LitBirthdays October 16 – 22, 2011

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October is

National Book


October 16

George Washington Williams
George Washington Williams (born October 16, 1849) – U.S. African-American historian, political activist, Baptist minister – History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880 (1882)

Read about George Washington Williams here and here

He moved to Washington, DC and started a newspaper called The Commoner, directed to the African-American community. In 1876, Williams gave up the paper to return to religion. He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became the pastor of the Union Baptist Church.

In Cincinnati, Williams began to show interest in politics. Williams, a republican, ran for a seat on the Ohio legislature in 1877, but lost. However, in 1879 he ran again for the position and became the first African-American to serve in the Ohio legislature.

In 1883, shortly after his career as a politician, Williams’ History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens was published. He had worked on the piece for seven years. In order to produce this historical account, Williams studied over 12,000 books, a thousand of which are mentioned in his historical account.

On a trip in Europe, he made the acquaintance of King Leopold of Belgium. The king sparked an interest in Williams for the Congo in Africa. He was later to make several visits there, and much to the dismay of the king, S.S. McClure, a well-known editor and publisher at the time, commissioned him to write articles on the treatment of the natives under Belgian rule. In 1890, Williams published two articles on Belgian rule in the Congo: An Open letter to His Serene Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Independent State of Congo and A Report Upon the Congo-State and Country to the President of the Republic of the United States.

[from the biography by Paige Reddinger for Pennsylvania public libraries]

Read “An Open letter to His Serene Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Sovereign of the Independent State of Congo” here

… There were instances in which Mr. HENRY M. STANLEY sent one white man, with four or five Zanzibar soldiers, to make treaties with native chiefs. The staple argument was that the white man’s heart had grown sick of the wars and rumours of war between one chief and another, between one village and another; that the white man was at peace with his black brother, and desired to “confederate all African tribes” for the general defense and public welfare. All the sleight-of- hand tricks had been carefully rehearsed, and he was now ready for his work. A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother’s hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet in giving him the hand of fellowship. When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull up trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength. Next came the lens act. The white brother took from his pocket a cigar, carelessly bit off the end, held up his glass to the sun and complaisantly smoked his cigar to the great amazement and terror of his black brother. The white man explained his intimate relation to the sun, and declared that if he were to request him to burn up his black brother’s village it would be done.

An excerpt from History of the Negro Race in America, 1619-1880 (Chapter 27 – The Decline of Negro Governments)

From 1868 to 1872 the Southern States had been held by the Republican party, with but a few exceptions, without much effort. The friends of the Negro began to congratulate themselves that the Southern problem had been solved. Every Legislature in the South had among its members quite a fair representation of Colored men. Among the State officers there was a good sprinkling of them; and in some of the States there were Negroes as Lieut. Governors. Congress had opened its doors to a dozen Negroes; and the consular and diplomatic service had employed a number of them in foreign parts. And so with such evidences of political prosperity before their eyes the friends of the Negro at the North regarded his “calling and election sure.”

In 1873 a great financial panic came to the business and monetary affairs of the country. It was the logic of an inflated currency, wild and visionary enterprises, bad investments, and prodigal living. Banks tottered and fell, large business houses suspended. and financial ruin ran riot. Northern attention was diverted from Southern politics to the “destruction that seemed to waste at noon-day.” Taking advantage of this, the South seized the shotgun and wrote on her banners: “We must carry these States, peaceably if we can; forcibly if we must.” An organized, deliberate policy of political intimidation assumed the task of ridding the South of Negro government. The first step was in the direction of intimidating the white leaders of the Republican organizations; and the next was to deny employment to all intelligent and influential Colored Republicans. Thus from time to time the leaders of the Republican party were reduced to a very small number. Without leaders the rank and file of the party were harmless and helpless in State and National campaigns. This state of affairs seemed to justify the presence of troops at the polls on election days. Under an Act of Congress “the President was empowered to use the army to suppress domestic violence, prevent bloodshed,” and to protect the Negroes in the constitutional exercise of the rights conferred upon them by the Constitution.

… When the National Republican Convention met at Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 1876, there was still lacking a definite policy for the South. Presidential candidates were numerous, and the contest bitter. Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes, at that time Governor of Ohio, was nominated as a compromise candidate. There was no issue left the Republican party, as the ” bloody shirt” had been rejected by the Liberals, and was generally distasteful at the North. But the initial success of the Democratic party South, and the loss of many Northern States to the Republicans, had emboldened the South to expect national success. But a too precipitous preparation for a raid upon the United States Treasury for the payment of rebel war claims threw the Republicans upon their guard, and, for the time being, every other question was sunk into insignificance.

