cigar makers, a Florida midwife, Nebraskan meatpackers, and blind musicians.

Drawing on new discoveries from personal collections, archives, and recent biographies, a new picture has emerged in the last decade of how the participants' individual dramas intersected with the larger picture of their subjects.

This book illuminates what it felt like to live that experience, how going from joblessness to reporting on their own communities affected artists with varied visions, as well as what feelings such a passage involved: shame humiliation, anger, excitement, nostalgia, and adventure. Also revealed is how the WPA writers anticipated, and perhaps paved the way for, the political movements of the following decades, including the Civil Rights movement, the Women's Right movement, and the Native American rights movement.

*   *   *   *   *

America's Dream

1996  Movie, NR, 86 mins

Danny Glover (Actor), Wesley Snipes (Actor),

Bill Duke (Director and Kevin Rodney Sullivan (Director) 

Three African-American directors adapt short stories by prominent African-American writers (Richard Wright, John Henrik Clarke, Maya Angelou) in this trilogy made for HBO.

"Long Black Song": Alabama, 1938. Farmer Silas (Danny Glover) leaves his wife Sarah (Tina Lifford) and infant daughter alone while he takes his crops to town. Lonely and bored, Sarah entertains the sales pitches of a young white peddler, David (Tate Donovan), and makes love to him. When he learns what has happened, the outraged Silas wants to take out all of his frustrations at the world on David, but Sarah convinces him not to let his anger get the better of him.

"The Boy Who Painted Christ Black": Georgia, 1948. A talented young student at a "colored" school submits a painting of Christ as a black man for a state-wide contest on the theme of ethnic pride. This creates a conflict for his school's principal, George Du Vaul (Wesley Snipes). After much soul-searching, Du Vaul agrees to enter the painting in the contest, even though it will cost him a promotion by offending his superiors.

"The Reunion": Chicago, 1958. When jazz musician Philomena (Lorraine Toussaint) spots a familiar face in the audience of the club where she is playing, it brings back memories of her unhappy childhood as the daughter of a domestic servant in a white household.

Aside from being strong works of fiction in their own rights, the short stories that comprise America's Dream combine into a satisfying whole, providing a portrait of African-American life in flux as the country moves from a rural to a city-based economy. Unusual for this kind of omnibus film, the segments are presented in reverse order of quality, with the best one opening the program. Of the three, "Long Black Song" is the one segment that could stand on its own. "The Boy Who Painted Christ Black" makes a strong point but has rather a didactic conclusion. "The Reunion,"despite an excellent performance by Toussaint, is repetitious and goes on too long. As the conclusion of this trilogy, however, it has far more effect than it would on its own.

Handsomely produced and well-acted by a first-rate cast, America's Dream is a sterling example of the kind of niche filmmaking that cable television is able to provide. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.) Movies.TV Guide

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform

Why We Need It and What It Will Take

By Bruce Bartlett

The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves. At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens.

*   *   *   *   *

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)






posted 19 August 2010 




Home  Jerry W. Ward Jr. Table   Richard Wright

Related files: Black American Narrative Does Not End  Richard Wright Print Resources  China II Report   From HBCUs to BCUs