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    Literary: African/Black Writers and Poets


    Nikki Giovanni's Family: Sister on the left, father and mother in the middle, and Nikki on the right.

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    Nikki with James Baldwin.

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    Nikki with Toni Morrison and Myra Angelou.

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    Nikki on the cover of her latest book.

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    Ph. D. Yolanda Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni Jr.: African American Poet, Writer, Commentator, Activist, and Educator.

    Ph. D. Yolanda Cornelia Giovanni but better known as “Nikki” Giovanni was is one of the world’s best known African American poets. Her works include poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and non-fiction essays. They cover topics ranging from race, social issues, and children’s literature. She has won numerous awards and has even been nominated for a Grammy Award for her poetry album, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. Giovanni’s poetic recordings are accompanied with spiritual (New York Community Choir) and jazz music. Her circle of friends included some of the most well known writers and civil right activists of the day. She was good friends with Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Myra Angelou, James Baldwin, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Stevie Wonder, and she adored Tupac Shakur. She is also a proud soror of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

    Nikki Giovanni Jr. was born in 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her parents were Yolanda Cornelia Sr. and Jones “Gus” Giovanni. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where her parents worked at Glenville School. In 1948, the family moved to Wyoming. It was here that her older sister began calling her Nikki and the name stuck. In 1958, at the age of fifteen, Giovanni moved back to Knoxville to live with her grandparents to attend Austin High School. In 1960, at the age of seventeen, she began to study at her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, as an “Early Entrant” (which meant she could enroll in college without having finished high school). However, she soon had a clash with the Dean of Women and was expelled for not obtaining the required permission from her to leave the campus and travel home for Thanksgiving break.

    Giovanni moved back home to Knoxville where she worked at a Walgreen Drug Store and help care for her nephew. In 1964, at the age of twenty one, she returned to Fisk and spoke to the new Dean of Women who urged her to enroll again at the University. While at Fisk, she edited a student literary journal called “Elan,” reinstated the campus chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and published an essay in Negro Digest on gender questions in the Movement. In 1967, at the age of 24, she graduated from Fisk with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts.

    Giovanni’s grandmother died soon after her graduation. To cope with her death, she turned to writing. These poems would later be included in her collection “Black Feelings, Black Talk” which she would privately publish soon afterwards. In 1968, she attended a semester at the University of Pennsylvania and then moved to New York City and briefly attended Columbia University. In 1969, she began teaching at Livingston College at Rutgers University. It was also during this time that she gave birth to a son, which would be her only child, Thomas Watson Giovanni.

    Giovanni also became involved in the Black Arts Movement (similar to the Harlem Renaissance) which was motivated by the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement. Because her work reflected a strong militant African American perspective, one writer dubbed her “The Poet of the Black Revolution.” During this period she was introduced to the public by making appearances on a television program titled “Soul.” The program promoted black art and culture. It also allowed for political expression. It had such guess as Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Alice Walker, Sidney Poitier, Gladys Knight, Miriam Makeba, and Stevie Wonder. Later during the early 1970s and into the late 1980s, she began to write and publish children poems and continued to make recording albums of her poems.

    Giovanni has taught at Queens College, Rutgers, and Ohio State. In 1987, Giovanni began teaching English at Virginia Tech University. She was also very instrumental in clamming the tensions and fears after the 2007 mass murders of thirty two people by Seung-Hui Cho. Cho had been a student in her class whom she had asked the department chair to have him removed from her class. Giovanni described Cho as mean and menacing. She stated that she was willing to resign than to continue teaching him. On the day of the shootings, she immediately suspected that Cho was responsible. In response to the shooting, Giovanni was asked Virginia Tech president Charles Steger to a convocation speech.

    “We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS. Neither do we the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory. Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water....We are Virginia Tech.... We will prevail.”

    In the early 1990s, Giovanni was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had undergone numerous surgeries. Her book Blues: For All The Changes: New Poems contains poems about her battle with the disease.

    Poems by Nikki Giovanni

    Last edited by the moor; 10-20-2020 at 04:40 PM.

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    A great interview, discussion, and debate by two African American giants of literature. Even though this interview of Nikki Giovanni of James Baldwin took place in 1971, in many aspects it is still relates to issues of today concerning African Americans. There are also some lively exchanges between the two on certain issues, especially when it comes to black women and black men relationships.

    In this video, an older Nikki Giovanni shares her thought on a variety of topic. Still the fighter she always was against racial injustices, she now discusses other topics that are a concern to all people.

    Last edited by the moor; 03-08-2021 at 01:36 PM.

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    Part 1

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    James Baldwin at the age of 21.

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    James Baldwin in Paris

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    James Arthur Baldwin: American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist

    James Arthur Baldwin was an African American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist. His works dwelt on social issues such as race, sexuality, class, religion, and their relationship with society in a world that is hostile to many of the different perspectives of each one. The focus of his essays dealt mainly with race and racism in America as well as religious in the African American church and the movement of Islam in African American cities. He also wrote on current African American historic figures with themes touching of racism and the Civil Rights Movement.

    His novels and short stories focus on similar topic as his essays but only longer with more inclusive characters. They also touched on topics of a sexual nature including masculinity, homosexuality, and bisexuality. He also touched on classism as well. Not only was he a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement but supported the Gay Liberation Movement. In 1948, Baldwin moved to France to escape the racism in America and to also find himself as a writer outside of the American theater.

    Baldwin, a grandson of a slave, was born in 1924 in Harlem, New York to Emma Berdis Jones. His mother married his step-father, David Baldwin a Baptist minister, after his biological father (an alcoholic) killed himself as a result of racism, false accusations, and brutality by the police. His mother would have eight children by Baldwin’s step-father. However, his step-father treated him more harshly than his biological children, which caused Baldwin to spend much of his time away from home in the library. He also would spend much of his time caring for his younger brothers and sisters.

    At the age of ten, Baldwin experienced his first encounter with racism by the police. He was teased (called names) and abused by them. He would later recall other negative experiences with them. It was during his adolescence that he discovered he liked writing. Encouraged by his teachers, he wrote his first article titled “Harlem Then and Now” which was published in the school’s magazine, The Douglass Pilot. He also wrote the school song which was used until the school closed.

    Baldwin attended Fredrick Douglass Junior High and became editor of the school’s newspaper, The Douglass Pilot (other editors who preceded him were future African American actor Bock Peters and future African American jazz pianist Bud Powell). It was here that he was influence by African American poet of the Harlem Renaissance Countee Cullen. Later he would attend DeWitt Clinton Hight School where he worked on the school magazine as literary editor. However, he disliked the school because of the racial slurs the received.

