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Jessica "FM Supreme" Disu

Poet and community activist Jessica “FM Supreme” Disu was born on October 12, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois to Ida Breckenridge Alashe, a music producer, and Segun Disu. As a child, Disu took part in Kuumba Lynx Hip Hop Arts Program and Chicago Young Authors. She was a two time winner of CYA’s youth poetry slam competition, Louder Than A Bomb, and released her first album, The Diary of a Mad Black Woman Mixtape, in 2005 under the stage name FM Supreme. After graduating from the Chicago Academy of the Arts in 2006, Disu spent a semester at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, but ultimately received her B.A. degree in international arts management from Columbia College Chicago in 2014.

Upon returning to Chicago in 2007, Disu founded Rez Publica Inc./CommonWealth Music Group, an independent record label. CommonWealth Music Group released several of FM Supreme’s records including The Beautiful Grind Mixtape in 2008, The Go State of Mind in 2010, and Beautiful Grind III in 2014. In 2012, Disu founded the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement, a program under the Holy Family Ministries that facilitated international peace exchange efforts in Chicago, England, and Asia. As the co-founder of The Peace Exchange: Chicago - Asia 2013, Disu led trips to Thailand, Myanmar, Nicaragua, South Africa, and India. Disu was also a founding member of the Black Youth Project 100, served on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Commission for a Safer Chicago, and worked with the Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement. She also led workshops at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and was a creative writing teacher and HerStory Director at Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart in Chicago, which later moved to Bowen High School. In 2016, Disu gained public attention for her impassioned speech on Fox News’ Kelly File calling for the demilitarization of police in the United States. In 2018, Disu released a new music video called “Untitled, in the Beginning Black.” Disu has shared stages and performed at conferences with Chance the Rapper, Russell Simmons, Common, Nick Cannon, and Spike Lee. As the founder of the FM Supreme Company, Disu has also performed her rap and spoken word poetry internationally, and worked as a consultant to Fortune 500 Companies.

Jessica “FM Supreme” Disu was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 21, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.020

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/21/2018

Last Name

Disu

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Jessica

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DIS01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Julia Stasch

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barcelona and South Africa

Favorite Quote

If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/12/1988

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Favorite Food

Falafel Sandwich

Short Description

Poet and community activist Jessica “FM Supreme” Disu (1988 - ) was a two time winner of Chicago Young Author’s Louder than a Bomb poetry slam competition. She also founded Rez Publica Inc./CommonWealth Music Group, and the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Amina Baraka

Poet Amina Baraka was born on December 5, 1942 in Charlotte, North Carolina. She then moved in with her grandparents in Newark, New Jersey, where she graduated from Arts High School in 1960.

In 1966, she and her husband, writer Amiri Baraka, founded the Spirit House in Newark, where she developed an African Free School the following year. Baraka was also active in the Committee for Unified Newark and the Congress of Afrikan People organizations. In 1974, she organized an African women’s conference at Rutgers University, followed by the first meeting of the Black Women’s United Front in Detroit, Michigan in 1995. In 1992, Baraka and her husband founded Kimako’s Blues People, a community art space that featured Newark artists. As a member of the Communist Party USA, Baraka was also one of the founding members of the Black Radical Congress in Chicago, Illinois in 1998.

In 1978, Baraka authored a collection of poems entitled Songs for the Masses. In collaboration with her husband, Baraka also co-edited Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women and The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues, which were published in 1983 and 1987, respectively. The poetry book 5 Boptrees, also co-edited by Baraka and her husband, was released in 1992. Her works have been featured in the 1994 book Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry and the 2001 collection Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam. In 2014, Baraka released a collection of her poetry entitled Blues in All Hues. Her jazz and blues album, Amina Baraka & the Red Microphone, was released in 2017. She also appeared in films like Strange Fruit, The Pact, and Keep It Clean.

Baraka was the 2015 recipient of a certification of appreciation from the Black Nia F.O.R.C.E. (Freedom Organization for Racial and Cultural Enlightenment). That same year, she was also honored as a Lifetime Achievement Honoree by the New York Friends of the People’s World newspaper.

Baraka and her late husband, Amiri Baraka, had five children: Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Shani Baraka, Obalaji Baraka, Ahi Baraka, and Amiri “Middy” Baraka, Jr.

Amina Baraka was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 7, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.217

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/7/2017

Last Name

Baraka

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Amina

Birth City, State, Country

Charlotte

HM ID

BAR17

Favorite Season

Summer

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

12/5/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

United States

Favorite Food

I Like Food From Every Continent

Short Description

Poet Amina Baraka (1942 - )

Favorite Color

Beige

Maya Angelou

Poet, author, and professor Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey and Vivian Baxter Johnson. Angelou’s older brother, Bailey Jr., nicknamed her “Maya” when they were children. When Angelou was three years old, her parents divorced and sent her and her brother to live with their grandmother in the harshly segregated Stamps, Arkansas. Angelou and her brother moved back and forth between Stamps and St. Louis throughout their formative years. During World War II, Angelou attended George Washington High School and San Francisco’s Labor School, dropping out for a short while to work as the first Black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco, but eventually graduating at the age of seventeen. Three weeks after her graduation, she gave birth to her only son.

Around 1950, Angelou, then a calypso dancer, changed her name from Marguerite Johnson to the more theatrical Maya Angelou. From 1954 to 1955, Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess, and three years later, she moved to New York City in order to concentrate on her writing career. Around the same time, she served as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1961, Angelou moved to Cairo, where she wrote for the weekly newspaper, "The Arab Observer", then to Ghana, where she taught at the University of Ghana's School of Music and Drama and worked as a feature editor for "The African Review". Angelou returned to the United States in 1964 to help Malcolm X build the Organization of African American Unity. Unfortunately, when Malcolm died, so too did the organization.

In 1970, Angelou published her famed autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, for which she received a National Book Award nomination. This autobiography was followed by five other volumes, released in 1974, 1976, 1981, 1986, and 2002. Angelou’s first volume of poetry, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie," was published in 1971, and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize the next year. In 1981, Angelou returned to the South, where she became the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1993, she recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

The recipient of a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 Broadway play Look Away, Angelou was granted three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums and an Emmy for her supporting role in the television miniseries "Roots." In 1998, Angelou was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. She was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. Later in life, Angelou divided her time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Harlem, New York. She had one son, two grandsons, and two great-grandchildren.

Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014 at the age of 86.

Accession Number

A2010.109

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/31/2010

Last Name

Angelou

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

George Washington High School

California Labor School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Maya

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

ANG01

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Mamma Know, You Gonna Teach All Over The World

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

4/4/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Winston-Salem

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chili

Death Date

5/28/2014

Short Description

Poet Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014 ) was the author of the famed autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Employment

Wake Forest University

Favorite Color

All Colors

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maya Angelou's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maya Angelou describes her earliest childhood memory and her brother Bailey

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maya Angelou talks about her childhood and describes the sights, sounds and smells of her youth

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maya Angelou discusses her experience with sexual abuse

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maya Angelou talks about her favorite poets

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maya Angelou discusses her six year period of silence

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maya Angelou discusses her music and dance career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maya Angelou talks about leaving the entertainment industry to join the Harlem Writers Guild

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maya Angelou describes her relationship with John Oliver Killens and James Baldwin

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maya Angelou talks about her relationship with Oprah Winfrey and her legacy

Mona Lake Jones

Poet and educator Mona Lake Jones (known to many as “Grandhoney”) was born on August 30, 1939 in Mason City, now Grand Coulee, Washington. The daughter of Pauline Sims Lake and Sylvester James Lake, Jones grew up in Spokane, Washington where she attended McKinley Elementary School, Libby Junior High School and graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1957. There, she was a drum majorette who enjoyed music and poetry. Attending Washington State University on a music scholarship, Jones was the only black woman on campus for an entire semester. She graduated with her B.S. degree in education in 1961. Jones later attended the University of Washington and earned her Ed.D. degree in education from Seattle University in 1991.

Moving to Seattle, Washington, Jones taught in Seattle Public Schools, area colleges and was a leader in Mt. Zion Baptist Church’s Ethnic School, a Saturday school to unite children around common themes of heritage, assertiveness and academics. Jones has served as president of the Washington State Community College Black Educators, as National Vice-President of the Council of Black American Affairs and was president of the Black Child Development Institute from 1995 to 1997. She was also Director of Public Relations for Seattle Community Colleges.

Jones’ first poem was published in Essence magazine in 1990 and that led her to write The Color of Culture, now in its seventh printing, and two sequels, The Color of Culture II and The Color of Culture III. She also authored Unleashing the Power of a Sister. Her 1992 poem, “A Roomful of Sisters” was commissioned by 100 Black Women of Boston, a national civic group, and exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The poem inspired a painting by Paul Goodnight, a number of conferences and a yearly New York meeting called ARFOS. Jones has served as a poet curator and a poet laureate for the City of Seattle and King County. She is a full-time poet and motivational speaker, spending much of her time on the road, speaking at colleges, conventions and to civic groups about issues of culture and diversity. Jones has appeared on programs with Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Susan Taylor, Maxine Waters, Shirley Chisholm, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Randall Robinson. Jones also composed the lyrics for Vanessa Williams’ musical recording of “Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly”. Jones has received numerous awards, including the Blackbird Literary Award and the Langston Hughes Award.

Jones is married to publisher, Joe Jones, has two grown children and three grandchildren.

Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 28, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.310

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/5/2008 |and| 10/28/2007 |and| 10/7/2017

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lake

Schools

Clarke High School

McKinley Elementary School

Libby Junior High School

Lewis & Clark High School

Washington State University

University of Washington

Seattle University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Mona

Birth City, State, Country

Mason City

HM ID

JON19

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Washington

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Kindness is magnetic. It draws out the best in others.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Washington

Birth Date

8/30/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Seattle

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Dumplings

Short Description

Poet, education administrator, and motivational speaker Mona Lake Jones (1939 - ) served as president of the Washington State Community College Black Educators and was president of the Black Child Development Institute from 1995 to 1997. She served as poet curator of Seattle and poet laureate of King County.

