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Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

ToniMorrison“The most overrated novel ever has got to be Beloved. Upon its initial publication, it was rightly passed over for the 1988 National Book Award, which went to Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story, while the National Book Critics Circle handed its fiction award instead to Philip Roth for The Counterlife. In protest, forty-eight ‘black critics and black writers’—their own self-description—wrote to the New York Times Book Review, ‘asserting [them]selves against the oversight and harmful whimsy’ by which white males were preferred to Toni Morrison. ‘The legitimate need for our own critical voice in relation to our own literature can no longer be denied,’ the forty-eight declared.

“Not quite ten weeks later Beloved was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Everyone quoted on the record agreed that the protest and demands for recognition did not influence the prize committee’s decision—not a chance, no way, no how. Just to be sure, the Swedish Academy gave Toni Morrison the Nobel Prize in literature four years later. ‘She is the first black woman to receive the prize’ the, Times helpfully noted on the front page.” (cont’d @ A Commonplace Blog)

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sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

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Walgreens has announced that the commander in chief will not sprout a Chia Afro on its shelves. . . .

“We decided to pull the product because it didn’t fit with our corporate image,” [Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens] said in a company statement. “We also didn’t want to be subject to any misinterpretation over the product. People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints and we want to avoid that situation.” . . .

“News of Walgreens’ removal of the presidential planter has led at least one enterprising Internet seller to offer the Chia Obama for $50—more than double the $19.99 shelf price.” (more @ Chicago Tribune)

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jackjohnson1“Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he’s sure that President Barack Obama ‘will be more than eager’ to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

“Appearing with three of Johnson’s family members and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., McCain unveiled a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed. (more @ ESPN)

[Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908, defeating then-champion Tommy Burns from Australia; Johnson reigned until 1915, losing his title to Jess Willard in a controversial fight in Havana, Cuba. Best remembered for spawning a search for a “great white hope,” Johnson’s story has been chronicled in both stage and film productions of “The Great White Hope” and in “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Two particularly fine studies of Johnson’s cultural significance written by prominent sports historians are Bad Nigger!: The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Al-Tony Gilmore, 1975) and Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (Randy Roberts, 1983).]

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John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. . . .

“During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than 70 years, Dr. Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America’s racial identity, working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and other major civil rights figures of the 20th century. . . .

“Dr. Franklin combined idealism with rigorous research, producing such classic works as ‘From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,’ first published in 1947. Considered one of the definitive historical surveys of the American black experience, it has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages. . . .

“Dr. Franklin also taught at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Harvard and the University of Chicago in addition to Duke, and as a scholar he personally broke several racial barriers.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedJohn Hope Franklin, Scholar and Witness

[During my brief time as an undergraduate in 1970-71 at York College in Jamaica, New York, I was a double-major in English and the relatively new academic discipline, African-American Studies. While my interest in books and reading was derived from my uncle, the first member of our family to earn a college degree and whose library of literary classics and contemporary sociology lined a wall in my grandparents’ apartment, my interest in “Black Studies” was in part a protest against my father whose ambivalence about civil rights despite working for twenty years as a salesman in a men’s clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem frustrated my make-love-not-war/power-to-the-people counter-culturalist sensibilities. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom was required reading for my freshman Afro-Am 101 class. But while I respected Franklin’s long view of history, I was much more excited by my readings of Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones), Stokely Carmichael and other black writers who spoke forcefully of the need for political and social change “now.” So struck was I by the writings of these powerful black voices that when I first became eligible to vote, I tried, albeit in vain, to register as a member of the Black Panther Party (my consolation, the only reasonable choice if I intended to vote, was to register as an Independent). Twenty years later, when as a graduate student at Yale University (in neither English nor African American studies) I reconsidered some of my freshman readings in cultural studies, it was Franklin’s books — exemplars of fair-minded scholarship and idealism — that mattered most in the then and “now.” R.I.P.]

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DEU Obama Fingers“Sprehe, a company that has all manner of frozen delicacies on offer, has come up with a new product it calls ‘Obama Fingers.’ Far from being real digits, though, the ‘fingers’ in question are ‘tender, juicy pieces of chicken breast, coated and fried,’ as the product packaging claims. . . .

“‘We noticed that American products and the American way of eating are trendy at the moment,’ Judith Witting, sales manager for Sprehe, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. ‘Americans are more relaxed. Not like us stiff Germans, like (Chancellor Angela) Merkel.’ . . .

“For Americans in Germany, though, there is a risk that the product might be seen as racially insensitive. Fried chicken has long been associated with African-Americans in the US — naming strips of fried chicken after the first black president could cause some furrowing of brows.

“Witting told SPIEGEL ONLINE the connection never even occurred to her. ‘It was supposed to be a homage to the American lifestyle and the new US president.’ she said.” (more @ Spiegel Online; via Newser)

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al

“Newt [Gingrich] owes some of his staying power to his conservative fans and admirers like [Grover] Norquist, but I think the biggest contributors to Newt’s longevity in the spotlight are political reporters. Let’s face it: Newt makes for great copy. Unlike a lot of conservatives, who hate talking to (presumably liberal) journalists, Newt will talk to you. And talk. And talk. And talk. Just plop a tape recorder down in front of him, and you’ve got a story. I like to think the media’s relationship with Newt as being the conservative version of its relationship with Al Sharpton. Just as the national media used to view Sharpton . . . as a ‘one-stop shop’ for ‘all things black’ . . . Newt has found his greatest constituency among journalists who turn to him as a one-stop shop for all things conservative.” (via The New Republic)

RelatedNewt. Again. (via New York Times Magazine)

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