    While in his teens, Baldwin influence by his step-father preacher and seeking solace due to his abuse from his step-father, had a religious conversion while attending a prayer meeting at a Pentecostal Church and soon became a junior minister of the church. Soon afterwards, he began preaching at the Fireside Pentecostal Church where he began drawing larger crowds than his father. But it would be soon that he became dissatisfied with Christianity, considering it based of false premises, hypocritical, and racist. However, he would regard this time in the pulpit as a way of overcoming his personal crisis. But he would soon leave the church against his step-father’s wishes who wanted him to be a preacher.

    Many have stated that he still was a preacher (once a preacher always a preacher), not in the sense of a Biblical or theological one but one of a religious revolutionary nature for equality and justice. This maybe is why many of his books have titles of a religious nature.

    At the age of fifteen, he found a job in a sweatshop in Greenwich Village. It was here, in Greenwich Village, that met Harlem Renaissance artist Beaford Delaney. It was Delaney who convinced Baldwin that he could be a writer. The two would remain long-time friends.

    In the summer of 1943, his step-father died of tuberculosis on the day his last child was born. The day of his funeral would be the nineteenth birthday of Baldwin and the day of the 1943 Harlem Riots. Baldwin would write about the riot it in his essay, “Notes of a Native Son.”

    While working odd jobs, Baldwin wrote short stories, essays, and book reviews. Some of later would be compiled in his book Notes of a Native Son. He soon caught the attention African American writer Richard Wright. Wright immediately recognized his talent as a writer and helped Baldwin secure a grant with which he could support himself as a writer. In 1944, he would meet famed actor Marlon Brando. The two would become roommates for a while and remain long-time friends. It was also during this time that Baldwin began to realize that he was gay.

    In 1948, Baldwin walked into a restaurant in New Jersey where he knew he would not be served. When the waitress told him that they didn’t serve Negros, he threw a glass of water at her which shattered against the mirror behind the bar. Baldwin would also publish his first work that received national acclaim, a review of writer Maxim Gorky, in the Nation. This would also be the time that Baldwin would leave the United States and move to France.

    In France, he settled in Paris. He wanted to be seen, not only as an African American writer but an American writer as well. He also hoped to come to terms with his sexuality as well as escape the hopelessness that had befallen many young African American men like himself. He would also spend some time in Switzerland (“Go Tell It on the Mountain”) and Turkey. Some have stated that because he lived abroad for so long, he was not only seen as an African American writer but an emigrant writer as well.

    The 1950s would be a time that the world would recognize Baldwin’s works and talent. In 1953, Baldwin published his first novel “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” a semi autobiography. It touches on themes relating to racism, as well as religion in which he begins to question later. Two years later, he published his first non-fiction titled “Note of a Native Son,” a collection of ten essays. Some had already previous had been printed in magazines. It is currently number 19 on the Modern Library List of best 100 essays of the twentieth century. In 1956, he published his second novel “Giovanni’s Room. This novel caused a great amount of controversy because of its explicit homoerotic content and the complex problems of being bisexual and navigating between two different sexual worlds (homosexual and heterosexual). Baldwin resisted being labeled as a “homosexual” writer because he was expected to write on the African American experience. In the book the main characters are white.

    Baldwin would continue to have success throughout the 1960s. In 1962, Baldwin published while in Turkey “Another Country,” a novel that dealt with themes that were taboo during this time, such as bisexuality, interracial relationship (black man, white woman), and extramarital affairs. A year later, he published “Down at the Cross” but more commonly known and published as “The Fire Next Time.” This essay would compel him into being prominent a spokesperson during the Civil Rights Movement. He would be featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He frequently appeared on television and spoke on college campuses on the issues of race and social injustice.

    In the essay, he talked about the comparison between Christianity and the Black Muslim movement in that both could be inspiring to African Americans in defying oppression. He stated, “If the concept of God has any use, it is to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If it can’t do that, it’s time to get rid of it.” However, several Black Nationalists criticized him for being too soft conciliatory. They question whether love and understanding would do much to change race relations in American.

    But it was undoubtedly that his church experiences also shaped his worldview and writings. As he stated, “Being in the pulpit was like working in a theater, I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion worked.” Baldwin also accused Christianity of reinforcing the system of American slavery by concealing the pangs of oppression and delaying salvation until a promised afterlife. Baldwin would later state that he was non-religious. Whites bought the book in droves looking for answers as to: What do African Americans really what? However, it was obvious due to the fact that he articulated the anger and frustration of African Americans more than any other writer of his time.

    Dr. Cornell West on James Baldwin. Oh, he also take pot shots at Trump.

    First Documentary on James Baldwin

    Last edited by the moor; 11-21-2020 at 12:33 PM.

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    James Baldwin and actor Marlon Brando

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    James Baldwin at the March on Washington

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    James Baldwin in Montgomery, Alabama during the March from Selma to Montgomery. Notice John Lewis to the right.

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    James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr.

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    James Arthur Baldwin

    Baldwin was now very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement. However, he would be excluded from speaking at the 1963 “March on Washington.” The organizers feared that his remarks would be too inflammatory. As Malcolm X stated, “They wouldn’t let Baldwin talk because they couldn’t make him go by the script…they knew that if Baldwin had of got up there, he was libel to say anything.” John Lewis spoke in his place (1).

    In 1964, Baldwin would publish his first play, “Blues for Mr. Charlie.” It is a social commentary drama in memory of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, his widow, and children. It is also in memory of the four girls killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The play is also loosely based on the murder of Emmitt Till in Money, Mississippi.

    In 1965, he published a collection of eight short stories titled “Going to Meet the Man.” This book was dedicated to his close friend artist Deauford Delaney. It covers anti-African American racism, African American-Jewish relations, childhood, the creative process, criminal justice, drug addition, family relationships, jazz, lynchings, sexuality, and white supremacy.

    In 1968, he published the play “The ‘Amen Corner” (first written in 1954, but not published) and the novel “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone.” The Amen Corner addresses themes on the role of the church in an African American family and the effect of poverty as a result of racial prejudice on an African American community. It was performed in 1965 on Broadway by the Original Cambridge Players. African American actress Beau Richards was nominated for the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in the play at the 1965 Tony Awards, for her performance as Sister Margaret Alexander. Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (Baldwin’s fourth novel) deals with bisexual and interracial sexual relationships. It also deals with anger caused by anti-African American racism and how religious helped to overcome it.

    In 1970, Baldwin moved to Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France. This would become his permanent residence. Now a popular writer, he frequently entertained many well-known guess. Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier were frequent house guess. During the jazz festivals, musicians and singers such as Mile Davis, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, and Josephine Baker often dropped by. He also learned to speak French fluently and was friends with French actor Yves Montand and writer Marguerite Yourcenar. It was also during this time that he wrote in 1972, “No Name in the Streets.” It was an essay about his own experience during the late 1960s which focused on the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., all three personal friends of his. He also gives his perspectives on people such as Generalisimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seales, Eldridge Cleaver, McCarthyism, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the Algerian War by Albert Camus. He discusses his childhood in Harlem and how it shaped his early consciousness. Baldwin also talks about his stay in Europe, his time in Hollywood, and his stay in the American south.

