ChickenBones: A Journal

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"I can't speak to Gov. Romney's motivations," Obama said. "What I can

say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very

consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.

And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that

he would carry forward some of the things that he's talked about."

 

 

Obama: Mitt Romney Holds 'Extreme Views'

Would Make Things Worse For The Middle Class

By Ben Feller

 

25 August 2012

In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama said Romney lacks serious ideas, refuses to "own up" to the responsibilities of what it takes to be president, and deals in factually dishonest arguments that could soon haunt him in face-to-face debates.

Obama also offered a glimpse of how he would govern in a second term of divided government, insisting rosily that the forces of the election would help break Washington's stalemate. He said he would be willing to make a range of compromises with Republicans, confident there are some who would rather make deals than remain part of "one of the least productive Congresses in American history."

With the remarks, Obama set up a contrast between Romney, whom he cast as an extremist pushing staunchly conservative policies, and himself, by saying he would work across party lines. It was a seeming play for the independent voters who decide close elections and tell pollsters they want to see the often-gridlocked politicians in Washington solve the nation's problems. . . . .

Mainly, Obama was intent on countering Romney even before his challenger got to the Republican National Convention, which starts Monday in Tampa, Fla. In doing so, the president depicted his opponent as having accumulated ideas far outside the mainstream with no room to turn back.

"I can't speak to Gov. Romney's motivations," Obama said. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he's talked about."

Obama spoke to the AP on Thursday before heading off to a long weekend with his family at Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains. . . . . Obama's depiction of a Romney presidency grew most pointed when he was asked if his Republican challenger has no core, as one of Obama's top advisers once put it.

The president suggested that whatever Romney really stands for in life is secondary to the promises Romney has made in the campaign.

In explaining his accusation of "extreme" positions, the president cited Romney's call for across-the-board tax cuts that Obama said would mostly help the rich at the expense of everyone else and cost the nation $5 trillion. Obama singled out Romney's opposition to tax credits for producers of wind energy, the kind of issue that carries large political resonance in a battleground state such as Iowa.

And Obama alluded to the provocative issue of abortion, suddenly thrust to the fore this week when Republican Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin said the female body has a way to "shut that whole thing down" when a woman is the victim of "legitimate rape." . . . . Yet it is the economy that has driven this election and has dominated Obama's message of a middle-class revival.

"We aren't where we need to be. Everybody agrees with that," said Obama, who inherited an economy in free fall and now bears responsibility for a recovery that remains weak. "But Gov. Romney's policies would make things worse for middle-class families and offer no prospect for long-term opportunity for those striving to get into the middle class," the president said.—

Source: huffingtonpost

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Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist

Excerpt by Conor Cruise O'Brien

In the multiracial American future Jefferson will not be thought of as the Sage of Monticello.

His flaws are beyond redemption. The sound you hear is the crashing of a reputation

 

Jefferson was a man of many dimensions, and any explanation of his behavior must contain a myriad of seeming contradictions. He was a sincere and dedicated foe of the slave trade who bought and sold men whenever he found it personally necessary. He believed that all men were entitled to life and liberty regardless of their abilities, yet he tracked down those slaves who had the courage to take their rights by running away. He believed that slavery was morally and politically wrong, but still he wrote a slave code for his state and opposed a national attempt in 1819 to limit the further expansion of the institution. He believed that one hour of slavery was worse than ages of British oppression, yet he was able to discuss the matter of slave breeding in much the same terms that one would use when speaking of the propagation of dogs and horses.William Cohen, "Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Slavery" (1969)

The Evidence on Race

Modern America is, and has been for more than a quarter of a century, a postracist society, juridically and institutionally and in the ethos of all its establishments: political, social, financial, academic, scientific, and—not least significant—athletic. The American civil religion, if it is to be a bonding force through the coming century, must be unequivocally multiracial. I am not sure that it is yet. The civil religion has been implicitly or explicitly a religion of white people for most of its history. I am not sure whether it has by now lived down that past. But obviously it must do so in the coming century if it is to remain a civil religion for the American people as a whole. There are—as in other Western countries—powerful racist undercurrents still around. But for both reasons, because this is officially a postracist society and because the racist undercurrents are still there, Thomas Jefferson is becoming a most unsuitable and embarrassing figure in the pantheon of the modern American civil religion. For Thomas Jefferson was demonstrably a racist, and a particularly aggressive and vindictive one at that.

