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Angela Jackson

Angela Jackson, poet, playwright and fictionist, was born July 25, 1951, in Greenville, Mississippi. Her father, George Jackson, Sr. and mother, Angeline Robinson Jackson moved to Chicago where Jackson attended St. Anne’s Catholic School. Fascinated with books, Jackson frequented the Kelly Branch Library and admired Chicago’s Gwendolyn Brooks. She graduated from Loretto Academy in 1968 with a pre-med scholarship to Northwestern University. In 1977, Jackson received her B.A. degree from Northwestern University and went on to earn her M.A. degree from the University of Chicago.

At Northwestern University, Jackson joined FMO, the black student union. Influenced by artist Jeff Donaldson and visiting poet Margaret Walker, she was invited by Johnson Publishing’s Black World magazine editor, Hoyt W. Fuller, to join the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC), where she stayed as a member for twenty years. At OBAC, Fuller mentored young black writers like Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), Carolyn Rodgers, Sterling Plumpp and others. Jackson was praised as a reader and performer on Chicago’s burgeoning black literary scene. First published nationally in Black World in 1971, Jackson’s first book of poetry, Voodoo Love Magic was published by Third World Press in 1974. She won the eighth Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Award in 1973; the Academy of American Poets Award from Northwestern University in 1974; the Illinois Art Council Creative Writing Fellowship in Fiction in 1979; a National Endowment For the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Fiction in 1980; the Hoyt W. Fuller Award for Literary Excellence in 1984; the American Book Award in 1985; the DuSable Museum Writers Seminar Poetry Prize in 1984; Pushcart Prize for Poetry in 1989; ETA Gala Award in 1994; Illinois Authors Literary Heritage Award in 1996; six Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards; five for fiction and one for poetry; The Carl Sandburg Award; Chicago Sun-Times Friends of Literature Book of the Year Award; an Illinois Art Council Creative Writing Fellowship in Playwriting in 2000; and in 2002, the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Jackson’s published poetic works include: The Greenville Club, 1977 (chapbook); Solo in the Boxcar Third Floor E, 1985; The Man with the White Liver, 1987; Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners, 1993; and All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems New and Selected, 1997, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her plays include Witness!, 1970; Shango Diaspora: An African American Myth of Womanhood and Love, 1980; and When the Wind Blows, 1984 (better known as the eta production entitled, Comfort Stew). Jackson is working on Treemont Stone, a novel; Lightfoot: The Crystal Stair, a play; her memoir, Apprenticeship in the House of Cowrie Shells; and more poems.

Jackson lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

Accession Number

A2005.247

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/22/2005

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Loretto Academy Catholic High School

St. Ann Catholic School

Northwestern University

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Angela

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

JAC16

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Brazil

Favorite Quote

Usikate Tamaa (Do Not Despair In Swahili)

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/25/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grits, Eggs

Short Description

Playwright and poet Angela Jackson (1951 - ) has won numerous awards for her work. Jackson is actively involved in Chicago's Organization of Black American Culture, where she has mentored young black writers.

Favorite Color

Orange, Hot Pink

Timing Pairs
0,0:36435,369:111372,1051:156105,1509:156885,1525:157145,1530:157925,1549:179873,1895:188380,1977:194440,2032:203195,2189:203790,2199:204215,2205:206085,2259:219180,2362$0,0:3496,55:10309,135:10820,143:19580,369:20091,378:31160,522:31560,531:74056,1043:74644,1050:105742,1259:106260,1268:106630,1274:110034,1331:111440,1353:113438,1392:125360,1521:133040,1672:133440,1678:170854,2059:196560,2374:203532,2448:204036,2455:213133,2520:223845,2629:224610,2640:229285,2710:230900,2736:235490,2798:249326,2930:254968,3014:258062,3085:271236,3162:271740,3169:274210,3175
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Angela Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes her parents' marriage and her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson describes her father's experience in the U.S. military and the family's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson recalls her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson describes her childhood personality and interests

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson describes encountering overt racism in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson describes the ethnic makeup of Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson talks about her love of school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about writers that influenced her, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about writers that influenced her, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about her experience at Loretto Academy High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her writing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her extracurricular interests at her experience at Loretto Academy High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her childhood mentors and memories

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson talks about her changing political views in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about her parents' reading habits

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about reactions to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about Loretto Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois and her decision to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about the politics of black hair

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson reflects on her changing attitude toward Malcolm X

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her mentors at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson talks about her introduction to the Organization of Black American Culture

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and related organizations

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson reflects on cultural changes in the late '60s and early '70s and OBAC

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her experience in the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes her experience in the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her time at Northwestern University, the burning of OBAC's storefront, and the Communiversity