    But he would receive harsh criticism from other African Americans militants. Eldridge Cleaver criticized him for his criticism of Richard Wright. He questioned Baldwin’s homosexuality as being the type of image that African American men or people don’t need and must move forward against this in order to combat racial oppression. It would only hold the struggle for equality and justice back (2).

    In the 1974, he published “If Beale Street Could Talk (fifth novel).” It was his first and only novel of an African American heterosexual love story. It tells of African American love and how families facing difficult times come together to fight a racist criminal justice system and win. It was made into a movie in 2018 in which actress Regina King would win the Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actress in 2019.

    In 1979, Baldwin published his last novel “Just Above My Head.” The novel is about a group of multiracial friends and their relationship to each other. It touches on such themes as preaching in Harlem, homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, incest, war, poverty, the Civil Rights Movement as well as places like Korea, Africa, Birmingham, New York City, and Paris. He emphasizes the role racism and homophobia and the affect they have on the perpetrator and the victim.

    In 1985, Baldwin published a lengthy essay titled, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” on the Atlanta Child Murders (1979-1981). He takes a look at Atlanta’s social issues particular on race.

    In 1987, Baldwin had begun writing “Remember This House,” a memoir of his personal collection of Civil Rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. as well as his person views on American History. However, he never got to finish it. Baldwin would die that year on December 1 of stomach cancer. His unfinished work would be made into a documentary film titled “I Am Not Your Negro” in 2016. The file is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards.

    Baldwin loved to socialize and had many friends from all different racial backgrounds and cultures. He was well-like and many actors, actresses, writers, musicians, singers, artist as well as well-known personalities. They often came by his house to visit him. He was also known for throwing parties.

    However, he will best be known as one of many trailblazers who dared to tell the truth about America, what he experienced and saw, despite it not being welcomed by mainstream society. He, like William Faulkner, open the eyes of Americans and made it face the issues and problems that it had long denied and ignored. He dared to show the ugly racism, the scares, and the psychological and emotion effects on African Americans as well as white Americans, unlike no other writer of his time. Baldwin dared to talk about and write about taboo subjects such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and interracial sex in a time when those topics were never discussed, let alone published or read. He challenged America’s macho culture to get it to see how destructive it was, not only on those who’s sexuality was different but also theirs. He also challenged Christianity and its hypocrisy for promoting racism, homophobia, and sexism, while participating in the things of the world. God and the love of God was nowhere to be found or was not being adhered to.

    But despite his criticism, Baldwin still had hope. He had hope that America would see. And that the freedoms that America offered would enable it to see. He was just part of that effort and hoped that others would follow.


    1. Some accounts have stated that Lewis was supposed to speak last and Martin Luther King Jr. was not supposed to speak at all, but Lewis ended up speaking fourth and King last. Lewis also had to change some the wording in his speech.

    2. Many have stated, including heterosexuals, that Eldridge Cleaver criticism of Baldwin sexuality and image as to the Civil Rights Movement was in no way impeding the Movement. In fact, they claimed that he was more of an impediment of because of his rape, assault, and intent to murder conviction in 1958, in which he served time.

    Second Documentary on Baldwin

    Last edited by the moor; 11-21-2020 at 05:02 PM.

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    Part 3

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    James Arthur Baldwin

    Links to Baldwin’s works

    Go Tell It on the Mountain:

    Notes of a Native Son:

    Giovanni’s Room:

    Another Country:

    The Fire Next Time:

    Blues for Mr. Charlie:

    The Amen Corner:

    Going to Meet the Man:

    Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone:

    No Name in the Street:

    If Beale Street Could Talk:

    Just Above My Head:

    The Evidence of Things Not Seen:

    Remember This House or I Am Not Your Negro:

    Play, The Amen Corner

    Movie, If Beale Street Could Talk

    Last edited by the moor; 11-21-2020 at 12:30 PM.

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    Poem by Phillis Wheatley

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    Statue of Phillis Wheatley in Boston, Massachusetts

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    Phillis Wheatley: First African American Female Writer and Poet in America

    Phillis Wheatley was an African American slave and the second African American author to publish a book . She was the author of a book of poetry published in London, England titled, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” in 1773. Even thought she had been writing poetry before her first published work, many didn’t believe and could not believe that a black person was able to write with thought, clarity, and creativity. Blacks were still considered by many as unable to compete on the same level as whites. Many felt blacks to be inferior to whites. When

    Benjamin Rush (anti-slavery and abolitionist) and French philosopher Voltaire used Wheatley’s poetry to argue that blacks had shown they were capable of deserving emancipation, Thomas Jefferson used her poetry to show that whites were biologically and intellectually superior to blacks (1). She would be freed and married but would die in poverty at the age of 31.

    Though it is unclear, many believe that Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 in either what is now Gambia or Senegal in West Africa. She was sold by a local chief to a visiting slave trader who took her aboard the slave ship “The Phillis” to Colony of Massachusetts in 1761. She was sold in Boston to John Wheatley, a wealthy merchant and tailor, for his wife Susanna as her servant. She was named after the slave ship Phillis. Phillis was about seven or eight years old at the time.

    The Wheatley’s believed in education and were very progressive for a family of this time. It is not sure why they choose or allowed Phillis to learn to read and write and not the other slaves (some believe that it was because she was the personal slave of Mrs. Wheatley), however, they began to teach her. Phillis was tutored in reading and writing by the Wheatley’s 18 years old daughter Mary and later by their son Nathaniel. By the time Phillis was 12, she was reading Greek classics, ancient history, mythology, Latin, and other classical literature as well as the Bible.

    In 1767, at the age of 14, the Newport Mercury printed her first poem about a tale of two men who nearly drowned at sea and of their steady faith in God. A year later she wrote, “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” in which she praised King George III for repealing the Stamp Act. In 1770, at the age of 17, she wrote a poetic tribute to the evangelist George Whitefield which received widespread acclaim. Noticing her literary talent, the Wheatley’s left all of Phillis’s household labor to the other slaves and began taking her around showing off her abilities to their family and friends. Many just could not believe that a young female slave had written such beautiful and thoughtful poetry. Throughout 1771-72, Phillis would continue to write poetry.

    In 1773, Susanna decided to send Phillis to London, England accompanied by Nathaniel, in part for her health (probably asthma) but also so she could have a better chance of having a book of her collective poems published, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Morals.” Even though she had individual poems published in newspapers, Phillis never had a book published which included her poetry. The Boston publishers had declined to publish it.

    The book was published in the summer and made her an instant celebrity. Phillis met with the Mayor of London and other significant members of British society. She even had an arranged meeting with King George III but had to return to Boston before it took place. Susan Hastings, Countess of Huntington, was so interested in the young talented black slave that she subsidized the publication of her book. The two were supposed to meet but Hastings became ill.