I don't mean that Jefferson was a racist because he owned slaves. A person might own slaves in the conditions of the eighteenth century without being a racist. The person might simply have inherited slaves, and not quite know what to do about it. I believe that [George] Washington, who manumitted all his slaves by his will, was in that category. (Jefferson manumitted only the five young Hemingses, who were probably his own children, and two others.) I am not aware of any utterances of Washington's that could reasonably be classed as racist. Washington did not, as Jefferson did (in Query XIV of Notes on the State of Virginia), go on about such topics as the supposed preference of black males for white women, as compared with the supposed preference of orangutans for black women. Nor did Washington display, as Jefferson did (most obsessively in Query XIV), the classic racist itch to identify black characteristics that might be interpreted as indicative of genetic inferiority.

It is precisely Jefferson's status as the oracle of liberty within the American civil religion that is becoming unsustainable in a postracist America. Consider the implications of the story of Jame Hubbard. Hubbard's sole offense was to claim liberty for himself and try to win it. For that offense Jefferson had him "severely flogged in the presence of his old companions." For many Americans today (I would hope for most Americans, and most other people), the hero of liberty in that story is not the famous Thomas Jefferson but the otherwise unknown Jame Hubbard. And that perception has ominous implications for the future status of Thomas Jefferson in the civil religion of a postracist and increasingly multiracial America.

The factor, however, that is bound eventually to eliminate a personal cult of Thomas Jefferson from America's civil religion is not his record in relation to slaves and slavery but the policy laid down by him in relation to "free Negroes." Jefferson's vision of the future America—after the hypothetical abolition of slavery by the slaveowners themselves—was a lily-white one. All the ex-slaves were to be deported to Africa. In the meantime, free blacks had to be eliminated from Virginia. Jefferson's proposals for their elimination were too draconian to be stomached even by his fellow slaveowners.

His proposed (and rejected) amendments to the Virginia legal code included a recommendation for penalizing what Virginia slaveowners called miscegenation, by which they always meant sexual intercourse between black men and white women, never between white men and black women—an event of frequent but unmentionable occurrence. Jefferson made provision for the case of a white woman who might bear a mulatto child. Both the mother and her child were to leave Virginia within a year of the birth. In the event of their failure to do so, mother and child were declared to be "out of the protection of the laws." In the circumstances that proposition was a license for lynching—for the physical destruction of mother and child by any Virginian who might care to do the job. Volunteers would not be lacking.

Jefferson's white contemporaries refused to accept that sinister recommendation. But later generations of southerners were to act in its spirit. It is no coincidence that Jefferson was much more popular in the South after the Civil War than he had been before. Before the war the issue had been slavery, and Jefferson was a bit unsound on that by the standards prevailing in the South in the immediate antebellum period. After the war, however, the question of the hour for white southerners was the status of free blacks. And on that Thomas Jefferson was absolutely sound.

It is true that after the war white southerners were in no position to achieve Jefferson's ideal solution: the deportation of all emancipated blacks. But they could and did act in the spirit of Jefferson's major premise in this matter: they could ensure that there would be no free blacks in the southern states. Any black who attempted to achieve real freedom was at best treated as Jefferson had treated Jame Hubbard. Penalties more drastic than flogging, however, were available against persons perceived as guilty of serious racial misconduct. Such people were "out of the protection of the laws." That is, they could be lynched with perfect impunity. And they were, regularly and in large numbers, after the end of Reconstruction and through the first two decades of the twentieth century.

For all this the enforcers of white supremacy claimed, and with justice, a mandate in Thomas Jefferson's well-known doctrine that there was no place for free blacks in American society. If blacks were emancipated and yet remained in America and in the South, then they had to be brought under restraint.

