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There are those who argue that raising the issue of women's liberation is

divisive of Black unity. They argue that, in reality, the women's movement

drives a "wedge" between Black women and Black men in our social relationships.

 

 

Books by Kalamu ya Salaam

 

The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)

 

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Our Women Keep our Skies From Falling

Six Essays in Support of The Struggle To Smash Sexism/Develop Women

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Women's Rights Are Human Rights

By Kalamu ya Salaam

 

My position, succinctly stated, is simply this: any discussion of the issue of human rights should include a discussion of women's rights. The reason for my statement, while complex in its subtleties, is simple in its substance. Simply said, women are human beings.

Our struggle for human rights must be grounded in a rejection of the oppression of any identifiable segment or stratum of human societies, regardless of the criterion of differentiation or discrimination, e.g. race, class or sex.

Based on my study and analysis of my own experiences and environment, as well as study and analysis of the experiences and environments of other peoples, in other places and other periods of time, I draw the conclusion that the issue of women's rights has and continues to be a central concern of millions of women who daily suffer the degradations and deprivations of sexual chauvinism in its institutionalized and individual forms. The suffering of women in general, third world women in particular, and especially the suffering of the Afrikan-american woman, hurts me in ways too numerous to delineate. Yet beyond the personal pain, there is a social reality which must be recognized, namely, that sexism is a means, used by our enemies, to help maintain our subjugation as a people.

Perhaps some are wondering why should an Afrikan-american man be concerned with an issue like women's rights, an issue which is often erroneously identified with "bored, middle class white women" who are tired of staying home. My response to that question is a query of my own: is there any reason why I shouldn't be concerned with women's rights, after all am I not born of woman, aren't we all born of woman?

I am concerned about the issue of women's rights because I understand that women's rights is a political issue and I am a political person. I understand that the oppression and exploitation of women is an integral aspect of every reactionary social system which ever existed and I am struggling to be a progressive. I understand that women, like land, are primary to life, and I am a living being.

I am concerned about the issue of women's rights because I am striving to be a revolutionary, and without the eradication of sexism there will be no true and thorough going revolution.

At this moment in history, asserting a position which I feel is my revolutionary responsibility to put forward, I hear the echoes of our heritage urging me to be firm. I hear Frederick Douglas, who also spoke out strongly in support of women's rights. Douglas was vilified and shunned by former friends who could not understand his concern for the rights of women. I hear Douglas being called an "hermaphrodite" and other terms which questioned his sexuality because of his stand on sexism. But in the spirit of Frederick Douglas, I do declare that I too should rather be called "hermaphrodite" and other names because of my support for women's rights, than have women continually referred to as "bitch," and "broad" in everyday ameican speech.

There are those who argue that raising the issue of women's liberation is divisive of Black unity. They argue that, in reality, the women's movement drives a "wedge" between Black women and Black men in our social relationships. They argue that the promotion of women in the work force cuts down on the employment opportunities for men and effectively throws Black men out of work. They argue that Black women don't want to be lesbians and live with other women but rather that they want to be united with Black men in peace and harmony. Some even argue that women should not work outside of the home is one of the most important tasks of nation-building or socialization. These are some of the arguments sincerely and seriously raised against our full and active involvement in the struggle for women's rights.

But the profound truth of the matter is that all of these arguments deny women the option to exercise their rights, to control their lives in whatever manner they see fit. Full rights for women does not ipso facto mean that women will all have to conform to some mythical "liberated norm." It means, instead, that women will decide for themselves their social lifestyles and social relationships.

Women's liberation has not driven a wedge between women and men. Firstly, women do not control this society. This society is controlled by a ruthless, racist, sexist, and capitalist patriarchy. if we would look past the propaganda pushed in the establishment press, we should clearly recognize whose hand is on the hammer attempting to beat us into submission, we would see who actually wields the wedge of division . To divide and conquer has always been a tactic of a minority who are oppressing and exploiting a majority.

Secondly, issues such as "women's lib is denying or stopping Black men from getting jobs" is not true. We must understand that women do not do most of the hiring and firing in America. Women do not run the major or minor corporations. With very few exceptions, it is a man or some group of men, and usually white, who make those kinds of decisions.