    In November 1773, Phillis returned to America and was freed by the Wheatleys, even though she continued to live with them. A year later Susanna died.

    In 1775, Phillis sent a copy of her poem, “To His Excellency, George Washington” to him. The following year, Washington invited Phillis to visit him at his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which she did. Thomas Paine would republish the poem in the Pennsylvania Gazette in April.

    In 1778, Mr. Wheatley died. Soon afterwards, she would marry a free black grocer, John Peters. But they would struggle with poor living conditions and the death of two babies. Phillis tried to in 1779, to publish a second volume of her poetry but could not find any patrons. This was due to having lost her patrons after she became free (publications of books were often based on gaining subscriptions for guaranteed sales beforehand). But regardless, Phillis was now free and on her own.

    Phillis’s husband had a hard time providing for his family. He faced more qualified and capable men in jobs that he had not experience. But some have concluded that he was just lazy and not a good provider but being black and free during this time was difficult for black men. He would soon be imprisoned for debt. With a sickly infant, Phillis went to work as a scullery maid (2) at a boarding house. However, she had never performed such back breaking labor. She became ill and died on December 5, 1784, at the age of 31. Afterwards, her new infant son would soon die.

    Phillis Wheatley had the respect of many of elite of the establishment. She corresponded with many including Reverend Samson Occom in whom she commended him on his ideas and beliefs of how slaves should be given their natural-born rights in America. Along with her poetry, she was able to discuss her thoughts and feelings among other noted people of society.

    But there are some even today that criticize her for not fully addressing the issues facing blacks of that time. They state that she looked down on Africa and embraced the white European/American culture as better. Her not emphasizing her own culture as just as equal to the European/American culture further perpetuated the notion of blacks as inferior.

    But others argue that she was brought to American at the age of 7 or 8. She was raised, therefore, in a white family around a white setting as a slave. She was taught to read and write and was educated as an European. She ate at the table with the family. She learned European history and culture. She wasn’t taught to embrace her African identity because it was thought of as inferior to that of whites. Phillis was also kept away or had little contact with other slaves. She surely didn’t mingle with them on a regular basis. However, she knew that slavery was wrong and wanted it to end. Her biggest contribution would be to destroy the myths and lies of black inferiority and white superiority. Blacks were just as capable as whites in intellect and ability. This would serve to give to those opposed to slavery ammunition that it was wrong and must be abolished. But some just believed that blacks were inferior to whites. And one of those "some" would be Thomas Jefferson.


    1. From “Notes on the State of Virginia” by Thomas Jefferson

    Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry. Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination.

    Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad (they were idiots) are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem.

    Ignatius Sancho (a black writer in England) has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his letters do more honor to the heart than to the head.


    Author’s Notes:

    1. In other words, Jefferson is saying the black people have animal tendencies and act, write, and etc. on those tendencies. They don’t act, write, and etc. with any thought or imagination that requires thinking and reasoning to the higher level of the human mind.

    2. I find it incredible that of all the important people she knew and her former service as a houseslave, that she couldn’t find anything better or no one willing to give her some type of employment better than her working as a scullery maid.

    Last edited by the moor; 04-29-2021 at 09:02 AM.

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    Jupiter Hammon: First Published African American Poet and Writer

    Jupiter Hammon is by many considered to be the founder of African American literature. In 1761, he was the first African American to have published a literary work in North America. In total he would have published 4 poems and 4 prose, all with religious content. Hammon was also a preacher and a commercial clerk.

    He was born in 1711 on Long Island, New York at the Lloyd Manor to slave parents Opium and Rose. He learned to read and write while at the Anglican Church’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (church know for charity to slaves). His educational ability aided his master in his commercial business endeavors, which also included the support of slavery. Hammon took advantage of his literary skills to show his intellectual acumen. He used metaphors and symbolism which gave him a safe means to express his feelings about slavery.

    In 1761 at the age of 50, he had published his first work, a poem titled “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penitent Cries.” It was printed as a “broadside” (large poster like nailed to buildings, posts, trees, etc.) This printing and publishing would establish him the first African American writer (1). His next poem wouldn’t be published until 17 years later in 1778. It was also during the American Revolutionary War, when Henry Lloyd had moved his family with his slaves from Long Island to Hartford, Connecticut to avoid British forces. The poem was dedicated to Phillis Wheatly, whom he never met but admired, titled “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly.” Each of the 21 verses was accompanied by a Bible verse. He wanted to help Wheatly with her Christian journey.

    He would also publish in 1778 “The Kind Master of a Dutiful Servant,” a poetic dialogue which was followed in 1782 by “A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death.” This would lead to him to address the inaugural meeting of the African Society in New York in 1786. His poetic address would be known as “An Address to Negros in the State of New York.” In the address Hammon stated “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black or for being slaves.” He also stated that while he had no wish to be free, he did wish others, especially “the young Negros, were free.” At the time he was 75 years of age.

    In his speech to the African Society, he combined Christian motifs and theology, encouraging African Americans to maintain high moral standards because “being slaves on Earth had already secured their place in heaven.” Many also believed that Hammon supported a gradual abolition of slavery, believing that freeing slaves all at once would be too difficult to achieve.

    The New York Quakers who supported abolition published his speech as did the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Other abolition group dis so as well.

    Two unknown poems by Hammon have just recently been discovered in 2013 and 2015. The poem found in 2013 was composed in 1786 and amounts to a “shifting point” in his worldview of slavery.

    Hammon probably died around 1806 but no confirmed date as yet been established. He is thought to be buried in the Lloyd’s family plot, the family he served his entire life, in an unmarked grave separate from the family.


    1. Phillis Wheatley didn’t have a poem published until 1767. However, she was the second (I had previously stated that she was the first but it was an error) African American to have a book published which consisted of several of her poems in London, England in 1773. Jupiter Hammon never had a book of his poems published but instead had several of his poems published independently.

    Poem: An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatly

    Poem: An Address to the Negros of the State of New York

    Last edited by the moor; 01-21-2021 at 09:56 PM.

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    Ukawsaw Gronniosaw: African Prince and First African American to have Published a Book

    Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, aka James Albert, was an ex-American slave who is considered the first African American to have a book published. In 1772, he had published in England an autobiography titled, “A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself.” It was also the first slave narrative published in England. It was considered groundbreaking detailing his early life in Nigeria, his time as a slave in American, and his time after his freedom.

    Gronniosaw was born in 1705 in Bormu, Nigeria. He was the son of the King of Zaara oldest daughter and was also the King’s favorite grandson. At the age of 15 and fascinated by the stories told to him by a Gold Coast Ivory merchant about the Americas as well as the Christianity, he agreed to accompany the merchant to the coast with the promise of being taken to the Americas and then returning back to his home. However, when he arrived the local chief thought him to be a spy and ordered him to be beheaded. But amazed at his courage in facing death, the chief decided to spare his life and sold him to a Dutch ship captain for two yards of check cloth.

