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Thread: Celebrating Black-American Literature

  1. #31
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    Toni Morrison

    Born in Lorain, Ohio, a town near Cleveland, she was originally named Chloe Ardelia Wofford. Later in life, combining a diminutive of her confirmation name with the surname of her husband, “Toni Morrison” became a name known to all (or should be!)

    Her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, appeared in 1970. The pre-World War II story concerns a teenage girl, Percola, who, having been impregnated by her father, is being temporarily cared for by another family in Lorain, Ohio. Amid symbols that are both supernatural and sociological, one of Percola’s foster sisters narrates the account with magical thinking as well as realistically sociological perception. Though frequently challenged, banned, and censored by officials in American high schools, this novel is a brilliant portrayal of the conflict between Black identity. Young women were adversely affected by the prevailing attitude of the society; they felt “ugly” when they compared themselves and the standard of beauty only whites had been allowed to define at the time. The novel’s title reinforces that notion, as in a section of Gwendolyn Brooks poem “In the Mecca,” both whites and blacks had been taught that “Whiteness is great.”

    Another quotation – a verse from Romans 9:25-- forms the epigraph for what arguably may be the most celebrated among all of Toni Morrison’s eleven novels, Beloved, first published in 1987. Suggested by an actual historical incident, this is a fictional account of a black woman in the time of the Civil War era in similar circumstances. The woman named Sethe murders one of her children in order to save her from the torture of an enslaved life. After Sethe escapes and settles in Cincinnati, the deceased child returns to haunt her as a ghost. There is no doubt that Beloved is a work of art yet in addition it can be considered a reflection of African-American experience and as such – despite the paranormal elements – an accurate one. Sethe’s motive is not unlike the ultraviolent character Bigger Thomas in Native Son, albeit Richard Wright's novel has with a 20th century setting and a naturalistic style. Sethe personifies the extreme lengths Black Americans have been forced to go because of the destruction transformation caused by relentless suffering.

    A 2015 New York Times profile about Toni Morrison acknowledges the fact that her position and descriptions of race are “varied and complicated.” Her purpose in writing is neither didactic nor polemical but rather a response to the human condition as experienced by Blacks. As she tells the interviewer, Toni Morrison says her purpose is to “suggest what the conflicts are, what the problems are;” the author’s role is to record and reflect.

    According to The Reader’s Encyclopedia, “Morrison’s novels expose the formerly disregarded experience of the black American woman. Her language is musical and precise, creating evocative dialogue and merging mythical, supernatural elements with reality to paint a bleak and painful portrait of American life.”

    Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison’s third novel, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979. She received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Beloved in 1988. In 1993 she made history by becoming the first Black female writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Seven years later the National Endowment for the Humanities presented her with its highest award, the Medal of Honor.

    This coming Sunday, February 18, 2018 will mark the 87th birthday of Toni Morrison. We thank her for her transformative contribution to American culture and send her best wishes for her years to come.

    Please read this profile, if you can:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/m...-morrison.html

  2. #32
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    Toni Cade Bambara

    Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) led a remarkable life, rich in such varied experiences as a student of the art of mime in Paris, a dancer with the prestigious Katherine Dunham Studio in New York, a literary scholar and critic, social worker, activist in the feminist movement, college professor, and documentary film maker. She is best known, however, as an author of short stories.

    Miltona Mirikin Cade changed her first name to Toni at the age of 6 and later began using a surname derived from an ethnic group in West Africa. Toni’s early life was firmly located in the geographic area of New York. Born in Harlem, she grew up in the Bed-Sty section of Brooklyn, Queens, and across the river in New Jersey. She was educated in Queens College and did her Master’s degree work at City College. Her academic career included teaching at Rutgers, Emory, and Atlanta Universities.

    Among her short stories, her first collection, Gorilla, My Love (1970) earned much acclaim. Because of her skillful characterizations of young women, especially teenagers, many high school anthologies feature a story by Toni Cade Bambara. Often driven by first-person narrators, the rhythmic, realistic language of her prose “sounds” authentic.

    In this regard “Raymond’s Run” is especially noteworthy. “Squeaky” is a talented runner, vexed by the seemingly pretentious postures of her classmates. Though determined to best them in a race, Squeaky also takes responsibility for taking care of her brother, Raymond, who apparently has a cognitive disability. “Raymond’s Run” is a powerful story, which explores emotional territory in an unsentimental, nuanced way.

