Marvin X Needs
Bio and Bibliography Compiled by
Marvin X (b.
1944), poet, playwright, essayist, director, and
lecturer. Marvin Ellis Jackmon was born on 29 May 1944
in Fowler, California. He attended high school in Fresno
and received a BA and MA in English from San Francisco
State College (now San Francisco State University). The
mid-1960s were formative years for Jackmon. He became
involved in theater, founded his own press, published
several plays and volumes of poetry, and became
increasingly alienated because of racism and the Vietnam
War. Under the influence of Elijah Muhammad, he became a
Black Muslim and has published since then under the
names El Muhajir and Marvin X. He has also used the name
Nazzam al Fitnah Muhajir.
Marvin X and Ed
Bullins founded the Black Arts/West Theatre in San
Francisco in 1966, and several of his plays were staged
during that period in San Francisco, Oakland, New York,
and by local companies across the United States. His
one-act play Flowers for the Trashman was staged
in San Francisco in 1965 by the drama department at San
Francisco State University, later at Black Arts West
Theatre, and was included in the anthology
Black Fire (1968); a musical version (with Sun
Ra's Arkestra), Take Care of Business, was
produced in 1971.
The play presents
the confrontation between two cellmates in a jail—one a
young African American college student, the other a
middle-aged white man. Another one-act play, The Black
Bird, a Black Muslim allegory in which a young man
offers lessons in life awareness to two small girls,
appeared in 1969 and was included in New Plays from the
Black Theatre that year. Several other plays, including
The Trial, Resurrection of the Dead, and
In the Name of Love, have been successfully
staged, and Marvin X has remained an important advocate
of African American theater.
Marvin X was
convicted, during the Vietnam War, for refusing
induction and fled to Canada; eventually he was arrested
in British Honduras, was returned to the United States,
and was sentenced to five months in prison. In his
statement on being sentenced—later reprinted in Black
Scholar (1971) and also in Clyde Taylor's anthology,
Vietnam and Black America (1973)—he argues that
any judge, any jury, is guilty of insanity that would
have the nerve to judge and convict and imprison a black
man because he did not appear in a courtroom on a charge
of refusing to commit crimes against humanity, crimes
against his own brothers and sisters, the peace-loving
people of Vietnam.
Marvin X founded
El Kitab Sudan publishing house in 1967; several of his
books of poetry and proverbs have been published there.
Much of Marvin X's poetry is militant in its anger at
American racism and injustice. For example, in “Did You
Vote Nigger?” he uses rough dialect and directs his
irony at African Americans who believe in the government
but are actually its pawns. Many of the proverbs in
The Son of Man (1969) express alienation from white
However, many of
proverbs and poems express more concern with what
African Americans can do positively for themselves,
without being paralyzed by hatred. He insists that the
answer is to concentrate on establishing a racial
identity and to “understand that art is celebration of
Allah.” The poems in Fly to Allah, Black Man
Listen (1969), and other volumes from his El Kitab Sudan
press are characterized by their intensity and their
message of racial unity under a religious banner.
Marvin X has remained active as a lecturer, teacher,
theatrical producer, editor, and exponent of
Spirituality. His work in advocating racial cohesion and
spiritual dedication as an antidote to the legacy of
racism he saw around him in the 1960s and 1970s made him
an important voice of his generation. One of his
current projects is Academy of da Corner, downtown
Oakland at 14th and Broadway. According the Ishmael
Reed, "Marvin X is Plato teaching on the streets of
Oakland. If you want to learn about motivation and
inspiration, don't spend all that money going to
seminars and workshops, just go stand at 14th and
Broadway and observe Marvin X at work."
* Lorenzo Thomas, “Marvin
X,” in DLB, vol. 38, Afro-American
Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, eds.
Thadious Davis and Trudier Harris, 1985, pp. 177–184.
* Bernard L.