    Gronniosaw was bought by a man named Vanhorn in Barbados, who took him to New York and resold him to a wealthy Calvinist minister, Theodorus Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. Frelinghuysen was a friend of theologian and evangelist George Whitefield (man most responsible for bringing a Christian Protestant spiritual revival called the Great Awakening in America who was also a slave owner). Gronniosaw was so well-liked by Frelighuysen and his wife that they allowed him to attend school.

    It was also during this time that Gronniosaw was introduced to Christianity. However, at one point he became so depressed because he thought his own sins were too great to deserve salvation that he thought about suicide. But he was soon revived by reading the passage from the Bible, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Gronniosaw would be sadden once more upon the death of Frelilghuysen but renewed with joy when he discovered that in his master’s will, he had been freed. Still, however, he would continue to work for his old master’s widow and their orphan children, but they would all die withing four years.

    Having met George Whitefield, he was convinced that the English were a “righteous people.” He decided to go there but first went to the Caribbean and worked as a cook on a privateer and later, enrolling in the British army to earn money to travel to England. He landed in Portsmouth in 1762, but soon learned that the English were no more righteous as the Americans when his landlady swindled him out of his money. With the help of Whitefield, he found housing and also met a young woman weaver whom he fell in love with at first sight named Betty. She would introduce him to the eminent Baptist minister Dr. Andrew Gifford.

    After a few weeks in London, Gronniosaw, with the urging of some friends of his old master Frelighuysen, went to Holland to where he was questioned by several Calvinist minister about his faith. While there he took a job as a butler to a wealthy merchant who treated him more as a friend than a servant. The merchant’s wife wanted him to marry their maid, an attractive young woman. However, he made his intentions known that his heart was with Betty.

    Many of his friends objected to his marrying Betty because she was a poor widow whom her husband had left in debt. She already had one child. Gronniosaw married her but due to her losing her job because of the industrial depression and their financial situation, he moved them move to Colchester. There he was given a job by a friendly Quaker in building construction. However, as the building industry dried up, Gronniosaw move to Norwich. Once again, he was saved by another Quaker who paid their rent. Having two children of his own, tragedy would strike the family. One of his daughters would die. But because she was not baptized, she was refused burial by a local minister. However, another minister allowed her to be buried in the local churchyard but would not recite any Biblical passages or scriptures.

    Still in financial dire straits, Gronniosaw pawned all their possessions and moved to Kidderminster, where Betty got a job as a weaver. On Christmas day 1771, he had the rest of his other four children, oldest being 6 and the youngest a newborn baptized. They would have another child, a son 3 years later. Through his association with a Calvinist minister, he became friends with Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, a major figure in the Calvinist Methodist Church. Gronniosaw would receive financial assistance from her.

    While in Kidderminster, he began to write an autobiography about his life with the help of an amanuensis (many believe it was Mrs. Marlowe a friend in Leominster). The title was “A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself.” It was the first slave narrative by an African in English. It was published in Bath, Somerset in 1772, making it the first book published by an African American (Phyllis Wheatly published her book Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773). Both books were published in England (Phyllis Wheatly had to go to England to get hers published because she couldn’t get it published in America). It details the accounts of his life from his time as a young prince in African, his enslavement to a local king and being sold to Europeans, his arrival in American and his enslavement, his freedom and conversion to Christianity, his leaving America and arrival in England, his marriage and struggles with poverty, and his friendships with Calvinist Methodists.

    Gronniosaw’s autobiography would be a slave narrative that did not criticized the institution of slavery. In fact, rather, how being a slave help prepare him in becoming a Christian. His would be the only one written by an ex-African slave that didn’t criticized slavery.
    Prince Ukawsaw Gronniosaw died September 28, 1775 in Chester, England. An obituary of him reads:

    On Thursday 28 September died, in this city, age 70, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, of Zaara. He left his country in the early part of his life, with a view to acquire proper notions of the Divine Being, and of the worship due Him. He met with many trials and embarrassments, was much afflicted and persecuted. His last moments exhibited that cheerful serenity which, at such a time, is the certain effect of a thorough conviction of the great truths of Christianity. He published a narrative of his life.

    Last edited by the moor; 01-25-2021 at 11:06 AM.

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    Frederick August Kittel: African American Playwright

    Frederick August Kittel Jr., better known as August Wilson, was an award-winning Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award winning playwright. His plays touched on the African American experience and dealt with such themes as African American exploitation, identity, migration, discrimination, supernatural superstitions, as well as race relations. Other noticeable theme revolved around his love of blues and jazz, in which some of his plays revolved around and included famous blues persona such a Ma Rainey (mother of the blues) and Joe Turner. His plays also emphasized the African American woman as a strong willed and determined. As he has stated, he modeled them after his mother. Actress Viola Davis, who performed in several of his plays stated, “He captures our humor, our vulnerabilities, our tragedies, our trauma. And he humanizes us. And he allows us to talk.” Other African American actors and actresses who performed on stage and in film include Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Angela Bassett, Lessie Uggams, Courtney B. Vance, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Carl Gordon, Tommy Hollis, Lou Myers, Rosco Lee Brown, Delroy Lindo, Charles S. Dutton, and Samuel L. Jackson. In 2006, Wilson was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

    Frederick August Kittel was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in an area known as the Hill District in 1945. He was the fourth of six children. All were biracial. His father was a Sudeten German immigrant who worked as pastry cook. His mother was an African American named Daisy Wilson from North Carolina who cleaned homes for a living. It said that Wilson’s maternal grandmother walked from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to find a better life.

    His father was an alcoholic and was almost always absent in his children’s life. His mother would struggle to raise her children in a two-room apartment above a grocery store on Bedford Avenue, an economically depressed neighborhood inhabited mainly by African American and Jewish and Italian immigrants. While growing up, he along with his brothers and sisters had to deal with and struggle with racism and their own identity as to being biracial, often caught between the two worlds. Around the age of 10, his mother divorced his father and married an African American and move to the white working-class district of Hazelwood. However, they would be met with open racial hostilities with bricks thrown threw their windows. They soon left and went back to the Hill District.

    His mother wanted him to get a good education (he had been reading since the age of four), and in 1959 enrolled him in Central Catholic High School where he was only one of 14 African Americans and the only one in his class. But due to racial harassment, he dropped out only after one year. Wilson would attend Connelley Vocational High School but found the curriculum unchallenging. He would then, in 1960, attend Gladstone Hight School but after being accused of plagiarizing a 20-page pager he wrote on Napoleon I of France, he dropped out of school again while in the tenth grade. Wilson hid it from his mother because he didn’t want to disappoint her. He would spend much of his time at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he had been going since the age of 12, reading such African American authors as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Anna Bontemps, Zora Neal Hurston, and others. Wilson, at the age of 16, began to work doing menial jobs. But he would also meet a variety of people in which some would become characters in his plays.

