LitBirthdays March 2015


March 1

Ralph Ellison

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke

Shantabai Kamble

March 2

Janos Arany

Evgeny Baratynsky

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (Seeley Regester)


March 3

Yury (Karlovich) Olesha

George Miller (George Miliotis)

Caroline Lamarche

March 4

Robert Orben

Miriam Makeba

Khaled Hosseini

Robert Emmet


March 5

MC Solaar

Elisabeth Badinter


March 6

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Andrzej Wajda

Teru Miyamoto


March 7

Georges Perec

Robin Becker

Muhsin Al-Ramli (Arabic: ) محسن الرملي‎


March 8

Kenneth Grahame

Hafid Bouazza

Carole Bayer Sager


March 9

Robert James (Bobby) Fischer

Mickey (Frank Morrison) Spillane

Ismael Serrano



March 10

Lorenzo Da Ponte

Keren Ann Zeidel (Hebrew: קרן אן זיידל‎)

Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)


March 11

Lea Hernandez

Douglas Adams

Ezra Jack Keats

Jean “Binta” Breeze

Alba de Cespedes


March 12

Naomi Shihab Nye

Virginia Hamilton 

Tian Han 田汉

Jack (Jean Lous) Kerouac



March 13

Lisa Lutz

André Téchiné

Mahmoud Darwish

Common, U.S. rapper


March 14

Pam Ayres

Horton Foote, Jr.

Caryl Phillips



March 15

Ben Okri

Veronica Maggio

Madelyn Pugh



March 16

Zoe Jenny

Sully Prudhomme

Richard Matthew Stallman

James Madison



March 17

Yokomitsu Riichi (横光 利一)

Nat King Cole 


March 18

Queen Latifah

Luc Besson 

Christa Wolf,

John Updike


March 19

John Burnside 

Valerio Zurlini

Philip Roth



March 20

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso)

Vera Panova

Lucy Myers Wright Mitchell


March 21

Ved Mehta

Phyllis McGinley


March 22

Beverley Knight

Louis L’Amour Lawrence Dearborn LaMoore


March 23

Plantu (Jean Plantureux)

Emmy Noether

Akira Kurosawa


March 24

Kate (Catherine Merrial) Webb

Lawrence Ferlinghetti


March 25

Gloria Steinem

Toni Cade Bambara

Thom Loverro


March 26

Bob Woodward

Robert Frost

Tennessee Williams


March 27

Julia Alvarez

Budd (Seymour Wilson) Schulberg 

Ai Qing (艾青) (Jiang Haicheng)

Michael Aris

Abelardo Castillo



March 28

Jennifer Weiner

Dimcho Debelianov (Димчо Дебелянов)

Maxim Gorky (Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov)

Lauren Weisberger 


March 29

Vangelis (Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou) (Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου)

Andrija Maurović

Lennart Meri


March 30

Thierry Cabot 

Céline Dion

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (Bangla: শরদিন্দু বন্দোপাধ্যায়)

Moses Maimonides


March 31

Octavio Paz

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut

René Descartes



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LitBirthdays February 11, 2015

Happy Birthday John Langalibalele Dube!

John Dube

John Langalibalele Dube (born February 11, 1871) South African (Natal) author and minister; first president of the African National Congress (1912) – U Jeqe: Insila ka Shaka / Jeqe, the Bodyservant of King Shaka (1930, first novel in the Zulu language)

Dube closeup copy

Read about John Dube here:

Photos and oral histories of Dube and his school, Ohlange, (in Inanda, Natal, South Africa) are here:

Below is an excerpt of Dube’s 1904 essay “Are Negroes Better Off in Africa?” which compares the situation of blacks in Africa with those in the United States. [Missionary Review of the World, Vol. 27, August 1904, pages 583-586]  [ ]

From a Christian standpoint, the black man of America is highly favored above his African cousin, in that he is born into and is reared and lives in Gospel light — within reach, at least, of the rudiments of Christian education. …The black man is in the United States in large numbers, and is probably there to remain and multiply. He was in Africa before any civilized man came there to gather its riches with superior skill and appliances, and he will remain in his native land.