…One thing, however, was sure: the Negro governments of the South were now a thing of the past. Not a single State was left to the Republican party. Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were hanging by the slender thread of doubt, with the provisions of a returning board in favor of the Republican party. The returning boards were the creation of local law; their necessity having grown out of the peculiar methods employed by Democrats in carrying elections. These boards were empowered to receive and count the votes cast for presidential electors; and wherever it could be proven that intimidation and fraud had been used, the votes of such precincts, counties, etc., were to be thrown out. The three doubtful States named above were counted for the Republican presidential electors. Their work was carried before Congress. … before four o’clock the next morning the count was completed, and Hayes declared the President of the United States for the Constitutional term of four years. This is given as one of the many unwritten incidents that occurred during this angry, and, probably, most perilous controversy that ever threatened the life of the American Republic.

A new policy for the South was now inevitable. From October 1876 till March 1877, President Grant had refused to recognize Chamberlain as Governor of South Carolina, or Packard as Governor of Louisiana. He had simply preserved those governments in status quo. He had heard all that could be said in favor of the Republican: side of the question, and seemed to believe that it was now beyond his power to hold up the last of the Negro governments with bayonets. He was right. Governments must have, not only the subjective elements of life, but the powers of self-preservation.

The Negro governments at the South died for the want of these elements. It was a pity, too, after the noble fight the Republican party of Louisiana. and South Carolina had made, and after they had secured their electoral votes for Hayes, that their State officers who had been chosen at the same time should have been abandoned to their own frail governmental resources. But this was unavoidable. Their governments could not have existed twenty-four hours without the presence and aid of the United States army. And this could not have been done in the face of the sentiment against such use of the army which had grown to be nearly unanimous throughout the country.

It was to be regretted that the Negro had been so unceremoniously removed from Southern politics. But such a result was inevitable. The Government gave him the statute-book when he ought to have had the spelling-book; placed him in the Legislature when he ought to have been in the schoolhouse. In the great revolution that followed the war, the heels were put where the brains ought to have been. An ignorant majority, without competent leaders, could not rule an intelligent Caucasian minority. Ignorance, vice, poverty, and superstition could not rule intelligence, experience, wealth, and organization. It was here that the “one could chase a thousand, and the two could put ten thousand to flight.” The Negro governments were built on the shifting sands of the opinions of the men who reconstructed the South, and when the storm and rains of political contest came they fell because they were not built upon the granite foundation of intelligence and statesmanship.

It was an immutable and inexorable law which demanded the destruction of those governments. It was a law that know no country, no nationality. Spain, Mexico, France, Turkey, Russia, and Egypt have felt its cruel touch to a greater or less degree.


Born October 16

George Turner (b. 1916) – Australian science fiction writer – The Sea and Summer (1987)

Robert Hall Weir (Bob Weir) (b. 1947) – U.S. musician, singer/songwriter: The Grateful Dead -”Sugar Magnolia”


October 17

 Alexandrine Tinné (born October 17, 1835) – Dutch heiress and explorer of Africa, photographer Alexandrine Tinne

Read about Alexandrine Tinne here and here and here

Alexandrine was born on October 17, 1839 at The Hague, Netherlands to Philip F. Tinne, a wealthy Dutch merchant, and Baroness Harriet Van Steengracht-Capellan, the daughter of a famous Dutch Vice-Admiral. Her father, who was 63 when she was born, passed away when she was a child (some sources say at age 5 others at age 10) and she became the richest young heiress in the Netherlands.

Because she and her mother shared the same adventurous spirit, the two Victorian ladies continued to travel together after Mr. Tinne’s death. When Alexandrine was 19 they toured Egypt – a visit that would prove pivotal in their lives. In 1863 they set by boat to Bahr-el-Ghazal, hoping to see how far west the Nile basin extended, and to see if there was in fact a large lake in Central Africa, as was rumored. From Bahr-el-Ghazal onward they continued their journey by land, crossing arduous north African terrain.

The journey was not an easy one for any of the travelers, and they were all particularly afflicted by tropical fevers. Because of their trying conditions, Alexandrine became terribly ill with a fever and the women stayed amongst the Shilluk tribesmen for a month until she regained her health. Soon other members of the group fell ill as well, and her favorite maid Flora, and then another beloved maid, Anna, both died from it. Steudner died in April, and Alexandrine’s own mother died in June. Evidently heartbroken, the party yet continued in their journey, reaching Khartoum in July of 1864. Tragedy soon struck again when Alexandrine’s aunt also succumbed to fever in Khartoum.