    Wilson wanted to be a writer but his mother wanted him to be a lawyer and thought that he was throwing his life away. With him not pursing his education and working in menial jobs, his mother forced him to leave the house. Wilson would enlist in the army in 1962 but would leave after only a year and went back to working odd jobs.
    After his father died in 1965, he would change his name from Frederick August Kittle Jr. to August Wilson to honor his mother. It was also the year that he would discover the blues by listening to Bessie Smith. He also would buy a typewriter for $10 but would pawn it when money was tight.

    At age 20, Wilson decided to become a poet. He began writing poetry and submitting his poems to such magazines as ‘Harper’s.” He was so immersed in it, he found himself writing in bars, the local cigar store, and cafes. Wilson wrote on long table napkins (his favorite being café napkins because it made him feel less self-conscious as a writer) and on yellow notepads, taking in the voices he heard and the characters around him. He would gather his notes and take them home and type them up. Wilson had a gifted talent to catch dialect and accents. His memory and recall was excellent, which help him during his career. He also didn’t censor any language he heard when putting it into his work.

    It was also during the 60s that he began to find his identity as to who he was. Wilson was an admirer of Malcolm X and wrote, “The Ground on Which I Stand.” Both the Nation of Islam and the Black Power Movement got him to become aware of the importance of self-sufficiency, self-defense, and self-determination. He also appreciated the origin myths that Elijah Muhammad supported. In 1969, Wilson married Brenda Burton, a Muslim, and converted to Islam. They had one daughter. However, the marriage would end in a divorce in 1972.

    In 1968, Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theatre, a community oriented and political motivated theatre were young African American students, writers, and poets could practice and expand on their skills in the Hill District. It was here that Wilson’s first play “Recycling” was performed in small theatres, schools and public housing community centers for $.50 a ticket. He also directed the play.

    In the decade of the 70s, Wilson wrote some of his minor plays which were performed in local theatres in Pittsburgh and in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he soon relocated. He was also becoming recognized as a playwright and was well-known among the African American literary and some whites as well.

    Seven Guitars

    A short clip of "Two Trains Running with Rosco Lee Brown (RIP) and Samuel L. Jackson.

    Gem of the Ocean with Phylicia Rashad

    Joe Turner's Come and Gone

    Last edited by the moor; 02-09-2021 at 01:59 PM.

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    The August Wilson Theatre in New York City


    In 1981, he would marry for a second time to Judy Oliver a social worker. It would be during this decade that Wilson would write five of his most famous works (ten in total what would become known as the Pittsburgh Cycle). In 1982 he wrote “Jitney,” a play set in a run-down gypsy cab station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It premiered on Broadway in 2017. In 1984 he wrote “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Blues,” a play set in 1920s Chicago that dealt with issues of race, art, religion, and the historic exploitation of African American recording artists by white producers. One of characters that the play revolves around is the great blues singer Ma Rainey. In 1984 he wrote “Fences,” a play set in the 1950s in which the main character is an African American named Troy, a 53 year old working class head of the family who struggles to provide for his family. It touches on the themes of the African American experience, race relations, as well as other themes. In 1987 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. In 1986 he wrote “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” a play set in 1911 at Seth Holly’s Boarding House. It chronicles the lives and struggles of African Americans during the second decade of the 20th century, as well as the few freed former slaves living in the North. It also chronicles the conflicts of racism and discrimination. In 1987 he wrote “The Piano Lesson,” a play set in the depression era 1930s. It is about the Charles family and a piano which is a family heirloom decorated with carved enslaved ancestors. It also deals with the superstitions of the supernatural that African Americans had passed down from generation to generation since slavery. In 1990, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

    In 1990, Wilson marriage ended in a divorce. However, he would marry again in 1994 for a third time to costume designer Constanza Romero. He left St. Paul and moved to Seattle, Washington. While there he was approached by a Hollywood studio who wanted to make a film of his play “Fences.” However, he insisted that it be directed by a black director because a white director, not because of race but because of culture didn’t have the specifics of the culture of African Americans. The film would remain unmade until 2016, when Denzel Washington directed it.

    Wilson would continue his playwriting. He would write the next five of his most famous works. In 1990 he wrote “Two Trains Running,” a play that takes place in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1969. It explores the social and psychological manifestations of the changing attitudes towards race from the perspectives of urban African Americans. In 1993, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1995 he wrote “Seven Guitars,” a play set in Pittsburgh in 1948 about seven African Americans. It begins and ends after the funeral of one of the main characters, showing events leading to the funeral in flashbacks. In 1999 he wrote “King Hedley,” a play set in Pittsburgh in 1985. It is about an ex-con who is trying to rebuilt his life by selling stolen refrigerators to save $10,000, so he can buy a video store. The play has been described as one of his “darkest” plays. It also revises some of his character from his play Seven Guitars.

    Beginning in the first decade of the 21th century the 2000s, Wilson would write the final two plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle. In 2003 he wrote “Gem of the Ocean,” a play set in 1904 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. It revolves around Aunt Ester (played by Phylicia Rashad who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a play) who claims to be 285 years old, Solly Two Kings, and Citizen Barlow. Solly Two Kings was an ex-slave who once scouted for the Union Army. Citizen Barlow is a young man from Alabama searching for a new life and for redemption. She guides Barlow on a spiritual healing that takes him on a soaring lyrical journey to the City of Bones. Finally, in 2005, he wrote his last work, “Radio Golf,” a play set in Pittsburgh in the 1990s and involves well-to-do African Americans and their rise to gain financial and political success against their moral and principled values.

    Wilson was diagnosed with liver cancer in June 2005. He died four months later in October. He is interned at the Greenwood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    Other Plays by August Wilson:

    Black Bart and the Sacred Hills

    Fullerton Street


    The Homecoming

    The Coldest Day of the Year

    How I Learn What I Learned

    Plays of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle:


    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Blues. This was Chadwick Boseman's last performance. RIP

    Fences with Denzel Washington

    The Piano Lesson (see notes at bottom of page)

    The Piano Lesson with Afre Woodward


    The yellow dog is the name of the Yazoo Delta Railway. It was named Yellow Dog because of the yellow painted rolling stock with the initials Y. D. It would meet at the Southern Cross Railway at a cross section in Moreland, Mississippi. The Yellow Dog traveled north/south and the Southern Cross traveled east/west. During the early 1900s, a boxcar with five African American men (Boy Charles and four other homeless men) was set on fire an burned. It is said that the ghost of these men would get revenge on the individuals who murdered them. In the movie clip Wining Boy has said that he stood where the two railroad lines meet and called on the ghost of the Yellow Dog. Obviously, the ghost of the yellow got Sutter (former white slave owner) who was probably involved in their murders.

