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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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All people have "class" interests.   The "power elite" understand their class interests automatically,

as Adam Smith noted.  The exploited classes do not understand their class interests unless

they are educated and organized.   But education and organization are difficult tasks . . .



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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What Can Be Done?
By Wilson J.  Moses

Monday, March 2, 2009


Old Marxist historians used to say the Nazis inflamed the fears of incoherent multitudes; activated the paranoia of amorphous masses, who did not understand their own material class interests.  Those old scrappers tried to illuminate the economic basis of Nazism, but it was difficult for them to do so.  That history is treated in such understandably emotional terms.  I once read an editorial that mentioned, in passing, that Hitler was a vegetarian.  Almost overnight, a letter to the editor responded, "No, he was not; Hitler was an anti-Semite." 

That Hitler was an anti-Semite is obvious, and the fact that he and his stinking Nazis were responsible for the holocaust is beyond question.    These facts, however, should not keep us from analyzing Nazism as a cynical response to material conditions.  The economic crisis of the Weimar Republic made it possible for the Nazis to exploit vulgar populism. 

The hyper-nationalism of the Third Reich is similar to, although hardly identical to, the Anglo-American impulse to achieve hegemony from the Bosporus to the Hindu Kush.  It is true that all such adventures arise from desires to achieve economic goals.   It might have been in the interest of the United States to have cooperated with the Russian puppet government in Kabul, just as it was once in our interest to cooperate with Stalin to defeat Hitler.  Of course, neither Reagan, nor the Soviets could have had sufficient imagination to see any convergence of Soviet-American interests in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where many problems arose out of conflicts between the Ottoman and the British empires.

Political imagination is important, and it most certainly matters what some of us think.  Even if no one is asking our opinions, it is worthwhile for us to exert the efforts of formulating and communicating our thoughts.   Communication through a blog is worthwhile, but more important is simply formulating our thoughts in writing.  There are connections between the health of the mind, the health of the body, and the health of the society in which we must eat and drink and breathe.

All people have "class" interests.   The "power elite" understand their class interests automatically, as Adam Smith noted.  The exploited classes do not understand their class interests unless they are educated and organized.   But education and organization are difficult tasks, since the majority of educational institutions are dedicated to resisting, even the rotation of elites, much less the amelioration of mass ignorance.   The idea of a truly democratic university—dedicated to the joy of knowledge and creativity for their own sakes—is impossible, until the day when the entire world becomes a university. 

Many people seek to major in business in order to become class-exploiters, but not all of them.  Many people study engineering from a simple instinctive desire, to understand what makes things tick.   Some study medicine from altruistic motives.   A few study classics, mathematics, or comparative literature for the simple joy of learning.

A few students describe themselves as liberal; they volunteer to work with disadvantaged kids; they run solitary marathons; they practice Yoga; they master languages; they attend Quaker, Unitarian, or Reform meetings; study art; write haiku; eat müssli; watch birds; and keep their fingers crossed for Obama.  Alas, too many students are just good kids, who simply don't think too much, and are easily swayed by the "conservative" propaganda machine that has dominated American universities and think tanks for the past thirty years.  They attend college in the foolish belief that a college degree based on inflated grades will guarantee them a comfortable economic future. 

Penn State University is a major employer in Centre County PA, where Rush Limbaugh has a substantial audience among government employees, working either for the University or the Prison. For the present, most prisons remain in the public sector, although there are concerted efforts towards privatization of American prisons—a growth "industry" in the United States. It is interesting, but not surprising that Rush Limbaugh's rantings about the evils of the state find an audience among state employees, including buildings and grounds keepers at this University, local bus drivers, prison workers, and other workers in the tax-supported sector.  

A similar audience hearkens to Lou Dobbs' ranting over Mexicans getting drivers' license.  Mexicans don't come here to get drivers' licenses; they come at the behest of hypocritical church-going capitalists, who bring them here to work for low wages, without benefits or health insurance.  The best way to solve the migrant worker problem would be to pass and enforce good minimum wage laws—then give the Mexicans Social Security and national health insurance.   We would see far fewer undocumented aliens!

Warren Buffet seems to be admitting his mistakes these days, as Alan Greenspan cries crocodile tears.  Both remind me of former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, who  waited thirty years to admit, that he knew all along that the Vietnam War was wrong.  He knew that it was unnecessary to send more than 60,000 Americans to their deaths, not to mention those who were castrated, blinded, maimed, or driven mad.  And one must never mention the countless civilian dead: South Vietnamese 1,581,000; Cambodians 700,000; Laotian 50,000; North Vietnamese 3,000,000, and all the other Asians who were crippled and disfigured!

If many of my students regard me as out of tune or irrelevant, a few seem happy I am here.  Some regard me with a kindly tolerance—one or two even with affection.   I am not alone, there are obviously many other people who feel that it does matter what we think, Quixotic though we may be.    I don't know what people like the Clintons think.  They've made a few commendable gestures, but also aggravated and perpetuated many aspects of Reaganism

Al Gore seems to be oblivious to the fact that his commitment to economies based on the fallacy of Limitless Growth are inconsistent with his Environmentalism.  Unfortunately Obama has some of the same flaws, but he may be able to enact some features of a mixed economy, with some sensitivity to environmentalism.  I hope he can turn back the Reagan revolution and get us back to square-one by reinstituting the Roosevelt reforms.  That would at least place us on a launch pad from which a little progress might begin. Let us hope so.

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Other Commentary

Wars, Endless Wars—Bob Herbert—Even as the U.S. begins plans to reduce troop commitments in Iraq, it is sending thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan. The strategic purpose of this escalation, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, is not at all clear. . . . Lyndon Johnson, despite a booming economy, lost his Great Society to the Vietnam War. He knew what he was risking. He would later tell Doris Kearns Goodwin, “If I left the woman I really loved — the Great Society — in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs... All my dreams...” The United States is on its knees economically. As President Obama fights for his myriad domestic programs and his dream of an economic recovery, he might benefit from a look over his shoulder at the link between Vietnam and the still-smoldering ruins of Johnson’s presidency. NYTimes

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#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

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

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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.

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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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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 / 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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posted 3 March 2009 




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