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Ishmael said Madison Avenue and corporate America would immediately co-opt the revolution,

thus making it a fad, perhaps in the manner of Hip Hop culture. We imagine it might be similar to

everybody in New York wearing the Kafiya scarf of the Palestinian revolution, but they ain't hardly

with the Palestinian revolution, especially New York Jews, but they wear the scarf.



Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America / Woman: Man's Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

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Parable of the San Francisco Negro, Part 2

By Marvin X

Today, Sunday, July 25, at the San Francisco Main Library, Ishmael Reed discussed his latest book Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: The Return of the Nigger Breakers, Baraka Press, 2010. The esteemed Dr. Nathan Hare gave him a proper intro, befitting the great commentator Ishmael is, aside from being a novelist, essayist, poet, playwright and anthologist. Aside from his wife and daughter, the audience included Al Young, Conyus, Dewey Crumpler, Herman Rainey, Margot Dashield, et al.

Before the program began, Ishmael told me not to be selling my books at his gig, also please do not cut him up doing the Q and A. I ignored both requests. He signed a review copy of his book for me.

I respect Ishmael because he is my senior or elder, also one of America's most prolific writers, although I'm on his tail. Actually, he is the one who named me Plato, after stopping by one of my street sessions downtown Oakland at 14th and Broadway. I added Negro to distinguish myself from the Greek philosopher who plagiarized African philosophy (see Stolen Legacy by George M. James). But Ishmael has supported my projects and productions in the Bay Area, and he praised my play One Day in the Life as the most powerful drama he's seen.

But Ishmael is an interesting character. He comes from that group of black intellectuals who lived in Greenwich Village during the 50s and early 60s, including LeRoi Jones, now Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Calvin Hernton, Askia Toure, David Henderson, et al.

After the assassination of Malcolm X, LeRoi Jones, aka  Baraka, escaped the Village and sought refuge in Harlem. Askia and Neal were already in place. Ishmael declined to join the Black Arts Movement and was somewhat critical of it. He never claimed to be a revolutionary activist, and on Sunday at library, he made it clear he was neither an activist nor a revolutionary. He seems to take a centrist position, neither left nor right. He made it clear during his discussion that in his mind the Left has fantasies as fantastic as the Right. He recalled when Che Guevara was interviewed on New York's WBAI, Che laughed when asked if there could be a Cuban style revolution in America.

Ishmael said Madison Avenue and corporate America would immediately co-opt the revolution, thus making it a fad, perhaps in the manner of Hip Hop culture. We imagine it might be similar to everybody in New York wearing the Kafiya scarf of the Palestinian revolution, but they ain't hardly with the Palestinian revolution, especially New York Jews, but they wear the scarf.

So where is Ishmael coming from? For sure, he's a thinker with an opinion that is often outside the box of Americana. In this we are similar, although I'm to the left of Ish, to say the least. I sense Ishmael loves America while I loathe America. I'm like that song “Tobacco Road,”

I hate you
but I love you because you're home.
Go git some dynamite and a crane,
tear it up and start all over again,
Tobacco Road (Lou Rawls version).

Ishmael speaks as an insider, I'm an outsider. He's one of the select public intellectuals, along with Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Cornell West. White America has never heard of me, for the most part, and neither has a large portion of black America. My audience is the rejected and despised, a population America also wants to know nothing about.

Ishmael is a truth seeker, wise enough to reject the fiction of the fabricated America reality. The good Dr. Nathan Hare taught us the fictive theory: everything America says is fiction unless proven to be fact. Ishmael is excellent at tearing apart the Hollywood fantasy America, especially that portion perpetuated by the media, the witch doctors on television, movies, and internet.

He discussed the spin doctors and others of and in the white supremacy regime who castrate the black man at every turn. He noted the icons of the 60s, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Toure, Elijah Muhammad, Muhammad Ali, who were torn to shreds by not only the media but feminist propaganda as well. Yet who do they have to equal such giants?

