ChickenBones: A Journal

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I spent my summers in Memphis reading census reports, city directories,

obituaries, nineteenth-century newspapers, court documents, and

cemetery plot-books, visiting historic sites, and collecting photographs



 Books by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic Writers (2003  / Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon (1999)

  The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995) / Erotique Noire/Black Erotica  (1992) / Homespun Images ( 1989)  

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The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword by Dorothy Sterling


Published for the first time in its entirety, The memphis Diary of Ida B. wells offers an intimate look at the hopes, thoughts, and day-today life of the young woman who would later become the celebrated civil rights activist and antilynching crusader.Publisher, Beacon Press


A treasure . . . sheds more light on a key woman's role in the historic fight for African-American freedom.—Emerge


DeCosta-Willis makes it possible to look back in a new way into the character of wells, and, more than that, into the daily life of African-Americans a century ago.—Chicago Tribune


Wells and DeCosta-Willis join together across time in a scholarly collaborative dance of sisterhood to produce a work that not only holds an insightful mirror to the past, but could be used as a guidepost for African-American and other women today in living totally self-defined lives.—Tri-State Defender


A unique look at the life o an independent, unmarried African-American woman coping with financial hardships, romantic entanglements, sexism, and racism . . . A substantial contribution to African-American Studies. —Publisher Weekly


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Foreword by Mary Helen Washington ix
Editor's Note xix
Introduction 1
Part I  
From a Butterfly Schoolgirl to a Genuine Woman 19
Part 2  
Exorcising the Demon of Unrest and Dissatisfaction 71
Part 3  
Standing Face to Face with Twenty-five Years of Life 109
The 1893 Travel Diary of Ida B. Wells 161
The 1930 Chicago Diary of Ida B. Wells-Barnett 165
Selected Articles, 1885-188 177
          "Functions of Leadership" 178
          "Woman's Mission" 179
          "A Story of 1900" 182
          "Our Women" 184
          "Iola on Discrimination" 186
          "The Model Woman: A Pen Picture of  the Typical Southern Girl" 187
Afterword by Dorothy Sterling 191
Bibliography 201
Index 207


Miriam DeCosta-Willis, author and college professor, was born 1 November 1934, in Florence, Alabama. She received her B.A. at Wellesley College in 1956; her M.A. Johns Hopkins in 1960; her Ph.D. Johns Hopkins in 1967 in Romance Languages. In 1967 she joined the faculty of Memphis State University as the first African American member, and while there agitated for more black staff members. When King was assassinated in 1968 she was in the march that erupted into violence and the police used mace on her.

DeCosta-Willis became a professor of Spanish and in 1970 chairperson of the Department of Romance Languages at Howard University. At Howard, she was exposed to Afro-Hispanic authors. In 1975 DeCosta-Willis left Howard and in 1979 returned to teaching at LeMoyne-Owen College. She remained there for ten years before taking a position at George Mason University. Leaving in 1991, DeCosta-Willis took a position with the University of Maryland, where she remained until her retirement in 1999.

DeCosta-Willis served for ten years as an associate editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. She is co-founder and a former chairperson of the Memphis Black Writers Workshop, and has served on the Memphis Arts Council advisory committee and a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities. DeCosta-Willis has four grown children. She divides her time between Washington, D.C., and Memphis.

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Below you will find excerpts from Miriam DeCosta's "Editor's Note" and "Introduction." First, they make plain the challenge of research labor to make Ida B. Wells Memphis diary ready for publication. Others provide an analytical overview of the diary itself and the character of the young twenty-four-year old grammar school teacher and social critic. All of these comments I found enlightening and exceedingly helpful in my reading of the diary. But there are other comments made by De-Costa-Willis: there is an introduction to each of the three parts of the diary; most of the entries also begin with a few paragraphs from the editor.