The great problem here is the same which has for some time been forcing itself to the front in most of the missionary fields of the world—the problem of Christian industrialization. This is a great need in missionary work today among heathen and semi-civilised people. Events have projected this matter to the very front in the case of the negroes in both hemispheres. It is believed to be a means indispensable in saving the black man in heart, head. and hand. The New Testament ideal for every saved man is that he be transformed in heart, instructed in mind, and trained to use his hands for good works. This is the need of the black man as of the white. The Son of Man was a workman with heart, mind, and hand, and both His example and teaching were: “To every man his work” (Mark xiii: 34).

Booker T. Washington, son of a slave, sat at General Armstrong’s feet, received industrial training under his eye, imbibed his philanthropic spirit, and went out to start a little school in the great black belt of Alabama. Tuskegee has grown to a great institution, with over a thousand of pupils. Many schools, carrying out the plan of industrial education, have been planted in the South, and this work for the negroes of America has been carried on long enough to show from actual results what Christian industrial education can do for them. The facts speak for themselves, and can not he disputed.

This same kind of educational training is needed for the African Christians. The times and conditions require it. They are intelligent and capable, and such training has been tried among them sufficiently to show its value and possibilities. The South African makes as good and as skillful a tradesman in the various industries as his American cousin. He has not enjoyed many advantages, but he is eager to learn and improve his opportunity. Industrial schools are greatly needed in Africa, to enable the people to make the most of themselves.

The attempts to keep the black man down will not win ultimately. The negroes of both countries are being Christianised and industrialized as never before, and the good work will go on, until the purpose for which God made them is fulfilled.

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A Closer Look: Buell Gordon Gallagher, Part 2

The previous post discusses Buell Gordon Gallagher‘s early career and why he,  a white person, was president of the historically black Talledega College from 1933 to 1943. When Gallagher’s term as president of Talladega College ended, he went to the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, where he was a professor of Christian ethics. He arrived in January 1944.

Perhaps Reverend Gallagher was acting on W.E.B. DuBois’ advice from 1931 — that the best inter-racial work was inter-racial churches. Soon after his arrival in California, Gallagher became co-pastor of the South Berkeley Community Church. The church had formerly been the Park Congregational Church, closing in 1942 due to “white flight,” but reopening in 1943 with the specific intent of being inter-racial. This article says that South Berkeley Community Church was the first intentional integrated church in the Bay area. Reverend Roy C. Nichols, a new graduate of the Pacific School of Religion, was the co-pastor, and he later (1968) became the first African-American bishop in the United Methodist Church. Read more about the history of South Berkeley Community Church here:

Mr. Gallagher Goes To Washington

Gallagher ran on the Democratic and Independent Progressive tickets in the 1948 election to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 7th District (Oakland). He lost to Republican John J. Allen, Jr. (74,318 votes to Allen’s 78,534 votes).

I did not find anything about Rev. Gallagher’s reasons for running or his platform, but Harry Truman mentions him in a September 22, 1948 campaign speech that Truman gave in Oakland. Truman was the incumbent president who stepped up to take the place of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he died in 1945. In the 1948 presidential election, California was one of the three key states that Truman had to win (the other two being Illinois and Ohio).

It was a tough battle for Truman. His Republican opponent Thomas E. Dewey was expected to win, and he had named California governor Earl Warren (later a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) as his vice-presidential running mate. Truman had already done a whistlestop tour in May. In September he was back. Here’s an excerpt of Truman’s speech:

“An election will be held in this Nation on November 2d, and the result of that election can mean everything to the people of California, and all the country. …You people here have already been hurt by the failure of the Republican 80th Congress to do anything to control high prices. You have already been hurt by the failure of this same Republican Congress to take suitable action to meet the housing shortage and the crisis in education.

You’ve got a good man right here in Buell Gallagher. And if you prefer to keep that backward fellow in there, instead of electing a good man like this, you ought to get what you deserve.”

This photo is from the “History of Racial Injustice” website, illustrating the fact that in July 1948, President Truman ordered the integration of U.S. Armed Forces. Truman’s unexpected win of the presidency for a second term, perhaps due to black voter support, helped to turn Rev. Gallagher’s loss around — he came to Washington anyway in 1950, as a consultant in the Office of Education, where he stayed for two years until Gallagher was named president of City College of New York, starting in September 1952.

