Monday, September 30, 2013

Jesmyn Ward and the National Book Awards

[By Goyland Williams]

In 2011, the National Book Foundation awarded book awards in poetry and fiction to Nikky Finney and Jesmyn Ward, respectively. I go back to that moment in 2011 because it is and was a rare occasion when not one, but two black women received one of the premier prizes for writers. Furthermore, it was the first time that I—a young black man tuned in to watch what became an interesting moment in history. 

In addition to Finney and Ward, Yusef Komunyakaa and the late Manning Marable were also nominated for The Chameleon Couch and Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. With the exception of Jesmyn Ward, all of the writers/scholars mentioned above were already established and successful prior to the nominations. Of course, it never hurts to win a National Book Award!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Novel Ahead of Time

[By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.]

The gatekeepers of American culture who think American literature is dying as their worlds hip hop to a start can find consolation in Mat Johnson’s Pym: A Novel (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2010).  The book extends the olive branch of hope.  It is evidence of things not seen.  If the gatekeepers have not been convinced to stop playing at being Melchizedek by Garry Will’s Why Priests? : A Failed Tradition (New York: Viking, 2013), Pym will teach them the errors of their ways.

Pym restores the centrality of Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), in American Studies.  It confirms that white cannot possess “the perfect whiteness of snow” without a drop of black.  “Whatever twentieth-century ‘whites’ think about ‘blacks,’ according to Joseph R. Urgo’s Novel Frames: Literature as Guide to Race, Sex, and History in American Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991), “they owe their existence ---politically and culturally, and in many cases, genetically --- to those same black drops”(19).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Paul Robeson: Artist and Activist

[ By Meredith Wiggins]

The Tallest Tree in the Forest, actor and playwright Daniel Beaty’s new one-man show about the life of African American actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson, ends with Beaty eulogizing Robeson with some of Robeson’s own words: “The artist must take sides.  He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery.  I have made my choice.”  That quote, which would become Robeson’s epitaph, provides an accurate summation of Beaty’s view of Robeson, an artist and performer whose real-life dedication to human rights causes and early support of the Soviet Union saw him branded as a Communist by the press and government of the United States and driven out of show business almost until the end of his life.

Before he came under fire from J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joseph McCarthy, Robeson spent a number of years building a massive following as an international film and theatre star.  He is probably best remembered for his role as Joe in Hammerstein and Kern’s groundbreaking musical Show Boat—specifically, for his rendition of the show’s most famous song, "Ol' Man River"—but Robeson was actually not the first actor to play the role.  (He took over from the original Joe, Jules Bledsoe, when the show opened in London in 1928, and subsequently played the role twice more on stage, as well as in the 1936 filmed musical.)  So great was his popularity that the lawyer-turned-performer even sang before the Prince of Wales.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Looking Back: The Project on the History of Black Writing

[By Goyland Williams]

Over the past week, the Project on the History of Black Writing have released our Look Back Series as part of HBW’s 30 year anniversary. Collectively, the video series has given a glimpse into key events, conferences, literary scholars, grants, and institutions that have helped to ensure the success and mission of the project.

Although HBW’s history spans all the way back to 1983 at the University of Mississippi, (1989-1997) at Northeastern University, and (1998-Present) now at the University of Kansas, one factor has remained fixed—Dr. Maryemma Graham. Graham’s emphasis on collaborative work, board member support, and her persistence, has been integral for the success that HBW has enjoyed throughout the years. 

While at the University of Kansas, HBW has been very successful in receiving funding from the National Endowment in the Humanities and other external funding devoted to public outreach, professional development, and literary recovery. Below, I have compiled a list of NEH funded projects [at KU] that has helped Dr. Graham advance and promote African American Literature and culture. 