    We also see the institution of convict leasing that was so prevalent in the South during this time. Lyman was picked up and put in jail for not working or not having a job (a crime for black men in many places of the South in those days). A white man paid his fine with an agreement with the authorities or justice system that Lyman would have to work for him to pay off his debt for getting him out of jail. This would come to be known as another form of slavery. Companies such as iron and steel, railroads, coal, mining and etc. would work hand-in-hand with the corrupt criminal justice system to have black men picked up and charged with the silliest of charges. When they were unable to pay their fine, the companies paid their fines. The authorities would then release them in the care of the companies, where they were worked to death in the most horrible conditions imaginable. Over 30% of those who were leased to these companies died. Relatives often were never able to retrieve their bodies.

    Last edited by the moor; 02-09-2021 at 02:00 PM.

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    Ann Plato: African American/Native American Educator and Writer

    Quotes of Ann Plato from her book, “Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry.”

    “A good education is that which prepares us for our future sphere of action and makes us contended with that situation if life in which God, in his infinite mercy, has seen fit to place us, to be perfectly resigned to our lot in life, whatever it may be”

    “A good education is another name for happiness.”

    “Although there are many nations, and many stations in life, yet he watches over us, he has given us immortal souls. Some have white complexions, some are red, like our wander natives, others have sable or olive complexions. But God hath made of one blood all who dwell upon the face of the earth.”

    Ann Plato was an African American/Native American educator and author of essays and poems. She is the second black or woman of color to publish a book and the first to publish a book of essays with poems included. She has been compared to Phyllis Wheatley. Very little is known about her and what is mainly comes from the introduction of her book by Reverend James W. C. Pennington pastor of the Colored Congregational Church of Hartford, a leading abolitionist and the first African American to attend Yale University.

    Ann Plato was born in 1824 in Harford, Connecticut. She was probably the eldest daughter of Henry and Deborah Plato. Henry Plato was listed in the City’s Directory as a laborer but was also a farmer. Deborah was listed as a seamstress. It is believed that he was a Native American (1) and her mother an African American.

    Plato taught at the Free African Schools, housed in the Zion Methodist Episcopal Church from 1840 -1847. She was a member of the Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. In 1841, at the age of 16, she published her first and only known book titled, “Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Poetry.” The essays reflected New England Puritan values of her environment. It included such topics as “Benevolence,” “Education,” “Employment,” and “Religion.” It particularly stressed the importance of education and of leading a pious, industrious life. The book also contained poetry and biographies of some departed female friends and acquaintances.

    However, later critics found her essays and poetry to be overly moralizing as well as routine and lacking in originality. Many also admonished her for not mentioning the issue of slavery in America as did some of her near contemporaries, such as African Americans Frances Harper and Charlotte Forten Grimke. Plato’s only reference to slavery in her book concerns the abolition in West Indies in 1838. Her lack of not mentioning the issue of slavery could be due to fact that she was too young to thoroughly address it. But she does emphasize the equality of people, regardless of race, a few times in the essays.

    Nothing is known about Plato after the publishing of her book. The year of her death cannot be authenticated. However, researcher Ron Welburn states that the 1870 Iowa Federal Census records a 46 years old African American woman called “Miss Plato” as residing in Decorah Township, Winneshiek County, Iowa.

    Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces of Prose and Poetry contains four biographical compositions, 16 very short essays, and 20 poems. It is sectioned off into three parts: “Prose,” “Biographies,” and “Poetry.” This collection reflects Plato’s work and interest in the antebellum schoolroom as well as her relationship to religion. The Prose section reflects Plato’s ideas about education and how Christian principals are infused in the classroom. Her biographies are the eulogies of four black girls, Louisa Sebury, Julia Ann Pell, Eliza Loomis Sherman, and Elizabeth Low, who most likely died of tuberculosis, to present a template on how to live a legible righteous life. Finally, her poetry section is a collection of poetry that further considers life, death, and suffering.


    1. Ron Wilburn in his book about Ann Plato stated that she referred to a father in one of her writings as a Native American. It is believed by him and others that this was in reference to her own father as being a Native American. She did mention Native Americans often in her writings.

    Last edited by the moor; 03-29-2021 at 11:33 AM.

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    Harriet E. Wilson: African American Novelist

    Harriet E. Wilson was the first African American to publish a novel in North America and the United States. Her novel “Our Nig or Sketches of the Life of a Free Black” which many state is an autobiography, was published anonymously in 1859 in Boston, Massachusetts. However, it was not widely known until Henry Louis Gates discovered it in 1982.

    She was born Harriet E. “Hattie” Adam on March 15, 1825 in Milford, New Hampshire. She was the biracial mulatto offspring child of Margaret Ann (or Adams) Smith, a poor impoverished Irish washerwoman and Joshua Green, of African American and Native American heritage and a “hooper of barrels” (a person who puts hoops on barrels and tubs and one who also makes and repairs them). He died when she was 6 years of age and her mother unable to provide for her abandon her at the farm of Nehemiah Hayward Jr., a well-to-do Milford farmer with ties to the Hutchinson Family Singers.

    Now an orphan, the court would legally give her over to the Hayward family as an indenture servant until the age of 18, whereby, she would be given room, board, food, clothes, and training in life skills, so that she could later make it in society. At the end of her indenture, and known as Hattie Adams, she worked as a house servant and seamstress in the households of southern New Hampshire.

    In 1851, at the age of 26, Adams married an escaped slave named Thomas Wilson. Wilson had been traveling throughout New England giving lectures mainly in churches and town squares about his life as a slave. Later he would tell her that he had never been a slave and that he created the story to gain support from the abolitionist.

    Wilson would abandon her to go to sea soon after they married while she was pregnant and ill. Harriet was sent to the Hillsborough County, New Hampshire Poor Farm in Goffstown, where her only son, George Mason Wilson was born June 15, 1852. Wilson returned and took her away from the poor farm but returned back to sea as a sailor. However, afterwards, he would soon die.

    Now a widow, she found it hard to care for both her and her son. She returned George back to the Poor Farm while she worked. He would become ill with Billious Fever (blood infection) and die at the age of 7 in 1860.

    In 1860 and going by her married named, Wilson would permanently move to Boston (she had been living there while working). It was while living and working in Boston that in 1859, at the age of 34, she wrote “Our Nig or Sketches of the Life of a Free Black.” She copyrighted it and deposited a copy of it in the Office of the Clerk of the U. S District Court of Massachusetts. The novel was published in September of that year by the George Rand and Avery publishing company in Boston. In the preface, she states that she wrote it to raise money to help care for her sick son.

