Thursday, February 10, 2011

honoring black history month

The Invisible Man by Dale Stephanos

And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man.
-from Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

When I was in college at the University of Nevada, Reno, in the 1970s I took a class offered by the English Department titled Black American Literature. The professor was Egyptian. There were 12 students in the class, none of us African American. Still, we dug deeply and at the end of the semester were better people for having read and discussed together.

What I most loved from that course was the poetry of Nikki Giovanni, and it was special when she spoke at the university one of my years there (I'd like to think it was that same semester, but am not sure now). My mother enjoyed that evening with me.

My favorite novel from that course was Native Son by Richard Wright, but I certainly appreciated Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

So many authors and books have been added to black American lit since those days. The African American Literature Book Club has a Favorite 100 African American Books of the 20th Century listing at that I bookmarked as soon as I found it. Invisible Man is #8, Native Son is #10, and The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1995 is #42.



mythopolis said...

I certainly think it is important to give this emphasis to the history and heritage of African Americans. Somehow though, it begs the question of what about Chinese history month, Mexican history month, or American Indian month, and so on, through all the ethnic and racial diversity that make up our country.

Lydia said...

I see your point. Don't you think the emphasis might be because their ancestors were brought here against their will and their history all but obliterated except for word-of-mouth? Truth is, if we had a month to honor each ethnic group that has been denigrated and persecuted in one way or another in this country, while being integral in building the nation to its stature of today, the tone of bloated pride might change.
I am stepping off the soapbox now. :)

naomi dagen bloom said...

Some day I plan to read Nell Painter Irvin's "The History of White People" which is on the list you link to. We could have long discussions about "...her informative, encyclopedic opus ponders whether white people even belong to a separate race, which one might presume to be the case, judging by this country’s long legacy of a strictly-enforced color line."

Soapboxes are good!

Hattie said...

I agree, Lydia. We are all experts in that wonderful ethnic group, European Americans (aka normal mainstream Americans) so why not hear some other voices for a change?
This reminds me how much I enjoyed my lit classes at Portland State, especially American literature with Prof. A.B. Paulsen. I wrote an essay about Native Son that he gave me an A+ on, and he was a hard grader. A.B. is still there, still teaching literature and creative writing. He's great.

mythopolis said...

I agree with Naomi, no need to apologize for soap boxing...we all have to find a voice these days, and blogging is one of those!
And per Hattie, great teachers make all the difference in the world, don't they? I remember taking a course on the 'History of Psychology', and the text book looked so deadly boring. But, the teacher brought the whole subject to light in a very magical way for me, and I couldn't wait for my next class!

Lydia said...

naomi~ The History of White People sounds marvelous. As I wrote, I bookmarked that site for future reference. Any number of those 100 books would be great to read.
Thank you for reminding me not to apologize for being on a soapbox. Not. Ever.

****As a humorous aside to our conversation, Everyone, you might get a kick out of the blog Stuff White People Like.

Hattie~ I just asked my husband if he ever took a class from Prof. Paulsen when he was at PSU and he did not. If we lived in Portland I would love to take one of his classes; alas...
Is your paper on Native Son published at your blog, by any chance? I have enjoyed reading from your personal writing links and hope to find your A+ paper there!

mythopolis~ See my thanks to naomi about my earlier soapbox comment.
Absolutely, teachers make all the difference. Your psych teacher was one of those for you. I have a handful in my life I could name and will never forget. Their instruction is a part of who I am today.

naomi dagen bloom said...

Have you connected with Betty Soskin? One of the few Elderbloggers of color,, one of few Elderbloggers (close to 90) of color. She continues to work as a US Park Ranger in California; amazing perspective and energy. Her present/past are vividly described, worth spending some time exploring.

Hattie said...

Lydia: I lost that paper. It was in my old Mac and I did not keep a hard copy. It was full of undergraduate insights, as I recall.
I would not write the same things today, I'm sure.

Looking to the Stars said...

Loved the post :) I was going to do something for Black History month. I found a neat old newspaper story about the 1st black judge here in Colo. about 6 months ago. Saved it on my computer and now I can't find it. It has vanished which has been happening a lot lately(lol). If I ever remember where I found it in the 1st place I'll re copy it and share :)
But, I loved yout tribute to Black history month. Once again, great post :)

Lydia said...

naomi~ She sounds wonderful! I intended to visit her blog all day, but for some reason msnbc reports have kept me glued to the TV!

Hattie~ That is a shame. And only a true academic would describe an A+ paper as having been "full of undergraduate insights"! I would never think of such a concept. :)

Looking to the Stars~ I would love to know more about the first black judge in Colorado and I sure hope you find it. Did you try a search in "My Computer"? I have been able to find things that way that I thought were lost forever. I will check your blog for your post commemmorating Black History Month!

Lydia said...

Looking to the Stars~ (I am commmmemmmmmorating the sad fact that I usually spell commemorate incorrectly :)

susan said...

It's one of those celebrations that gives me hope that things are essentially okay in America. Strangely, though, we've met a few black Americans who decided to relocate to Canada before we did.

Agneta said...

Thank you for your wonderful comment. I'm back from my blog coma & your words gift gave me a lot of energy!!!

Love Agneta & Sweden

Lydia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia said...

susan~ I enjoy hearing about the places and people you are discovering in your new home. Interesting that some of them are transplants from the U.S. Oh, the stories you can all share with one another...

Agneta~ I think I was still looking around your blog when you wrote your comment here! I am so happy you have returned!
I placed your blog in my blogroll at Clutterquake, my other blog.



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