Perhaps the most vocal of the southern white supremacists in the late nineteenth century was the Populist leader Tom Watson, of Georgia. Watson's magazine The Jeffersonian propagated, according to Merrill Peterson, "sectional and racial hatred of the most vicious sort." The relation of The Jeffersonian to Jefferson's thought was similar to the relation of the Republican press in Jefferson's own time to Jefferson's thought. The Jeffersonian, like the Republican press, propagated in crude emotive forms ideas to which the master had given discreet and overtly unemotional expression. And in the southern states in the years after the Civil War the whites who most practiced what The Jeffersonian was preaching were members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Liberal Jeffersonians

Liberal Jeffersonians will no doubt be outraged at my suggestion that the Ku Klux Klan was ideologically descended from Thomas Jefferson. I hope liberal Jeffersonians are outraged, and I propose to go on outraging them.

I intend, if possible, to outrage them out of existence: not out of physical existence, of course, but out of existence as the confused and confusing school of thought they actually constitute. For "liberal Jeffersonian" is a contradiction in terms—at least it is if you think that "liberal racist" is a contradiction in terms. And modern American liberals can hardly contest that last point. In the 1970s and 1980s American liberals were greatly exercised about apartheid in South Africa, and were busy tracking down any person who might conceivably have given any kind of aid or comfort to that iniquitous system. In that connection, how about Thomas Jefferson? The Jeffersonian doctrine of no free blacks in America was a doctrine of apartheid for America.

Someone should write a thesis on "The Influence of Thomas Jefferson on Hendrik Verwoerd."

What is surprising about Jeffersonian liberalism is that it has managed (so far) to survive both the comprehensive discrediting of racism among the educated and in official America in the second half of the twentieth century and the scholarly work that demonstrates that Jefferson was a racist. Thus as late as 1984 we find Richard Matthews writing in The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson: A Revisionist View, "Jefferson . . . not only presents a radical critique of American market society but also provides an image for—if not a road-map to—a consciously made, legitimately democratic American future." A legitimately democratic American future without any blacks in it.

I believe that in the next century, as blacks and Hispanics and Asians acquire increasing influence in American society, the Jeffersonian liberal tradition, which is already intellectually untenable, will become socially and politically untenable as well. I also believe that the American civil religion, official version—let me call it ACROV— will have to be reformed in a manner that will downgrade and eventually exclude Thomas Jefferson. Finally, I believe that Jefferson will nonetheless continue to be a power in America in the area where the mystical side of Jefferson really belongs: among the radical, violent, anti-federal libertarian fanatics—the very same paranoid conspirators against whose grasp President Clinton is rightly resolved to defend our sacred symbols.

The Impending Schism

As the twenty-first century advances, there will be changes within the American civil religion to correspond to great changes in the society itself. The multiracial character of the society will be increasingly realized, as significant numbers of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians move up the economic ladder. Women of all races will also be moving up, in many cases even faster and higher than the general rate of ascent of nonwhite people. In these circumstances ACROV will be needed more than ever, as a bonding force for a more and more visibly diverse society and polity. But within ACROV the cult of the Founding Fathers will be affected. The present campus assaults on the authority, in every field, of "dead white males" are often absurd, but they have their implications for the future, and in particular for the cult of the Founding Fathers.

In the new circumstances the emphasis is likely to be increasingly on documents, rather than personalities, as the core of ACROV. Of the two main documents, the Constitution presents no problems for the new societal coalition, in which women and nonwhite people exercise increasing authority. The Constitution as it now stands is the work not just of Founding Fathers but of many kinds of people, over many generations. Both abolitionists and feminists—overlapping categories in the nineteenth century—played their part in bringing the Constitution into the shape in which we have it today. The Constitution will be amended—an Equal Rights Amendment would appear to be inevitable, if present trends continue—during the first half of the coming century. The Constitution—amended and amendable—will be at the center of ACROV.

The Declaration of Independence is another matter. ACROV without the Declaration is unthinkable. The Declaration is the primary assertion of American nationalism, and the primary function of the American civil religion is to invest American nationalism with the aura of the sacred. Without the Declaration, then, there is no American civil religion.

Yet there are problems about the Declaration, in its relation to a society no longer exclusively dominated by whites. There are problems about the wording, and problems about the authorship. It is accepted that the words "all men are created equal" do not in their literal meaning apply to women, and were not intended by the Founding Fathers (collectively) to apply to slaves. Yet it is also accepted that the expectations aroused by this formula have been a force that eventually changed the meaning of the formula to include women and people of all races.