My special advisor, Ish, talked about the University as part of the military/corporate complex Eisenhower warned us about. After 35 years teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, he asked where is the radical, socialist/communist academia?

I agree, after teaching briefly in academia, it is indeed part of the complex Eisenhower warned us about. Imagine, as we speak, a lawyer who endorsed torture is yet teaching at UCB, Professor Yoo.

Ishmael still has much faith in Obama, while mine has waned, perhaps because he is more patient than I. After two white men tried to disrupt his discussion with leftist rants, Ish asked if they'd come with me, especially after he called upon me for an opinion on Arab liquor stores in the hood. Actually, he asked me to write an essay on the topic, but I said yes, the Arabs sell us swine and wine in the name of Allah, additionally, they sell dope, guns, and pussy inside and outside their stores, and take liberties with our women, while they will murder us if we have sex with theirs, as happened in Sacramento when an Arab father found a black boy hiding under his daughter's bed. Ironically, the Arab got the NAACP chief attorney, Nathaniel Colley, to successfully defend him.

At the end of the session, while he signed books, Ishmael let me know he asked me to make a comment during the Q and A, not deliver a sermon. Now those who know, know better than ask me a question because I will give a sermon.

photo left: Marvin X, Tennessee Reed, Conyus, Al Young

After pics with Ishmael, Al Young, Arthur Monroe, Dewey Crumpler, Conyus, Tennessee Reed and myself, I excused myself from a dinner invitation to make my way through San Francisco's multi-racial ghetto the Tenderloin. I had to visit my old hang out, though the artists warned me not to get stuck in the black hole.

On my way to the library, I had thought about those TL chicken wings at the Arab liquor store, but Conyus brought them back to my attention when he informed me he gave Al Young, poet laureate emeritus of California, a tour of the TL, after which Al wrote a poem, including the liquor store as subject.

When I arrived and got the chicken wings, I walked outside to meet a brother from back in the day, one of those wheeler dealers who has miraculously survived the rough and tough Tenderloin, one of the roughest and toughest ghettos in California, if not America.

By the grace of God, I mastered every street in the TL, every alley, doorway, hotel room. I am not bragging, this is just a fact.

I showed my Obama book to my friend, but another brother checked it out. I also showed him Mythology of Pussy. He gave me five dollars for Mythology. Then I showed him Pull Yo Pants Up, he said he wanted Pull Yo Pants Up—said he knew enough about pussy. So I exchanged. He was happy, more so because he said he never bought a book before, nor had he ever bought a book from the author, so he was honored and said he was going to take it home to his peoples in Richmond and share it with them.

I was humbled. It is enough to kiss the ground when a black man says he's never bought a book, let alone from the author himself.

I departed the TL to cross the street at Market and Powell. It is a movement from one block to another wherein one enters the world of the rich and white, the tourists from around the world who come to board the Cable Car, yes, only a block away from the TL, one of the most wretched areas in the world. A block away!

In my hustling days, I was not only the king of the Tenderloin, but on Union Square, the shopping area of the rich and famous in San Francisco. On this day I posted up by the BART escalator. I just wanted to observe before I boarded the subway back to the East Bay.

I stool around watching the action. I saw a police officer I recognized, Brother Payne who has a twin brother who worked the Cable Car line and was the champion Cable Car bell ringer. I watched Officer Payne do his thing. He told a Negro to leave the area, when the Negro resisted, he pulled out his hand cuffs and shook them in the Negro's face. I knew Officer Payne from the 80s and 90s when I used to hustle, so I made eye contact with him and signaled with my finger for him to come over. He came.

I said how's it going, Brother? You Brother Payne, right? He said yes. How you doing? He said it's rough. Rougher than it used to be. Rougher. Then he was off to a purse snatcher. I took out my promo for the book Pull Yo Pants Up. A young brother came by with two young girls who appeared to be his sisters. I gave him a promo. He read the title and said, "Wait a minute, let me pull my pants up." He pulled them up and showed me he was tightening his belt, then went on his way, but not before I said, "Thank you, brother!"

