ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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We might reach a point where all the charisma of Obama won't feed anyone.

Yes, Racism will look for a partner on the dance floor.E. Ethelbert Miller

The housing bubble has popped, and I predict this is nothing compared

to what may be coming if the credit card bubble busts.Wilson J.  Moses



The More Perfect Union or Reconstruction Blues?

Responses by E. Ethelbert Miller and Wilson J.  Moses

March 2, 2009


Books by E. Ethelbert Miller


How We Sleep on the Nights We Don’t Make Love  /  Fathering Words  / In Search of Color Everywhere


First Light: New and Selected Poems Where are the Love Poems for Dictators?  /  Whispers, Secrets and Promises


Beyond The Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century  / Season of Hunger/Cry of Rain


Synergy: An Anthology of Washington D.C. Black Poetry


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The Obama Revolution? One just has to love what's going to happen next. How do we introduce the word revolution to a new generation? It wasn't that long ago that the word was used to sell everything from soft drinks to sneakers. Now the word might just have to be breastfed again.

Watch the media have problems with this one. Fox news will find a conspiracy somewhere. Muslim terrorists might fade away and folks will be seeing Red again. Remember when the worst thing for a person to be was black and red? Poor Obama. Everyone is going to try and define the Obama Revolution. Because of our sorry economic condition we've been having this romance with the 1930s and the Great Depression. I was walking on U Street the other day and saw a "hobo" bag on sale. How long will it be before you start seeing men in dirty suits trying to sneak a ride on Amtrak?

Since we keep comparing Obama to Lincoln and FDR, we keep overlooking the historical period we should be paying more attention to. Let's discover our Du Bois again. Pull the big book off the shelf and read Black Reconstruction. Yep. America is completing the work of Lincoln. We need to examine that era after the Civil War. What would happen to our nation if two years from now some folks believed Obama was taking the nation too far Left?

W. E. Burghardt Du Bois. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880.

What if some popular Republican candidate emerged in two years wanting to begin impeachment hearings because the public trust was manipulated? What if class warfare does begin in the US? How do we survive this "new" reconstruction of our nation? Just something to think about.

Now here is something to watch—monitor student protests around the country. Many colleges are going to have to raise tuition. There are many young Americans who won't be able to attend college in the fall of 2009. A bitter pill to accept. Sad times around the dinner tables where a mother and father have been looking for work the last few months. People having to decide about keeping their house or sending a child to college.

We might reach a point where all the charisma of Obama won't feed anyone. Yes, Racism will look for a partner on the dance floor. Too many images of the First Lady looking elegant and black folks dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire in the White House—and some poor white folks might just get angry and look for hoods. You've heard these stories before.

This is how they begin because they never end. So I wouldn't be surprise to see more protests and young people in the streets come warm weather. Any confrontation that results in injury or property damage is going to alter the image of our nation. It could leave us with a bad case of the Reconstruction Blues. Right now we are taking pills for high blood pressure. I'm afraid of what might happen when we start taking the medication for depression..—E. Ethelbert Miller   E-Notes


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The 5th Inning by E. Ethelbert Miller

The 5th Inning is poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller's second memoir. Coming after Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (published in 2000), this book finds Miller returning to baseball, the game of his youth, in order to find the metaphor that will provide the measurement of his life. Almost 60, he ponders whether his life can now be entered into the official record books as a success or failure.

The 5th Inning is one man's examination of personal relationships, depression, love and loss. This is a story of the individual alone on the pitching mound or in the batters box. It's a box score filled with remembrance. It's a combination of baseball and the blues.

To see a clip of Ethelbert reading The 5th Inning click here:

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Books by Wilson Jeremiah Moses

Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (1988)  / The Wings of Ethiopia  (1990)

 Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (1992)  / Destiny & Race: Selected Writings, 1840-1898  (1992) 

 Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth (1993)

Liberian Dreams: Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s  / Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History (2002)

Creative Conflict in African American Thought (2004)

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Ethelbert Miller, the Washington poet, is right in expressing fears of a revolution-from-the-right. According to Southern Poverty Law  Center, hate groups are on the rise. Meanwhile "respectable"  conservatives are already blaming Obama for aggravating the economic crisis.
For a discussion of typical conservative doublethink as to what  caused the housing and banking crisis: Southern Poverty Law Center

Unfortunately I frequently have students informing me, that the banking crisis was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act! That's as big a joke as blaming minimum wage laws for unemployment, or blaming the Great Depression on the New Deal. But don't laugh!
The above dogmas are currently being taught and accepted in most economics departments and MBA programs. The sad thing is that good kids regardless of gender, race, or class, are susceptible to such notions and absorb them indiscriminately. It is ironic to contemplate working class students rising up in anger and protesting that they can no longer afford to attend business schools that indoctrinate them with propaganda that is tailored to undermine their own class interests.
How can we win against this sort of thing?
We must continue to inform them that Roosevelt increased taxes and created government jobs, and that his only fault was not being aggressive enough until the war provided him an opportunity. One stage of his recovery plan was the Lend Lease Act, which kept the
factories humming by building tanks and giving them to Stalin. Another part was the banking reforms, which kept us out of a depression for almost seventy years.
For thirty years under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Democrats and Republicans conspired to dismantle the New Deal. Under Alan Greenspan, appointed Fed Chairman by Reagan, and renewed by Clinton, and both Bushes, the government followed a course of constant inflation, in the prices of health, education, and housing. The Congressional Budget Office, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Council of Economic advisers, etc., conspired to fudge the statistics and lie to us about inflation, telling us it didn't exist.
In reality, real wages dropped constantly, tempting middle-class households to take out adjustable rate mortgages, foolishly hoping to benefit from constant inflation of housing prices to compensate for inadequate purchasing power—in other words speculating against the dollar.
Meanwhile, their children were graduating from college owing tens of thousands of dollars, and unable to find jobs. It became increasingly difficult to afford the costs of health care for our grandparents, our parents, our children, or ourselves.
The housing bubble has popped, and I predict this is nothing compared to what may be coming if the credit card bubble busts.
When people start pushing wheelbarrows full of worthless money to the supermarket, they will blame Obama, and that should be enough to bring out the Nazi armbands. As it did in Germany.—Wilson J.  Moses

posted 2 March 2009 

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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

Pulitzer Prize for History 2012 Winner—For a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000). Awarded to Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by the late Manning Marable (Viking), an exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history, a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. (Moved by the Board from the Biography category.)Pulitzer

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The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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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 / 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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Home E Ethelbert Miller Table    Wilson Jeremiah Moses Table

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