Employment

Harrison School

Seattle Community Colleges

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mona Lake Jones' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones describes her father's family background and education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones describes her parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mona Lake Jones describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mona Lake Jones describes her father's personality and her likeness to him

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her neighborhood in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mona Lake Jones describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her early awareness of race

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones remembers her drama lessons

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her early activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones describes her early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones remembers the Orbit Club in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones recalls Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her social life at the State College of Washington in Pullman, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes her experiences at the State College of Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones remembers her professors at the State College of Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones reflects upon her experiences of discrimination, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones reflects upon her experiences of discrimination, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her early teaching career in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones remembers learning about African American history

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her graduate education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones describes the Mt. Zion Ethnic School in Seattle, Washington, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes the Mt. Zion Ethnic School in Seattle, Washington, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones recalls working with the Black Child Development Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones describes her organizational involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones remembers her doctoral dissertation

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her parenting philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones describes her early poetry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones describes the inspiration for her poetry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones describes her family

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mona Lake Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones narrates her photographs, video and transcript

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Mona Lake Jones' interview, session 3

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes her role in public relations for Seattle Community Colleges in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones recalls her work in teacher education at Pacific Oaks College - Northwest in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones talks about the renaming of King County in the State of Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones describes her philosophy on education

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her work with the YWCA in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones talks about the mandate of the YWCA

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mona Lake Jones describes her weekly meetings with other African American senior citizens

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her book, 'Nectar from Grandhoney,' pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Mona Lake Jones talks about the 2008 presidential election

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Mona Lake Jones describes her work with senior citizens

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her book, 'Nectar from Grandhoney,' pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her recent book projects

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Mona Lake Jones reflects upon her life and legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Mona Lake Jones describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Mona Lake Jones talks about her racial identity

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Mona Lake Jones describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Mona Lake Jones describes her organizational involvement
Mona Lake Jones describes the inspiration for her poetry
Transcript
Even as I am moved into the Seattle Links chapter [The Links, Incorporated], I chaired the services to youth portion, and I recognized that our kids weren't passing the SATs, and I thought, why aren't they passing the SATs? They're bright. Why, why are they finding that so difficult? So I got some black men and they were the black engineers in Seattle [Washington], and set up a Saturday series. Come in and learn how to take the SAT exam. So I did that for, I don't know, five, six, seven, eight years, helped kids pass that SAT. And I went out and found volunteers who would come in and do that, particularly, with the math I wanted to have some black males there. So I went to the black engineers' organization and they would come in and teach the math portion. And then I just had some teacher friend women who taught English and so forth, and they'd come in and do the language part. And we did that on Saturdays to help kids pass that exam. Some of my kids, my, my children, my very own children, their friends couldn't get their scholarships to college, to play ball or whatever it was they were about because they couldn't pass that SAT exam. And I thought, now, that is really a tragedy that an exam like this is keeping them from being a recipient of a scholarship. So every time I found a kind of an area of need, I've kind of wedged myself in there in some sort of way and tried to give back by using my either influence or my skill or my talent. And it's mostly been directed at, at black youth. My husband is the same way. He has always helped me or started his own endeavor to kind of--so, so that's been our focus. I, I think we realized we've been fortunate, and we wanna share that and one of the ways we know we can do it is with young people. So we found ways to--I know my kids were, my very own children [Brent Jones and Dana Jones Walker], again, were--we were trying to find something to do one Saturday and looked in the newspaper, and there was a track meet going on, all-city track meet. So I said, "Oh, let's go look." So we got in the car and we went to the track meet, and it just so happened, it was an open meet that day, and kids could run. You didn't have to be in a club. So mine got out there and ran and they dusted everybody. And it was like, they didn't even have the right stuff on or anything, and they came over and said, "Who, who's their coach? Who, who did they run for?" Well, we weren't running for anybody. And so, so my husband said--there were some kids who wanted to run, and he bought 'em track outfits and, you know, and organized them, the South Central Athletic Association. And my kids ran their way right on through the university. I mean they got scholarships on track and, and my daughter set a, a national record in the 4 x 100, you know, relay, and I--you know, and that just, was happenstance. So, so when, when Joe [Joe Jones] started the South Central Athletic Association, me, as an educator, thought, okay, this is an opportunity for kids to learn too. So you had to come into the portable and read for an hour before you could go out and run on the track. So I got a couple of other friends, and we brought library books and we'd read--I said, let's make this a, you know, read and run kind of deal. And so it just, you know, it's just finding ways to, to nurture our kids, and that's kind of what I've been about, really been my thrust in life.$$Now, what year is the South Central Athletic Association in?$$It's still in existence, and it must have started in--let's see. My kids graduated, in the '90s [1990s], in the early '90s [1990s].$$Okay.$$And it's still in existence today.$$Okay, and just for the record here, your husband was a, he was a fair athlete at--$$Right, uh-huh.$$--University of Washington [Seattle, Washington].$$Right, he's always been an athlete.$$Played in the Rose Bowl [Rose Bowl Game] and was (laughter)--$$Uh-huh, so--$$So, I mean they'd had a decent coach. He actually knew--$$Yeah.$$--what he was doing.$$Exactly. And then, and then we found out that kids--he went up to ski one day, and there were no blacks up there skiing. And he said, oh, we gotta get our kids to skiing up here on this mountain. This is too much fun. And he started the Four Seasons Northwest ski club, and you can talk to most any of the kids in the city who know how to ski, they learned through Joe's ski school. So it, it's just been one, you know, athletics, education, wherever we can see that we might have an impact. And I am so proud. I think I am proudest about my ability to have touched the lives of so many children than I am about anything, and, and being a parent. I, I love what I did as a parent with my own children.$Okay, now, do you have a thematic source for most of your poems? I mean what are your, what's your--is your theme mostly family or what?$$I don't know that it's mostly family. It's just appreciating life, just as positive as I can get about life in general. That one poem I have 'Life is Sweet' [Mona Lake Jones], "It's like a dish of warm, berry pie with fresh cream melting on the top, tasting so good you have to tell yourself to stop. Woo, life is so sweet." And it goes on about the sweetness of life. That, that's kind of what I, I write about. So much of what I write about is positive, but it tells the story of being colored black in America, you know, all kinds of situations and so there are some trials and tribulations, of course, 'cause that's a part of who we are. But I really try to look at the positive side of our culture and just really appreciate who we are. I always say, "When you're feeling a little uncomfortable, when you're feeling down, and when you're feeling alone, reach back and get you some culture." And I tell people, you know, just wallow in your culture. It makes you feel good. And don't ever let anybody tell you, you're culturally deprived. One day somebody said that, and I was surprised at them.$$Well, so many people don't know about it or don't use it, you know, or like we said before, assume they know all it is to know about it because they are black. It's nothing they have to read or (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Um-hm, but I--$$--no new people they have to associate it with, but--$$Right, but when I celebrate that, oh, it makes people happy. I mean when I talk about our blackness and how wonderful it is and all the, the kinds of things that, that tell who we are, people get excited about it. They clap, they laugh, they find value in it, they find association with it. So that when I talk to groups and I'm celebrating African American culture, they really find joy in that. There's this one piece that I wrote about brothers. And it talks about how wonderful black men are 'cause, you know, very often, the only time they're celebrated is if, they're athletes and, you know, superstars, and very often that which is in the newspapers is negative and positi- you know, about what they're, they've done that's not good. And so I wrote a piece just to celebrate them. And I'm telling you, every time I do that in an audience, men come up and they hug me and they thank me, and, you know, it's this, like--and I went to the barbershop 'cause it was round about, "One morning I went to the barbershop, and it was round about ten o'clock. And I just happened to walk by, and I looked in, and there were brothers of all ages sitting, waiting in line, each one of them I would describe as fine. I don't mean fine 'cause they were short, tall or thin. I mean these were just genuinely handsome, black men, that love and strength that showed in their eyes, and you knew for some years of living had made them wise," ['Brothers,' Mona Lake Jones]. And it goes on about, you know, the brothers in the barbershop, just positive things. And the same way with that 'Sisters' piece ['A Room Full of Sisters,' Mona Lake Jones]. And then I acknowledge the fact that we have had, you know, many issues in our lives as, as blacks, as African Americans. And we've overcome them, and we continually do so. And there's always hope, and there's always the positive. And if we keep those positive things about who we are in our heads and have pictures of them, then it helps us be kind of better human beings.

Gloria Burgess

Executive leadership professor, speaker, author, and poet, Gloria Jean Burgess was born on May 23, 1953 in Oxford, Mississippi. Her father, Earnest McEwen, Jr. received a college education thanks to funding from Nobel laureate author William Faulkner, on the condition that his gift be passed on to others, which McEwen did for Gloria and his other four daughters. Burgess grew up in Detroit, where she attended Ralph Bunche Elementary School, and Ann Arbor, where she attended Northside Elementary School, Forsythe Junior High School and graduated from Huron High School. Burgess attended the University of Michigan, studying poetry with Robert Hayden and drama. She earned her B.G.S. degree in education, anthropology, English and speech communication in 1975.

Burgess obtained her M.A. degree in speech communication and theater from the University of Michigan in 1977, earning notoriety as a Distinguished Fellow and Scholar in Direction and Performance. She attended the University of Southern California (USC) in the late 1970s, obtaining her Ph.D. in performance studies. Burgess continued studying, earning her M.B.A. degree from USC in 1986 in organizational behavior and design and information systems.

In 1988, Burgess was appointed assistant professor at the University of Washington College of Engineering, teaching leadership, management, cross cultural studies, and creativity to engineering students. In 1991, Burgess became director of multimedia development for Aldus Corporation, the organization responsible for PageMaker software. In 1994, Burgess founded Jazz, Inc., an executive coaching and consulting organization. She also founded The Lift Every Voice Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to leadership development for underserved, underrepresented youth. Burgess continued studying during this time, and in 1995 earned her M.A. degree in applied behavioral science from Bastyr University. Upon graduating, she became graduate faculty and program lead for their graduate program in leadership and applied behavioral science.

