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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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An acquaintance of mine . . . tells me he had him as a student [Donnie Gilmore]. 

At the end of the course, Donnie, who had barely been present all semester,

allegedly walked into Carlson's office and demanded a grade of B. 



 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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Teaching Preferences
By Wilson J. Moses


I met Judith this summer at the Catholic Institute of Paris, where she is perfecting her French. She also studies Japanese, and German; loves Wagner and Tchaikovsky; is interested in medieval languages and literature; holds a junior black belt in karate; displays a gentle sense of humor; and patiently helps me with my grammar assignments. 

Tall and slender, with dark hair and green eyes; she gave one student a look of puzzled incredulity, when he asked if she liked bars or discos.  Still she moves like a dancer.  Lovely to behold; pleasant to be around.  What a perfect angel!  She even plays the harp.  Really, she does!  This is not a metaphor.  The only thing I have invented is her name.

She holds a music scholarship at one of the Big Ten Universities, not the one where I teach.  But I know of others like her, in the honors college of my own institution.  One of these honors angels represented Pennsylvania in the Miss America Pageant last year.  Another took a course with me, as a freshman, and the following summer while I was in Paris, wrote me delightful letters in French. If our faculty had to describe her in just one word, it would be - "adorable." 

How different from the infamous Donnie Gilmore, whom I know only from the Boston newspaper reports of his crime and punishment.  An acquaintance of mine, whom I shall call Professor Carlson, tells me he had him as a student.  At the end of the course, Donnie, who had barely been present all semester, allegedly walked into Carlson's office and demanded a grade of B. 

Carlson, who is a former prizefighter with the personality of a pit bull, stands 6 ft 2, and at that time weighed a muscular 220 pds., is a good judge of character and a man of the world.  He gave Donnie his B, and Donnie graduated, to embark on a career selling stocks and bonds. 

On entering the "real world," Donnie attempted to employ those "Mau Mau tactics," with which he had bullied his way through the genteel groves of academe.  His boss was a man of the "real world," but, alas, not of the streets, and a less shrewd judge of character than my friend Professor Carlson.  They say he laughed Donnie out of his office, then fired him.  So Donnie went home, and returning with what Cardinal Richelieu called the ultima ratio, did some firing of his own—at point blank range. 

Donnie's former boss is now playing the harp. 

There are certain students we all love to teach.  Lovely, enthusiastic American beauty roses, with IQs above 132, gifted imaginations, nice tidy work habits, and appreciative smiles.   It is easy for teachers to fall in love with persons so beautifully equipped, and so splendidly prepared to recognize our superior teaching skills.  They are not like that lazy, disrespectful, lawless rogue, Donnie Gilmore.  We do not encounter his kind in the AP program, or in the honors college.  Heavens no! 

posted 20 August 2007

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Liberian Dreams

Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s

Edited by Wilson J. Moses

In the early nineteenth century, the American Colonization Society was formed for the purpose of encouraging emigration of free blacks to Africa. While intent on ridding the United States of what the Society's members saw as a dangerous black population, the association also attracted some liberals who viewed its goals as an incentive toward emancipation.

Attitudes among African Americans toward colonization were varied, some viewing it as an opportunity to start new lives in a free country and others seeing in it a deceptive scheme of the white man. But when the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 put the freedom of every person of African descent in jeopardy, many began to consider emigration their only option.

This collection of historic documents illuminates the debate on emigration through the narratives of four black men who in 1853 traveled to the new black nation of Liberia. Their accounts offer surprisingly different views and insights on the young country and provide both endorsements and condemnations of the colonization effort.

Liberian Dreams contains four selections that have never before been published in a single volume: William Nesbit's attack on Liberia and its sponsors, Samuel Williams's spirited defense of the black republic in response to Nesbit, Daniel Peterson's pro-emigration tract commissioned by the ACS, and Augustus Washington's balanced critique of both sides of the issue. Each account offers a perspective not found in the others, and together they cover nearly the full range of debate among black Americans of that time.

These narratives shed light not only on the experience of creating a new country but also on the conflict among African Americans over the colonization effort, and they offer a unique opportunity to witness African Americans encountering Africans and their cultures. The selection by Augustus Washington in particular reveals the insights of an educated community activist with a sure understanding of the issues at stake.

Historian Wilson Moses, who has published widely on African American history and black nationalism, provides an introduction that expertly places the selections in context.

Wilson Jeremiah Moses is Professor of History at Penn State. Among his other books are  Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth (Penn State, 1993) and The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (Oxford, 1988).

Source: PSU Press

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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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King of the Mountain

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By Arnold M. Ludwig

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

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update 31  January 2012




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