Day 3: An Ode to #BlackExcellence

Posted Posted in HBW


Margaret Walker published her only novel Jubilee in 1966. Based on the story of her great-grandmother, the novel ushered in the era of neo-slave narratives. Though she published twelve books during her lifetime, her major legacy is the Institute for the Study of History, Life and Culture of Black People which she founded in 1986, and was later renamed the Margaret Walker Center in her honor.


“Keeping hatred inside makes you git mean and evil inside. We supposen to love everybody like God loves us. And when you forgives you feels sorry for the one what hurt you, you returns love for hate, and good for evil. And that stretches your heart and makes you bigger inside with a bigger heart so’s you can love everybody when your heart is big enough. Your chest gets broad like this, and you can lick the world with a loving heart! Now when you hates you shrinks up inside and gets littler and you squeezes your heart tight and you stays so mad with peoples you feels sick all the time like you needs the doctor. Folks with a loving heart don’t never need no doctor.” – Margaret Walker, Jubilee



We are proud to celebrate Black History Month in conjunction with Black Futures Month at HBW. Each day we will feature works from our archives that celebrate the glory that is #BlackExcellence and the Black freedom movement.

Day 2: An Ode to #BlackExcellence

Posted Posted in HBW

Today we celebrate Toni Cade Bambara, writer of Black women’s literature, editor, and documentary film maker for her contributions to the Black womanist tradition, both through her own writing and as a pioneer of editing and publishing Black feminist anthologies.

“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.” – Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters






We are proud to celebrate Black History Month in conjunction with Black Futures Month at HBW. Each day we will feature works from our archives that celebrate the glory that is #BlackExcellence and the Black freedom movement.

Black History Month + Black Futures Month

Posted Posted in HBW


We are proud to celebrate Black History Month in conjunction with Black Futures Month at HBW. Each day we will feature works from our archives that celebrate the glory that is #BlackExcellence and the Black freedom movement.



Today we start with Langston Hughes, born on this day in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. A poet, novelist, playwright, and essayist Hughes spent part of his childhood right here in Lawrence, KS. To learn more you can explore our Black Literary Suite: Kansas Authors Edition.


“I began to think back to Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Fred Douglass – folks who left no buildings behind them – only a wind of words fanning the bright flame of the spirit down the dark lanes of time.” – Langston Hughes, The Big Sea: An Autobiography


Podcast Alert: “Dr. King and Donald Trump’s America”

Posted Posted in HBW

As we celebrate #MLKDay2018 take a moment to listen to the latest from our good friend Kevin Powell.

“Host Kevin Powell delivers a passionate and captivating solo take on the life and legacy of Dr. King, then and now. Free-flowing, historical, and of these times too, Kevin does a deep dive into the whole man, not just the fragments many of us have been taught since childhood. Featuring speech snippets of Dr. King’s (and a surprising moment from Bobby Kennedy, too), this podcast is also a meditation on America today, directly, indirectly, and how much has changed (or not) since Martin Luther King, Jr. walked this earth.”

LISTEN HERE if you have iPhone/iTunes

And LISTEN HERE if you have an Android OR do not have iTunes


Posted Posted in Guest Blogger

[By: Jerry W. Ward Jr.]

Alexander, Stephon.  The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link between Music and the Structure of the Universe.  New York: Basic Books, 2016.

In her 2007 poem “In Search of Grace,” Quo Vadis Gex Breaux makes an elegant plea for an enabling virtue.  Those lines which trigger my imagination are

I pray for grace, as I

dance on life’s tabletops,

as I scale the stairs to my

mind’s attic or descend into

its dark and eerie cellar.

The well-spun metaphors have the  simplicity that Stephon Alexander associates with “the very aesthetics of doing theoretical physics research” (54) in The Jazz of Physics.  He suggests:

An elegant equation is refined, slimmed down to the bare essentials, simple and concise. An elegant equation is tastefully written in the mathematical language of numbers, letters, and symbols.  An elegant equation is superior in its ability to house within it other equations that can   be derived from it.  An elegant  equation is a beautiful thing. (55)

Alexander’s book demonstrates how grace can be a distinguishing feature in an autobiographical discourse on science and art, on the multiple crises of knowing in his own dedicated explorations of quantum physics and the stern discipline modeled by such jazz musicians as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Nicholas Peyton and Thelonious Monk.  Remarkably readable, the book invites us to abandon stereotypes.  Even if  one complains silently, as I do,  that Alexander doesn’t overtly contextualize the history of physics within a larger, less optimistic history of human struggles, one admits that his narrative is a special achievement.  Alexander  doesn’t engage some ethical failures in the practice of science, and that absence is the price a writer who focuses on craft must often pay.  But Alexander does make redemptive suggestions what can be exceptionally good in the dropping of knowledge in certain forms of hip hop intellectualism, particularly “in the form of battle rapping” (21).

It is sufficient that The Jazz of Physics excavates buried dimensions of African American genius and validates Albert Murray’s contention that “antagonistic cooperation” is responsible for the superiority of jazz. (231) Alexander ‘s conclusion is an inspiring summation of dancing, climbing, and descending:

My journey to reconcile jazz with physics serves as a living example of how a small group of physicists, in the spirit of the jazz tradition, embraced me and allowed me to improvise physics with them, while challenging me to go beyond my limits. (232)

Fair enough.  But what really needs to be transmitted to students and pondered by all of us who are frustrated by the motions of the universe is Alexander’s elegance regarding education —-

Present-day students are trained in the precise calculations bred from these ancient   philosophers —the elliptical orbits of Kepler, Newton’s gravitational laws, and Einstein’s more complex space-time calculations.  What students of the future will be studying is a complete unknown.  Education, technology, and global interconnectedness are all developing at enormous rates.  For the student to keep up, for the researcher to discover new truths, and for the professor to lend guidance and insight, it may take a combination of ideas from ancient and modern-day philosophy, as well as creativity and improvisation, with the boldness to make mistakes (84).

Yes, the quest for grace and  discipline of mind rather than applause for the gyrations of the  behind ought to fill our time and space.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.            November 5, 2017

#FBF: “Bree Newsome Visits KU”

Posted Posted in Guest Blogger, HBW

[By: Anthony Boynton, III]

As the tension of the 2015 Charleston church shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal thickened the air, Bree Newsome climbed into the sky to tear down hatred’s flag. Social media and mainstream media outlets were abuzz over the activist’s act of civil disobedience and subsequent arrest. Since then, Newsome has gained national attention and has been touring the country giving talks about her work in the Black Lives Movement. She recently came to KU in an event sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, “Tearing Hate from the Sky.” This semi-autobiography tracks her journey into political consciousness and decision to act in civil disobedience on July 27, 2015 when she scaled a flag pole at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, SC to take down the Confederate flag.

At the core of Newsome’s speech was an encouraging message to KU students to step up and educate themselves in this current political moment. Students have always been in an unique position to lead political movements and she invited the audience to learn about how their lives are impacted by historical and political systems. She implored that this is the prerequisite to becoming politically aware and involved; if one wishes to be an activist they have to educate themselves. Newsome noted that her mother, an educator, was a major contributor to developing her political activist spirit, saying, “Education is the beginning and ending of many things.” A constant fervor for reading and her faith also informed her activism. 

For further reading on the intersection of politics, race, and activism, we suggest:

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The Black Revolution on Campus by Martha Biondi

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis and Frank Barat

From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

God of the Oppressed by James Cone

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Struggle for Black Equality by Harvard Sitkoff


Anthony Boynton is a scholarly blerd and PhD student in English at the University of Kansas who writes about race, representation, pop culture and Afrofuturism.