Burgess continued studying poetry as well, becoming a Fellow in the new Cave Canem organization for African American poets and writers in 1996. She became a consultant for Bastyr University's Leadership Institute the following year, consulting for faculty, undergraduate and graduate programs. Burgess spent 1997 through 1999 as a consultant for Boeing Corporation, and in 1998 was appointed to Leadership Tomorrow's Core Faculty. That same year, she published her first book of poetry, entitled Journey of the Rose. Despite all this activity, Burgess managed to remain involved in "Keepers of the Dream" with the Group Theatre Company, a celebration of African American women.

In 2000, Burgess expanded her coaching and consulting practice and became executive coach to the Dean of Libraries at the University of Washington. She also published her second book of poetry in 2001, entitled The Open Door, and wrote her first book for children entitled Hold Fast to Dreams: Pass It On!, about her father's relationship with William Faulkner.

Burgess lives with her husband, John, and daughter, Quinn in Edmonds, Washington.

Burgess was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 26, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.306

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/3/2008 |and| 10/26/2007

Last Name

Burgess

Maker Category
Schools

Huron High School

Forsythe Junior High School

Ralph Bunche Elementary School

University of Michigan

University of Southern California

Bastyr University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gloria

Birth City, State, Country

Oxford

HM ID

BUR18

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Pass It On.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Washington

Birth Date

5/23/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Seattle

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pie (Sweet Potato)

Short Description

Poet and business consultant Gloria Burgess (1953 - ) founded Jazz, Inc., an executive coaching and consulting organization. She is also the author of, "Hold Fast to Dreams: Pass It On!"

Employment

Casey Family Programs

Jazz, Inc.

Aldus/Adobe Corp.

University of Washington

Honeywell

Favorite Color

Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gloria Burgess' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gloria Burgess lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gloria Burgess describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gloria Burgess talks about her maternal great-great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gloria Burgess talks about her maternal family's sharecropping

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gloria Burgess talks about her mother's childhood in Abbeville, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gloria Burgess describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gloria Burgess describes Oxford, Mississippi and her father's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gloria Burgess talks about her father's employment at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gloria Burgess describes how her parents met and developed a relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gloria Burgess talks about her father's close friendship with author William Faulkner

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Gloria Burgess talks about her father's participation in a walkout at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess explains why her father was expelled from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gloria Burgess explains why her father was expelled from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gloria Burgess talks about her father's studies at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gloria Burgess talks about her family's move north and her father's inability to find work

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gloria Burgess considers her likeness to her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gloria Burgess describes her childhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gloria Burgess describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gloria Burgess describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gloria Burgess recalls spending time with her extended family in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gloria Burgess lists the elementary schools she attended in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gloria Burgess describes her father's jobs in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Gloria Burgess describes difficulties she experienced transitioning from Detroit to Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Gloria Burgess explains her father's decision to relocate to Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Gloria Burgess lists the schools she attended in Ann Arbor, Michigan and her favorite teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess recalls being introduced to Langston Hughes' work in the sixth grade

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gloria Burgess talks about her family's private relationship with William Faulkner

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gloria Burgess describes her academic interests and personality as an elementary and high school student

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gloria Burgess remembers Gwendolyn Brooks' visit to Huron High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gloria Burgess talks about her decision to attend University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gloria Burgess talks about studying under Robert Hayden and Eva Jessye at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gloria Burgess remembers when she started to wear her hair natural

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gloria Burgess talks about her family's discussions of the Civil Rights Movement and racism

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gloria Burgess recalls the assassinations of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gloria Burgess talks about her undergraduate majors

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Gloria Burgess talks about her experience with poet Robert Hayden

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Gloria Burgess remembers choral director Eva Jessye, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess remembers choral director Eva Jessye, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gloria Burgess remembers professors that were both positive and negative influences

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gloria Burgess talks about earning her M.A. degree in Performance Studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gloria Burgess talks about earning her Ph.D. degree from the University of Southern California and describes her dissertation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gloria Burgess talks about transitioning from academia into technology and business

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gloria Burgess explains why she wanted to earn an M.B.A. degree

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gloria Burgess talks about her appointment as assistant professor at the College of Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gloria Burgess describes meeting and marrying her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gloria Burgess describes her experience as an assistant professor in the University of Washington's College of Engineering in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gloria Burgess describes joining the Aldus Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gloria Burgess describes her experience at the Aldus Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess talks about earning a third M.A. degree from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gloria Burgess talks about her consulting company, Jazz, Incorporated

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gloria Burgess describes the most common problems she addresses as a consultant

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gloria Burgess talks about publishing her poetry

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gloria Burgess describes her managerial style and philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gloria Burgess talks about the significance of the Middle Passage to her poetry and the work of other poets

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gloria Burgess talks about the Cave Canem fellowship

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gloria Burgess considers what she might have done differently

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gloria Burgess describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Gloria Burgess describes her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Gloria Burgess considers her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Gloria Burgess talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Gloria Burgess talks briefly about her mother's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Gloria Burgess describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess narrates her photographs

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gloria Burgess narrates her photographs

Rita Frances Dove

Former Poet Laureate of the United States Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she received her B.A. degree summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio and her M.F.A. degree from the University of Iowa. She also held a Fulbright scholarship at the Universität Tübingen in Germany.

Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and, more recently, the 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the 1996 National Humanities Medal. In 2006 she received the coveted Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service (together with Anderson Cooper, John Glenn, Mike Nichols and Queen Noor of Jordan).

Dove has published the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986), Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), Mother Love (1995), On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), American Smooth (2004), a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992), essays under the title The Poet's World (1995), and the play The Darker Face of the Earth, which had its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London and other theatres. Seven for Luck, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1998. For “America’s Millennium,” the White House’s 1999/2000 New Year’s celebration, Dove contributed — in a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by John Williams’ music — a poem to Steven Spielberg’s documentary The Unfinished Journey. She is the editor of Best American Poetry 2000, and from January 2000 to January 2002 she wrote a weekly column, “Poet’s Choice”, for The Washington Post.

Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn. They have a grown daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn.

Accession Number

A2007.324

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/6/2007

Last Name

Dove

Maker Category
Middle Name

Frances

Organizations
Schools

Schumacher Academy Elementary School

Grace Elementary School

Simon Perkins Junior High School

Buchtel High School

Miami University

Iowa Writers' Workshop

Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Rita

Birth City, State, Country

Akron

HM ID

DOV01

Favorite Season

October

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

So It Goes.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/28/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Potato Chips

Short Description

Fiction writer, english professor, and poet Rita Frances Dove (1952 - ) won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995; and served as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. Aside from winning numerous other awards, Rita Dove was also Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Employment

Arizona State University

University of Virginia

Favorite Color

Turquoise

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Rita Frances Dove's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove talks about the importance of oral history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove talks about her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Rita Frances Dove describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Rita Frances Dove describes her father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove describes her father's U.S. military service

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove talks about her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove describes the inspiration for her poetry

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove reads an excerpt from 'Thomas and Beulah'

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove reflects upon her writings about her family

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove describes her mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove describes her father's personality, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove describes her father's personality, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove lists her siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove remember her family's first house

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove recalls moving to an all-white neighborhood in Akron, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove remembers celebrating the holidays with her family

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove describes her chores

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove remembers her family's vacations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Rita Frances Dove remembers her childhood activities

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her father's taste in music

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove describes her interest in music

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove remembers the community of Akron, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove describes her early awareness of race

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her teachers at Schumacher Elementary School in Akron, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her teachers at Simon Perkins Junior High School in Akron, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her early aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her ninth grade English teacher

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove remembers Wesley Temple A.M.E. Zion Church in Akron, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove recalls John R. Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove recalls John R. Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove describes her decision to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove recalls serving as co-chair of the majorette squad

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove reflects upon her generation's history

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Rita Frances Dove describes her studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove remembers her decision to become a poet

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove describes her early poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove reflects upon the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove recalls reading Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove remembers her Fulbright Fellowship

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove recalls meeting her husband

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove talks about her experiences in Germany

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Rita Frances Dove remembers the Iowa Writer's Workshop

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove describes her peers at the Iowa Writer's Workshop

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove remembers writing in Oberlin, Ohio

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove talks about 'The Yellow House on the Corner'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove talks about her influences as a poet

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove remembers living in Germany

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove describes the community of Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove recalls winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Rita Frances Dove recalls her recruitment to University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Rita Frances Dove describes 'Grace Notes'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Rita Frances Dove describes her prose writing

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Rita Frances Dove talks about her writing process

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Rita Frances Dove recalls being named the poet laureate of the United States

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Rita Frances Dove describes her duties as poet laureate

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Rita Frances Dove remembers resigning as poet laureate

