Friday, June 24, 2016

Michelle Cliff (1946-2016): Writer, Critic, and Fighter of Racism and Homophobia

Michelle Cliff was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 2, 1946. She graduated from Wagner College in New York City in 1969 and then from Warburg Institute in London in 1974 with a PhD in the Italian Renaissance. A novelist, poet, short story writer, and literary critic, Cliff's works seek to retell history, addressing political and cultural issues. Cliff spent much of her childhood in New York, as her parents immigrated to the United States to look for better economic opportunities. She would return to Jamaica frequently to visit relatives before anchoring herself in the United States. This movement and exposure prompted her to adopt a multicultural identity, for she felt she could not limit her writing to just one place.

ICYMI: The Last Week in Black Writing and Culture (6/17-6/23)

"Seshat: A Digital Humanities Initiative in Literature, Language, and Criticism" sponsored by Howard University took place this week. Search hashtag #DHatHU on Twitter to keep up with the workshop presentations.

Dr. Tamara Cash wrote a piece on Juneteenth, highlighting an exhibit at the Watkins Museum of History commemorating the historic event. The exhibit is free to the public and will remain open through July.

See these amazing color photos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his Chicago Freedom Movement campaign.

The Guardian published the piece, "Four Times African Writers Rewrote a Western Classic and Nailed it."

On NPRs Fresh Air segment, host Terry Gross spoke to Wendy Warren about her new book, New England Bound. Warren's book recounts how the New England colonists embraced the slave trade.

Khalid Rahmaan of The Nation spoke about Muhammad Ali and what it means to transcend race.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Requiem for Human Dreams

"Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved." This sentence from W. E. B. DuBois's article "A Negro Nation Within the Nation," Current History 42 (1935 ): 265-270 has been quoted by Ibram X. Kendi in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016). Du Bois's assertion sounds in 2016 like a lament from a person in ideological pain, and there can be no doubt that Kendi quoted Du Bois to remind us of the implacable and always changing conditions of human existence. There are indigenous nations still within the United States of America, but we who have no membership in those nations remain ignorant of them by choice. Perhaps, the ignorance is more a reflex action than a rational choice, an unconscious motion of marking the authenticity of being an American. Such ignorance and indifference, or selectivity in our commerce with facts, is not innately necessary or sufficient, a part of unadulterated biological functioning. It is a part of social and cultural engineering. No doubt we remain unmoved by knowing this fact, because the excruciating pain of being an American paralyzes common sense as well as the qualities of charity, hope, and faith which manifest themselves in most of the religions of this world.

Stamped from the Beginning, like any book, may only awaken a few dozen Americans and disturb the bliss of ignorance. Nevertheless, Kendi's book may awaken a handful of Americans to recognize what such widely discussed books as Kevin Powell's The Education of Kevin Powell, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and Ta'Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and such infrequently discussed books as Dennis de Rougemont's The Devil's Share, Sam Greenlee's Baghdad Blues, Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd work toward by indirection: the abject cognitive poverty of sentences in which the word "race" is the subject. There can be no doubt that Americans remain indifferent and unmoved by arguments in Charles W. Mills's The Racial Contract, arguments that are as crucial as the fictions about terrorism which circulate internationally.

As an irreversible new ordering of the world descends upon us , cognitive poverty ascends. In 2016, Americans and other human beings know only two facts: (1) Nothing is neither true nor false, because it is nothing and (2) Everything is either true or false, because it is everything. Know that these magic propositions ordain a requiem for human dreams.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. 
June 18, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Juneteenth @ 150 + -- In Lawrence, KS and Beyond

Summer 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the realization among the last enslaved people in America that they were now free under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, two months after the official end of the Civil War, General Gordon Granger, commander of the occupying troops in Texas and Oklahoma, read the Declaration aloud to those gathered. When the news of the emancipation spread among the newly freed, they responded with joy and celebration.

June 19th became an annual day of celebration of the end of slavery, and eventually became popular throughout the nation, as black Texans migrated throughout the United States in the decades after Emancipation. The term “Juneteenth” is a Black English Vernacular contraction of two words, June and nineteenth.

This annual festival of freedom continues to celebrate the end of slavery in America. Like other cities it served as the catalyst for the 150th anniversary commemoration event held in June 2015 by the local NAACP chapter in Lawrence, Kansas, with the cooperation of The Freedoms’ Frontier National Heritage Project, the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, the Watkins Museum of History, the City of Lawrence, and the Project on the History of Black Writing.

The Lawrence, Kansas Juneteenth History exhibit consists of 5 standing panels featuring images and text depicting the lives of African Americans in the era following the Civil War. The exhibit is being offered again this year, 2016, by the Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence, as a courtesy reminder of our collective past. Stop by and dedicate 30 minutes of your time to celebrate Juneteenth with us. You may learn something new!

We encourage you to share your stories on Juneteenth! Tweet #JuneteenthinLawrence @ProjectHBW.

[Tamara Cash, Exhibit Designer]

Tamara Cash is a native of CoffeyvilIe, KS. She is a KU alum with undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. Cash completed a PhD in 2006. She is a retired school psychologist, currently consulting in K-12 education. She also serves on the boards of several community organizations with a focus on eldercare/senior issues. In addition, Cash has a special interest in matters of cultural equity and African-American history.


Please consult the list below for educational resources on the history of Juneteenth:

"Juneteenth" at The Handbook of Texas Online, run by the Texas State Historical Association

"History of Juneteenth" at

"Juneteenth: The Joy of Freedom" at

Cultural resources on Juneteenth through the African American Lectionary

Many additional resources are available through the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation

Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment by Michael Vorenberg

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison

Children's books

Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford 

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Juneteenth by Micheaux and Drew Nelson

[Lists compiled by Project HBW staff Mona Ahmed and Matthew Broussard.]