Literary Birthdays – February 21 – 27

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February 21

Claudia Jones Claudia Jones (born February 21, 1915) – U.S. (born in Trinidad) Journalist,  Communist Party activist, essayist

Read a biography of Claudia Jones

Read this blog post about Claudia Jones’
1949 article about black women and civil rights:
“An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!”

Read another blog post about Jones and the entire article here:

Excerpt from “An End to the Neglect of the Problems
of the Negro Woman!”:

“Historically, the Negro woman has been the guardian, the protector, of the Negro family. From the days of the slave traders down to the present, the Negro woman has had the responsibility of caring for the needs of the family, of militantly shielding it from the blows of Jim-Crow insults, of rearing children in an atmosphere of lynch terror, segregation, and police brutality, and of fighting for an education for the children.

Negro women are the real active forces — the organizers and workers — in all the institutions and organizations of the Negro people. … The disdainful attitudes which are sometimes expressed — that Negro women’s organizations concern themselves only with ‘charity’ work — must be exposed as of chauvinist derivation… This approach fails to recognize the special function which Negro women play in these organizations, which, over and above their particular function, seek to provide social services denied to Negro youth as a result of the Jim-Crow lynch system in the U.S.

The suffragists, during their first jailings, were purposely placed on cots next to Negro prostitutes to ‘humiliate’ them. They had the wisdom to understand that the intent was to make it so painful, that no woman would dare to fight for her rights if she had to face such consequences. But it was the historic shortcoming of the women’s suffrage leaders, predominantly drawn as they were from the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie, that they failed to link their own struggles to the struggles for the full democratic rights of the Negro people following emancipation.

A developing consciousness on the woman question today, therefore, must not fail to recognize that the Negro question in the United States is prior to, and not equal to, the woman question, that only to the extent that we fight all chauvinistic expression and actions as regards the Negro people and fight for the full equality of the Negro people, can women as a whole advance their struggle for equal rights.

Corey Harris (born February 21, 1969) – U.S. blues guitarist, singer/songwriter

Read a compilation bio of Corey Harris

Watch Corey perform Special Rider Blues:

Watch the music video of Sweatshop


February 22

William Whipper (born February 22, 1804) – U.S. anti-slavery activist, essayist – “Address on Non-Resistance to Offensive Aggression”

Read Whipper’s 1834 essay about the need for temperance (abstain from drinking liquor) among the Negro population

Read the precursor of Gandhi and Martin Luther King:
Excerpts from “An Address on Non-Resistance to Offensive Aggression” (1837)

“Had they have set out in this glorious undertaking of freeing 2,500,000 human beings, with the war-cry of “liberty or death,” they would have been long since demolished, or a civil war would have ensued; thus would have dyed the national soil with human blood. … Their weapons were reason and moral truth, and on them they desired to stand or fall – and so it will be in all causes that are sustained from just and christian principles, they will ultimately triumph.

Therefore let us, like them, obliterate from our minds the idea of revenge, and from our hearts all wicked intentions towards each other and the world, and we shall be able through the blessing of Almighty God, to so much to establish the principles of universal peace. Let us not think the world has no regard for our efforts – they are looking forward to them with intense interest and anxiety.

[W]hile we endeavor to control our own passions and keep them in subjection, let us be mindful of the weakness of others; and for acts of wickedness of others; and for acts of wickedness committed against us, let us reciprocate in the spirit of kindness. If they continue their injustice towards us, let us always decide that their reasoning powers are defective, and that it is with men as the laws of mechanics – large bodies move slowly, while smaller ones are easily propelled with swift velocity. In every case of passion that presents itself, the subject is one of pity rather than derision, and in his cooler moments let us earnestly advise him to improve his understanding, by cultivating his intellectual powers, and thus exhibit his close alliance with God, who is the author of all wisdom, peace, justice, righteousness and truth.

And in conclusion, let it always be our aim to live in a spirit of unity with each other, supporting one common cause, by spreading our influence for the good of mankind, with the hope that the period will ultimately arrive when the principles of universal peace will triumph throughout the world.”