We are all for the unity of our women with our men, but not if that unity is to be male superior / female inferior. The emotional crux of most of the arguments against women's liberation is, when mouthed by men, actually a fear of independent women, a hatred of independent women, an ideological opposition to any women being independent of  man's control. When espoused by women, most of these arguments simply amount to the attempts by an insecure woman, whose sense of self is that of an inferior entity, to maintain the certainties of a slavery she "thinks' she understands and to one degree or another has learned to cope with, rather than face a challenging liberation which she finds difficult to envision.

Cabral has noted that within the context of liberation struggle, the emancipation of women is a difficult issue. ".  . . during the fight the important thing is the political role of women . . . It is all a part of the process of transformation, of change in the material conditions of the existence of our people, but also in the minds of the women, because sometimes the greatest difficulty is not only in the men but in the women too."1

In all of the contemporary national liberation movements in the Third World, whether in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania or the Caribbean, great attention is always paid to the eradication of sexism and the development of women. Why is this the case?

Is sexism a universal constant? Is it true, as we have been taught, that beginning with Adam and Eve there has been a battle of the sexes going on, that one sex has , is and, in a all probability, will continue to try to dominate the other sex? Do we really believe these fairy tales, these rationalizations? Do we really believe that men and women are "naturally" antagonistic to each other?

Sexism is not a biological necessity, it is rather the reflection of reactionary ideas, particularly "bourgeois individualism." In a bourgeois society, private ownership is the basic goal of most endeavors, whether it is to own land and material wealth, hence private property; or to own labor and industry, hence private enterprise in the form of capitalism; or to ultimately own other human beings, hence slavery and sexism. Couple this type of thinking with the belief that the individual is supreme, and what will result will be a society peopled by selfish and self-centered human beings who have no true concern for those around them or those who will follow them.

The roots of modern day sexism are to be found in "prehistoric" Europe and the trunk of sexism is a patriarchy watered by capitalism and imperialism. Understand that sexism is the systematic oppression and / or exploitation of a group of people based on the criterion of sex. In america today, and everywhere else where capitalism and imperialism have gone unchecked, unchallenged and unchanged, sexism is deeply entrenched into the social fabric. Indeed, in self-proclaimed socialist societies, also, remnants of sexism remain to be rooted out.

We do not have the time to analyze in detail my assertion that the roots of modern day sexism are found in prehistoric Europe. However, the statement, I am sure, is too provocative to most of us to be accepted simply at face value. So for purposes of brevity I cite a reference. The reference is The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, by Cheikh Anta Diop, published in America by Third World Press.2

Diop's book traces and analyzes the development of patriarchy and matriarchy, the class characteristics and clashes of the two social systems, the merging of the two, and the domination of patriarchy over matriarchy. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex topic, we summarize Diop's findings to include the positing of a two cradle concept. These two cradles are Aryan and African, northern and southern, patriarchal and matriarchal. According to Diop's analysis, which contests that of other social scientists, including Marx and Engles, matriarchy is not universal.. The history of human development in its progressive movement did not go from matriarchy to patriarchy, for in fact, there never was a matriarchy in Europe. "As far as we can go back into the Indo-European past, even so far back as the Eurasian steppes, there is only to be found the patrilineal genos with the system of consanguinity which at the present day still characterized their descendants."

What is matriarchy? Is matriarchy the domination of women over men? Is matriarchy amazonism? Is matriarchy lesbianism? Is matriarchy strong women and weak men? No. Matriarchy is a social system within which blood relationships are traced through the maternal line and within which women enjoy equal political and economic rights.

Why should a wife and child assume the husband/father's name? Traditionally this was done for the purposes of the protection of property rights, namely, the identification of property and the succession of property.

Today, we continue using this patriarchal form of naming allegedly in order to identify the parents of children and vice versa. How unscientific to trace parentage via the father, when there is no known conclusive proof of male parentage. How much more scientific and simple it is to trace parentage via the mother, because regardless of whether the actual father of the child is known or unknown, the mother of the child is identified conclusively by the fact of giving birth to that child.