When the brother submitted so willingly, it let me know there are infinite possibilities here, and that the elders are allowing this negative situation to continue out of their sloth and laziness. Thus, we must get on our job and speak to our sons and daughters. They await the sound of our voices, the command of our message of truth.

25 July 2010

Source:  Parables and Fables of Marvin X

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photo left: Painters Dewey Crumpler, Arthur Monroe; Ishmael Reed, Conyus, Marvin  X, Al Young

Note 1—Conyus is a famous SF poet published in The Black Scholar. Dewey Crumpler and Arthur Monroe are both painters. Dewey is from the Black Arts West. Arthur taught at UC Berkeley with me during the last days of the radical black studies department before it was purged by the Chancellor and the Bill Banks regime took over.

That Ishmael definitely reads and is well informed. I appreciate him for his knowledge and determination. He wrote a play on Crack called Hubba City at the same time my play One Day in the Life was running. The SF Chronicle reviewed both plays, I think I got an A, Ishmael a B.—Marvin, 27 July 2010

Note 2—I moved to Sac right after the Colley's shooting defense episode. The black community and others held bad feelings for Mr. Colley and long memories, although he was a staunch civil rights activist for decades and sued to open housing for Blacks. He was a protégé of the famed peanut farmer scientist (?) at Tuskegee. Truly a Horatio Alger life story.

Sent all of his kids and grandkids to Tuskegee or Hampton. Shortly after he died, his wife fell in their house and was found dead in the house. I knew all of his children personally and all of my children were classmates of his grandchildren. His family fought bitterly over his estate.—Fahizah Alim 27 July 2010

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Fahizah Speaks

All of this is jarring my memory. The attorney's name was Nathaniel Colley. He was the HNIC when I moved to Sacremento, having successfully sued to open housing here for Blacks and other civil rights cases. But I think he defended an Arab who shot and killed a black teenager who was found hiding under his daughter's bed. I reported on the Colley family from time to time, knowing both of his daughters and son. So when he was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer, he allowed me to come and interview him at his South Land Park home over several weeks and write the story of his journey from dirt poor Alabama to Tuskegeee, to Yale to Sacramento. At the time he was so emaciated, we had to have an artist draw the picture for the article.  Shortly after his long and painful death, his wife fell in their home and died from the fall.

 He has a daughter here who is a juvenile court judge, another daughter who is a teacher, and has a son, who couldn't follow in his father's footsteps, so after graduating law school and trying to practice law, he gave up and went to Hollywood. Estate fights caused children to splinter into non-speaking camps. So it's not just poor nigguhs who lose their mind over the spoils. . . .—from My friend the Devil, a Memoir by Marvin X,  Black Bird Press. Berkeley CA 94702. page 89.

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Note 3: Fahizah is my muse. Her words of wisdom inspire me to greater heights. In truth, she may never tell her story, a dramatic tale of the highest order. While at the Sacramento Bee she was the vehicle through which blacks in Sac got into the media with their stories of joy, pain and sorrow.—Marvin X

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Nathaniel S. Colley, J. D.

A lawyer's lawyer. Nathaniel S. Colley has been involved in most of the civil rights litigation in the westea section of this nation for the past 25 years. He brought the historic action against Sacramento in 1956 which held that those receiving federal funds could not practice discrimination. Colley was counsel in the initial case banning public housing authorities from segregating tenants in accordance with an ethnic neighborhood housing pattern. This was the Banks r-s San Francisco Housing Authority in 1953. He led the legal fight against the state of California which gave homeowners the right to refuse to rent or sell property to anyone in their discretion.

The law was invalidated. Colley's most publicized case was acting as chief counsel in the celebrated "slop and frisk" actions of the San Francisco police last spring.

Mayor Alioto had issued an order to the police allowing every black male between 18 and 35 to be stopped and searched. Over 600 blacks were arrested. The Mayor claimed to be seeking the so-called Zebra Killers--a small band of fanatics who allegedly killed white people at random as part of an initiation rite. The wholesale arrests were enjoined as unconstitutional.