*2001--“Speaking of Rivers: Taking Poetry to the People” 

*2002--“Language Matters I: Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison”

*2003--“Speaking of Rivers: Taking Poetry to the People”

*2004--“Language Matters II: Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison, The Cardozo Project Model”

*2009--“Making the Wright Connection: Teaching Black Boy, Native Son, and Uncle Tom’s Children”

*2010--“Language Matters IV: Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison in Translation”

 *2013--“Don’t Deny My Voice: Reading and Teaching African American Poetries” 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Michael Eric Dyson: 2000-2010

[By Goyland Williams]

It is hard and sometimes impossible to imagine that a single scholar/public intellectual can publish as much as Michael Dyson has done. In a decade, Dyson published and edited more than 10 books. Wow! With topics ranging from the complicated and often misunderstood life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to philosophical reflections on life, popular music, and religion, Dyson brings a wide array of scholarship to the table. The timeline that I compiled, highlights the impressive range and depth of topics by one of America’s most sought after public intellectual.

Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) Look Back Series—Featuring Michael Eric Dyson

[By Goyland Williams]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Eugene Redmond Timeline:1969-1977

[Compiled by Goyland Williams] 

As a continuation of HBW’s Look Back Series, I wanted to outline a timeline of what seems to be Eugene Redmond’s most productive years. Although this list is not exhaustive and only captures a small part of Redmond’s career, it highlights the great success that Redmond enjoyed from publishing several volumes of poetry, editing two anthologies, and publishing the seminal academic work on Black poetry. Aside from all of that, his status as Poet Laureate in East St. Louis continues to be a task/role that he takes seriously.

*1969—Eugene Redmond’s A Tale of Time and Toilet Tissue is published. Redmond also edited an anthology entitled Sides of the River: A Mini-Anthology of Black Writings.

*1970—Redmond begins his tenure as Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at California State University-Sacramento and his book Sentry of the Four Golden Pillars is published.

Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) Look Back Series—Featuring Eugene Redmond

[By Goyland Williams]

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jerry Ward, Jr. Timeline: 2000-2013

 [Compiled by Goyland Williams]

*2000--Ward is the Lawrence Durgin Professor of English, Tougaloo College; Ward receives the Darwin T. Turner Award of Excellence from the African American Literature and Culture Society

*2001--Ward is the Lawrence Durgin Professor of English, Tougaloo College; Ward is inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African American Descent (Chicago State University)

*2002-- Ward leaves Tougaloo College after 32 years of service and accepts an appointment at Dillard University as Distinguished Professor of English and African American World Studies; Ward performs as Richard Wright for the Mississippi Writers Chautauqua, September 19-October 22, 2002

*2003--Ward served as a UNCF/Mellon Mentor at Dillard University

*2004--Ward participates in Furious Flower II: “The Black Poetic Tradition –Toward the 21st Century,” Furious Flower Poetry Center, James Madison University and interviews Houston A. Baker, Jr. for the video Program I-Roots and First Fruits (California Newsreel)

Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) Look Back Series—Featuring Jerry W. Ward

[By: Goyland Williams]

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dr. Jerry Ward on Edwidge Danticat

[By Jerry W. Ward, Jr]

It is hard to classify Edwidge Danticat, to map where her imagination is located between the future and the past. She writes well.  This adverbial compliment identifies her as a successful rebel. She satisfies the demands of commerce and undermines those demands in her critiques of banality.

Is she an American writer?
Yes. She writes in and about the Americas.

Is she a Haitian writer?
Yes.  She knows the anatomy of the womb wherein the primal horror of her native land gestated. Aimé Césaire”s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal enjoys conversations with her works.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alice Walker, Autobiographical Contract, and Sciences of Memory

[By Jerry Ward, Jr.]

Definition is essential.  What does womanist mean and what is its relation to feminist?  Does the assertion that womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender explain saturation as a major difference in historical experience?  The various essays, bits of interviews, poetry (inside prose frames) and reviews collected in Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (1983) suggest an answer. They suggest that Walker the novelist is of a “revolutionary” mind like a furious flower, is as serious as was Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, and Toni Cade Bambara. These women assumed the freedom to create is an entitlement of nature not of man. And they have the backing of words attributed to Sojourner Truth in 1851: “Whar did your Christ come from?  From God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do wid Him.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Letter to Kalamu Ya Salaam

[By Jerry Ward, Jr.]

