Literary Birthdays – February 14 – 20


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February 14

Richard Allen (born February 14, 1760) – U.S. founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; publisher and author

Read a biography of Richard Allen:

Excerpt from Richard Allen’s
Address To the Free People of Colour of these United States (1830)

However great the debt which these United States may owe to injured Africa, and however unjustly her sons have been made to bleed, and her daughters to drink of the cup of affliction, still we who have been born and nurtured on this soil, we, whose habits, manners, and customs are the same in common with other Americans, can never consent to take our lives in our hands, and be the bearers of the redress offered by that Society to that much afflicted country.

These considerations have led us to the conclusion, that the formation of a settlement in the British province of Upper Canada, would be a great advantage of the people of Colour. In accordance with these views, we pledge ourselves to aid each other by all honorable means, to plant and support one in that country, and therefore we earnestly and most feelingly appeal to our coloured brethren, and to all philanthropists here and elsewhere, to assist in this benevolent and important work.

Read more here

Carlton Moss (born February 14, 1909) – U.S. filmmaker, playwright, founder of the “Toward a Black Theater” company – The Negro Soldier (1943 documentary)

Read the New York Times obituary for Carlton Moss

Watch a segment of The Negro Soldier

Dwele (Andwele Gardner) (born February 14, 1978) – U.S. singer (neo-soul) / songwriter

Watch a Dwele live performance (Connecticut 2009)


February 15

Brian Holland (born February 15, 1941) – U.S. songwriter (with brother Eddie and Lamont Dozier, Motown hits)

Brian Holland (left) with brother Eddie

Read Brian Holland’s biography:

Read the Wikipedia entry for Holland-Dozier-Holland

Listen to I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) written by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team:

Stop! In the Name of Love

Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
(Won’t you stop?)

Baby, baby
I’m aware of where you go
Each time you leave my door
I watch you walk down the street
Knowing your other love you’ll meet
But this time before you run to her
Leaving me alone and hurt
(Think it over)
Haven’t I  been good to you
(Think it over)
Haven’t I been sweet to you

Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Think it over
(Baby, please) Think it over

I’ve known of your
Your secluded nights
I’ve even seen her
Maybe once or twice
But is her sweet expression
Worth more than my love and affection?
But this time before you leave my arms
And rush off to her charms
(Think it over)
Haven’t I been good to you?
(Think it over)
Haven’t I been sweet to you?

Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Think it over
Think it over

I’ve tried so hard, hard to be patient
Hoping you’d stop this infatuation
But each time you are together
I’m so afraid I’ll be losing you forever
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart
Baby, think it over
Think it over, baby

Ooh, think it over baby..

Listen to The Supremes sing Stop! In the Name of Love — written by Holland-Dozier-Holland

Listen to The Four Tops sing Holland-Dozier-Holland’s
Reach Out, I’ll Be There in this a capella version

or watch the video of the Four Tops performing
Reach Out, I’ll Be There

February 16

Otis Blackwell (born February 16, 1932) – U.S. songwriter / singer – “Great Balls of Fire”

Read about Otis Blackwell

Songwriters Hall of Fame bio

Read an article about Otis Blackwell in The Dish (November 2003)

Listen to Elvis Presley’s hauntingly beautiful cover of Fever, written by Otis Blackwell

Paul Gilroy

Paul Gilroy (born February 16, 1956) – U.K. scholar, historian (black culture) – Between Camps (Against Race) 2000

Read the Wideipedia biography of Paul Gilroy

Watch Paul Gilroy speak about slavery and the
culture of ignorance:

We need to think about ignorance in a different way … as a systematic product. We need to think about the politics of ignorance. This is a country where at least 4 million people can’t read. This is a country where 7 million people can’t add two three-figure numbers together. Where the highest percentage of school students still think they’re not sure whether the holocaust ever happened. So for me, the meaning of revisiting this history of slavery and abolitionism is framed by this incredible culture of ignorance. An ignorance that suits and serves the interests of those in power. …We can’t solve the mystification found here among many black and white people by offering them some ready-mixed history of slavery. … I know Rebel MC is a bit ante-diluvian but he had one line I’ll always remember: ‘There’s more than just slavery to the history — we have dignity.’

Watch Paul Gilroy speak about race and political culture:

“I’m really bothered about ignorance these days…this concept of agnotology, the cultural reproduction of ignorance.”

“….Some oversimple advocates of facile relativism queuing up to argue the absolute incorrigibility of discrepant cultural formations thrown together in a post-colonial melee.”