Peterson, Jr., “Marvin
Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays,
1988, pp. 332–333. “El Muhajir,” in CA, vol. 26,
eds. Hal May and James G. Lesniak, 1989, pp. 132–133.
Born Marvin Ellis Jackmon on May 29, 1944, in Fowler,
California; married; five children Education: Oakland
City College (now Merritt College), AA, 1964; San
Francisco State College (now University), BA, 1974, MA,
Soul Book, Encore, Black World,
Black Scholar, Black Dialogue, Journal of
Black Poetry, Black Theatre, Negro Digest/Black
World, Muhammad Speaks and other magazines
and newspapers, contributor, 1965-; Black Dialogue,
fiction editor, 1965-;
Black Poetry, contributing editor,1965-; Black
Arts/West Theatre, San Francisco, co-founder (with
Bullins), 1966; Black House, San Francisco, co-founder
(with Bullins and Eldridge Cleaver), 1967; Al Kitab
Sudan Publishing Company, San Francisco, founder, 1967;
California State University at Fresno, black studies
teacher, 1969; Black Theatre, associate editor,
1968; Muhammad Speaks, foreign editor, 1970; Your
Black Educational Theatre, Inc., San Francisco, founder
and director, 1971; University of California, Berkeley,
lecturer, 1972; Mills College, lecturer, 1973, San
Francisco State University, 1974-5, University of
California, San Diego, 1975, University of Nevada, Reno,
1979, Laney and Merritt Colleges, Oakland, 1981, Kings
River College, Reedly CA, 1982.
Formerly known as El Muhajir,
Marvin X was a key
poet and playwright of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) in
the 1960s and early 1970s. He wrote for many of the
leading black journals of the time, including Black
Scholar, Black Theater Magazine, and Muhammad
Speaks. He founded Black House with Ed Bullins (1935--)
and Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998), which served for a
short time as the headquarters of the Black Panther
Party, the militant black nationalist group, and a
community theatrical center in Oakland County,
California. Always a controversial and confrontational
figure, Marvin X was banned from teaching at state
universities in the 1960s by the then state governor,
Ronald Reagan (1911--). When asked in 2003 what had
happened to the Black Arts Movement, Marvin X told Lee
Hubbard: "I am still working on it . . . telling it like
Marvin X was born
Marvin Ellis Jackmon on May 29, 1944, in Fowler,
California, an agricultural area near Fresno. His
parents were Owendell and Marian Jackmon; his mother ran
her own real estate business. Details about when and why
he changed his name are scarce, but he has been known as
Nazzam al Fitnah Muhajir, El Muhajir, and is now known
Marvin X attended
Oakland City College (Merritt College) where he received
his AA degree in 1964. He received his BA in English
from San Francisco State College (San Francisco State
University) in 1974 and his MA in 1975.
While at college
Marvin X was
involved with various theater projects and co-founded
the Black Arts/West Theater with Bullins and others.
Their aim was to provide a place where black writers and
performers could work on drama projects, but they also
had a political motive, to use theater and writing to
campaign for the liberation of blacks from white
Marvin X told Lee
Hubbard: "The Black Arts Movement was part of the
liberation movement of Black people in America. The
Black Arts Movement was its artistic arm . . .
[brothers] got a revolutionary consciousness through
Black art, drama, poetry, music, paintings, artwork, and
By the late 1960s
Marvin X was a
central figure in the Black Arts Movement in San
Francisco and had become part of the Nation of Islam,
changing his name to El Muhajir and following Elijah
Muhammad (1897-1975). Like the heavyweight boxing
champion Muhammad Ali (1942--), Marvin X refused his
induction to fight in Vietnam. But unlike Ali,
Marvin X, along
with several other members of the Nation of Islam in
California, decided to evade arrest. In 1967 he escaped
to Canada but was later arrested in Belize. He chastised
the court for punishing him for refusing to be inducted
into an army for the purpose of securing "White Power"
throughout the world before he was sentenced to five
months' imprisonment. His statement was published in the
journal The Black Scholar in 1971.