Alexandrine remained in Cairo for four years, traveling throughout the region, into Algeria, Tunisia and the Mediterranean. Her ceaseless spirit of adventure pushed her onwards, and in 1869 she began a journey across the Sahara with a caravan from Tripoli, with the intent of reaching the upper Nile by way of Lake Chad and Darfur. It is believed she may have hoped to discover the source of the Congo River, an important goal for Victorian explorers.

Alexandrine well understood the grueling desert conditions and she brought along two iron tanks filled with water, (along with an ice machine), carried by camels. It is theorized, though, that rumors spread that the tanks were instead filled with gold coins. In Marzuq she met a guide who said he would escort the group through the Tuareg country, (a region where only 2 European explorers had ever spent time) where she would meet with the chieftan before traveling to Lake Chad. Sadly, it was not the arduous conditions of the region that she fell victim to, but instead what is felt to have been a greedy plot on the part of the chieftan which included the alleged guide. En route to Ghat on August 1, 1869, at the age of 29, she and two Dutch sailors were murdered by Tuareg.

[Read more at My Hero]

photography by Alexandrine Tinne

Photograph taken by Alexandrine Tinne “Javabrug Den Haag

Photograph taken by Alexandrine Tinne “De Houtweg.” Read an article about Tinne and her photographs here (Dutch language)

Read an article about Ben Moritz’s book on Alexandrine Tinne (Dutch language)

“Alexandrine Tinne was the first and best photographer, it’s really amazing what this woman has done ​​in the last century,” says B. Moritz, a retired architect and designer and author of the recently published book Alexandrine – Photographer from the very beginning.

“Think a moment. Photography was only discovered in 1845. While most people looked askance at this ‘new art,’ already there was a wealthy young lady from The Hague, accompanied by servants with a heavy box with camera and tripod. Sometimes they even dared to ask people to pose for her: you had to stand still for several minutes, because the photo was ruined by the slightest movement.”

She was known for her extravagant lifestyle in The Hague, her travels and her violent death – Alexandrine was killed in 1861 in the desert by members of the Tuareg tribe – but not for her photographs. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of her photos were lost, and those of her travels are missing altogether.”

About the Tinne family (mother and daughter) much has been said and written, for better or worse. Their first journey was to Scandinavia. Relatively close, but complex in its practical implementation, which later in Africa would be even worse. Dozens of servants were to participate, as well as complete sets of china, beds, pets and a piano. In Norway, all this was carried with dogs and sleds; on the Nile by barge; and in the Sudan by slaves and camels. “Her dogs were each on their own camel in a basket, and her camera equipment definitely needed a camel,” said Moritz.

“We do not, for example, know what cameras they used. Only by a letter to her cousin do we know that the process of shooting was a problem: “I shoot now on my own and the worries it brings are incredible,” she wrote. A comical anecdote is recorded by Mother Henriette in her diary, where she tells how the monks Francesco and Angelo of the “The Holy House” mission in Khartoum responded to Alexandrine and this strange art. “They saw the pictures, crossed themselves and took to their heels.”

Moritz takes his book and points to her most famous photograph, taken from the window of her parents’ home on Long Voorhout 32. “That buggy on the street was her dark room! Alexandrine knew only too well that developing the picture had to be done soon after the shooting, so she made a mobile darkroom. She worked with wet collodium plates: heavy glass plates, which had to be developed immediately. The dimensions of her prints were 36 to 45 cm. . . I still find it hard to believe. ”

His book contains all her pictures that have been preserved: 21 cityscapes of The Hague and Scheveningen, all from 1860 and 1861. Beautiful shots one after another of the Long Voorhout, Princess Canal, and the Leaning Koninginnegracht Inger Bathhouse (where the Kurhaus now stands). Tinne really was ahead of her time, according to Moritz, as is eminently clear from the photos she took where there was neither a human being nor a building to be seen. “Like this panorama-plate of some tree branches. Alexandrine had such a sense of light and shadow. In 1860 she created lighting effects that still arouse admiration. In 1860 she managed to catch all the light.”