In a patriarchal society, the concern is not with identifying parents but rather with identifying property, hence children born so-called "out of wedlock."  This is just one small example of the pervasiveness and perverseness of the patriarchal social system. However, let us return to our central concern. Regardless of the roots of sexism, it should be clear that sexism is a real and reactionary way of life that must be eradicated.

Today, women continue to get less pay for equal work, and lack equal access to both educational and employment opportunities. Today, women continue to be regarded as the sexual toys of powerful men, men whose social relationships with women are controlled more by the heads of their penises than the heads on their shoulders, men whose main modes of reasoning conditions them to think that they can either buy or take a woman's body. Today, rape continues to be one of the most common and unreported crimes in America. Today, childcare continues to be virtually nonexistent and/or exorbitantly priced.

One sure sign of sexism is the objectification of women's bodies, the turning of women into commodities to be bought, sold, bartered for or stolen. The gains in women's rights, just as the gains in civil rights for African-Americans, are seemingly becoming little more than paper formalities and highly touted token adjustments.

African-American women are still the most exploited stratum of american society. In fact, throughout the world, the lower class woman of color is on the bottom of nearly every society within which she is found.

Virtually every indicator of social inequality proves this to be the case,, whether we are discusiing employment or illness, educational development or access to leadership and decison-making positions.

In conclusion, I urge that we open our eyes to the reality of sexism and fight it. I urge everyone, particularly men, to speak out against sexism and support the struggles of women to defend and develop themselves. I urge greater attention to be paid to the social and material conditions which lead to an reinforce sexism, a deeper and more accurate analysis needs to be done, and resolute and uncompromising action needs to be taken.

The denial of any human right is always based in the political repression of one group by another group. Sexism does not exist because women are "unclean during their monthly periods," nor because women are weaker than men, nor because "god' was unhappy with the behavior of women. Sexism exists because men have organized themselves to oppress and exploit women.

Sexism will be eradicated only through organized resistance and struggle. Women's rights will be won only when we consciously overturn all vestiges of patriarchy and "bourgeois" right. No person has the right to either own, oppress, enslave, or exploit another person. Sexism is not a right--it is a wrong.

We must stand for what is right and fight against what is wrong.

My attempt has not been to analyze in detail the denial of human rights for women, rather I had a more modest goal in mid. I seek to place on the agenda of human rights the question of women's rights as a top priority item.

I hope that this topic has shown "Pandora's box" to be a myth created by men who want to keep "women, coloreds, and other inferiors" hidden in the dank caves of injustice and reaction as a top priority item.

I hope that I have broadened the view on what human rights is, and indeed, on who human beings are. It is so easy in america to forget that women are human beings, to forget that women have rights. Hopefully, this presentation will stir up opposition to sexism, will bring women and men out of their shells of self-denial and isolation, and into the light of truth and justice.

It will not be easy to win rights for women, just as it will not be easy to defeat South Africa, just as it will not be easy to stop nuclear power, to clean up the environment, to end economic exploitation, to plan and control the economy, or to win national liberation for  African-Americans. But it can be done. Sexism can be smashed.

My hope is that from this day forward we will not hesitate to stand for women's rights, to place it on any and every agenda of progressive social development. Know that when you stand for women's rights you stand beside the most courageous and progressive people who have ever lived. You stand next to men and women who are not afraid of the future because they are willing to struggle in the present to correct historical wrongs.

A great woman by the name of Sojourner Truth once gave a brilliant speech which included the famous phrase "ain't I a woman!" This is continuance of that woman's work. In the spirit of Sojourner Truth, I urge you to join in the struggle for women's rights, whether you are woman or man. If Sojourner were here today she would challenge you in the same way. Sojourner is not here, but her spirit is. Although I ain't a woman, I say without hesitation that women's rights are human rights. I am committed to and call for the smashing of sexism and the securing of women's rights. I am committed to and call for the smashing of sexism and the securing women's rights. I believe that we will win women's rights.

1Cabral, Amilcar. "Return to the Source." Monthly Review, 1973, p. 85.