In any event, The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells is an important book, not merely for a knowledge of the personal life of Wells, but for a knowledge of a way of life that existed among a freed class of people and what they were able to achieve in righting the perception of black humanity. I'd only add here briefly, Ida B. Wells was more than she was taught in missionary school, more than what she read in books and newspapers and journals. She had a unique spirit and determination, the source of which one can only imagine. The editor herself too is much more than I imagined, she is brilliant and devoted to needed scholarship in the workings of black life and culture.—Rudy

*   *   *   *   *

Excerpts from Miriam DeCosta's "Editor's Note" and "Introduction"


Beginning a Research Project

“At various stages in the process, I decided to divide the diary into three sections and include the 1893 travel journal, the 1930 diary, and newspaper articles that she wrote in the mid1880s. This process of editing such a work can best be described by the term quilted narrative, which Carole Boyce Davies uses in Out of the Kumbla (Davies and Fido 1990) to characterize the writing of Black women, because so much of what we—critics as well as creative writers—do is piecework completed piecemeal in the bits of time, stolen from work and family, that we have to write.

“At any rate, I spent my summers in Memphis reading census reports, city directories, obituaries, nineteenth-century newspapers, court documents, and cemetery plot-books, visiting historic sites, and collecting photographs. I believe that visual images are very important in reconstructing the life—or, in this case, the life story—of a writer, particularly one who lived more than a hundred years ago, so I searched diligently for sketches and photographs that would illuminate the text: the people Wells knew and the places she visited.” (Editor’s Note)

Challenges of Editing Memphis Diary

“One of the real challenges in editing the Memphis diary was to identify the people to whom Wells refers simply with letters or abbreviations. Those who appear frequently in the text or prominent figures like T. Thomas Fortune and William Simmons were relatively easy to identify in context, but obscure individuals in Memphis holly Springs, and the other cities to which she traveled in the summers of 1886 and 1887 were very difficult to place.

“I searched through census reports, city directories, newspaper articles, Wells’s autobiography, and books such as The Bright Side of Memphis (Hamilton 1908), Nineteenth-Century Memphis Families of Color (Church and Walter 19870, Blacks in Topeka, Kansas, 1865-1915 (Cox 1982), Life Behind a Veil (Wright 1985), Afro-Americans in California (Lapp 1979), The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Penn 1891), and Men of Mark ([1887] 1968).

“I was able to identify many of the figures in the 1885-87 diary and even made one or two serendipitous discoveries, such as the Holly Springs man who broke Wells’s heart, and Stella B., a cousin, who moved from holly Springs to Memphis, boarded with Wells, and married a mutual friend.” (Editor’s Note)

Informing & Analyzing Wells’ Diary

“Like most diarists, wells did not write for readers or editors; she wrote only for herself, quickly, not bothering to identify, clarify, explain, or elaborate. In editing the text for publication, then, it was necessary to provide information that would help the reader understand and appreciate the context within which Wells wrote this most important and unique work of literature. Although I was reluctant to intrude in Wells’s story, I felt that the diary should be fully accessible to the contemporary reader, so I took an active role in interpreting the text and even in creating its meaning.” (Editor’s Note)

Summary of Memphis Diary

“The two-year diary that she began in 1885, however, [framed by the Riot of 1866 and the 1892 lynching at the Curve] tells a different story of Memphis. It is a personal and intimate account of a Black woman’s social and political coming-of-age in this city, but between the lines of her story is an eyewitness account of the violence and indignities that Blacks suffered in the post-Reconstruction South: she writes passionately about lynchings, segregated churches, colored-only railroad cars, laws against interracial marriage, and persecution in the courts.” (Introduction)

“The Memphis Diary describes the intimate day-to-day life of a young Black teacher and journalist, who struggles in the mid-1880s with personal, financial, and professional problems. Although she is active and energetic, she often complains of exhaustion and frequent bouts of sickness: catarrh, neuralgia, depression, ear problems, and colds. Her most difficult struggle, however, is internal.

“She portrays herself as a fiery, ambivalent, and fiercely independent woman, at war constantly with contrary instincts: an incipient feminism, countered by a straitlaced Victorian femininity; a desire for male companionship, but no wish for marriage, and a longing for personal freedom, checked by a sense of duty to her family. . . .