In a case of consequence to the NMA. Colley is filing a friend of the court brief against the action of a white applicant to the University of California Medical School who alleges he was passed over for admission while less qualified black applicants were taken.

This is the whole murky area of IQ tests and so-called reverse discrimination growing out of the DeFunis case.

Brother Colley is a genuine community man. He holds a B.S. degree from Tuskegee and law degree from Yale. He is a part-time professor of law at the University of the Pacific and a lecturer at the University of California. He is a national director of the NAACP; member of the board of trustees of Tuskegee Institute; member of the California State Board of Education from 1960-1964 and is also a director of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.

The National Medical Association is happy to honor this "truly committed man.''Journal of the National Medical Association

posted 26 July 2010 

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Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles

By Daniel Widener

Daniel Widener's study provides a much needed, basic analysis of the complex and turbulent black arts and culture scene in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s, and the dynamic mix of politics that fueled it.—Amiri Baraka

Black Arts West knocked my socks off. Daniel Widener's exciting account of the 'Watts Renaissance' fundamentally revises our picture of contemporary L.A. art and literary scenes, and adds a crucial new chapter to the history of Black cultural radicalism during the 1960s and 1970s.—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

From postwar efforts to end discrimination in the motion-picture industry, recording studios, and musicians’ unions, through the development of community-based arts organizations, to the creation of searing films critiquing conditions in the black working class neighborhoods of a city touting its multiculturalism—Black Arts West documents the social and political significance of African American arts activity in Los Angeles between the Second World War and the riots of 1992. Focusing on the lives and work of black writers, visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers, Daniel Widener tells how black cultural politics changed over time, and how altered political realities generated new forms of artistic and cultural expression. His narrative is filled with figures invested in the politics of black art and culture in postwar Los Angeles, including not only African American artists but also black nationalists, affluent liberal whites, elected officials, and federal bureaucrats.

Along with the politicization of black culture, Widener explores the rise of a distinctive regional Black Arts Movement. Originating in the efforts of wartime cultural activists, the movement was rooted in the black working class and characterized by struggles for artistic autonomy and improved living and working conditions for local black artists. As new ideas concerning art, racial identity, and the institutional position of African American artists emerged, dozens of new collectives appeared, from the Watts Writers Workshop, to the Inner City Cultural Center, to the New Art Jazz Ensemble. Spread across generations of artists, the Black Arts Movement in Southern California was more than the artistic affiliate of the local civil-rights or black-power efforts: it was a social movement itself. Illuminating the fundamental connections between expressive culture and political struggle, Black Arts West is a major contribution to the histories of Los Angeles, black radicalism, and avant-garde art.—Duke University Press (2010)


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Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: The Return of the Nigger Breakers

By Ishmael Reed

The Return of the Nigger Breakers

An Interview with Ishmael Reed by Jill Nelson

No American institution is immune to tabloid thinking. Not even academia. They said that the character in my novel Reckless Eyeballing was based on Walker because that’s one of three black women authors that they read. We thought that when white feminist progressives gained power in academia they’d end the one at a time admission of black writers to the Canon.  The late June Jordan quit Womens’ Studies at Berkeley because, according to her, the faculty members spent all of their time worshiping the French theory of men.

When I announced at a panel that most black women authors remain unknown to the general public, I was challenged by two famous feminists, one Asian American and the other Jewish American who pointed to two successful ones. Tokenism.