Born October 17

Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers III)  (b. 1972) – U.S. rapper

Jupiter Hammon (b. 1711) – U.S. poet


October 18

Juan Tamariz (born October 18, 1942) – Spanish magician – Verbal Magic (2008)

Read about Juan Tamariz here and here

Tamariz experimented in arts related to magic: acting as a clown, puppeteer, and he even had a brief spell with a circus. At 18 years old, he enrolled at a local university where he studied filmmaking. He later applied his knowledge of film and directing in his presentation of magic. He landed a job working in advertising and Producing commercials. He discovered that some of the techniques he used in making commercials were actually used when he performed magic such as misdirection, and particularly the psychology of perception.

He has also created a system called “Methodo Symbolico,” for discussing magic across language barriers, and is an important figure in the Escorial convention. Tamariz is the author of five critically acclaimed best-selling books in English: “The Five Points of Magic,” “Verbal Magic;” “The Magic Way,” “Sonata” and “Mnemonica.”

Juan Tamariz is known internationally among magicians as a true master of his art, and one who generously shares his time and knowledge, both in print and in person, with the magic community. His motto is “Magic, Love, Freedom, Humor, Magic, and the rest is nothingness.”

[from Julio Sevilla’s biography of Juan Tamariz at]

Juan Tamariz performs his magic with audience help

Watch Juan Tamariz juggle here

This seven-minute video of Juan Tamariz juggling three balls is an interesting study in how to juggle three balls while being funny. I’ve always known Tamariz as a master magician. I didn’t know he juggled. Yet here he is using relatively basic juggling tricks and sight gags to put on a very enjoyable and entertaining show.

[posted by Jacob Charles /]

Born October 18

Thomas Love Peacock (b. 1785) – U.K. novelist, satirist – Nightmare Abbey (1818)

Jan Erik Vold (b. 1939) – Norwegian poet



October 19

Agnes Jaoui
Agnès Jaoui (born October 19, 1964) – French director/screenwriter/actor – Parlez-moi de la pluie (2008)

Read about Agnes Jaoui here

Read an interview of Agnes Jaoui here
In her third effort as director, Jaoui presents Let it Rain (French title: Parlez-moi de la pluie, which translates to Talk to Me About the Rain). Jaoui plays Agathe, a feminist politician from Paris who’s visiting her married sister at their childhood home in the south of France. Local filmmakers Karim (Jamel Debbouze, who also starred in the French crossover hit Amelie) and Michel (Bacri) ask her to be a part of a video series on “successful women,” which leads all the characters to examine their values and evaluate their relationships. Karim also happens to be the son of the family’s Algerian housekeeper, Mimouna, played by a nonactor with a similar background. Jaoui is masterful with her cast — not an easy thing to do while one is also acting — and the result is a meandering (in a good way) dramedy that touches on all sorts of cultural touch-points: race and gender inequality, political ethics, prejudice, and more.
[Huffington Post, Tribeca Film, June 2010]

Read the BBC interview of Jaoui about her 2004 film Look at Me

Agnès Jaoui is one of France’s most successful female directors. She also writes and stars in her movies, alongside real-life husband Jean-Pierre Bacri. In Look At Me, she’s playing a choral teacher while he’s a highly cantakerous but also highly successful novelist.

Jaoui: This is now the fourth country that I’ve travelled to with this film, and very often people say to me, “So French!” So I ask why. In the United States and even in Germany, they say it’s because the part of culture is so important. For example, in the States they say that it would be absolutely impossible for someone to recognise a writer in the street, because a writer is only on TV, say, twice a year. So I would ask the question to you, why is it so French?

Q: For me, it’s so French because it’s an intelligent movie about real – albeit bourgeois – people.

Jaoui: It’s so nice! I thought every English person hated French people.

Q: Not true. We like French movies.

Born October 19

John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwell) (b. 1931) – U.K. novelist – A Small Town in Germany (1968)

Miguel Ángel Asturias (b. 1899) – Guatemalan novelist, poet, 1967 literature Nobel Prize winner – Hombres de Maiz (1949)


October 20

Claudio Bergamin (born October 20, 1974) – Chilean – U.K. artist, photographer, graphic novelist

Read about Claudio Bergamin here

See examples of Bergamin’s art at

Born October 20

Dorothea Rosa Herliany (b. 1963) – Indonesian poet – Kill the Radio (2007)

Art Buchwald (b. 1925) – U.S. journalist, humorist

Lepa Brena (Лепа Брена)(Fahreta Jahic) (b. 1960) – Bosnian pop singer


October 21

Salomé Ureña de Henríquez (born October 21, 1850) – Dominican poet

Read about Salomé Ureña de Henríquez here and (in Spanish) here and here

Read the Composite blog article about Salomé Ureña de Henríquez here

Her political essays established her as a strong nationalist and advocate of women’s rights, and she also started a women’s college in the Dominican Republic (Vallejo de Paredes iii). A recent biographer, Sherezada Vicioso, emphasizes that Ureña should not be read only for her best-known patriotic poems, but as a ‘woman, mother, lover; the Salomé of moments of the sad anguish . . . of her erotic poems.’ Vicioso argues for a view of Ureña as expressing an “estetica femenina,” a feminine aesthetic that celebrates women’s identity.