“Eventually, she chooses, instead of domesticity, an active, male-related career while following a Victorian script in her personal life. The tension between these two ways of being is apparent in the diary, as Wells struggles to be a ‘lady’, using the polite language that defines that type, without compromising her strong ‘unladylike’ qualities, such as pride, ambition, outspokenness, assertiveness, and rebelliousness.” (Introduction)

Myth of Loose Woman

“A major threat to racial advancement, in the opinion of Black leaders, male and female, was the figure of the loose woman—insatiable, promiscuous, and vulgar—a stereotype that was a product of racist mythology. Wells invokes the stereotype, indirectly, when she commends a White newspaper editor who ‘declared it was not now as it had been that colored women were harlots’. ‘respectable’ women like Wells define themselves, in opposition to the loose woman as genteel, cultured, and refine.

“The figure of the ‘refined lady’ owes much to the ideology of puritanical Victorianism, instilled in students by the missionary teachers at Rust University, which Wells attended from age two to fifteen. Inspired by evangelical Methodism, the teachers viewed their work as a Christian civilizing mission. They enforced the ethic of self-discipline, self-help, and service, believing that ‘the adornment of young women [should] be that of character and intelligence’. (Houghton, n.d., 16).

“This model of feminine womanhood deeply impressed Wells, who uses the metaphors of romantic poetry and the language of sentimental novels to describe one of these missionary teachers. “was introduced to Miss  Atkinson the music teacher, whose motions were grace & poetry personified’.

“Her diary, then, serves as a kind of notebook in which she analyzes, through words and images, various representations of womanhood—the lady, missionary, harlot, and heroine—in order to construct a different mode of living.” (Introduction)

Memphis Black Genteel Society

“In the pages of her diary, she introduces members of Memphis Black middle class—the ministers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, shop owners, housewives, and boardinghouse operators with whom she associated. . . . Although her position as a public school teacher situates her in a middle class, and although she participates in the rituals of Black Memphis society—the endless round of socials, picnics, church fairs, receptions, surprise parties, moonlight walks, and ‘entertainments for young ladies’—she frequently feels herself outside that ‘gentle, confined world’.

“She often feels lonely and isolated because she ahs difficulty making and keeping friends, particularly women friends. She writes on one occasion, ‘I have not kept the friends I have won, but will try from this on’.” (Introduction)

Correspondents & Journalists

“Wells socializes extensively with males: younger men who are her escorts and companions, older men who function as mentors, and newspapermen who encourage her journalism, although it was at that time a male-dominated profession. She writes in great detail about her correspondence with journalists such as T. Thomas Fortune, editor of the New York Age, William J. Simmons of the American Baptist, and J.A. Arneaux of the New York Enterprise, all of whom she meets during this two-year period as she establishes a national network to support her writings.

“One of the most interesting friendships is with Alfred Froman, an older, prominent Memphian, who once printed the Memphis Weekly Planet but owned a harness and saddle shop when Wells knew him.” (Introduction)

Relationships with Gentleman Callers

“Her relationships with her ‘gentlemen callers’ constitute one of the most revealing and fascinating topics of Wells’ diary because she describes in great detail the courtship rituals that prevailed among the Black middle class during the Victorian period. Young men escort her to church, socials, and concerts; they visit her in the evening to talk or play checkers or Parcheesi; and they exchange letters, cards, and photographs. With a group of men and women friends, Wells attends baseball games, goes horseback riding, visits friends in neighboring towns, takes one-day excursions to Raleigh, and travels to conventions.