2Diop, Cheikh A. The Cultural Unity of Africa. (Chicago: Third World Press, 1959), p. 45

"Women's Rights Are Human Rights" was first presented at an international Human Rights Conference that was held during November 1978 at Xavier University in New Orleans; later, it was published in BLACK SCHOLAR (Vol.10, Nos. 6,7).

Cover Drawing by Douglass Redd  copyright July 1980 By Kalamu ya Salaam

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Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

 A Radical Democratic Vision

By Barbara Ransby

One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.

In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker's long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century. UNC Press

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Who Was Ella Baker—Ella Baker began her involvement with the NAACP in 1940. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946. Inspired by the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Baker co-founded the organization In Friendship to raise money to fight against Jim Crow Laws in the deep South. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King's new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship.

On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University refused to leave a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. Baker left the SCLC after the Greensboro sit-ins. She wanted to assist the new student activists because she viewed young, emerging activists as a resource and an asset to the movement. Miss Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  was born.

Adopting the Gandhian theory of nonviolent direct action, SNCC members joined with activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to organize in the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1964 SNCC helped create Freedom Summer, an effort to focus national attention on Mississippi's racism and to register black voters. . . .

With Ella Baker's guidance and encouragement, SNCC became one of the foremost advocates for human rights in the country. Ella Baker once said, "This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real." Her audacity to dream big is a cornerstone of our philosophy. Her influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: "Fundi," a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.—EllaBakerCenter

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Endgame AIDS in Black America

HIV Continues Its Grim Toll on Blacks in the U.S.—‘Endgame: AIDS in Black America’ on PBS—9 July 2012—Today in America, 152 people will become infected with H.I.V.,” a speaker is telling a World AIDS Day gathering as the program opens. “Half of them will be black. Today in America, two-thirds of the new H.I.V. cases among women will be black. Today in America, 70 percent of the new H.I.V. cases among youth will be black.”

From there the program, directed by Renata Simone, embarks on a history lesson, tracing how AIDS was almost immediately typecast as a disease of gay white men, even though some of the earliest cases were in black men. That led to an indifference among blacks at the start of the epidemic, and soon along came the drug nightmare of the 1990s, with sex being traded for a fix, rampant needle sharing and resistance to needle-exchange programs that sought to do something about the problem. Endemic poverty in black America of course exacerbated everything about the AIDS crisis.

Black leaders acknowledge that they failed to take the kind of vocal role in the early years that they had been known for in civil rights battles and other struggles. “I didn’t do what I could have done and should have done,” Julian Bond, the civil rights activist and a former chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., says bluntly.—nytimes

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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 Eroticanoir.com 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

Non-fiction

#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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Shadowboxing

Representations of Black Feminist Politics

By Joy James

James rejects the liberalism of conventional black feminism for a radical agenda, which, in the tradition of black feminists Ella Baker and Ida B. Wells, targets capitalism and the state as perpetuators of race, class, and gender oppression. Their legacy of radicalism and activism is juxtaposed to the black feminist praxis and thought of Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown. This book successfully demonstrates that black feminism is authentically rooted in the black community. Especially enlightening is James's discussion on "distinctions between black men championing black females as patriarchal protectors and black men championing feminism to challenge sexism." An interdisciplinary and well-analyzed representation of radical black women fighting for rights and visibility. Recommended for women's studies, African American studies, or political collections.—Library Journal

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Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation

on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

By Harriet A. Washington

 

Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations. It reveals how blacks have historically been prey to grave-robbing as well as unauthorized autopsies and dissections. . . . The product of years of prodigious research into medical journals and experimental reports long undisturbed, Medical Apartheid reveals the hidden underbelly of scientific research and makes possible, for the first time, an understanding of the roots of the African American health deficit.—Random House / Kam Williams review

 

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

 "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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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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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Home  Kalamu ya Salaam Table  

Related files: "Revolutionary Struggle/Revolutionary Love"  Our Women Keep Our Skies From Falling  Preface: It Aint Easy   Debunking Myths 

Rape: A Radical Analysis   "Women's Rights Are Human Rights"