Instead of these young black women weighing in on Precious and using the curriculum to get even with their fathers and dates, why don’t they do some serious work on black women authors, not just one of two. Over the last six months we lost Ai, Carlene Hatcher Polite, the pioneer black feminist author, Lucille Clifton, and most recently Carolyn Rodgers. Kristin Hunter Lattany went to her grave without the kind of honors that would be accorded a white writer of her stature. Her novel Breaking Away shows what black women have to go through on college campuses. She was driven from academic life because she defended some black co-eds who’d been smeared and accosted with hate crimes. No, these young women and the black male womens’ studies professor at Duke are too busy deconstructing Hip Hop. Charles Murray of “Bell Curve” fame is consultant to the Wisconsin welfare program, which is endorsed in Precious yet they back this movie.The Return of the Nigger Breakers

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Ishmael Reed—Samuel Ludwig (University of Berne)—Together with Amiri Baraka, Reed is probably the most creative and controversial African American writer who started his career in the 1960s. Praised for his irreverence and his postmodern experimentation early on in his career, he was later criticized as a misogynist for some of his opinions (”blacklisted by the feminist establishment”) and as a bourgeois apologist for his praise of a black middle-class work ethic and his satirical exposure of empty radical rhetoric (Baraka implied that he should “get iced”). Nowadays Ishmael Reed is well respected by the scholarly establishment and his literary achievements are unquestioned. He is best known for his literary theory called the “Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic” . . .—Lterary Encyclopedia

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Taking on the Jim Crow media—Hubert Bauch, The Gazette—Landing the latest Reed oeuvre was an unexpected coup for fledgling Montreal publishing house Baraka Books. “It came out of the blue and I just jumped at the chance,” said publisher Robin Philpot, who had been reading Reed for years and had struck up an acquaintance and a correspondence. “It’s an honour for us to publish such an important writer.”

Reed says he thought of Baraka after his New York agent, the high-powered Barbara Lowenstein, categorically told him that no American publisher would touch the book. He casts the move to publish in this country as his own flight to Canada, “a Black Rock ferry crossing” of the border so he could make his case. “This one goes against the grain of what is expected of African-Americans, not only in book publishing, but in theatre, film, in television, that race is no longer an issue in American society. The point of view that’s welcomed in the media is that the problems confronting the black poor are a result of behaviour and lifestyle, the self-destructive behaviour of people who live in Harlem.”

He sneers at the establishment line being propagated by mainstream media that with Obama’s election America has entered a “post-race” era. “This whole idea of racism, mortgage lending, health-care problems, racial profiling, all these are sort of ignored in order to present the country as a post-race paradise, like the peaceable kingdom.” He notes assassination threats against the president are up 300 per cent since Obama took office. ”And the media has become the mob leader. That’s why I call them the Jim Crow media”— Montreal Gazette

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Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America

 Woman: Man's Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

Marvin X on YouTube   Marvin X Table 

 Eldridge Cleaver: My Friend the Devil

A Memoir by Marvin X

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Ishmael Reed talks about this book with Phil Taylor of the Taylor Report (audio)

Listen to interview with Ishmael Reed on KPFA Berkeley (min 32-60) (audio)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#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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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The Price of Civilization

Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalization’s long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. America’s single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. .

Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not America’s abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values

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Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls

By Dorothy Sterling

Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.

All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.—Barbara Dodds

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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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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Hands on the Freedom Plow

Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

By Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan

Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, et al.

The book opens a window onto the organizing tradition of the Southern civil rights movement. That tradition, rooted in the courage and persistence of ordinary people, has been obscured by the characterization of the civil rights struggle as consisting primarily of protest marches. In rural Dawson, Ga., Carolyn Daniels housed SNCC workers organizing for voter registration, and whites retaliated by bombing her home. But at the end of a vivid depiction of this and other anti-black terrorist acts, she writes, in an apt summary of the grass-roots organizing that is the real explanation for civil rights victories, "We just kept going and going."

Organizing involved the kind of commitment and willingness to face risk that Penny Patch conveys in only a few short sentences describing covert nighttime meetings in plantation sharecropper shacks. Patch is white. But that did not lessen the fear or reduce the danger of remaining seated while poll watching in a country store as whites came in and out, giving her and her black co-worker menacing stares.

Full journalistic disclosure requires me to say that many of these women are friends and former comrades. But knowing the movement that we were all a part of also demands that I share my observation: While these pages look back, looking forward from them reveals that there are many useful lessons for today in the strength of these women.Charles E. Cobb Jr.

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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

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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 6 October 2012




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