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 We know something happened on September 11, 2001, but there

is another day--February 15, 2003what I call 'almost  liberation

day,' when 10 million people across the world acting for peace

attended protests against Bush's preemptive strike at Iraq.



Books by Studs Terkel

Working / Hard Times / Voices of Our Time / The Good War The Studs Terkel Reader / Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Hope Dies Last  /And They Sang / Coming of Age / Race / American Dreams /   Ramblin' Man  / Giants of Jazz 

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No Brass Check Journalists

By Studs Terkel


Upton Sinclair self-published a book called The Brass Check in 1919, 13 years after The Jungle. The brass check was the coin used in whorehouses. The customer went up to see the madam and he would pay his two bucksthis was long before inflation-and receive a brass check, which he would give to the girl.

And at the end of the day the girl would cash in all her brass checks and get half a buck apiece. So Upton Sinclair took the brass check, and made it a reference to the press in those days. The journalists were pretty much brass check artists, they were like the girls in the brothel. And how much of that has changed in the past century?

Think about the coverage of George Bush, especially after 9/11, when David Broder, a solid, centrist journalist, compared Bush to Abraham Lincoln. That gives you an idea of the nonsense we have to deal with these days. We're not talking now about the right-wing pundits, of whom nothing much need be said, we're talking about journalists like Broder who are considered part of the 'liberal media,' which is of course an obscene phrase because of the burlesque nature of it.

Another horrendous example of the media and its cravenness was the lack of attention paid to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) in September 2002. Here we had a conservative Democratic senator making one of the most eloquent addresses attacking the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act and the Bush administration for endangering our civil liberties, and for violating the constitution. It was a fantastic speech. You would have thought it would make headlines. Here was the dean of the Senate speaking about dangers to our fundamental rights. And the fact that it got so little reportage says more than you want to know about the media.

The other aspect of media today is its triviality. Trivia and political thought have become one. We have a new Teflon girl, Oprah Winfrey, who had Arnold Schwarzenegger on as a guest while he was a candidate for governor. It was a kiss-kiss hour. I don't know how many millions of women watch her program, but it seems that she would at least have his leading opponent, Cruz Bustamante, on. But no one questioned the idea of Oprah having Schwarzenegger on as a guest in the midst of a campaign without any rebuttal. This was a farce that could be designed only by W. C. Fields-a recall election and the leading candidate being a muscle-headed muscle- man actor. It seems to me that trivia and hype and style have taken over debate.

At the same time I am not going to be overwhelmingly pessimistic. There is reason for optimism.

Hope Dies Last (the name of my new book) is a phrase used by Jessie de la Cruz, who worked very closely with Cesar Chavez organizing the farm workers. She said that whenever times were bleak, they had a phrase, “la esperanza muere ultima—hope dies last.” Because what is the alternative? Despair. And with despair, all that is left is the head in the oven, or about 20 sleeping pills and a couple of martinis-or in my case a dozen martinis.

Hope has always been the hallmark of dissenters. We know something happened on September 11, 2001, but there is another day-February 15, 2003-what I call 'almost liberation day,' when 10 million people across the world acting for peace attended protests against Bush's preemptive strike at Iraq. That hope continues as an undercurrent in the many, many community groups. The issue could be the environment as well as peace, or civil liberties under John Ashcroft. The question is: Can it be made active?

I must make a confession here. I am a fellow alumnus of John Ashcroft; we both attended the University of Chicago Law School. I was there about 30 years before he was, but he is much older than I am. I maintain John Ashcroft is at least 300 years old, because he is simply the reincarnation of the Reverend Samuel Parris we saw in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. The subject was witchcraft. We were as afraid of witchcraft then as we are of terrorists today. Reverend Parris came into Salem, as the chief prosecutorial officer, like Ashcroft is now. He pointed to the young hysterical girls and said you are not with me if you challenge me, you are consorting with the devil-with evil.

Fantasy is at work here. Miller's play is at work here. W.C. Field's scenario is at work here. And over and above it all is this question: What's to be done?