Despite his reputation as an activist,
Marvin Xwas also
an intellectual, and a celebrated writer. He was most
concerned with the problem of using language created by
whites in order to argue for freedom from white power.
Many of his plays and poems reflect this struggle to
express himself as a black intellectual in a
white-dominated society. His play Flowers for the
Trashman (1965), for example, is the story of Joe
Simmons, a jailed college student whose bitter attack on
his white cellmate became a national rallying call for
many in the Nation of Islam and other black
nationalists. Marvin X's own poetry is heavy with Muslim
ideology and propaganda, but it is supported by a
sensitive poetic ear. Perhaps his greatest achievement
as a poet is to merge Islamic cadences and sensibilities
with scholarly American English and the language of the
Like his close friend Eldridge Cleaver, in the late
1980s and 1990s
Marvin X went
through a period of addiction to crack cocaine. His play
One Day in the Life (2000) takes a tragicomic
approach to the issue of addiction and recovery, dealing
with his own experiences with drug addiction and the
experiences of Black Panthers, Cleaver, and Huey Newton
(1942-1989). The play has been presented in community
theaters around the United States as both a stage play
and a video presentation.
After emerging from addiction
Marvin X founded
Recovery Theatre and began organizing events for
recovering addicts and those who work with them. His
autobiography, Somethin' Proper (1998) includes
reminiscences of his life fighting for black civil
rights as well as an analysis of drug culture. Drug
addiction and "reactionary" rap poetry are two areas of
black culture that he has argued have "contributed to
the desecration of black people."
In the late 1990s
Marvin X became an
influential figure in the campaign to have reparations
paid for the treatment of blacks under slavery. He
organized meetings, readings, and performances to
promote black culture and civil rights. He has worked as
a university teacher since the early 1970s, as well as
giving readings and guest lectures in universities and
theaters throughout the United States.
Marvin X has also
received several awards, including a Columbia University
writing grant in 1969 and a creative writing fellowship
National Endowment for the Arts in 1972.
Columbia University, writing grant, 1969; National
Endowment for the Arts, grant, 1972; Your Black
Educational Theatre, training grant, 1971-72. Recovery
Theatre received grants from San Francisco Mayor Willie
Brown's office, Grants for the Arts, Marin County Board
of Supervisors, Sacramento
Metropolitan Arts Commission.
* Somethin' Proper: The Life and Times of a North
American African Poet,
Blackbird Press, 1998.
* In the Crazy House Called America, Blackbird
* Wish I Could Tell You the Truth, essays, BBP,
* How to Recover from the Addiction to White
Supremacy, a manual based on the
12 Step/Pan African model, 2006.
* Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality, BBP, 2007
* Eldridge Cleaver, My Friend the Devil, a memoir,
* The Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables/fables,
* Hustler's Guide to the Game Called Life (Volume
II, The Wisdom of Plato
* Mythology of Pussy and Dick, toward Healthy
Psychosocial Sexuality, 2010
* Pull Yo Pants Up fada Black Prez, essays on Obama
* I Am Oscar Grant, essays on Oakland, 2010
* Flowers for the Trashman
(one-act), first produced in San Francisco at San
Francisco State College, 1965.
* Come Next
Summer, first produced in San Francisco at Black
Arts/West Theatre, 1966. Pre-Black Panther Bobby Seale
played leading role in Come Next Summer.
* The Trial,
first produced in New York City at Afro-American Studio
for Acting and Speech, 1970.
* Take Care of
Business, (musical version of Flowers for the
Trashman) first produced in Fresno, California, at
Your Black Educational Theatre, 1971.
of the Dead, first produced in San Francisco at Your
Black Educational Theatre, 1972.
Best Friend, (musical dance drama based on author's
book of same title), first produced in Oakland,
California, at Mills College, 1973.
* In the Name of Love, first
produced in Oakland at Laney College Theatre, 1981.