February 23

Claude Brown (born February 23,  1937) – U.S. novelist, autobiographer, sociologist – Manchild in the Promised Land Claude Brown book - Manchild in the Promised Land

Read about Claude Brown

Listen to a radio interview of Claude Brown done in September 1965 by Studs Terkel–Teens

Part 1 of 4-part Claude Brown radio interview:

Part 2 of Claude Brown interview:

February 24

Kasi_Lemmons Kasi (Karen) Lemmons (born February 24, 1959) – U.S. filmmaker, screenwriter – Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Read the New York Times biography of Kasi Lemmons

Read a 1997 interview where Lemmons talks
about making
Eve’s Bayou

Read a 2010 interview where Lemmons tells how she became a filmmaker and her latest film projects


February 25

George Schuyler (born February 25, 1895) – U.S. novelist, journalist, essayist – Black No More (1931)

Read George Schuyler’s biographies:

First verse of George Schuyler’s satiric poem “Ballad of Negro Artists” which mocks the Harlem Renaissance writers

Now Old Merlin the wizard had nothing on us
Though he conjured a castle up out of the dust;
For with nothing but gall and a stoutness of heart,
On this public we’ve foisted this New Negro Art.

Oh! This New Negro Art;
This ‘peculiar’ art
On the gullible public
We’ve foisted our ‘art’

[Read the entire poem here]

Read a blog post about George Schuyler’s “The Negro-Art Hokum” vs. Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”

Read Oscar R. Williams’ dissertation about George Schuyler

Excerpt from Williams’ dissertation, page 117:

‘The Negro-Art Hokum’ began with Schuyler asserting that the idea of ‘Negro art’ existing in America was ‘self-evident foolishness.’ Schuyler stated that spirituals, the blues, jazz (which he asserted that whites had assisted in the development of the music) and ‘The Charleston’ were foreign to ‘Northern Negroes, West Indian Negroes, and African Negroes. They are no more expressive or characteristic of the Negro race than the music and dancing of the Appalachian highlanders or the Dalmatian peasantry are expressive or characteristic of the Caucasian race.’

Schuyler then made the bold assertion that
‘The Aframerican is merely a lampblacked Anglo-Saxon. If the European immigrant after two or three generations of exposure to our schools, politics, advertising, moral crusades, and restaurants becomes indistinguishable from the mass of Americans of the older stock, … how much truer must it be of the sons of Ham who have been subjected to what the uplifters call Americanism for the last three hundred years. Aside from his color, … your American Negro is just plain American.’

It was not long before Schuyler received a response … from a poet who epitomized the Harlem Renaissance: Langston Hughes.

The Anti-Black Hokum? Read Paul Beatty’s irreverent essay on Black Humor, which mentions Schuyler’s
satiric novel
Black No More


February 26

Fats Fats Domino (Antoine Domino) (born February 26, 1928) – U.S. singer/songwriter – The Fat Man (1949 – co-written with Dave Bartholomew)

Read the biography of Fats Domino

Watch Fats Domino perform his first hit, The Fat Man, recently

The Fat Man

They call, they call me the fat man
Cause I weigh two hundred pounds
All the girls they love me
Cause I know my way around

I was standin, I was standin on the corner
Of Rampart and Canal
I was watchin, watchin
Watchin all those creole gals

I’m goin, I’m goin, goin away
And I’m goin, goin to stay
Cause women and a bad life
They’re taking this soul away.

Watch Domino’s 1986 performance of Blue Monday

Sharon Bell Mathis (born February 26, 1937) – U.S. children’s / young adult book writer – Teacup Full of Roses (1972) Sharon Bell Mathis

Read about Sharon Bell Mathis

Watch and listen to Sharon Bell Mathis read from her book The Hundred Penny Box


February 27

Charlayne Hunter-Gault (born February 27, 1942) – U.S. journalist, civil rights activist – In My Place (1992)

Read about Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Available at Dempsey Books – Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s memoir about her part in integrating the University of Georgia


J. Rawls (Jason Rawls) (born February 27, 1974) – U.S. hiphop, jazz musician, producer

Read about J. Rawls: Wikipedia

Read a blog dedicated to J. Rawls

Read about J. Rawls Histories project

Read an interview where J. Rawls talks about
Histories album

Listen to So Fly, from J. Rawls’ Liquid Crystal Project album

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