Where do you stand on Communism, Mr. Gallagher?

Throughout the 20th century there has been a perception in the United States that civil rights activists were leftists and therefore potentially allied with Communists. Although Buell Gallagher was never an active activist, as a university president he had to make decisions that brought his political leanings into question. More about this in Part 3.

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A Closer Look: Buell Gordon Gallagher

I have started checking LitBirthdays posts for broken or outdated links, and I took a closer look at the life of Buell Gordon Gallagher, born February 4, 1904; died August 1978.

Originally I thought he was black. He was president of Talladega College, a historically black college. His books had titles like American Caste and the Negro College. And in 2010, when he was originally listed on LitBirthdays, I didn’t have a photo of him. (See the revised LitBirthdays post for Gallagher here.)

He’s not black. He’s white. Why was a white guy the president of a black college? In trying to find the answer to that, I found many interesting details of Buell Gallagher’s public life. Over the next day or two I’ll tell what I’ve found.

I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t find his obituary. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. And yet over the course of 50 years of public life from the late 1920s to the 1970s, he was in contact with leaders of the civil rights movement and in his own Zelig-like way made a positive contribution to race relations in the United States.

Q: Why was a white guy president of Talladega College?

The answer is connected to the fact that Buell Gordon Gallagher, like his father, was a Congregationalist minister. In the 19th century, Congregationalists were abolitionists. Immediately after the end of the Civil War, in November 1865 (according to the Talladega College website), two freed slaves from Talladega, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, started a school for the children of former slaves. They joined forces with the American Missionary Association (Congregationalists), which purchased the building that became Talladega College.

In 1929, Buell Gordon Gallagher graduated from New York City’s Union Theological Seminary and was ordained a Congregationalist minister. He had a brief fellowship at the London School of Economics, then returned to the New York area and settled in as pastor of the First Congregational Church of Passaic, New Jersey, from 1931 to 1933. Already he had made a commitment to minister in the realm of education for black students.

In January 1931, Gallagher wrote a letter to W.E. B. DuBois (one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and DuBois responded on February 9, 1931. You can read the letter here, which has the archival heading “Concerning advice for a White boy who wishes to do interracial work following graduation from theological seminary.”

DuBois letter

DuBois tells Gallagher: “I must say that I do not know where the young man in question could best pursue his inter-racial work. …I imagine, however, that most of the real inter-racial work is going to be done in the future outside of organizations especially designed for such work. I should think, for instance, that a man with a church in a small town, who could bring into that church white and black, natives and foreigners, employers and employees, would in the end be doing an inter-racial job far beyond any organization. I regret to say, however, with the present attitude of white Christians, I do not anticipate that the young man would find such a job easy.”

Gallagher had higher aspirations than pastoring a small town desegregated church. Somehow he was selected to be president of Talladega College in 1933, and the fact that Talladega College did not have a black president at that time is because the American Missionary Association, the financial and administrative controlling body of the school, refused to consider a black top administrator. In fact, when Gallagher left in 1943, Talladega appointed an interim black president, James T. Cater, but only until they could find and hire a white president. It wasn’t until 1952 that the college got its first African American president.


Amistad by Hale Woodruff Talladega College

The legacy of Gallagher’s time at Talladega College is the beautiful murals by African American artist Hale Woodruff. See Cynthia Smith’s blog post for details:

One of the murals depicts the Amistad mutiny, which is symbolic of the founding of Talladega College by Congregationalists. The ship Amistad, carrying African slaves in 1839 from Havana to a sugar plantation elsewhere in Cuba, was taken over by slaves. The renegade ship, which the Africans were trying to sail back to Africa, was subsequently captured by the U.S. Navy. The Congregationalists/abolitionists formed the Amistad Committee to get a fair trial for the African slaves. The case went to the Supreme Court and in 1841 the Court ruled the slaves were kidnapped illegally, and were released to return to Africa.

Some 30 years later, post-Civil War, the Congregationalists focused on education for the freed slaves, founding hundreds of schools across the American South. See Dr. Fannie Hicklin’s article about the Talladega connection to Amistad:

Gallagher also, according to the Alabama Encyclopedia, was known for establishing a student advisory committee on Talladega College policies. But the Amistad mural is more memorable, don’t you think?

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