“Her two-year diary describes in some detail her relationships with three men: Charles S. Morris, a Louisville journalist and aspiring novelist with who she corresponds; Louis M. Brown, a former Memphian who returns often to the city; and I.J. Graham, a teacher, who marries another woman unexpectedly in October 1886. Both Morris and Brown live in other cities, so they carry on a long-distance courtship with wells through letters and occasional visits, but Graham, who sees Wells every day at the school where they teach, has frequent ad often intense encounters with his lady friend.” (Introduction)

Repression of Sexual Desires

"Nineteenth-century diarists rarely reveal the intimate details of their secret, inner lives, particularly details about their sexual feelings and experiences. Ida B. Wells is no exception to the rule, so one must read between the lines and in the margins of her text(s) to decode what she hides or merely hints at. In her mid-twenties, she is an attractive, sensitive, and passionate young woman, who has been financially and emotionally independent for nine years. She is desirable and desiring, as she discovers in an amorous pas de deux with Graham. On February 14, 1886 (Valentine’s day), after quarreling with him. She writes, ‘I blush to think I allowed him to caress me, that he would dare take such liberties and yet not make a declaration’.

“But Wells has too much at stake—her independence, reputation, teaching career, and writing profession—to risk an indiscretion. Besides, unreliable methods of birth control forced even the most adventurous Victorian maidens to repress their sexual desires. Evidence of Wells’s sexual inexperience is her lack of knowledge about birth control: exactly nine months after her wedding at age thirty-three—very late for women of that period—she gave birth to her first baby. She confesses, ‘[I was glad] that I had not been swayed by advice given me on the night of my marriage which had for the object to teach me how to keep from having a baby’ (Duster 1970, 252).” (Introduction)

Diary as Safety Valve

“Although noted for her sharp tongue, she probably confines such barbed language to the pages of her diary because it would have been unladylike to be so open and expressive. Her diary, then, becomes an emotional safety valve. Where she can vent her anger and hostility toward others. Her criticism of males may be a defense mechanism because she is all too aware of her vulnerability as an unprotected single woman. Looking back on that period of her life, she explains, ‘[My] good name was all that I had in the world, [because] I had no [older] brother or father to protect it for me’. (Duster 1970, 44].” (Introduction)

Diary as a Form of Literary Apprenticeship

"The Memphis diary functions as a writing note book in which Wells records for future articles written, plans for writing a novel, lists of articles written and published, and correspondence with editors. Wells experiments with various forms of writing, such as fiction, journalism, and personal narratives, often blurring the boundaries between genres. Along with her personal letters and newspaper articles, her diary serves as a form of literary apprenticeship in which she consciously experiments with language (particularly that of romantic narratives and sentimental novels), rhetorical strategies, and narrative structures as well as with the concepts and modes of expression found in coterminous Black newspapers.

“Indeed her writing in the 1880s reveals many of the characteristics that mark her later, more deliberately fashioned works: a direct, plain, and down-to-earth style; wit, irony, and wordplay; concrete details in descriptive passages; fictive devices, such as plot, denouement, and dramatic tension in her expository writings; and the repetition of formulaic details (letters written and received, money earned and spent, visits paid and received). Most significant, Wells is aware of herself as a beginning writer, intent on acquiring the critical skills of her craft.” (Introduction)

Black Women Diary Traditions

“As we know, Charlotte Forten’s journal and Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s diary are the only other published diaries of early African American women writers. Dorothy Sterling’s (1984) publication of excerpts from the manuscript diaries of four nineteenth-century Black women—Frances Anne Rollin, Mary Virginia Montgomery, Laura Hamilton, and Ida B. Wells—suggests that diary writing may have been more common among early writers than we suspect. Although few journals by White women writers were published in the nineteenth century, Wells might have been introduced to the genre by teachers at Rust University because it was not unusual for missionary teachers to keep diaries to record their experiences and to assuage the loneliness of their exile in the South. It is clear that wells is familiar with the genre, its form and structure as well as its terminology, for she writes knowingly about the ‘entries’ in her ‘diary’.” (Introduction)