Note:  For essential  life history  information about ya Salaam, read “Kalamu ya Salaam 1947-/Art for Life: My Story, My Song” in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 21, pages 179-252. The letter is my response to the typescript of THE SOUND (ING) OF BLACK POETRY: A Study Guide To The Theory and History of Black Poetry.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
1872 Lincolnshire Blvd.
Ridgeland, Mississippi 39157-1213

                                                                                          September 3, 1995

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dr. Jerry Ward and the Project on The History of Black Writing

[Compiled by Goyland Williams]

This is long overdue. Since 2011, when the HBW literary blog was founded, Board Member- Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr. has been its strongest supporter. By supporter I mean, both in spirit and in words (literally).  Nearly 60 post (and counting), he continues to offer the finest critiques and insights that one man can muster up. His works range from philosophical insights of Richard Wright to the “democratic perfectionism” of Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Not a stranger to those in American Literature and African-American Literature, Dr. Ward’s voice is timeless.  Below, I have compiled the blog posts that Dr. Ward has written for HBW-chronologically. These posts have been invaluable for my research interests and for the development of HBW’s online presence in Black Writing and Culture.

Monday, September 9, 2013

HBW Celebrates 30 Years!!!

[By Goyland Williams]

In HBW’s 30 year history, there have been a series of distinguished lectures, institutes, workshops, and scholars, who have contributed much to the advancement of African American Literature and Culture. The voices and faces that you will see and hear, are a testament to the quality of work and outreach that the Project on the History of Black Writing is committed to. Houston Baker, Eugene Redmond, Michael Eric Dyson, Jerry W. Ward, Jr. and Dr. Maryemma Graham are just a few of the prominent voices that you will hear on the subjects of black writing, black poetry,  and black artistic/ expressive culture. 

The Look Back Series begins as an effort to examine both the past and present. Where have we been
and what new directions are we willing to take?... are just a few of the questions that have
preoccupied HBW leadership for the past 30 years. Join us as we continue to explore and celebrate the rich history of HBW.
Videographer: Brandon Hill 
Video Concept: Kenton Rambsy


HBW and The Literary Blog: Note from the Editor

[By Goyland Williams]

After roughly two and half years of successfully founding and editing the Project on the History of Black Writing blog, and after shifting his focus to the many other areas/hats of his graduate career, Kenton Rambsy deserves much praise for ever expanding, digging, and creating an on-line presence and intellectual home for African-American Literature and Culture. With that said, I know step up and fill the role of editor-in-chief. In the days and weeks to come, the blog will feature a new look, a look-back video series in honor of HBW’s 30th year anniversary, and critical/artistic insight from brave new voices.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And the Beat Goes On….New Direction on the HBW Blog

[By Kenton Rambsy]

On February 22, 2011, I founded the HBW blog in the attempt to fill a void—that void being a no central online resource dedicated to writing about African American novels and its history. Two years later, with nearly 300 entries and over 200,000 hits, the blog has grown and serves as an online representation of the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW). The initial blogging project to provide a few entries on 100 of the Project’s novels has certainly surpassed my imagination for what could be possible in terms of presenting research findings to an online audience.

The growth and sustainability of the blog requires new voices and ideas in order for the site to continue to meet its goals of being an outpost for African American novel history. Therefore, as my graduate career begins to pivot in other directions, I must step down as editor-in-chief in order to devote my attention to other areas and ensure the future of this website. While I will still occasionally blog, the day-to-day responsibilities of the site will now be headed by Goyland Williams as he expands the focus of the blog and continues to cultivate an online community interested in exploring content related to black novels, black popular culture, and digital humanities.

Blogging About African American Literature—Various Topics related to Black Novels and Autobiographies

African American Literary History—Timelines and Resources

Break It Down—Explaining Black Novels

Public Events with HBW and the University of Kansas

Nikky Finney: The Role of the Writer and Critic—September 12, 2012

Digital Humanities

Various Entries on Black Literature and Rap Genius

The Coverage Of…Various Subjects in Black Culture and Literature

Oprah Winfrey and African American Literature