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
Rita Frances Dove reads an excerpt from 'Thomas and Beulah'
Rita Frances Dove reflects upon the Black Arts Movement
Transcript
Would you mind reading a little bit from it ['Thomas and Beulah,' Rita Dove]?$$Oh, I'll be happy to read something.$$So I've chosen a couple of things, but you may choose--$$Oh, well--$$--what you like (simultaneous).$$--let's see. Let me, I'm gonna s- let me start with that very first poem called "The Event" [Rita Dove] because it, it not only deals with that very moment I was just talking about, the moment where my [maternal] grandfather's [Thomas Hord] best friend dies in the river, but it also deals with the process of rediscovering that moment, you know, in one's soul and also coming up with some factual explanations. "The Event": "Ever since they'd left the Tennessee ridge / with nothing to boast of / but good looks and a mandolin, / The two Negroes leaning / on the rail of a riverboat / were inseparable: Lem plucked / to Thomas' silver falsetto. / But the night was hot and they were drunk. / The spat where the wheel / churned mud and moonlight, / they called to the tarantulas / down among the bananas / to come out and dance. / You're so fine and mighty; let's see / what you can do, said Thomas, pointing / to a tree-capped island. / Lem stripped, spoke easy: Them's chestnuts, / I believe. Dove / quick as a gasp. Thomas, dry / on deck, saw the green crown shake / as the island slipped / under, dissolved / in the thickening stream. / At his feet / a stinking circle of rags, / the half-shell mandolin. / Where the wheel turned, the water / gently shirred." So I started by trying to recreate the moment as I had heard it from my grandmother [Georgianna Jackson Hord], and tried to slip into the sensibility of my grandfather and then in so doing, it kind of coming out on the other end realizing that he would look at all that's left of his friend, his mandolin, his clothes and he'd almost pick up and take on the burden of his life. Hence, he gets, he starts to play the mandolin. So part of that is, is, is that really what happened? I don't know, I don't know if he picked up the mandolin that way or not, but it became a kind of a psychological truth. And after writing the poem and deciding I had to believe my grandmother's story whether it had this factual underpinning for me or not. After deciding to believe in it, I, and, and starting to write the poem, I realized that there was in fact factual underpinning. That there was, there are mangrove--that the coast line of the Mississippi changes all the time because of the mangroves. He probably swam over there, got tangled in the mangrove roots and was pulled down, and that was the sinking island. But I couldn't go at it from the top and decide I'm gonna hack away at this and get the facts. I had to trust and go in there.$(Simultaneous) Did you have a sense that the Black Arts Movement po- poets were using poetry more as a tool? Or--you know, it seems as if it was a liberation tool, it was a--$$It absolutely was a tool. I mean it wa- but it was also, I mean it was also an aesthetic statement and, and I think that it was absolutely necessary at that time, because first you have to say, "See me; look at me. I am here." Do not gloss around me. Then you can say, "Okay, now see me in my entirety." But first you gotta get someone to see you. And what the Black Arts Movement did for me and a whole generation, and generations of writers and for themselves too, is to say, is to insist that we were not invisible. And that--and also, that also required to tell the mainstream, "You have to hear my music, to hear my voice. This is what--," and then, and then to lay out over emphasizing, of course, but that's in the nature of any movement that starts out is to say that, that, you know, "We can, we can use language this way. We can use aunt, ain't. We can use, you know, B. We can do all of this stuff and--," but, of course, what happens when you get anything like that is that the media takes only the most the, the, I wanna say the grossest and the discern- least differentiated sense of that and they, they go for the big stereotypical moments. So if you're black, you're angry, and it's power to the people, and it's (makes sounds). You know, and there is no room for doubt, you know, or self-reflection or sadness that, that sadness of you know, unless it's sadness with anger, you know, but sa-. And if you take all those emotions well you only have a shell of a human being. So that's the first, again it's the front line and then after that come--it, it made it possible for people like me, when I was starting to actually write poems that dealt with roses, you know. But also being able to hear and understand all the tensions that are behind that poem. So, it was a tool and it was an incredible tool. I mean it was, t- Afros, people were in Afro, god, or color. My mother [Elvira Hord Dove] told me that when she was a child she remembered her mother [Georgianna Jackson Hord] making her a coat, making her dress out of a lining of a coat. And the lining of the coat was blue with white stripped, and it was all they had, and so she made her this really beautiful dress that she loved. She took, wore it to school and her teacher read--chose to read 'Little Black Sambo' ['The Story of Little Black Sambo,' Helen Bannerman] to the class that day. And read, and in this version of 'Little Black Sambo,' he had a little blue and white stripped thing, and how utterly crushed she was and embarrassed she was. And she and, and she would often say, and my grandmother would say too, you know, if I like something red, "Don't wear that red. You don't need a red dress, you know, that's just, you know, nigger red. You don't want people to say--," and they were trying to protect us from hurt. But I never wore bright colors. A whole generation didn't wear bright colors until the Black Arts Movement said, dashiki (laughter) we were out there, you know. Oh, what, what a joy. So, yeah. But I was writing my poems, the poems that I could write, terrified that if I would ever try to publish those poems that I was gonna fall into this, be accused of being white or being an Oreo, all these things. And thinking that I wasn't strong enough because I was so shy to stand up to that.

E. Ethelbert Miller

Academic administrator, author, and poet Eugene Ethelbert Miller was born on November 20, 1950, the youngest of three children, to Egberto Miller, an immigrant from Panama, and Enid Marshall Miller, a homemaker. Born in New York City in the South Bronx, Miller attended Howard University in the fall of 1968. While at Howard University, he studied with Stephen Henderson, one of the foremost literary critics of the Black Arts Movement. In 1972, he graduated from Howard University with a degree in Afro-American Studies, the first member of his family to graduate from college.

In 1974, Miller became Director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, allowing him to develop his own talents and to nurture emerging African American artists. Also in 1974, he published his first two collections of poetry, Andromeda and The Land of Smiles and the Land of No Smiles. In 1979, Marion Barry, Mayor of Washington, D.C., proclaimed September 28, 1979 “E. Ethelbert Miller Day," and Barry presented Miller with the Mayor’s Art Award for Literature in 1982. In 1994, Miller published the anthology In Search of Color Everywhere, which won the 1994 PEN Oakland Josephine Mile Award. Three years later, he received the Stephen E. Henderson Award for outstanding achievement in literature and poetry from the African American Literature and Culture Society. In 2000, Miller wrote Fathering Words, a memoir which traced his family background and the roots of his art as an African American writer.

Miller is a board member of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Network of Educators on the Americas and The Writer’s Center. He is a former board member of the Associated Writing Programs and the Humanities Council of Washington and has also worked previously as a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College. Miller is an advisory editor for the African American Review and an advisory board member of Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture. In addition to these responsibilities, Miller has also remained the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University. He is married to Denise King-Miller, and has two children, Jasmine Simone and Nyere Gibran.

E. Ethelbert Miller was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 27, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.216

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/27/2007

Last Name

Miller

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Ethelbert

Schools

Christopher Columbus High School

J.H.S. 120 Paul Lawrence Dunbar

P.S. 39

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days, Evenings

First Name

E.

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MIL06

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Adults, College Students, People interested in creative writing.

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Summer

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $1000-$1500

Preferred Audience: Adults, College Students, People interested in creative writing.

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Norway, Home

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/20/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mexican Food, Sushi, Cookies

Short Description

Poet and academic administrator E. Ethelbert Miller (1950 - ) was the author of "Andromeda," "The Land of Smiles and the Land of No Smiles," "In Search of Color Everywhere" and "Fathering Words," and the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.

Employment

Howard University

African American Review

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of E. Ethelbert Miller's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his family's background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his early experiences of racial diversity

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers learning about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls moving to the St. Mary's Park Houses in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers his childhood friends

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his father's Panamanian heritage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers celebrating Christmas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls celebrating Thanksgiving and Halloween

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the racial demographics of the South Bronx in New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - E, Ethelbert Miller describes the gang activity in the South Bronx

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Robert Skinner

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Lewis H. Michaux

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his family's spirituality

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls lessons from his parents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his first protest at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls the popular music of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his introduction to poetry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his video oral history project

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Stephen E. Henderson

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls meeting his first wife

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls his interest in Sufi mysticism

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the Black Arts Movement at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Howard University President James E. Cheek

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the Institute for Arts and Humanities at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about Stephen E. Henderson's leadership

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers C.L.R. James

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about the writers of the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the black aesthetic

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about literary criticism

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller reflects upon the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers James Baldwin

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his mentors

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Toni Morrison

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his early creative influences

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his early publications

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls working at the Institute for Arts and Humanities in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the women's movement at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers June Jordan

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about contemporary African American literature

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Mayor Sharon Pratt

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers his first marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers travelling to Africa

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his collections of poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers the death of his brother, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller remembers the death of his brother, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller reflects upon writing about trauma

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his sources of inspiration

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his writings

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about his poems

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his international travels

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - E. Ethelbert Miller recalls visiting Norway

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes his experiences in Iraq

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - E. Ethelbert Miller describes the impact of the black aesthetic

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - E. Ethelbert Miller shares a message to future generations

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about the importance of apprenticeships

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - E. Ethelbert Miller talks about constructive criticism

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - E. Ethelbert Miller reflects upon his career at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - E. Ethelbert Miller reflects upon the legacy of Howard University