Narrative Character of Wells’ Diary

“She seems to have written quickly, jotting down names, numbers, and places, sometimes in abbreviated form, as she scribbled across the page, racing to keep up with her thoughts and crossing out mistakes as she went. She write for herself alone: publication of her narrative would have been unthinkable; she locked her diary in a portable ‘writing desk’ away from prying eyes; and she was open and unguarded in her personal revelations, unaware of and uncensored about readers who might be looking over her shoulders. A fast writer with an agile mind, she jumped swiftly in subject and tone.” (Introduction)

Content of Well’s Diary

“Wells frequently interrupted the flow of her narrative to introduce newspaper stories, travel accounts, critiques of plays, books, and sermons, essays on various subjects, and character sketches. This fragmented and disconnected form of self-writing is, according to one critic, ‘analogous to the fragmented, interrupted, and formless character of [women’s] lives’ (Jelinck 1980, 19). During her mid-twenties, Wells was indeed in a constant state of emotional, physical and intellectual flux, and that disequilibrium is apparent in the form and shape of her fragmented narrative.”  (Introduction)

Description (Length, Frequency, etc.) of Entries

“Ordinarily, her entries averaged three to five pages in length, but she wrote longer, more introspective entries after emotional experiences, such as her return to Holly springs in December 1885 and June 1886. She did not write at all at all or wrote half-page entries during difficult periods such as the fall of 1886, when she encountered problems in Visalia, Kansas City, and Memphis as well as rumors about her conduct and the sudden marriage of I.J. Graham. When Wells was troubled, her writing—the careless script, crossed-out lines, and intermittent dashes—reflected her emotional turmoil. Generally, however, her clear script and regular entries suggest that Ida B. Wells was a disciplined, deliberate, and well-organized woman of exacting standards, one who took pride in her writing.” (Introduction)

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A Brief Comment on Reading The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells

My family history is far removed from that of Ida B. Wells and the life we find in The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells. What we have here, in one generation during the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction periods of American history, is the fantastic leap from the status of slave to an entry into the professions and  the realm of middle class respectability. Indeed, this social elevation might not be as extraordinary as that of Blanche K. Bruce, a son of Virginia who became U.S. Senator of Mississippi (1875-1881). My family needed more than a century to approach the middle-class professions.

Nevertheless, the life that Ida B. Wells records in her diary (1885-1887) is emblematic of the life that tens of thousands of former slaves and the children of slaves through intelligence, ingenuity, and good fortune created and developed for themselves in the latter decades of the nineteen century. One can only wonder how such a leap in status was possible if slavery was indeed as horrific and dehumanizing as we usually imagine it was.

How was such humanity dehumanized able to rehabilitate itself in such a short expanse and approximate the Victorian standards and morality typical of the times in the United Kingdom and United States? Of course, that is not the topic of Wells's diary nor is it  the subject of the editor Miriam DeCosta-Willis. Her task has been to bring to life that world that existed in the 1880s in Memphis, Tennessee by making the Memphis diary of Ida B. Wells accessible to the contemporary reader. That task indeed was extraordinary and DeCosta-Willis exceeded beyond any reasonable scholarly expectations. Clearly, the labor of her research was one of love and devotion, a search for the truth of the extraordinary feats of black life in the South, in America.Rudy

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First Response to The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (21 July 2006)

Dear Friends, in between battling the extraordinary heat wave here in south central Virginia  and trying to repair the roof of a storehouse my daddy built years before he died in January 1970, I have been reading The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells, edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis. Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword by Dorothy Sterling. Published by Beacon Press, 1995.

As I have said elsewhere, I am usually a decade behind in my reading. I am somewhat of an industrial worker and I seldom have the freedom to read books as they are published. Every now and then, I am lucky to have the leisure to read wonderful books and I am inclined to share these readings with my friends. Of course, here in the house we have no readers and I have not made the rounds here in the country to find like souls.

I've known Miriam DeCosta-Willis since the Tragedy of New Orleans. I suppose it will be a year in a couple of months. But I have discovered only in the last week in my reading of The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells  what an extraordinary, careful, and detailed scholar she is. The labor she put into this book is rather mind-blowing. She worked on Wells for a decade. She’s the kind of scholar I wanted to be when I was a graduate student—but fell far short of the mark.

