James Baldwin: Notes on the House of Bondage

[By Goyland Williams] In November of 1980, James Baldwin’s essay “Notes on the House of Bondage” appeared in The Nation at a moment not unlike our current political landscape. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were inadequate at best, and bankrupt at worst. According to Baldwin, A vote for Jimmy Carter was not an endorsement but  a cold calculated risk, “a means of buying time” […]

Race No More???

[By Maryemma Graham] As the term post racial gains widespread acceptance, I am reminded of George Schuyler’s Black No More (1931) the uproariously funny satire about a black man who becomes white through a Black No More process invented by a one Dr. Junius Crookman.  The book is truly instructive.  As a cautionary tale, by showing how absurd, self-serving, and easily exploitable our constructions of […]

The Other Side of the Ship: Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage

[By Alysha Griffin] In 1997, the film Amistad was released. The film retold the story of the 1839 ship rebellion in which freshly captured slaves took over the ship and the ensuing legal battle in the United States. Despite historical inaccuracies and harsh critiques of the film’s representations of black men, I credit the film for providing an accessible image of the Middle Passage. This […]

What If Phillis Wheatley Was a Black Nerd?

This semester, I’m working with a group of students concerning the topic “black nerds.” Although we are primarily focusing on literary representations of bookish, sometimes socially awkward, and isolated figures from 20th century and 21st century narratives, my mind keeps drifting back to some of the early black nerds—long before that phrase and even those terms “black” and “nerd” were as popular.  Along those lines, […]

5 Rebel Writers During Slavery

 [By Alysha Griffin] In the same way that threats of violence did not always dissuade  slaves’ attempts to escape, the threat of injury or even death was not enough to keep many African Americans quiet. In some instances, African Americans made the pen mightier than the whip.    Maria Stewart (1803-1879)   “ It is not the color of the skin that makes the man, […]

Struggles for Freedom: Kanye West and Toni Morrison’s Artistic Renderings of Flight

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section [By Kenton Rambsy] Tony Bolden, author of Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture, proposes “vernacular cultures are always dialogic relative to dominant cultures, so they are never static but rather always in flux…writers (artists) who appropriate the vernacular must confront the constant risk of erasure” (26). Bolden’s concept of the ever-changing vernacular culture helps to […]

Richard Wright’s Formal and Informal Networks

[By Kenton Rambsy] The overall importance of RichardWright in African American literary and intellectual history makes it vital to consider his background and educational development in order to fully appreciate how he became such a significant figure. Wright’s move to Mississippi as a adolescent and his enrollment at Jim Hill Primary School were key factors in the expansion of his life chances and opportunities. Hazel […]