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - E. Ethelbert Miller narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - E. Ethelbert Miller narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
E. Ethelbert Miller describes the Institute for Arts and Humanities at Howard University
E. Ethelbert Miller remembers Toni Morrison
Transcript
Let's look at Cheek [James E. Cheek], and this is very important. One thing that Cheek did as a new president of Howard University [Washington, D.C.] is something that when I go back and look at it in a historical context, it makes no sense, but it is really revolutionary. Cheek hires the sociologist, Andrew Billingsley to be the vice president of academic affairs. Okay, if you today go to the library and pull anything by Andrew Billingsley, like about the black family, you'll say, "Whoa, this is some radical stuff, you know." This is a guy who is part of the black world, you know; this guy--wow. Now, what did Billingsley do? When Billingsley took over as the vice president of academic affairs, it's like Henry Kissinger being the national security advisor for the secretary of state. Billingsley, even though he may not have articulated it, some of the things that the radical students wanted to do in terms of Howard University being a black university, Billingsley decided to set that in motion. And so, what does Billingsley do? Billingsley does what you would see Henry Louis Gates [HistoryMaker Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr.] doing today. Billingsley did this as vice president of academic affairs. If you were anywhere as a top scholar, you would be at Howard. So, you look at what Billingsley did. Robert Staples, [HistoryMaker] Joyce Ladner, Stephen Henderson [Stephen E. Henderson], John Killens [John Oliver Killens]--he brought all these people to Howard. Now, he came up with a very radical idea. He brings all these great people together, but he realized that, okay, they're going to be in departments. Departments have limitations, okay. So what Billingsley did, he created in between these departments these various like think tanks, one issued for arts and humanities. He saw these units as being able to bring the various departments together, and also have a community outreach, you see. That is so far out, so radical, that he could get all these people here, okay. Now, he created the Institute for Arts and Humanities [Howard University, Washington, D.C.]. Now, who do we look at who's high on the list to become head of the Institute of Arts and Humanities? Houston Baker [Houston A. Baker, Jr.], who is one of the people I mentioned. Because what happened, they needed to have this sort of radical new unit. And keep in mind this unit, the Institute of Arts and Humanities, got big funding for the Mellon Foundation [Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York, New York]. See, this is the early '70s [1970s]. And what happens is that here now we have a unit created to really document and preserve African American culture at Howard. Who's going to be in charge of that? See, the national institute--I mean we've seen those various battles. So, out of this, you look at people like Houston Baker, people who could bridge the community. And--$$And Houston Baker, who's coming out of UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California] with his Ph.D. went to Howard undergrad?$$Right, right. He had--right, so it's not difficult to pull people back, okay. But what happened, we find out that in terms of the president, people were happy with was Stephen Henderson, who also had been brought from, out of Atlanta [Georgia], okay. And keep in mind what's important there is that Henderson and also the historian, [HistoryMaker] Vincent Harding, okay, were key in terms of two intellectuals, really intellectuals, who asked themselves a very important question after 1968. And that is, here is King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] assassination. How do we keep his life and his--what he's doing--alive? You see, how do we institutionalize this? And so they raised some serious, serious questions as black intellectuals in 1968. Now, some people will say when you look at the Institute of the Black World [Atlanta, Georgia], it's extremely radical. Some of those people got run out of Atlanta, you know (laughter). Because I mean the Institute of the Black World, the people coming through there would be people like [HistoryMaker] Howard Dodson at the Schomburg [Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York]; Walter Rodney would come through there; C.L.R. James, all these fascinating names, okay. And so when you see Billingsley coming to Howard, and now he has an institution behind him, he pretty much recreates the Institute for the Black World on Howard's campus.$You were talking about Toni Morrison.$$Um-hm, right. I remember I called Quincy Troupe up and, you know, he wasn't there, and I was talking to this woman on the phone. And I think maybe when I did reach him, he said, you know, I said, "Oh, a woman was there." And it actually was Toni Morrison, and I didn't realize that's who it was. But I remember Ahmos Zu-Bolton and I went up to New York [New York]. This is around '74 [1974], '75 [1975], to a book party. They were releasing the work of Henry Dumas, and Ahmos was pretty excited, because this was his first time going to New York. And so, you know, it was just, we were young writers, you know. We went to New York in a van. And so we get to the reception where the book party's going to be, and we're there early you know. We look around, and this woman comes in and says, tells us to start moving chairs and stuff. We got pissed off, man. We were like, "What do you mean, move the chairs? We're here for the book party." It was Toni Morrison, you know. (Laughter) We didn't know. But she's got us working and stuff. You know, because we felt, you know, we were writers, and then we show up early and now we're like, you know, we might as well be serving drinks and stuff. So, we were highly insulted. But, you know--$$What year is this?$$This was whenever the play, 'Play Ebony, Play Ivory' [Henry Dumas] was you know, because Toni Morrison has a lot to do with the reprinting of Henry Dumas's work. So it must have been like around '74 [1974] or '75 [1975]. And so, you know, we're young writers up in New York and stuff. And I'll always remember that. That was my first time I met Toni Morrison. And also at that time, at that book party for Henry Dumas's work, if somebody had dropped a bomb on that building, it would wiped out African American culture. I mean, I mean anyone that you could think of--and see, me and Ahmos, we got there early. So as people came in, you know, we were like--oh, there was [HistoryMaker] Melvin Van Peebles, Sun Ra, [HistoryMaker] Angela Davis, Giovanni [HistoryMaker Nikki Giovanni]. I mean everybody was there, you know. And then what made it very memorable for me is that prior to me coming to New York, Dr. Henderson [Stephen E. Henderson] became fascinated, you know, by this poetry of this particular woman at that time. And I was reading the poetry, and I don't get it, you know. But Henderson said, "This is the real stuff." It's June Jordan. And so I remember at that book party, you know, I saw her from across the room. So I went across the room, and introduced myself, you know. And like that, then we were invited to Washington [D.C.] a little later after that. But it was the first time I had met her. And so, you know, what happened years later, Toni Morrison would be June's editor for the book, 'Things I do in the Dark,' [June Jordan]. And I remember us battling over that, because you know, Toni Morrison was the key editor at Random House [Random House Inc.; Penguin Random House]. But June's book, 'Things I do in the Dark,' if you look at the copy that came out, it had, you know, a dark cover, and you had this hand reaching out, you know, against this nude body, you know, 'Things I do in the Dark.' And that's what Random House did to her book. But what June meant about 'Things I do in the Dark,' was when she would wake up in the middle of the night to write. And you know how you grope for your glasses, like things I do in the dark? So it had that sort of searching, sort of--a completely different understandings. So, we sort of laughed at that.

Askia Toure'

Professor and poet Askia M. Touré was born on October 13, 1938, in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Clifford Roland Snellings, Jr. and Nannie Lynette Bullock. Growing up, Touré attended Willard and Wogaman elementary schools. In 1952, Touré won a Motion Poetry Association Award while attending Roosevelt High School. Two years later, he participated in a successful sit-in at Roosevelt. Touré graduated from high school in 1956, and joined the United States Air Force. While serving alongside Robert Green of the Flamingos and Little Willie John, Touré wrote a letter to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell that resulted in a government investigation of racism at Wordsmith Air Force Base in Michigan.

After being discharged in 1959, Touré took art classes at the Dayton Art Institute. He then moved to New York City and joined the Art Student League and the Umbra Poets. He and his associates Tom Feelings, Tom Dent, David Henderson, and Calvin Herndon were mentored by Langston Hughes. Touré participated in the Fulton (Street) Art Fair in Brooklyn in 1961 and 1962, and the Black Arts Academy. Influenced by artists and writers such as Ernest Crichlow, Jacob Lawrence, Leo Carty, Elombe Brathe, Ronnie Braithwaite, Bob and Jean Gumbs, and Rose Nelmes of the Grandessa Models, Touré became a poet who championed a black aesthetic.

In 1961, Touré joined Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Alex Prempe, May Mallory, and Maya Angelou at the United Nations to protest the assassination of Congo’s Patrice Lumumba in 1961. In 1962, Touré became an illustrator for Umbra magazine, a staff member with The Liberator magazine, and a contributor to Freedomways. Touré was a part of the Atlanta staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and joined the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) in Mississippi in the Spring of 1964. In 1965, Touré founded Afro World and organized the Harlem Uptown Youth Conference. Touré also participated in the rise of the Black Panther Party and co-wrote SNCC’s 1966 “Black Power Position Paper.”

In 1967, Touré joined the staff of Nathan Hare at San Francisco State University and taught African history in the first Africana Studies Program. Touré organized the 1984 Nile Valley Conference in Atlanta and co-founded the Atlanta chapter of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) in 1986. Touré authored multiple books and received the 1989 American Book Award for Literature (From the Pyramids to the Projects) and the 2000 Stephen E. Henderson Poetry Award (Dawnsong); other works include films and plays. In 1996, Touré was honored with the Gwendolyn Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

Accession Number

A2007.131

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/10/2007

Last Name

Toure'

Organizations
Schools

Roosevelt High School

Wogaman Elementary School

Willard Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Askia

Birth City, State, Country

Raleigh

HM ID

TOU02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Children, This Is Not A Sprint. It's A Marathon.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

10/13/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sweet Potato Pie

Short Description

Poet, civil rights activist, and african american studies professor Askia Toure' (1938 - ) founded Afro World and organized the Harlem Uptown Youth Conference. Touré taught African history in the first Africana Studies Program at San Francisco State University, and authored a variety of books, plays, and has worked in film.

Employment

U.S. Air Force

Favorite Color

Warm Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Askia Toure's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Askia Toure explains how he chose the name Askia Toure

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Askia Toure talks about how the Black Arts Movement helped him get in touch with African roots, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Askia Toure talks about how the Black Arts Movement helped him get in touch with African roots, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Slating of Askia Toure's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Askia Toure lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Askia Toure describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Askia Toure talks about his maternal grandparents and his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Askia Toure describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Askia Toure talks about his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Askia Toure recounts his father's drafting and engineering career in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Askia Toure describes his siblings, his parents, and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Askia Toure recalls moving from North Carolina to Dayton, Ohio as a child during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Askia Toure recalls growing up in Dayton, Ohio's Desoto Bass Courts Housing Project

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Askia Toure talks about his grade school years in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Askia Toure recalls the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Askia Toure talks about singing in choirs as a youth and participating in singing competitions

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Askia Toure recalls influential teachers at Willard Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Askia Toure describes the impact of nature on his art as a youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Askia Toure recalls his years at Wogaman Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Askia Toure describes his experience at Roosevelt High School in Dayton, Ohio and race relations there

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Askia Toure talks about race relations in Dayton, Ohio, and civil rights activist W.S. McIntosh, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Askia Toure talks about race relations in Dayton, Ohio, and civil rights activist W.S. McIntosh, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Askia Toure talks about civil rights activist W.S. McIntosh

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Askia Toure remembers the 1955 murder of Emmett Till and segregation in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Askia Toure talks about entering the U.S. Air Force and being exposed to black intellectuals and artists there

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Askia Toure describes talks about challenging racial discrimination in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Askia Toure describes moving to New York City to pursue an art career, and meeting black artists like Tom Feelings

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Askia Toure describes the black poetry scene in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Askia Toure recounts his early years in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Askia Toure talks about Jacob Lawrence and the Fulton Art Fair in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Askia Toure talks about the impact of the Grandassa Models on the perception of natural hair and the black beauty industry, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Askia Toure talks about the impact of the Grandassa Models on the perception of natural hair and the black beauty industry, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Askia Toure talks about Rose Nelmes, Joel Augustus Rogers, and other figures in the 1960s pan-Africanist movement

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Askia Toure describes historian Joel Augustus Rogers, bookseller Lewis H. Michaux, and other figures in the Harlem's pan-Africanist movement

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Askia Toure recalls discussing his namesake, Guinean freedom fighter Samory Toure, with historian Joel Augustus Rogers

