ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Don’t be fourteen / black and male in Mississippi, / have two 20/20 eyes,

feet that fail to buck, wing, and tap, / a mouth that whistles / they castrate you, wrap

you in cotton-bailing wire / while your blood still feels, / feed you to the Tallahatchie . . .



Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Three Poems by Jerry Ward

"Thank-You” Note to American Presidents / Don’t Be Fourteen (in Mississippi)

I Did Not Ask to Be a Palestinian


"Thank-You” Note to American Presidents
                                             By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

How beautiful
is the blood of the dead
splashed like azaleas
on the body of Earth
You have
made my day
29 March 2011 

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I Did Not Ask to Be a Palestinian

                (For Atef Al-Dabbour)

                                    By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


They afflicted us, taunted us, condemned us,

determined us to be out of place like roaches.

We must leave their lebensraum.


Before the fall our family was happy,

counting days in olives and figs.

Our home had pitas baked in love,

bulging with lamb and spices.

Oranges and mint tea quenched our thirst.

Sleep was sweet.  Our land knew peace.


History is cruel.

Two thousand years it sleeps;

it awakens to terrorize,

to swarm like a legion of locusts

intent on genocide-missions,

to ravish, to leave us

merely skeletons inside barbed wire

or merely traumatized eyes

or merely brave souls in famished flesh.

History merely blasphemes: God chose to put you out of place.


My parents weep and sicken unto death.

Dreams of happiness smash

against nightmares: beasts are eating my people.

Salaam, salaam, why have you forsaken us?

My unborn nephews will never know

quite why their names are out of place, disidentified.


Once, my tongue confessed

That dispossession is rancid wine in an open wound.


They asked:

Why not request reparations?


And I replied:

How can I,

blessed by Allah,

ask for money

Kissed by Yahweh?


But they still don’t understand.

I did not ask to become Palestinian.

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Don’t Be Fourteen (in Mississippi)

                             By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.


Don’t be fourteen

black and male in Mississippi

                they put your mind

                in a paper sack, dip it

                in liquid nitrogen

                for later consumption.

Don’t be fourteen

black and male in Mississippi,

have two 20/20 eyes,

feet that fail to buck, wing, and tap,

a mouth that whistles

                they castrate you, wrap

                you in cotton-bailing wire

                while your blood still feels,

                feed you to the Tallahatchie

                as guilt-offering to blue-eyed susans,

Don’t be fourteen

black and male in Mississippi

                they say you a bad nigger

                named Bubba, a disgrace

                to the race in your first offense,

                and  give you to Parchman

                for  forty-eight years.

                You need, they say, a chance to grow.

Don’t be fourteen

black and male in Mississippi

                they say you a man at two.

                be one.

                when white boys ask

                why don’t you like them,

                spit on them

                with your mouth closed.

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Approved Killing in Mississippi   /  Comments on Emmett Till  

The Katrina Papers by Jerry W. Ward, Jr  The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)

*   *   *   *   *'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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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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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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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

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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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ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more) 






posted 2 April 2010 




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Related files: End of African-American Literature?