Read more about Salome Urena in Spanish-American Women Writers by Diane E. Marting

Urena’s civic poetry shows the decisive influence of the philosophical and sociological tenets of Positivist Rationalism. Urena developed a social and educational philosophy based on the concept of progress, which stemmed from the theories of social evolution associated with Auguste Comte, the founder of Positivism, and Herbert Spencer. the founder of evolutionist philosophy. In her opinion, three essential aspects of civic life had to be stimulated if Dominicans were to build a great nation: the value of work, the love for science and the arts, and the preservation of peace as the means of assuring the country’s cultural development.

A la Patria / A Homeland

Desgarra, Patria mía, el manto que vilmente, / Tear off, my country, that cloak of barbaric cruelty
sobre tus hombros puso la bárbara cueldad;/ despicably placed upon your shoulders;
levanta ya del polvo la ensangrentada frente, / rise up from the dust of the bloody battlefront,
y entona el himno santo de unión y libertad. / and sing the blessed hymn of unity and freedom.

Levántate a ceñirte la púrpura de gloria / Rise and clothe yourself in majestic glory
¡oh tú, la predilecta del mundo de Colón! / You, the favorite in the world of Columbus!
Tu rango soberano dispútale a la historia,/ Your sovereign reign disputes history;
demándale a la fama tu lauro y tu blasón. / demand your laurel and your shield of fame.

Y pídele a tus hijos, llamados a unión santa, / And beg your children, called to saintly unity
te labren de virtudes grandioso pedestal, / to carve a grand pedestal of virtues,
do afirmes para siempre la poderosa planta, / so you can forever secure the powerful platform
mostrando a las naciones tu título inmortal. / that shows all nations your immortal title.

Y deja, Patria amada, que en el sonoro viento / And leave, my country, that sound of the wind
se mezclen a los tuyos mis himnos de placer; / where my songs of pleasure are mixed with yours
permite que celebre tu dicha y tu contento, / to celebrate your joy and contentment,
cual lamenté contigo tu acerbo padecer. / and lament your bitter suffering

[Read the entire poem here]


Born October 21

Simon Gray (b. 1936) – U.K. playwright – The Late Middle Classes (1999)

Ursula Le Guin (b. 1929) – U.S. novelist, poet, essayist – The Lathe of Heaven (1971)


October 22

Wesley Stace1
John Wesley Harding (Wesley Stace) (born October 22, 1965) – U.K. singer/songwriter, novelist – by George (2007)

Read about John Wesley Harding here and here

Watch a video interview where Harding talks about his process of writing

Harding: The irony is that Misfortune, my first novel, was kind of based on a song and I extrapolated the song out and made the novel. And it is a very different mindset. In a song the idea is to concisely say something in very few words that don’t sound verbose or too wretchedly poetic. And in novels you need to expand thoughts and have characters make perfect psychological sense. It’s a very different thing.

From book reviews of  by George

Lo and behold, here’s Wesley Stace’s overcrowded but entertaining By George, about ventriloquists and their “boys” (the term they prefer to “dummy”), and it manages to be touching and engrossing rather than just disconcertingly odd.

Stace is the real name of the folk-singer John Wesley Harding, and this is his second novel since Misfortune, a gender-bending Victorian tale that was longlisted for the Guardian first book award. Stace’s grandfather was a real Ensa ventriloquist, and the materials are a rich bouquet that needs more space to breathe.

[The Guardian book review by Patrick Ness, 19 October 2007]

The family is in entertainment, starting with the matriarchical great grandmother, Echo, down through her son, his wife, grandaughter and then the now-living George. The wooden George belonged to the son who died in WWII, entertaining the troops with his ventriloquism until his death. He narrates part of the story. As strange as this seems, it is fitting and does not go over the top (he even makes a snide reference to the dummy in Goldman’s book of the ’70’s which is very funny).

[Amazon book review by Rick Mitchell]

John Wesley Harding, “I Should Have Stopped”

Born October 22

Madhav Ghimire (b. 1919) – Nepali poet

Doris Lessing (b. 1919 ) – British novelist – The Golden Notebook (1962)

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