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Askia Toure talks about protests after the 1961 assassination of Congolese premier Patrice Lumumba

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Askia Toure talks about self-defense in the African American community, and the philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Askia Toure talks about moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1956 and writing for Liberator magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Askia Toure talks about Larry Neal and the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Askia Toure analyzes the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X and the Black Panther movement

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Askia Toure talks about the relationship between the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), SNCC, and the Black Panther Party, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Askia Toure talks about the relationship between the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), SNCC, and the Black Panther Party, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Askia Toure talks about civil rights activist Mary King's account of white activists in SNCC

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Askia Toure recounts SNCC's philosophical turn from nonviolence to Black Power

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Askia Toure talks about civil rights activist and mathematician Robert Moses

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Askia Toure describes civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael's early approach to nonviolence

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Askia Toure talks about teaching Black Studies at San Francisco State University in California with HistoryMaker Sonia Sanchez

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Askia Toure recalls the aftermath of Malcolm X's 1965 assassination

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Askia Toure describes the relationship between the Nation of Islam and other Black Nationalist organizations during the 1960s

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Askia Toure talks about the Independent Black Schools Movement and the 1970 Congress of African People in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Askia Toure talks about the Council for Independent Black Institutions, the Black Arts Movement, and African American intellectuals

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Askia Toure explains the role of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in developing the academic discipline of Black Studies

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Askia Toure describes transitioning from visual arts to poetry

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Askia Toure talks about his interest in African American theater

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Askia Toure talks about his poetry, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Askia Toure talks about his poetry, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Askia Toure reflects upon his life and what he would do differently

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Askia Toure explains how he would define victory for the Black Power Movement

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Askia Toure talks about HistoryMaker Harry Belafonte

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Askia Toure describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Askia Toure reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Askia Toure recites his poem 'A Few Words in Passing'

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Askia Toure talks about his family and his hopes for the planet

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$9

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Askia Toure explains how he chose the name Askia Toure
Askia Toure recites his poem 'A Few Words in Passing'
Transcript
And now did--now is there a story behind that name, Askia?$$Yeah, it's the whole, now what's gon' happen 'cause it's gon' take us into the '60s [1960], it's part of the cultural revolution. What we were attempting to do was to reclaim the names of our ancestors because what we had it might seem strange--people have become so assimilated now, we had said that part of our thing was oh so, you know, you usually don't find somebody that's Chinese named Harry Brown, so they have their Chinese names, and so, so we were saying we were going to research and find our African names, and if we couldn't find the actual ethnic groups that we came from then we would actually rename ourselves after African heroes and heroines you know so we would like and try to give splendor to that name and give credibility to that name you from Don L. Lee to [HM] Haki Madhubuti; from [HM] Sonia Sanchez to Laila Menan [ph.], from Marvin X to El Muhajir, Askia, from Roland Snellings to Askia Toure, and Ron Everett to [HM] Maulana Karenga, on and on and on, and so we were doing that not only to reclaim part of our lost heritage from the Maafa, the African holocaust, but to also set to model an example for the young people in terms of you know being a proper, what you know we were very (laughter)--now one, one gets a little amused by it but we were very concerned about walkin' the walk as well as talkin' the talk. I mean we were, called ourselves African Americans, new Africans and so forth you know after, Africa--African Americans after Brother Malcolm [X] and so forth, we were going away from "colored" and "negro" to "African Americans" or "New Africans" and so forth. And so we took ourselves rather seriously and but that's, I guess in a sense we, it's somewhat interesting now but we were dead serious then, and we tried to create new standards for our people. Now a very outstanding group of people I remember were the AJASS, the African Jazz-Arts Society [& Studios] outta New York [City, New York], Elombe Brath and Kwame Brathwaite, Jean Gumbs, Robert Gumbs, Black Rose Nelmes, Helene Brathwaite, they were part of a group called the Grandassa Models and they modeled the African hairstyles and the African dress and so forth and they linked up, they use to have the, the Naturally shows, Naturally '59, Naturally '60, Naturally '61, '62 and '63 and they had linked up with Max Roach and the beautiful diva Abbey Lincoln who is now known as Aminata Moseka.$$Yeah, now she, she was one of the first black women I saw on television that had a natural.$$Yes, yes.$$She and Miriam Makeba.$$Yeah, and also [HM] Cicely Tyson too as well.$$Yes sir, yes sir.$$And so we were a part of this thing of reclaiming the lost heritage and that's probably part of the spirit that Alex Haley tried to get into with 'Roots' his book 'Roots' which later came in the '70s [1970s]. So we were trying to restore, resurrect the lost heritage.$This is called 'A Few Words in Passing.' The ancients are right. Our common delusions imprison us all and our world becomes a modern gulag, but this is only a beginning. How are we to find what truly matters in life? We are indeed fortunate, we have elders, Twa [ph.] Gogaju [ph.], Kung [ph.] of our human race, Yogi, Sufis, Lamas, Babas, Zen Master, Shamans, Masters of the Inner realms. Only we must initiate contact, seek them out. Begin the soul's grand dialogue with self. Perhaps the rain forest can aid us on our paths, perhaps the mountains, deserts, lakes and the great oceans, perhaps the ants, dragon flies, butterflies, perhaps our fellow mammals. We might seek counsel with dolphins, whales the happy ones. Explain to brilliant ravens, sly crows, immaculate eagles, hawks, vultures, owls. Begin rigorous chats with wolves, bears, tigers, leopards, moose, rabbits and otters. Beings on our great maternal planet, elay [ph.] the Earth, speaking deep words, mirroring great truths, realigning beings, practicing divine harmony within the realm of being, my friend when was your last conversation with the rain?

Naomi Long Madgett

Poet and English professor emeritus Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett was born on July 5, 1923 in Norfolk, Virginia to the Reverend Clarence Marcellus Long and the former Maude Selena Hilton. Growing up in East Orange, New Jersey, she attended Ashland Grammar School and Bordentown School. At age twelve, Madgett’s poem, My Choice, was published on the youth page of the Orange Daily Courier. In 1937, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri where her schoolmates included Margaret Bush Wilson, E. Sims Campbell and lifelong friend, baritone Robert McFerrin, Sr. Madgett, at age fifteen, established a friendship with Langston Hughes. Just days after graduating with honors from Charles Sumner High School in 1941, Madgett’s first book of poetry, Songs to a Phantom Nightingale was published. She attended Virginia State University during World War II and graduated with her B.A. degree in 1945.

Madgett attended graduate school at New York University. In 1946, she married and moved to Detroit, Michigan where she worked as a copywriter for the Michigan Chronicle and the Michigan Bell. In 1949, her poem Refugee appeared in The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949 and in 1950, several of her poems were featured in American Literature by Negro Authors. Occasionally, Madgett read her poetry for the Detroit Study Club. After marrying William H. Madgett in 1954, she earned her M.Ed. from Wayne State University in 1955. Madgett taught at Northwestern High School, while two other books; 1956’s One and the Many and 1965’s Star by Star gained local accolade. Madgett joined a group of black Detroit writers including Margaret Danner, Oliver LaGrone, Dudley Randall, Harold G. Lawrence, Edward Simpkins, Gloria Davis, Alma Parks, James Thompson and Betty Ford who met at Boone House. They were featured along with James Edward McCall and playwrights Powell Lindsay and Woodie King, Jr. in the October 1962 issue of the Negro History Bulletin. Madgett’s poetry was also published in the Negro Digest and Hughes’s 1964 anthology, New Negro Poets: U.S.A. In 1965, she was awarded the Mott Fellowship in English.

In 1968, Madgett was included in Ten: Anthology of Detroit Poets and joined the faculty of Eastern Michigan University where she wrote A Student’s Guide to Creative Writing. Madgett’s 1971 African travels inspired the poems Phillis, and Glimpses of Africa. She earned her Ph.D. from Greenwich University in 1980. Octavia and Other Poems was published in 1988 by Third World Press. Madgett formed Lotus Press in 1972 and published her own book, Pink Ladies in the Afternoon. She edited the acclaimed Adam of Ife: Black Women in Praise of Black Men in 1992. Madgett is the recipient of many honors including 1993’s American Book Award and the George Kent Award in 1995.

Madgett, who was made Detroit’s Poet Laureate by Mayor Dennis Archer, continues as a vital part of Detroit’s cultural life.

Accession Number

A2007.072

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/5/2007 |and| 6/27/2007

Last Name

Madgett

Maker Category
Middle Name

Long

Occupation
Schools

Charles H. Sumner High School

Ashland Grammar School

Virginia State University

New York University

Wayne State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Naomi

Birth City, State, Country

Norfolk

HM ID

MAD04

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

7/5/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Poet and english professor Naomi Long Madgett (1923 - ) was first published at age twelve. Madgett was the recipient of many honors including 1993's American Book Award and the George Kent Award in 1995.