One of the things that keeps people from doing what they know they should do for their own good is the national Alzheimer's disease. There is no memory of the past. There is no yesterday. There was no Depression. There was no New Deal. There is no memory that when the free market, which is our religion, fell on its fanny, the free marketeers—I call them free buccaneers—pleaded with the government, “Please help us out. Please save us.” And of course the New Deal and regulation did. Now the sons and grandsons and daughters and granddaughters of those whose asses were saved by the New Deal, by big government, are the ones who most condemn big government today. And they are getting away with it, because of the media.

The key is not simply to dissent, but to turn the country around. What's to be done is to act. To act is to do, to do is to cast your ballot, and to do is also to ask: Who is representing what? Which leads to the Democratic primary race.

Of course my candidate, Dennis Kucinich, who I knew as the boy mayor of Cleveland, is the ideal candidate for president. But he has as much chance of being nominated as the Chicago Bears do of winning the Super Bowl. He has no money and he is not known. It comes to hype again. One out of 100 people know his name.

Name recognition is what he needs, so that the Democratic Leadership Council, a toady group that has steadily moved the party to the right, will be forced to give him time on the platform at the Democratic Party Convention; multi-millions would then be aware of his presence and his significance.

I suppose the best of the lot, if it is not Dennis Kucinich, would be Howard Dean, because he is at least challenging the Democratic Leadership Council, which is of course the albatross that is somehow still at the rudder of that sinking ship. Had the Democratic Party true leadership, Kucinich would be the candidate. And, of course, if he were nominated, he would win. In a debate with Bush there would be a knockout in the first round, there would be no competition. And this is the perfect time for that, except for the role of the media.

Fortunately, we have an alternative press. The effect of the alternative press is seemingly minor, but it has a ripple-in-the-water effect. You can tell that by reading the letters to the editor in the Chicago Tribune—my barometer of what the public is thinking. But aside from alternative journals like In These Times and Bill Moyers and humorist Jon Stewart on television, Upton Sinclair's brass checks are alive and well today.

Now is the time to act, and, thus, become what we were born to be—thinking, active citizens of a democratic society.

Source: In These Times (10.22.03)  See Stud Terkel Bio

Louis "Studs" Terkel (May 16, 1912 – October 31, 2008) was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for The Good War, and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago. . . .

A political liberal, Terkel joined the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project, working in radio, doing work that varied from voicing soap opera productions and announcing news and sports, to presenting shows of recorded music and writing radio scripts and advertisements. His well-known radio program, titled The Studs Terkel Program, aired on 98.7 WFMT Chicago between 1952 and 1997.

The one-hour program was broadcast each weekday during those forty-five years. On this program, he interviewed guests as diverse as Bob Dylan, Leonard Bernstein, Jean Shepherd, and Alexander Frey. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Terkel was also the central character of Studs' Place, an unscripted television drama about the owner of a greasy-spoon diner in Chicago through which many famous people and interesting characters passed. This show, along with Marlin Perkins's Zoo Parade, Garroway at Large and the children's show Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, are widely considered canonical examples of the Chicago School of Television. Terkel published his first book, Giants of Jazz, in 1956.wikipedia

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

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

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

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

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

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

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

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

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

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

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification (2009)

By David Waldstreicher

Taking on decades of received wisdom, David Waldstreicher has written the first book to recognize slavery’s place at the heart of the U.S. Constitution. Famously, the Constitution never mentions slavery. And yet, of its eighty-four clauses, six were directly concerned with slaves and the interests of their owners. Five other clauses had implications for slavery that were considered and debated by the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the citizens of the states during ratification. This “peculiar institution” was not a moral blind spot for America’s otherwise enlightened framers, nor was it the expression of a mere economic interest. Slavery was as important to the making of the Constitution as the Constitution was to the survival of slavery.By tracing slavery from before the revolution, through the Constitution’s framing, and into the public debate that followed, Waldstreicher rigorously shows that slavery was not only actively discussed behind the closed and locked doors of the Constitutional Convention, but that it was also deftly woven into the Constitution itself.

For one thing, slavery was central to the American economy, and since the document set the stage for a national economy, the Constitution could not avoid having implications for slavery. Even more, since the government defined sovereignty over individuals, as well as property in them, discussion of sovereignty led directly to debate over slavery’s place in the new republic.Finding meaning in silences that have long been ignored, Slavery’s Constitution is a vital and sorely needed contribution to the conversation about the origins, impact, and meaning of our nation’s founding document.

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—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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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.

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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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update 26 July 2012




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