Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sam Greenlee's THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, Urban Revolts of the 1960s, and Beyond

[by Thabiti Lewis]

50 years ago, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed. This also happens to be the year that Watts went up flames.

The Watts uprising in California left 1000 people injured and 34 people dead, and it led to more than 3900 arrests because of years of police brutality. In 2014, in cities across the United States--from Ferguson and St. Louis to Chicago and New York--there was unrest as people organized to protest police brutality and a justice system that repeatedly refused to indict police officers that killed unarmed black men (black women, too, have not been immune to murder at the hands of police).

Sam Greenlee’s 1969 novel The Spook Who Sat By the Door captured the spirit of the many revolts in the 1960s, leveling a harsh critique of America’s failure to deliver on its democratic ideals and promises to black folk. The revolt in Chicago that explodes at the end of Greenlee’s novel and catches fire in cities across America mirrored the racial disturbances in major cities in 1964, 1965, and 1967, and the uprisings in more than 100 cities across the country when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.  It also mirrors Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was murdered. The Spook is a unique novel because it is more than a response to the contradictions of American democracy. It is calculated art, void of blindness or naiveté, offering an effective example of discourse of black protest for the future.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Black Literary Suite Kick-Off: Black Writers with a Kansas Connection

[by Meredith Wiggins]

On Wednesday, February 25, from 3 - 4:30 p.m., HBW and the KU Libraries co-hosted Black Literary Suites: Black Writers with a Kansas Connection.

The kick-off event featured a poster display, a self-guided audio tour, a display of relevant books from HBW's collections, and a preview of HBW's video tribute to John A. Williams.


Over the course of the 90-minute event, dozens of students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered to learn more about the history of black writers like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank Marshall Davis, and Langston Hughes in the Sunflower State.

The BLS poster display will remain up in Watson Library's fourth-floor Hallway Gallery through most of March, so if you haven't gotten a chance to visit yet, there's still time! 

Many thanks to all those who attended the event - and especially to the KU Libraries for their generous support of HBW's programming!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Remembering Anne Moody (Sept. 15, 1940 - Feb. 5, 2015)

[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.]

Four years after graduating from Tougaloo College, the young Anne Moody published Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968).  It is noteworthy that this autobiography has been “in-print” and acclaimed since its initial publication.  Similar life histories of civil rights workers, both autobiography and biography, have come and gone, getting enthusiastic receptions when they first appear.  But after a few years, enthusiasm wears thin. The eagerly received life histories age rapidly and virtually disappear.

Moody’s autobiography escaped this fate. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

HBW Emerging Scholars: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the "Slave Narrative" Genre

[by Amanda M. Sladek]

The HBW Emerging Scholars series offers graduate student scholars the chance to share pieces that speak to their own critical interests in more depth than usual blog posts. Today's post is by University of Kansas graduate student Amanda M. Sladek, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition.

Toussaint L’Ouverture is known as the father of Haitian independence and the leader of the most successful slave rebellion in world history. He is also considered one of the most prolific writers of the Haitian Revolution, authoring hundreds of letters and political documents. Foremost among these documents is The Memoir of General Toussaint L’Ouverture. Today, this text is often regarded as an example of the “slave narrative” genre, but this label reflects the history of American abolitionism more than L’Ouverture’s own life and legacy.