    Our Nig is Wilson’s autobiography. It depicts the time her abandonment by her mother and indentured servitude while staying with the Hayward family whom she depicts in the book as the Bellmonts. She is Frado in the book and describes her abuse at the hands of Mrs. Bellmont while Mr. Bellmont allows its, often stating the he didn’t want to interfere with his wife’s authority. She also has a relationship with the Bellmont’s children in which the youngest Jake turns out to be a healthy one. He supports her and often stands up for her. However, she is somewhat despised by Mary, one of the Bellmonts daughter.

    Despite her abuse, she finds friends in Aunt Abbey who teaches her about God and the Bible and invites her to church meetings. Mr. Bellmont also allows her to have a dog named Fido in which she finds company and companionship.

    Upon turning 18 and at the end of her indenture, she struggles with poor health and finding work in New England. She marries a free black ex-slave who abandons her with a child and leaves her to support for herself. Her husband dies and does her son.
    However, things would change for the better when she meets a friend who gives her the ingredients for a recipe that changes gray hair back to its normal color. She maintains herself by making it and selling it.

    Oddly, during the ending of the book no one in the family seems to remember her. The Bellmonts have all died and those who have not are too old to remember her. They may have forgotten her but she remembers them.

    Full Book Summary:

    This book was not well received by the abolitionist movement. It depicted the North in a negative light, as if the book was saying that they (northerners) treated their blacks or free black not much better than the southerners. It revealed the northern prejudices and treatment of blacks unbeknown by many of them and the hypocrisy that existed in the North.

    In 1870 at the age of 45, Harriet married John Gallatin Robinson, a European of Irish and German descent. He was nearly 18 years her junior and worked as a pharmacist. They were together for 7 years before they apparently separated. Documents show them living in different places but no divorce records have been found, which wasn’t unusual during this time.

    In 1863, Wilson was on the “Report of the Overseers of the Poor” for the town of Milford, New Hampshire. After 1863, she disappeared from the records until 1867, when she was listed in the Boston Spiritualist newspaper, “Banner of Light,” as living in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had become a Spiritualist and was known as “the colored medium.” She would be listed in the newspaper for 30 years as a trance reader and lecturer. Harriet would become active in the local Spiritualist community often giving lectures while entranced or while speaking normally. She spoke at camp meetings, theatres, meeting houses, and in private homes throughout New England. Harriet often shared the podium with other well-known Spiritualist. In 1870, she attended the American Association of Spiritualist convention as a delegate lecturing on labor reform and children’s education. None of the texts of her lectures survived, but newspaper accounts imply that she often spoke about her life experiences with forcefulness and often humorous commentary.

    Wilson also worked as a spiritual healer and nurse who gave medical consultation and made house calls. She was active in the Children’s Progress Lyceums, that served as Sunday Schools for children of Spiritualist, organized Christmas celebrations, and participated in skits and playlets. She often sang as part of a quartet and was known for her floral centerpieces and candies she made for the children.

    Wilson worked for almost 20 years (1879 – 1897) as a housekeeper in a two-story boardinghouse. She rented out rooms, collected rent, and provided basic maintenance.

    Despite her struggles with poverty, she lived a productive life. Wilson died in 1900 in the Quincy Hospital at Quincy, Massachusetts. She is buried in the Cobb family plot at Mount Wollaston Cemetery.

    Contemporary Dance Expressions of Harriet E. Wilson with Passages from Her Book "Our Nig or Sketches of the Life of a Free Black"

    Last edited by the moor; 04-06-2021 at 11:02 PM.

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    Haki R. Madhubuti (Donald Luther Lee)

    Haki R. Madhubuti, formerly known as Don Luther Lee, is an African American author, educator, poet, and publisher. He is also an owner of black-themed bookstores and the founder of Third World Press, the nation’s oldest publisher of Black thought and literature. He is a much sought-after poet and lecturer setting up and convening workshops as well as being a guest keynote speaker at many colleges, universities, libraries, and community centers in the U. S. and abroad. Madhubuti has published 28 books (some under his former name, Don L. Lee) and remains one of the world’s best-selling authors of poetry and non-fiction, with books in print in excess of 3 million.

    Madhubuti was born Donald Luther Lee in 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas. After his family moved to Detroit, his father soon abandon the family. His mother worked various menial jobs to support her children, but soon became addicted to drugs and alcohol. She died from a drug overdose when Madhubuti was 16. He would later state that she was the main force behind his creativity and his later interest in the Black Arts Movement of the mid-1960s and early 70s. After serving in the U. S. Army form 1960 – 63, he attended several colleges before enrolling at the University of Iowa and its prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and earning a Master of Fine Arts degree. During a visit to African in 1974, he changed his name to the Swahili name of Haki, meaning “just” or “justice” and to Madhubuti, meaning “precise,” “accurate,” and “dependable.”

    It was his association and involvement in the Black Arts Movement that shaped his conscious thought and writings towards a black identity and self-awareness. African American writer Richard Wright would have a major impact on him as well as Gwendolyn Brooks. Aware of the lack of resources and institutions dedicated to black scholars, Madhubuti became a leading proponent of independent Black institutions. In 1967, he along with Carolyn Rogers and Johan Amini formed in the basement of a South Side Chicago apartment founded the Third World Press, an outlet for African American literature, where he became the publisher and chairmen of the board. Today, Third World Press is the largest independent Black-owned press in the United States and continues to thrive in a multimillion-dollar facility. It has published works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), Sonia Sanchez, Sterling Plumpp, and Pearl Cleage.

    Madhubuti published his first collection of poems, “Think Black” in 1967, followed by “Black Pride” in 1968, “Don’t Cry, Scream” in 1968, “We Walk the Way of the New World” in 1970, and “Book of Life” in 1973. His works focused on the issues of racism, violence, stigmatization, and oppression of black people in America, as well as the use of Christianity to persuade them to accept their condition.

    However, he is not just one dimensional. His works also includes essays. His most famous one is the best-seller “Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? The African American Family in Transition” in 1990. Madhubuti was particularly concerned about the questions of memory, identity, and sense of self for people of the African Diaspora. His work, “Killing Memory, Seeking Ancestors” in 1987 discusses those topics.

    Madhubuti is the co-founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept Development Center, established in 1969 and co-founder of the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, established in 1998 in Chicago, Illinois. He is also the founder and board member of the National Association of Black Book Publishers, a founder and chairman of the board of The International Association of Black Book Publishers, a founder and chairman of the board of The International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, and founder and director of the National Black Writers Retreat.

    Other Notable Works by Haki R. Madhubuti

    Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption 1994

    GroundWork: New and Selected Poems 1966 -1996

    HeartLove” Wedding and Love Poems 1998

    Yellow Black: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life 2005

    This video is only 9:00 in length. Recorded in the late 1960s or early 70s.

    Poetry taken from his book "Walk the Way of the New World

    Last edited by the moor; 04-28-2021 at 10:09 AM.

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