The original diary was in the hand of Ida B. Wells when she was in her mid-20s (about 24) living in Memphis working as a grammar school teacher. The peculiarity of the diary is that Wells used initials for names. The editor of the diary painstakingly discovered and supplies the names, the backgrounds of the individuals, dates, streets, and the context of the events of the diaries.

I'm impressed and I am only a third way through the diary, which DeCosta-Willis has conveniently divided into three parts: "From a Butterfly Schoolgirl to a Genuine Woman'” (Part I); "Exorcising the Demon of Unrest and Dissatisfaction" (Part II); and "Standing Face to face with Twenty-five Years of Life" (Part 3). 

Part I and Part II, and part of Part III as I recall, contain the years 1885-1887, while Wells labored as a grammar school teacher moving from one boarding house to another because of the infrequent payment for work as a colored teacher. Part I contains entries that deals with her efforts to be a single independent and intelligent young woman who desires to enter a male-dominated field, namely, journalism, while supporting her two brothers and two sisters.

What's most interesting is her relationship with young men who try to win her hand  and the amount of correspondence in which she is involved, including to T. Thomas Fortune. She uses her diary also as an account book. She loves to dress well and is constantly in debt. She uses the diary too as a means of developing topics and a writing style for her "letters" to editors and for the novel she desires to write and for noting the atrocities of mob violence against blacks.

Her parents died in an epidemic (yellow fever?). So she is on her own and she has to have her wits about her to survive. She has no father or brother to defend her name against foul rumors. She is educated but had to drop out of college and so she’s involved in independent self-improvement. Other interesting items are her elocution lessons, teaching of Sunday school to young men, and sending out of her “cabinets” and receiving photographs of young men in correspondence.

DeCosta-Willis ushers us through the diary entries by brief summaries and providing a who's who and some historical background of events and places, including the professions of leading blacks, the newspapers, the churches, etc. I've also read the Introduction. In the "Editor's Note," Miriam writes:

The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells, then, is like a conversation between five women, whose voice is loud and clear and powerful; Alfreda M. Duster, Wells-Barnett's daughter, speaking through the words of Dorothy Sterling; Mary Helen Washington, who first presents Wells to the reader with loving insight into her person; and the editor.

Part III contains also "The 1893 Travel Diary of Ida B. Wells" and "The 1930 Chicago Diary of Ida B. Wells-Barnett." Throughout, there is reference to Alfreda M. Duster's edited volume Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). These I have yet to read. But my interest in Ida B. Wells has shot up 1000 per cent. She is no longer a historical figure but rather a living breathing human being from the past speaking in the present.

I recommend you join me, if you have not already, in this wonderful discovery of the Black Victorian world of Memphis and environs, Ida B. Wells, and the scholarship of Miriam DeCosta-Willis.Rudy

posted 23 July 2006

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Some Responses from Others

And that's only the beginning.  She is an extraordinary person who lives her life fully and beautifully.  She is an exceptional person and I am happy to have her as a friend.  The Diary... is a wonderful work which brings to life a woman who lived a life of determination and dedication to the cause of justice.  Miriam captures and celebrates the richness of her life and her love for our people.

I am so glad that you have taken the time to read her book. Take careK.

*   *   *   *   *

Will try to find the time, but I still have to get thru that Ron Walters book you recommendedKam

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, this has to be a read of significant historical interest and I shall seek it out for perusal when I finish "New News out of Africa" by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. It is always a wonderful experience to read of a great persons influence on one of the great  Black Migrations in America.CHA

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, thank you so much for the wonderful (and completely unexpected) review.  You are such a close reader, as well as a perceptive and thorough reviewer. . . . I worked on the Wells project for five years, from start to publication, and stopped to finish a couple of other books, write several articles, and of course teach.  I'm glad that you're not turned off by her Victorian writing style and the sometimes tedium of her days, but she does give the reader a real sense of her struggle to survive. 