February 17

Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) (born February 17, 1982 – some sources say February 16, some say February 17) – U.S. singer/rapper

Read about Lupe Fiasco

Watch Tavis Smiley interview Lupe Fiasco

Listen to Lupe Fiasco’s Sunshine

Huey Percy Newton (born February 17, 1942) – U.S. activist, co-founder of the Black Panther party – To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (1972)

Read about Huey Newton here

Watch Huey Newton speak about the police and the black community

Listen to Huey Newton define various forms of suicide – revolutionary, reactionary, black:

“Black suicide is because of a lack of love.  What has happened — the blacks have no profession, they have no hope to achieve a social position or material things, and as you deprive a person of social position or some material things — a personality is made up of things that you hope to be: your aspirations or goals, and so forth. It’s like the layer of skin on the onion. And as you strip these things away, you strip the person away… This is how the establishment or the regime has crushed blacks.”

February 18


Toni Morrison (Chloe Ardelia Wofford) (born February 18, 1931) – U.S. novelist, 1993 Literature Nobel Prize winner – Beloved

Read the excellent Authors Calendar biography of Toni Morrison

Read the MSBush bio of Toni Morrison

Meridian. The sound of it opens the windows of a room like the first four notes of a hymn. Few people can say the names of their home towns with such sly affection. Perhaps because they don’t have home towns, just places where they were born. But these girls soak up the juices of their home towns, and it never leaves them. They are thin brown girls who have looked long at
hollyhocks in the backyards of Meridian, Mobile, Aiken, and Baton Rouge. And like hollyhocks they are narrow, tall, and still. Their roots are deep, their stalks are firm, and only the top blossom nods in the wind. They have the eyes of people who can tell what time it is by the color of the sky.

page 81, The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Read more from The Bluest Eye here:

Audre Lorde (born February 18, 1934) – U.S. poet, essayist, university professor, publisher

Read the biography of Audre Lorde

Excerpt from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

“When we view living in the european mode only as a problem to be solved, we rely solely upon our ideas to make us free, for these were what the white fathers told us were precious. But as we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.

At this point in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches so necessary for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

Read more of Sister Outsider here:

February 19


Clifton Taulbert (born February 19, 1945) – U.S. memoirist,  motivational speaker, author – Once Upon A Time When We  Were Colored

Read a bio and interview of Clifton Taulbert

Watch Clifton Taulbert talk to educators about being inclusive leaders

Eileen Jackson Southern (born February 19, 1920) – U.S. musicologist, university professor – The Music of Black Americans: A History (1971) Eileen Jackson Southern - musicologist, 1st black tenured professor at Harvard

Read the Harvard University
biography of Eileen Jackson Southern

and this biography of Eileen Southern

Read excerpts from The Music of Black Americans: A History

At the turn of the century, New Orleans had dozens of African-American brass bands, dance orchestras, and strolling groups of players. The leading brass bands included the Eagle, Eureka, Excelsior, Imperial, Onward, Peerless, and Superior. Some of these bands dated back to the 1880s-90s; others were formed during the first decade of the twentieth century. As described above, their instrumentation consisted of twelve to fourteen musicians.

The six- and seven-piece ‘string bands’ that played for dances generally included cornet, trombone, string bass, guitar, drums, and one or two clarinets or violins. Among the principal dance groups were the Silver Leaf, the Olympia, and Adam Olivier’s band; sometimes brass bands such as the Excelsior also played for dances. But the top dance bands of the years ca. 1893-1906 were the society dance band of John Robichaux (1866-1937) and the ‘hot’ band of Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden (1877-1931).

Page 342, The Music of Black Americans: A History


February 20

Linda Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education Linda Brown (born February 20, 1942) – U.S. civil rights activist (plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education)

Read the Wikipedia entry on Brown v. Board of Education

Read the transcript of a 1985 television
interview with Linda Brown

“My father believed very much in right, and he felt that it was wrong for black people to have to accept second-class citizenship, and that meant being segregated in their schools, when in fact, there were schools right in their neighborhoods that they could attend, and they had to go clear across town to attend an all-black school. And this is one of the reasons that he became involved in this suit, because he felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education.

I remember Monroe School, the all-black school that I attended, as being a very good school, uh as far as quality is concerned, the teachers were very good teachers, they set very good examples for their students, and they expected no less of the student. … This was not the issue at that time, quality education, but it was the distance that I had to go to acquire that education.

I feel that after thirty years, looking back on Brown v. The Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second class citizenship.”

Read a 1986 People magazine article about
Linda Brown Thompson,,20095153,00.html

Ellis Cose (born February 20, 1951) – U.S. journalist – The Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America

Read a biography of Ellis Cose

Read a Newsweek editorial by Ellis Cose (February 2010)

Watch a 2009 CSPAN interview of Ellis Cose (1 hour)

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