The wording in itself offers no basic difficulty. The trouble is in the relation of the wording to the perceived authorship. In ACROV as we know it in the twentieth century, Jefferson has sacred status as the author of the most sacred document: the Declaration of Independence. And nothing is more certain than that Thomas Jefferson did not intend that black people should be free in America. Freedom and blackness were incompatible in America: free blacks were to be banished.

For many years Jefferson's real views concerning the future of blacks in America were hidden by soothing obfuscation best exemplified by the relevant inscription in the Jefferson Memorial. People were told that Thomas Jefferson was against slavery, and his words to that effect were quoted frequently. But people were not told that for Jefferson, black people had no future in America at all except as slaves. Once they ceased to be slaves, they were to be sent packing. Nor would other nonwhites be welcome (the American Indian excepted, whom Jefferson was at pains to "whiten"). Jefferson's bright vision of the future of America was a monoracial one: whites only.

It follows that there can be no room for a cult of Thomas Jefferson in the civil religion of an effectively multiracial America—that is, an America in which nonwhite Americans have a significant and increasing say. Once the facts are known, Jefferson is of necessity abhorrent to people who would not be in America at all if he could have had his way.

Those people don't need Jefferson. But they do need the Declaration. The words "all men are created equal" are an important part of their American title deeds. Racists hold that blacks are genetically inferior—that is, that they were not created equal. Against that doctrine it is important to be able to invoke the most sacred of American documents.

In these circumstances, in which the Declaration is needed and Jefferson is not, I would expect to see a change in the perceived relation between Jefferson and the Declaration. There is an element of exaggeration in the present official perception of that relation, and that exaggeration will come under attack in the increasingly multiracial climate of the coming century.

The crucial question is, Was Thomas Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence?

Many Americans will answer that question with an indignant "Of course he was!" Yet there is really no "of course" about it. The Declaration was certainly not the unaided work of Thomas Jefferson. The document did not spring fully formed from his head, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. The work of preparing the Declaration—to justify the independence that the Second Continental Congress had actually proclaimed two days before—was entrusted by Congress not to Jefferson alone but to a committee that included John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, figures of no less status in the America of 1776. Adams and Franklin would probably have had considerable input into discussions preceding the actual drafting of the document. Jefferson's draft was reviewed and corrected by the committee prior to being laid before the Congress, whose consensus it was designed to reflect. And the Congress made further changes in the draft. Carl Lotus Becker writes in The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas,

Congress discussed his draft for three successive days. What uncomplimentary remarks the members may have made is not known; but it is known that in the end certain paragraphs were greatly changed and others omitted altogether. These "depredations"— so he speaks of them—Jefferson did not enjoy: but we may easily console ourselves for his discomfiture since it moved the humane Franklin to tell him a story. Writing in 1818, Jefferson says: "I was sitting by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations. I have made it a rule, said he, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body."

Franklin's story follows, and though it is amusing, it is not relevant here. What is relevant is the word "draughtsman," and it is evident that it was in that role, and not the more exalted role of "author," that Jefferson's colleagues envisaged him, in relation to the collective elaboration of the Declaration of Independence.

In ACROV as it evolves under the conditions of the coming century, the Declaration will increasingly be seen as a collective document. The Founding Fathers will have declined in importance in comparison with the sacred documents, but their collective authority will still be found to be vastly more acceptable than the idea of the personal authorship of Thomas Jefferson.

With the Declaration increasingly perceived as a collective document, Jefferson may increasingly be cast in the prosaic and subordinate role of draftsman. Jefferson's demotion from the sacred status of author of the Declaration of Independence would effectively put an end to the official cult of Jefferson within the American civil religion. Jefferson should be out of ACROV, I would guess, before the middle of the coming century.

Jefferson should be out of ACROV. But he is likely to be at the center of an alternative, and powerful, version of American civil religion.

