Monday, June 29, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Two Weeks in Black Writing (6/15 - 6/28)

- HBW remembered Dr. Jim Miller, a foundational scholar of twentieth-century African American cultural politics. doris davenport contributed a beautiful poem memorializing her friend.

- New U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch took her oath of office using Frederick Douglass's Bible.

- The National Endowment for the Arts asked several artists and creators, including playwright Katori Hall and Sherri Young of the African American Shakespeare Company, why the arts matter.

- Just hours before the Charleston Massacre, Gene Demby wrote about the need to balance the seriousness of black life with jokes and joy (such as the #AskRachel hashtag).

- Nell Irvin Painter, author of the The History of White People, lays out a brief history of whiteness to give context to Rachel Dolezal and the Charleston Massacre.

- Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz joined forces to condemn the Dominican Republic's forcible removal of citizen of Haitian descent. (And Book Riot has a list of suggested reading to help you understand the situation.)

- If you missed out on this year's Juneteenth celebrations, Book Riot has a list of reading suggestions for you.

- Justina Ireland helpfully outlines how to analyze white characters in literature.

- Another white actor is taking over the role of Peter Parker in the next Spider-Man film, but in the comics, black Latino Miles Morales is the official new Spider-Man.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Remembering James A. (Jim) Miller (August 27, 1947-June 19, 2015)

[by Matthew Broussard]

Editor's Note: The Official Statement Released by George Washington Today can be accessed by clicking here or the link at the bottom of this post.

The Project on the History of Black Writing is saddened by the untimely loss of James (Jim) Miller. Miller is a graduate of SUNY, and he went on to teach at George Washington University where he was professor of English, American studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of Public History and Culture. Miller's scholarly pursuits were concerned with twentieth century African American cultural politics.

Miller's most recent book, Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial (2009), examines the impact of the 1931 trial on American culture. The case gained infamy after 9 black youths were charged and put to death after being accused of raping a white woman, despite lack of solid evidence. Barbara Foley of the African American Review writes that the book "is a valuable contribution to the growing body of scholarship that documents repression, resistance, and representation in and of the Jim Crow South. This important book should be widely read and taught."

Miller created a valuable resource for the study of Richard Wright by editing Approaches to Teaching Wright's Native Son (1997), and he was also editor of The Richard Wright Newsletter, founded by the Project on the History of Black Writing.

doris davenport, a colleague and close friend of Jim, has shared with HBW the following poem:

ICYMI: Charleston Edition

In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, the HBW Blog offers this compendium of suggested reading, in no particular order.

- The Holy City: Charleston, a Remembrance, by Délana R.A. Dameron

- BK Nation Statement on the Charleston, South Carolina Church Massacre, by Kevin Powell

- No Sanctuary in Charleston, by Patricia Williams Lessane

- Letter to My Mother After Charleston, by Carvell Wallace

- Denmark Vesey and the History of Charleston's 'Mother Emanuel' Church, by Kat Chow

- For Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, shooting is another painful chapter in a rich history, by Sarah Kaplan

- Dylann Roof and the Stubborn Myth of the Colorblind Millennial, by Gene Demby

- Why I Can't Forgive Dylann Roof, by Roxane Gay

- I'm Not a South Carolinian; I'm the Rebirth of the Black Radical, by Riley Wilson

Feel free to suggest additions to the list.

Friday, June 5, 2015

ICYMI: The Last Month in Black Writing (5/8 - 6/4)

- Black Words Matter: Poems by Baltimore Students took place 2 weeks after the death of Freddie Gray, allowing students space to write about police violence and racism. (The work of four students is shared at the link.)

- Morgan Jerkins wrote about re-reading Claudia Rankin's Citizen: An American Lyric in the wake of #BaltimoreRising.

- Roxane Gay took on New York Times critic Janet Maslin's summer reading list, which featured entirely white authors (or, as Jason Parham put it, which reached "peak caucacity"). In response to Maslin's list, several sites published lists of novels by authors of color that you could also read this summer: check them out at The Root, The Grio, and Book Riot. 

- Relatedly, here's what's going on with #WeNeedDiverseBooks a year after the overwhelming whiteness of BookCon spawned the campaign - and here are 25 books by authors of color that were featured at BookExpo 2015.

- Gay also wrote about how thrilled she was that Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan has a new novel, China Rich Girlfriend, out soon.

- Al Letson wrote about the need for diverse voices (literally) in public radio for Transom, re-published at NPR.

- Troy L. Wiggins wrote about why he read books only by black men in May.

- The Humans of New York Twitter account has had some fantastic entries related to black writing recently: check out two of the best here and here.

- Tuckson Health Connections and the Howard University Department of English announced the winners of the "Healing Stories Creative Writing Contest," a contest that allows communities of color to talk about their experiences of health and community.

- Genesis Mendoza shared "13 Young Black Poets You Should Know," complete with poem recommendations for each specific poet.

- First Lady Michelle Obama gave a commencement speech at Tuskegee University in which she talked frankly about her own experiences with racism, particularly since her husband became President.

- Speaking of President Obama, his presidential library is set for Chicago.

- In other news about the President and First Lady, a film about the Obamas' first date, called Southside with You, is in development.

- In more black film news, Queen Latifah gave a fantastic interview about playing Bessie Smith in HBO's Bessie.

- Biracial author Mat Johnson talks with NPR about growing up "mulatto" and his new novel Loving Day (also enthusiastically recommended on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast).

- From Planet Money by way of NPR's CodeSwitch, a fascinating look at Tom Burrell, who helped change the way that advertisers marketed to black audiences.

- Slate Academy debuted The History of American Slavery, featuring scholarship from Jamelle Bouie, Rebecca Onion, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  The academy features podcasts, articles, book excerpts, and online "class meetings" for those who enroll.

- NPR featured a Kickstarter-funded children's book about a queer black boy who dreams of going to space, Kendrick Daye and Myles E. Johnson's Large Fears.

- Suggestions for future reading if you loved Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.

And a few older pieces we missed before:

- Poet and teacher Clint Smith gave a moving TEDTalk on "How to Raise a Black Son in America."

- Saeed Jones, literary editor at Buzzfeed, wrote about navigating mostly white literary spaces in "Self-Portrait of the Artist as Ungrateful Black Writer."

- Paramount Studios is sending copies of Selma to every high school in the U.S.