Remembering Anne Moody (Sept. 15, 1940 – Feb. 5, 2015)

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[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] Four years after graduating from Tougaloo College, the young Anne Moody published Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968).  It is noteworthy that this autobiography has been “in-print” and acclaimed since its initial publication.  Similar life histories of civil rights workers, both autobiography and biography, have come and gone, getting enthusiastic receptions when they first appear.  But after a few years, […]

Shakespeare: His Blackwashing

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FOX’s “Empire” rewrites King Lear for 21st-century viewers. [by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] Many years ago, most people who earned a Ph.D. in English had to study the works of William Shakespeare. That was a good thing. The requirement ensured that a British-rooted variety of cultural literacy would circulate in the Profession. It could trickle down, through the public schools and Classic Comics, to the […]

Richard Wright’s BLACK BOY and Seven Decades of Wisdom

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[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] Published by Harper and Brothers  in 1945 as Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth and by the Library of America in 1991 as Black Boy (American Hunger), Richard Wright’s classic autobiography has been a monument to intelligence, discipline, the exercise of relatively free will, and admirable use of self-reliance for 70 years. It has provided us with the […]

Trojan Flags for Cultural Study

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[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] When policemen turn their backs to a mayor at the funeral of a police officer slain in the line of duty, is this symbolic act to be “read” as a sign of anger, disrespect, and resentment? Is it the equivalent of a jazz musician’s turning his back to an audience as he produces exquisite sounds? Is this positioning of the […]

Black Writing and Blues Allegory

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[by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.] American politics will popularize exegesis in 2015, and so too might the publication of Toni Morrison’s eleventh novel, God Help the Child. Scheduled for release in April by Alfred A. Knopf, the novel rebroadcasts the title of a song written in 1939 by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr., “God Bless the Child,” and recorded for the Okeh label in […]

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Remembering and Forgetting on January 19

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January 19, 2015 will be an ordinary day. It will not be, as a person from Maine might say, a “wicked good” day. It will be twenty-four hours occupying a square on a calendar, another SNAFU day in the United States of America. Nothing that is mind-shattering, body-alarming or soul-fracking will occur that did not already happen. There will be no mail delivery, of course, […]

A Missive on the Professional: An Open Letter to Howard Rambsy II

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Editor’s Note: On Monday, we posted Howard Rambsy II’s letter, “Is African American Literature Really American Literature?”, in which Rambsy argued that, in the eyes of higher education hiring committees, African American literature doesn’t really count as American literature.  Today, HBW Lead Blogger Jerry W. Ward, Jr. responds. Dear Howard, Your email of December 24, 2014, “Is African American Literature Really American Literature?”, raises an […]