It is safe to predict that the liberal-Jeffersonian tradition will become extinct fairly early in the coming century. The huge contradiction within that tradition with regard to race renders it unfit to survive in a multiracial society. But the inevitable rejection of Jefferson by liberals in a multiracial America will draw increasingly favorable attention to Jefferson on the far right. The very reasons for which liberals will have to reject him will compel the far right to adopt him. Or rather re-adopt him, for he was a hero to southern white supremacists.

Doctrinally, Jefferson is a patron saint far more suitable to white supremacists than to modern American liberals. The themes of states' rights and no free blacks in America fit the positions of the far-right militia movement like a glove. Tom Watson's old title The Jeffersonian could well be revived in the next century, and with the same racist content.

Rhetorically and emotionally also, the mystical Jefferson—the Jefferson of the tree of liberty and of the French Revolution—meets the needs of the modern far right. Jefferson's liberty, a powerfully emotive concept, unanalyzed and without intellectual content, is the kind of liberty the militias love: [Edmund] Burke's "wild gas" of liberty.

The Jefferson who admired Shays's rebels and hoped they would find imitators in later generations, and who inspired the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798, is providing those who now resist the federal government with clear warrant for their cause, and for the use of armed force should the incursions of the federal government make that necessary.

Finally, the Jefferson who made a cult of the French Revolution provides aid and comfort not just to the far right in government but to the most ferocious militant extremists. In the paroxysms of his enthusiasm for the French Revolution, in January of 1793, Jefferson laid down the principle that there are (virtually) no limits to the slaughter that may legitimately be perpetrated in the name of liberty—so that anyone in modern America who is planning any act of mass destruction may invoke the sanction of "the author of the Declaration of Independence," provided only that the act is deemed to be perpetrated in the holy cause of liberty.

For these and other reasons I believe that at some time in the coming century the cult of Jefferson may, as it were, split off from its present home in ACROV and find a new home on the wilder shores of American freedom.

I believe that the orthodox multiracial version of the American civil religion must eventually prevail—at whatever cost—against the neo-Jeffersonian racist schism. That the orthodox version should prevail is vital not only for America but also for the future of nonracial democracy, and of Enlightenment values generally, in those parts of the world where these are now dominant or where people are struggling to bring them into effective being.—theatlantic

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Even before the French Revolution—and even before the American Constitution— Jefferson had approved keeping the spirit of armed rebellion alive in America and elsewhere. In the context of Shays's Rebellion in Massachusetts, in 1787, Jefferson wrote, "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."—Conor Cruise O’Brien, Thomas Jefferson: Radical and Racist

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US troops plotted to kill Obama—27 August 2012—Four US soldiers plotted to assassinate Barack Obama and overthrow the government, a court has heard. Prosecutors in Georgia said they formed an anarchist militia within the military. One, private Michael Burnett, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and gang charges in the killings last December of former soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York. Burnett said that Roark, who had just left the army, knew of the militia group's plans and was killed because he was "a loose end."

Prosecutor Isabel Pauley said the group bought 87,000 dollars (£55,000) of guns and bomb-making materials and plotted to take over Fort Stewart, bomb targets in Savannah and Washington state, as well as assassinate the president.—news.uk.msn

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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 Eroticanoir.com 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

Non-fiction

#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

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Karma’s Footsteps

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Somebody has to tell the truth sometime, whatever that truth may be. In this, her début full collection, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie offers up a body of work that bears its scars proudly, firm in the knowledge that each is evidence of a wound survived. These are songs of life in all its violent difficulty and beauty; songs of fury, songs of love. 'Karma's Footsteps' brims with things that must be said and turns the volume up, loud, giving silence its last rites. "Ekere Tallie's new work 'Karma's Footsteps' is as fierce with fight songs as it is with love songs. Searing with truths from the modern day world she is unafraid of the twelve foot waves that such honesties always manifest. A poet who "refuses to tiptoe" she enters and exits the page sometimes with short concise imagery, sometimes in the arms of delicate memoir. Her words pull the forgotten among us back into the lightning of our eyes.—Nikky Finney /  Ekere Tallie Table

Her Voice   / Mother Nature: Thoughts on Nourishing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit During Pregnancy and Beyond  www.ekeretallie.com  

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The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations

By Ira Berlin

Berlin (Many Thousands Gone) offers a fresh reading of American history through the prism of the great migrations that made and remade African and African American life. The first was the forcible deportation of Africans to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, followed by their forced transfer into the American interior during the 19th century. Then came the migration of the mid-20th century as African-Americans fled the South for the urban North, and the arrival of continental Africans and people of African descent from the Caribbean during the latter part of the 20th century. Berlin sees migration and the reshaping of communities to their new environments as central to the African-American experience. Movement is a matter of numbers, and Berlin provides them in detail kept fully readable by his attention to the cultural products of the shifts. In particular, he follows the church as it moves, the music as it takes on new themes, and kinship as it broadens. Berlin's careful scholarship is evidenced in his rich notes; the ordinary reader will be pleased by the fluidity and clarity of his prose.—Publishers Weekly

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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Punishing the Poor

The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity

By Loïc Wacquant

The punitive turn of penal policy in the United States after the acme of the Civil Rights movement responds not to rising criminal insecurity but to the social insecurity spawned by the fragmentation of wage labor and the shakeup of the ethnoracial hierarchy. It partakes of a broader reconstruction of the state wedding restrictive “workfare” and expansive “prisonfare” under a philosophy of moral behaviorism. This paternalist program of penalization of poverty aims to curb the urban disorders wrought by economic deregulation and to impose precarious employment on the postindustrial proletariat. It also erects a garish theater of civic morality on whose stage political elites can orchestrate the public vituperation of deviant figures—the teenage “welfare mother,” the ghetto “street thug,” and the roaming “sex predator”—and close the legitimacy deficit they suffer when they discard the established government mission of social and economic protection. . . .

Punishing the Poor shows that the prison is not a mere technical implement for law enforcement but a core political institution.

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

By Annette Gordon-Reed

 

This is a scholar's book: serious, thick, complex. It's also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived.

So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves' lives and the nature of the choices they had to make—when they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed's genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work.—Publishers Weekly

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Middle Passage

By Charles Johnson

A savage parable of the black experience in America, Johnson's picaresque novel begins in 1830 when Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed Illinois slave eking out a living as a petty thief in New Orleans, hops aboard a square-rigger to evade the prim Boston schoolteacher who wants to marry him. But the Republic , no riverboat, turns out to be a slave clipper bound for Africa. Calhoun, a witty narrator conversant with the works of Chaucer and Beethoven and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, hates himself for acting as henchman to the ship's captain, a dwarfish, philosophizing tyrant. Before the rowdy, drunken crew can spring a mutiny, African slaves recently taken on board stage a successful revolt. Blending confessional, ship's log and adventure, the narrative interweaves a disquisition on slavery, poverty, race relations and an African worldview at odds with Western materialism. In luxuriant, intoxicating prose Johnson (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) makes the agonized past a prism looking onto a tense present.—Publishers Weekly

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The Long Affair

Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800

By Conor Cruise O'Brien

In The Great Melody, O'Brien wrote a masterful study of one of the great early opponents of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke. Now he applies his counterrevolutionary principles to an examination of Thomas Jefferson, reevaluating Jefferson's thought and correcting some scholarly misinterpretations. But while the book will appeal to anyone interested in Jefferson and his pivotal role in American politics, the themes are less well-developed than in The Great Melody, and the book is ultimately disappointing. Through plentiful direct quotations from his subject and his own effective analysis, O'Brien demonstrates that Jefferson's support of the French Revolution began to wane after such support no longer furthered his domestic political aims and when he came to see it as a threat to slavery. Because of his support of slavery, says O'Brien, Jefferson is no longer appropriate as an icon for an increasingly multiracial American society.

He points out that racists on the right have begun to claim Jefferson as a prophet, but O'Brien seems to repeat their mistake of evaluating him only through his views on race. Though Jefferson may indeed have been a racist and did not intend the Declaration of Independence ever to apply to blacks, the brilliance of the document was that it could be expanded over the years to include groups previously excluded. Though one would not want admiration of Jefferson's principles to lead to support for white supremacy, neither would one want rejection of white supremacy to lead to disbelief in the revolutionary idea that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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 / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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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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posted 27 August 2012

 

 

 

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