* One Day in the Life, 2000.
* Sergeant Santa, 2002.
Poetry, Proverbs, and Lyrics
* Sudan Rajuli Samia (poems), Al Kitab Sudan
* Black Dialectic
(proverbs), Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1967.
Marvin X, Fly
to Allah: Poems, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1969.
Marvin X, The
Son of Man, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1969.
Marvin X, Black
Man Listen: Poems and Proverbs, Broadside Press,
* Black Bird (parable), Al
Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1972.
* Woman-Man's Best Friend,
Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1973.
* Selected Poems, Al Kitab
Sudan Publishing, 1979.
Confession of a Wife Beater and Other Poems, Al
Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1981.
* Liberation Poems for North
American Africans, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1982.
* Love and War: Poems, Black
Bird Press, 1995.
* In the Land of My Daughters,
* Sweet Tea, Dirty Rice,
poems, 2010 (late)
* One Day in the Life (videodrama
and soundtrack), 2002.
* The Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness
(video documentary), 2002.
* Black Radical Book Fair, San Francisco, DVD,
* Love and War (poetry reading published on CD),
* African American Review,
* Oakland Post Newspaper
* San Francisco Bay View newspaper
* ChickenBones: A Journal,
(April 13, 2004).
* "El Muhajir," Biography Resource Center,
* "Marvin X," Biography Resource Center,
www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (April 16,
* "Marvin X Calls for General Strike on Reparations,"
(April 13, 2004).
posted 7 October 2010
* * * *
Finding Aid to the Marvin X Papers,
1965-2006, bulk 1993-2006--The
Marvin X Papers document the life and
work of playwright, poet, essayist, and
activist Marvin X during the nineties
and the first decade of the 21st
Century. The papers include
correspondence; Marvin X's writings;
materials related to the Recovery
Theatre; works by his children and
colleagues; and resource files.
Correspondence includes letters, cards,
and e-mails; correspondents include
Amiri Baraka and other prominent
African-American intellectuals. Marvin
X's writings include notebooks, drafts,
and manuscripts of poetry, novels,
plays, essays, and planned anthologies.
Documents from the Recovery Theatre
include organizational and financial
records and promotional material.
others include essays, scripts, and academic papers
by his three daughters. Resource files include
academic articles, e-mails, flyers, news clippings
and programs that contextualize and document Marvin
X's involvement as an activist, intellectual, and
literary figure in the African American community in
the Bay Area in the late 20th and early 21st
centuries. Photographs include snapshots of family,
friends, colleagues, and productions at the Recovery
Online Archive of California
6 October 2010
* * *
* * * * *
Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007
By Matthew Wasniewski
Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007—
beautifully prepared volume—is a
comprehensive history of the more than
120 African Americans who have served in
the United States Congress. Written for
a general audience, this book contains a
profile of each African-American Member,
including notables such as Hiram Revels,
Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam
Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus
Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual
profiles are introduced by contextual
essays that explain major events in
congressional and U.S. history.
Part I provides four chronologically
organized chapters under the heading
"Former Black Members of Congress." Each
chapter provides a lengthy biographical
sketch of the members who served during
the period addressed, along with a
narrative historical account of the era
and tables of information about the
Congress during that time. Part II
provides similar information about
current African-American members. There
are 10 appendixes providing tabular
information of a variety of sorts about
the service of Black members, including
such things as a summary list, service
on committees and in party leadership
posts, familial connections, and so
The entire volume is 803 large folio
pages in length and there are many illustrations. The book
should be part of every library and research collection, and
congressional scholars may well wish to obtain it for their
rarely seen historical images—of each
African American who has served in
Congress—Bibliographies and references
to manuscript collections for each
Member—Statistical graphs and charts
* * * * *
Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
By Derrick Bell
In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly
Derrick Bell Law Rights Advocate Dies at 80
* * * * *
The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance
Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
By Les Leopold
How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions: Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy?
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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