    The story called “The Lesson” features subtle social commentary. A self-proclaimed do-gooder in the neighborhood takes a small group of disadvantaged Black children to a pricey toy store apparently to show them the kind of life circumscribed to them because of their current living conditions. The children are savvy enough to recognize the ridiculous irony of the situation. “The Lesson” was chosen for inclusion in the annual anthology, The Best American Short Stories for 1972, edited by Martha Foley.

    In his review of that volume, New York Times critic C.D.B. Bryan said

    Toni Cade Bambara tells me more about being black through her quiet, proud, silly, tender, hip, acute, loving stories than any amount of literary polemicizing could hope to do. . .[S]he writes about love: a love for one's family, one's friends, one's race, one's neighborhood, and it is the sort of love that comes with maturity and inner peace.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/11/ny...-maker-56.html
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 02-17-2018 at 05:17 PM.

  3. #33
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    Anne Spencer 1882 - 1975

    Harlem Renaissance poet, activist, librarian, teacher, gardener.

    Youtube: Anne Spencer - African American Trailblazers -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsEl92RCTwU

    Biography: Anne Spencer house and Garden Museum:

    http://www.annespencermuseum.com/biography.php

    Much of her poetry was deeply connected to her garden and she used her garden and the plants she grew there symbolically in many of her poems, among them, "Grapes, Still Life." Among her most influential works was "White Things", though it was not republished in her lifetime after its initial appearance in The Crisis. Nevertheless, its impact was such that Keith Clark, in Notable Black American Women, referred to it as "the quintessential 'protest' poem."[9] Still poetically active up to her death in 1975, Anne Spencer wrote one of her most evocative poems, titled for that same year, "1975."
    Article: "Seeking Anne Spencer Dec 10, 2017 By: Lesley Wheeler Volume 2, Cycle 4" -

    https://modernismmodernity.org/forum...g-anne-spencer

    The following Abstract is by Jenny Hyest from "Not Entirely Secular, Not Entirely Sacred: Woman, Modernism, and Religion" http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/...n_tab_contents -

    Abstract:
    Although Anne Spencer has been regarded as one of the significant female poets of the Harlem Renaissance, less attention has been given to her role as an important innovator of American modernism. Spencer's modernist formal experiments enabled her to express and enact her feminist aspirations for modern women. Her poems, including “Before the Feast at Shushan,” “Letter to My Sister,” and “The Lemming: O Sweden!,” explore the psychodynamics of male dominance and female resistance, affirming literary modernism's liberatory potential for women in its ability to convey the affective experience of subordination and to disrupt older discursive structures rooted in masculinist ideology.
    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY
    Enchant Me

    Your very being a desire for answer
    Lament not your unassailable mystery
    Enchant me with your dreams

    5-14-2005

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    Thank you very much, Tailor, for your post on Anne Spencer. In so many ways a lovely woman.

    I am deeply involved in preparing posts on Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston and hope to finish them soon. (That's not in any way intended to prevent other NitLetters from posting their findings/thoughts on those two authors. The more the merrier, to use a cliché.)

    I'm also halfway through writing a "spinoff" essay which will appear in a separate thread in this particular forum. The more I do research on this essay, the more material I discover. Many more names are appearing on my list, so it's a safe bet that this thread (unlike the Winter Olympics) will spill over past February 28!

    Meanwhile, keep posting and reading fellow LitNetters.

  5. #35
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    Gwendolyn B. Bennett 1903 - 1981

    Poet, journalist, columnist, fiction-writer, illustrator, artist, teacher, educator, and feminist.

    Though often overlooked, she herself made considerable accomplishments in poetry and prose. She is perhaps best known for her short story "Wedding Day", which was published in the first issue of Fire!! Bennett was a dedicated and self-preserving woman, respectfully known for being a strong influencer of African-American women rights during the Harlem Renaissance. Throughout her dedication and perseverance, Bennett raised the bar when it came to women's literature, and education.
    ... Source: Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwendolyn_B._Bennett

    Poem "Hatred" with some analysis - https://wordsmusicandstories.wordpre...lyn-b-bennett/

    "Feminism in the Jazz Age"... the poem "Usward" - https://sites.google.com/site/femini...e/journal-blog

    Poem: “To A Dark Girl”, and short story: “Wedding Day” ( both with analysis )... https://gwendolynbbennett.wordpress....dolyn-bennett/

    Paintings:

    http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/pag...nnett-Painting

    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps...nnett/life.htm

    More poems: https://allpoetry.com/Gwendolyn-Bennett

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY
    Enchant Me

    Your very being a desire for answer
    Lament not your unassailable mystery
    Enchant me with your dreams

    5-14-2005

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