Employment

Michigan Bell Telephone

Northern High School

Northwestern High School

Eastern Michigan University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Naomi Long Madgett's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about her mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her mother's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers her paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her paternal aunt, Octavia Long, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her paternal aunt, Octavia Long, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls researching her paternal aunt, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls researching her paternal aunt, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett describes Guthrie, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Reverend S.S. Jones

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls the racism in East Orange, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her father's personality

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her poem, 'Reluctant Light'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers East Orange, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett describes Ashland Grammar School in East Orange, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Calvary Baptist Church, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Calvary Baptist Church, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls tension at Calvary Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls leaving Calvary Baptist Church

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Robert McFerrin, Sr.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Charles H. Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls her graduating class at Charles H. Sumner High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers her classes at Charles H. Sumner High School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her brother's military service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls learning about black history

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers Langston Hughes

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her first book of poetry

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers the release of her first book of poetry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls her decision to attend Virginia State College for Negroes in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her paternal grandmother

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls visiting Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers rationing during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers her brother's disappearance during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her brother's time in prison camp

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls her brother's release from prison camp

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about the important role of teachers

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers professors at Virginia State College for Negroes

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers historian, Luther Porter Jackson, Sr.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett describes the history of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls graduating from Virginia State College for Negroes

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about her first marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls being hired at Michigan Bell Telephone Company

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about completing her master's degree

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls her early teaching career

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett describes the inspiration for her poetry

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her poem, 'Midway'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her poem, 'Alabama Centennial'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about the theme of race in her poetry

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her style of poetry

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about the impact of 'Midway,' pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about the impact of 'Midway,' pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers the Boone House group in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers African American writers in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Naomi Long Madgett's interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls meeting African American poets in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett describes the Boone House poets

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls working for the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls working for the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about her teaching career

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her civil rights poems

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls her childhood inspiration

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers the deaths of her brothers

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about writing new poetry

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett recites her poem, 'Reluctant Light'

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett recites her poem, 'Connected Islands'

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett recounts her paternal family history

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls conducting research on her paternal family

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls visiting Guthrie, Oklahoma

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett remembers starting Lotus Press

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls early publications of Lotus Press

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett describes the authors published by Lotus Press

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about Lotus Press' operations

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls serving as poet laureate of Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett describes other poet laureates

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett talks about the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett compares spoken word poetry and written poetry

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her future plans

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Naomi Long Madgett describes her organizational memberships

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Naomi Long Madgett recalls donating her papers

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Naomi Long Madgett reflects upon her life

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Naomi Long Madgett reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Naomi Long Madgett shares her hopes for future generations

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Naomi Long Madgett describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Naomi Long Madgett narrates her photographs

DASession

1$2

DATape

4$9

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
Naomi Long Madgett remembers Langston Hughes
Naomi Long Madgett recites her poem, 'Connected Islands'
Transcript
When we went to St. Louis [Missouri] I met Langston Hughes for the first time. I was about fifteen.$$Now, tell us about that. Now you, you, you were, you were a sophomore in high school [Charles H. Sumner High School, St. Louis, Missouri] I guess, or, or--$$Something like that.$$And, and you met Langston. How did you meet Langston Hughes (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, he was, he was touring. And this was about--I'm trying to think of the copyright date on the book he gave me--about '39 [1939] or '40 [1940] I think. He was speaking at a women's, black women's literary meeting, and my mother [Maude Hilton Long] took me there, and I told him I was writing poetry. And he talked to me and said, "Don't ever pay to have your poems published," and he gave me a signed copy of 'A New Song' [Langston Hughes]. And then the next time I saw him I was at Virginia State [Virginia State College for Negroes; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia], and he was going to do a reading there, and I met with him with a small literary group that I belonged to in the afternoon of the reading. And I had a notebook, loose leaf notebook, with typed poems of mine, and I asked him if he had time would he look at some of them and tell me what he thought. So he said, "Yes, I'll give it back to you after the reading tonight." So in the middle of his reading, he read some of my poems and said that I had authored them, and my head got this big. He praised me. And when I get to get the notebook back, people had joined him on the stage. And I stood off to the side, but he saw me there, and he, he brought the book to me, and he had gone through all of the poems and written penciled notes, which I immediately covered with scotch tape and so it wouldn't get erased. And then when I heard that he and Arna Bontemps were doing a, an anthology of black poetry--'Negro'--'The Poetry of the Negro: 19--1746 to 1949' ['The Poetry of the Negro: 1746 to 1949,' eds. Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes], I sent him several of the poems, and he included one ["Refugee," Naomi Long Witherspoon] of them in there. And I stayed in touch with him until his death. Every time he was in Detroit [Michigan], somebody had a party for him, and I was always there. But he was the most wonderful person in the world, just down to earth, very helpful, encouraging to other poets, younger poets. And a number of black women poets could tell the same story. Mari Evans knew him much better than I did, but she and Margaret Walker and I were at least three of the black poets that he had, had encouraged.$$That's something.$'Connected--$$'Connected Islands' (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) Islands.'$$--'New and Selected Poems' ['Connected Islands: New and Selected Poems,' Naomi Long Madgett].$$The title, tell me about the title.$$I guess it came from the introductory poem. Do I have time to read that?$$Sure.$$Okay, and I'm, I'm gonna sing part of it because--try to sing part of it, because it, it's excerpts from songs.$$All right.$$But everything is connected ["Connected Islands," Naomi Long Madgett]: "Disjointed words and phrases come to me in dreams like scattered islands. Rising from secret places, they flow to the surface of consciousness, spill onto empty pages. But I tell you this, they will all come together. Everything means, and nothing is isolated. 'Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop' a mother in Africa rocks her infant, dying of starvation, belly distended. 'When the bow breaks,' a sergeant in Baltimore on furlough scribbles a note before she leaps from a ninth floor ledge. So long, badness. I did love you. See you there. Her broken bones lie at awkward angles on the sidewalk. The next week, her married soldier-lover follows her in suicide. I cover the waterfront, searching for a love that cannot live, yet never dies. A woman shivers under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, with only a box for shelter. In a funeral home in London the ring that covered head of a year old baby rests on a pillow in a small white casket. Nearby the shriveled hands of a woman in her nineties hold a rose with his sheep securely fold you. The space between them is heavy with formaldehyde, ends and beginnings, change and decay. They're alone; they are together. Even separate islands are connected by some sea. And we are sisters touching across the waters of our disparate lives, singing our untold stories in a harmo- harmony of undulating waves." So that, I decided that that should be the introductory poem to the book.$$Okay.

Abiodun Oyewole

Abiodun Oyewole was born Charles Davis on February 25, 1948 in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of three, he moved to Queens, New York, with his maternal aunt and her new husband. He was greatly influenced by the jazz and gospel music they played and by poets like Langston Hughes. At fifteen, he and a friend attended a Yoruba Temple in Harlem, New York. There, a Yoruba priest performed a ceremony, giving him the name Abiodun Oyewole, by which he is best known. Oyewole began learning about the Yoruba gods and developed a spiritual connection to the religion, which stressed the significance of praying to one’s ancestors for guidance and strength.

Oyewole is a founding member of the American musical spieling group, The Last Poets. On May 19, 1968, the anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday, Oyewole and two others David Nelson and Gylan Kain read poetry in tribute to Malcolm X at a memorial for him, and the group was born. The group’s message, deeply rooted in Black Nationalism, quickly became recognized within the African American community. The Last Poets along with the artist Gil Scott-Heron are credited as having had a profound effect on the development of hip-hop music. In 1970, the Last Poets were signed by jazz producer Alan Douglas and released their first album. This album includes their classic poem Niggers are Scared of Revolution. The Last Poets' spoken word albums preceded politically laced Rhythm and Blues projects, such as Marvin Gaye’s What's Going On, and foreshadowed the work of hard-hitting rap groups like Public Enemy and Dead Prez.

After being sentenced to four years in a North Carolina prison for larceny, Oyewole was forced to leave The Last Poets. He served two and half years of his sentence and during that time attended a nearby college where he earned his B.A. degree. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York City, where he has served as a faculty member. Oyewole rejoined The Last Poets, during its 1990s resurgence. The Last Poets took part in Lollapalooza in 1994 and released a new album entitled Holy Terror in 1995 and a book called On a Mission: Selected Poetry and a History of the Last Poets in 1996. Oyewole continues to tour various venues giving lectures on poetry and politics.

Oyewole lives in New York City.

Accession Number

A2006.164

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/13/2006 |and| 2/22/2007 |and| 3/21/2007

Last Name

Oyewole

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Ps 48 William Wordsworth School

Drake University

Shaw University

Columbia University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Abiodun

Birth City, State, Country

Cincinnati

HM ID

OYE01

Favorite Season

Birthday

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Islands

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/25/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Fish

Short Description

Poet and spoken word artist Abiodun Oyewole (1948 - ) is a founding member of the American musical spieling group, The Last Poets. The group's message, deeply rooted in Black Nationalism, quickly became recognized within the African American community.

Employment

The Last Poets

Harlem Domestic Peace Corps

Columbia University

City College of New York

New York City Board of Education

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Abiodun Oyewole's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his favorite color and food

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyeole describes his favorite time of the year

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyeole describes his travels

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyeole describes his favorite sayings, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyeole describes his favorite sayings, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyeole talks about parenting, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyeole talks about parenting, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his maternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his mother's childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his infancy

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls choosing to move to New York City with his aunt

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about Tulsa, Oklahoma's black Wall Street

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his aunt who raised him

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his uncle who raised him

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls attending P.S. 48

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls music from his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers celebrating Christmas as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls barbecues at his home in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls lessons about work ethic from his maternal uncle

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole describes lessons about race from his maternal aunt and uncle

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his childhood impression of New York City's Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his baptism at Southern Baptist Church

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers seeing the Gospel Caravan at the Apollo Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls how he was affected by his baptism

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about sexuality

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his relationship to women

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his childhood aspiration to become a doctor

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls reciting the Lord's Prayer at Southern Baptist Church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his relationship with his maternal uncle

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls fighting at Woodycrest boarding school

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers an encounter with his school counselor

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his experiences at Haaren High School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his reputation for fighting at Haaren High School

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his high school English teachers

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls becoming interested in poetry

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers his first encounter with African religion

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers adopting his name

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Slating of Abiodun Oyewole's interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about the universal nature of struggle and poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls founding The Last Poets with David Nelson

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his talent for poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his desire for self-expression

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole reflects upon being a voice for others

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers preparing for his first poetry performance

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls the first performance of The Last Poets

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his decision not to pursue medicine

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his maternal aunt's lessons about self-esteem

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole describes the early performances of The Last Poets

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls hosting workshops and parties at the East Wind, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls hosting workshops and parties at the East Wind, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole describes The Last Poets' finances

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls The Last Poets' changing lineup

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers becoming the sole member of The Last Poets

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers recruiting Umar Bin Hassan to The Last Poets

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls Jalal Mansur Nuriddin joining The Last Poets

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers recording the album 'The Last Poets'

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole describes being a member of The Last Poets

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers his decision to leave The Last Poets