And she had such courage!  In one of my papers I called her "Pistol Packing Iola," because she knew how to take care of business.  In a piece, "To Miss Ida Bee With Love," that my friend Pat Bell-Scott published in her book on Black women's narratives, "Flat-Footed Truths," I wrote a series of letters to IBW in which I discussed our relationship.Miriam

*   *   *   *   *

Miriam, I'm now in Part II of The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells. I did not read very much today. I did a long tour of "physical labor" and I am rather sore right now. I was up and down the ladder continually and I have been making much use of my hand saw. It turned steamy hot this evening not a leaf stirs. My cat suffers. I do have the relief of an air conditioner. I'll give my cat some cold milk after this note.

I suppose what makes the Diary tolerable is your introduction to the "entries." I am not turned off, nevertheless, by late 19th century writing. I suppose I have most difficulty with 18th century writings. Actually, I am rather intrigued by it all: the image of the "colored lady" and the accompanying courtship rituals, the letter writing, the sexual awkwardness of it all. Of course, you know below this petty bourgeois hauteur there was another sexual world occurring in the saloons and the honky-tonks and in the fields and cabins.Rudy

 *   *   *   *   *

Notable Black Memphians (Miriam DeCosta-Willis)This biographical and historical study by Miriam DeCosta-Willis (PhD, Johns Hopkins University and the first African American faculty member of Memphis State University) traces the evolution of a major Southern city through the lives of men and women who overcame social and economic barriers to create artistic works, found institutions, and obtain leadership positions that enabled them to shape their community. Documenting the accomplishments of Memphians who were born between 1795 and 1972, it contains photographs and biographical sketches of 223 individuals (as well as brief notes on 122 others), such as musicians Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin, activists Ida B. Wells and Benjamin L. Hooks, politicians Harold Ford Sr. and Jr., writers Sutton Griggs and Jerome Eric Dickey, and Bishop Charles Mason and Archbishop James Lyke—all of whom were born in Memphis or lived in the city for over a decade. . .  .

Ida B. Wells: a Passion for Justice

Documents the dramatic life and turbulent times of the pioneering African American journalist, activist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader of the post-Reconstruction period.

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#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

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. WPublishers Weekly

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam?

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What Orwell Didn't Know

Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics

By Andras Szanto

Propaganda. Manipulation. Spin. Control. It has ever been thus—or has it? On the eve of the 60th anniversary of George Orwell's classic essay on propaganda (Politics and the English Language), writers have been invited to explore what Orwell didn't—or couldn't—know. Their responses, framed in pithy, focused essays, range far and wide: from the effect of television and computing, to the vast expansion of knowledge about how our brains respond to symbolic messages, to the merger of journalism and entertainment, to lessons learned during and after a half-century of totalitarianism. Together, they paint a portrait of a political culture in which propaganda and mind control are alive and well (albeit in forms and places that would have surprised Orwell). The pieces in this anthology sound alarm bells about the manipulation and misinformation in today's politics, and offer guideposts for a journalism attuned to Orwellian tendencies in the 21st century.

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Civil rights since 1787 : a reader on the Black struggle

Edited by Jonathan Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor

Contrary to simple textbook tales, the civil rights movement did not arise spontaneously in 1954 with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black struggle for civil rights can be traced back to the arrival of the first Africans, and to their work in the plantations, manufacturies, and homes of the Americas. Civil rights was thus born as labor history.

Civil Rights Since 1787 tells the story of that struggle in its full context, dividing the struggle into six major periods, from slavery to Reconstruction, from segregation to the Second Reconstruction, and from the current backlash to the future prospects for a Third Reconstruction. The "prize" that the movement has sought has often been reduced to a quest for the vote in the South. But all involved in the struggle have always known that the prize is much more than the vote, that the goal is economic as well as political. Further, in distinction from other work, Civil Rights Since 1787 establishes the links between racial repression and the repression of labor and the left, and emphasizes the North as a region of civil rights struggle.

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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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)

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Ancient African Nations

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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

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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