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls protesting the Harlem State Office Building's construction, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls protesting the Harlem State Office Building's construction, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers the police search and seizure of his car

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls fleeing New York City

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole reflects upon being a revolutionary activist

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls attending Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his radio programs at Shaw University

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls organizing the robbery of two gun stores in Raleigh

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls being pursued after robbing the Ku Klux Klan, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls being pursued after robbing the Ku Klux Klan, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole recounts the details of his robbery of the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole narrates his photographs

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Abiodun Oyewole's interview, session 3

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about Gylan Kain

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers the tension within The Last Poets

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole describes the East Wind Associates

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls recording 'The Last Poets'

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about the tracks on 'The Last Poets'

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about Frankie Crocker

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls the release of 'The Last Poets'

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls founding African societies in North Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls founding African societies in North Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about polygamy

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls being sentenced to twelve to twenty years in prison

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his experience in Raleigh's Central Prison, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his first wife

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his experience in Raleigh's Central Prison, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his experience in jail before his trial, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his experience in jail before his trial, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls applying for Central Prison's school release program

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls attending Shaw University while incarcerated

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his radio shows at Shaw University

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his play, 'Comments'

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about reading Doris Kemp's poetry on his radio show

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his return to Shaw University after receiving parole

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers a fellow student at Shaw University

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about founding the African Revolutionary Ensemble

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls meeting Angela Davis and Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers recording with African Revolutionary Ensemble

Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his company's cancelled show with Stevie Wonder

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about a girlfriend

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Abiodun Oyewole describes his connection to the Black Panther Party

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls working at Columbia University's Community Education Exchange Program

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers receiving the Charles H. Revson Fellowship, pt. 1

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Abiodun Oyewole remembers receiving the Charles H. Revson Fellowship, pt. 2

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls Columbia University's Science Technology Entry Program

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Abiodun Oyewole describes The Last Poets' reunion

Tape: 14 Story: 8 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about reuniting with Umar Bin Hassan

Tape: 14 Story: 9 - Abiodun Oyewole recalls his son's music lessons with Babatunde Olatunji

Tape: 14 Story: 10 - Abiodun Oyewole talks about his return to The Last Poets

DASession

1$2

DATape

5$7

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Abiodun Oyewole recalls becoming interested in poetry
Abiodun Oyewole recalls the first performance of The Last Poets
Transcript
I mean that was, I mean if, I guess if people had listened to me then when I was a kid or whatever, they would probably assume that I was gonna be a teacher. Because when it came, when we got to the section of poetry, oh my God, I actually did, I actually took words from Ann Carpenter's class and got real arrogant one day and said, "All right, these words what do you want us to do with these words?" She said, "Well put them in a composition, well come up first, get the definitions and always remember the primary definition is the one that we should go with." And she would break us down and say that you'll see two or three different definitions in the dictionary. And she says, "But then use these words in a composition." So then I'm thinking to myself composition, I said, "Could that be a poetic composition?" And she says, "If you can put these words in a poem, I'll give you, I'll give you not one but two extra credits." I said, "Oh really?" And that's what I did. I, I took vocabulary words from the board and I was going out with a sister, that was going to Boston--going to Borough of Manhattan Community College [New York, New York] and we were having difficulties. First of all I lied about my age, I lied about where I was going to school, I told her I was in NYU [New York University, New York, New York], I was in high school [Haaren High School, New York, New York]. I was a sophomore in high school, and, and I wrote a poem about our relationship. "She's a rose of many thorns tearing pride out of my heart / Though she blossoms in many forms, her thorns remain always sharp / She rips, she hurts yet stays projecting seductively fragrant perfumes / I protest in so many ways but my manhood she somehow consumes / I'm torn between love and masculinity and the ladder I need the most / The life of mine is separate entity, I'm a man this I cannot boast / She more woman than I am man, knows not her place by me / She thinks me a cactus living in sand, closing her ears to my plea / Let me free to roam in your garden, let me free to pride in your perfume / For the love I feel will soon be pardoned by the manhood I must quickly resume." Of course I got extra credit, and Miss Carpenter she told me she says, "I don't know if anybody's ever told you this before but you're a poet. And maybe that will come in handy in the future."$$Did you know you were a poet before, before this?$$(Shakes head) I had written a poem in elementary school with the help of a librarian who nobody liked 'cause he was soft. He was probably gay, I mean but Mr. Orr [ph.] was cool with me, and he didn't try no funny business with me. And I was asked when I was in the fifth grade to write a poem for graduation. I wasn't even graduating you know, this is the sixth grade is when you graduated I, I and I didn't understand until oh some years later that the reason I was asked because I was the best English, I was the best English student in the school at--in that elementary school, I, I had won spelling bees, I had written good reports. Whenever I had to do the oral report, I was always better than the rest of the kids, 'cause I had my mother [Oyewole's maternal aunt, Elvenia Robinson Davis] at home to help me. 'Cause remember I did anything she would, she was, she was serious night watchman over everything. She wants to see my work; she want to see everything, everything, nothing went unnoticed. So I actually you know I believe it's, it's like when I did this poem, I didn't know, I didn't have any idea how to do the poem. And I went to Mr. Orr and I told him I was asked to do the poem, and he laughed. And he says, "And you don't know why?" I said, he says, "Well it's okay." He says, "I'll help you write the poem." And he says, "Well what do you think about, do you think about graduation?" I said, (shrugs). I said, he says, "We're gonna make a list of words that rhyme that deal with graduation." So what comes to mind, I said school bells you know, I think that was the first that came to my mind, maybe first or second. And he said, "Well what, what rhymes with school bell?" He says like say, "What you, you leaving school you know what do you call that?" I said, "Well it's like you're saying goodbye to your friends and people that you knew, teachers that you knew." "So what's another word for goodbye that deals with school, but sounds school bell?" I said, "Farewell?" He says, he says, "All right, so then," and, and we took each pair and worked it you know, and had a poem. The poem was up in the school for a long time, but I never considered myself a poet though, at that time. I just 'cause first of all, he helped me write the poem, so I really kind of considered him to be my secret help you know. But this time I did 'Emancipation,' which is one I just recited I did that on my own, I was dipping and dabbing in poetry as a, as a just something to do. That I liked to, that I thought was interesting, it was interesting to me.$Now before we actually went on the stage, however, we went--David Nelson lived right around the corner from Mount Morris Park [New York, New York], he, it was convenient. So he, I, we went there to his house, he said I met this other guy named Gylan Kain, I met Kain in the park. Then we all went upstairs to David's house. Now Kain he had met at a poetry reading right here at Columbia University [New York, New York] about a week before, no two weeks before. And he invited him because he liked his poetry; he thought that that would be cool. So we went over to David's house and we sat there for a minute and we talked about how we gonna go on stage and we thought maybe we would sing. Somebody would do maybe a poem up on front so I, I had maybe someone try sing 'Ooo Baby Baby,' maybe that'll be slick you know. I mean that was one of the hit songs at the time 'Ooo Baby Baby,' Kain couldn't hold a note if you handed to him. David's all right, his voice is kind of weak but he, it wasn't, that wasn't not gonna be our forte. So I said, now I had just seen a demonstration on television, it was a demonstration by the students of Howard University [Washington, D.C.]. And it was to try to get, they were having issues with their president and if I recall his name was Nesbitt [sic. James M. Nabrit, Jr.]. And they didn't want him there anymore, they want him out, and they had an effigy of him hanging up in the tree. And they were marching around and they were chanting are you ready nigger is you got to be ready, are you ready? Then they go off into Beep, Beep, Bang, Bang, Un-Gowa, Black Power, Beep, Beep, Bang, Bang are you ready nigger is you got to. And I thought that was so hot, so I said now I know we can't sing together but everybody can chant. So I said we're gonna chant are you ready niggers, so we practiced it, I said we go on stage, that's what we gonna do. There was a brother named Hakim [ph.], he's now like a documenteur, he jock- he's a film guy, he does a lot, you see him in jazz concerts all over the place. He's got a long beard, he's got a camera always now, but he used to be one of the baddest djembe drummers. And he had a dance troupe and everything for a long time, he just changed courses and he's a Pisces and he can do that. And, and he was on stage with some drummers and dancers on that very first day. And then they were packed, getting ready to pack up and leave and give us the stage, and I said no, no, stay right there. So that's how the drums got involved right away, because I felt that that would give added rhythm you know. And it did, and we had the entire park are you ready niggers, you got to be ready, the drummers were playing. And David had his poem entitled 'Are You Ready Black People,' Gylan Kain had his poem entitled 'Niggers Are Untogether People' and I had poem entitled 'What Is Your Thing Brother' [Abiodun Oyewole]. And that was, those were the first three poems that graced the stage as The Last Poets. And, and we didn't have the name then, the name was something that was sought out by David, David did the research for the name. He read Sterling Brown's poem 'Strong Men Keep On Coming' [sic. 'Strong Men'] he read Margaret Walker's 'For My People' I know he read poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. But the poem that really captivated our name finally gave us the name was poem called 'Towards a Walk in the Sun' by a South African poet named Keroapetse Kgositsile. And Ko, Ko, Kgositsile, he has I think he does that in his name, he's Zulu. He's a great brother, good friend of mine, we were in South Africa two summers ago and we had a big party and also when we did our thing on the stage, he came out first. And the people gave him a standing ovation and we started doing the part of the poem that gave us our name, the entire audience was doing it. So it's like a creed, it was like when you hear is the birth of memory. When the moment hatches and times womb, there will be no art talk. The only sound you will he, the only poem you'll hear will be the spear, the only sound you will hear will be the spear point pivoted to the punctured marrow. The only poem you'll hear will be the timeless native son dancing like crazy to retrieved rhythms of desire fading into memory. Therefore, David added we are The Last Poets of the world. So it's like what all, whatever you know like the negotiations are over. And the marching's are over, the parade, the banners the shouting, yelling and screaming and throwing bricks and rocks are over you know. And this statement that we as poets represent is that final statement before it really hits the fan you know so.