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her first published writings and various jobs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson recalls events in her life which occurred in 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes the history and demise of Black World magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson describes Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her play "Shango Diaspora," pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes her play "Shango Diaspora," pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson discusses her published poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson discusses her book "Dark Legs and Silk Kisses" and other writings

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson describes her novel "Treemont Stone" and other writings

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes an article she wrote on her use of popular culture in her writing

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about her teaching career

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about her future plans and present writing

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about the difference between light and serious fiction

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about the subject matter of her current work

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson reflects on her life

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson reflects on her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Angela Jackson talks about Ida B. Wells

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Angela Jackson reflects on how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Angela Jackson reads her poem "Faith"

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$8

DATitle
Angela Jackson talks about her writing
Angela Jackson talks about her introduction to the Organization of Black American Culture
Transcript
Okay, so were you writing in high school? Were you writing creative?$$Yes, yes, I was. In, in, in--when I was twelve, this wasn't creative writing this was, I kept a diary and they were letters to Jesus and they were very personal letters, intense letters to Jesus that I kept a little note book, but they weren't poems and they weren't meant to be published, but my sister found my diary and they laughed at it, my younger sisters, Betty and Sharon. And my sister Rose salvaged it from them and hid it. But--$$Do you have still have it?$$No I don't. I wish I knew where it was. I wish I knew what had happened to it. I wish I still had it, but I do remember one thing about it. I do remember one thing about it that I know about myself based upon it is that I am intensely competitive, but I learn over the course of time and experience to try to compete with myself, you know, not to worry about what anybody else has or does, but just compete with my own work, you know, with what I have done in the past to try to make it better to do, to create something different and better with each turn, with each, embrace of a work as a writer. So, that's what I do.$$Okay.$$Because if you compete with other people, it will just make you, make you nuts. I was talking to Sterling [D.] Plumpp last night, and he was upset that [HM] Haki [Madhubuti] and I are not included in the Oxford, in the Oxford collection of African American poetry edited by Arnold Rampersad, and I wasn't that upset about, and he said but that's like writing you out of history and I know it is, but I'm in other anthologies. I'm in the, I'm lucky and glad to be in the Penguin anthology edited by Keith Gilyard and you can't, you can't make people put you in them, you can't--they have all kinds of reasons why they don't include you and some of them is, is, might be as simple as they don't know about your work, which means they haven't done their homework and just you know, just all kinds of peculiar reasons and rationales, so, and, and my other feeling about is who decided that Arnold Rampersad was the authority on African American poetry (laughter). When did he come along? I never remembered his name from Black World [magazine]. How long has he been here out here working in the vineyards, so that's why I compete with myself because you can't depend on other people.$Were you aware at the time that she has, I think she's from, she's from Louisiana or--$$No, she was born in Alabama, but she taught at Jackson State [University] in [Jackson] Mississippi--$$Right.$$--and she was a visiting professor at Northwestern [University in Evanston, Illinois] and she had attended Northwestern in the '40s [1940s]--$$Yeah, she was a part of the writers' group in the '40s [1940s]--$$Yes she was, yeah.$$--with Richard Wright--(unclear)--$$Yes, and Gwendolyn Brooks, exactly.$$--(Unclear)--were you aware at that time that she knew Gwendolyn Brooks?$$No, all I knew was that she had written "For My People" and I loved it, and I wanted to study with her. So, the following year in my sophomore year came another African American literature class, which I definitely could not take, but wound up auditing. It was taught by Hoyt [W.] Fuller and my roommate, Roella Christine Henderson, later Davis, kept urging me to go and show him my poems since he was an edi--editor. She said, "He's an editor, you're a writer, you should take him your work, so I did. Christine, by the way is a cousin of [HM] Jeff Donaldson and I and Christine worked for Jeff in sophomore year. I was his slide assistant, and I filed his slides and during his class in those days they didn't have electric slides, so I had to show, change each slide and show the slides in, in his class while class was going on and I had to take notes at the same time because I was taking the class and Jeff, as you know, was one of the founders of OBAC [Organization of Black American Culture]. Hoyt Fuller was a founder of OBAC and when I gave my poems to Hoyt Fuller he kept them for three weeks and I asked him about them and asked him about them, the man was busy, but he was kind enough to read my poems. When he gave them back to me, he said very kindly, "You have a way with words. You should come to OBAC where you might be judged by your peers." Now I knew about, I don't know how I knew about Don L. Lee [HM Haki Madhubuti] and Carolyn Rodgers, but I did know about them because he said your peers and I was thinking my peers they're older than me, they're not my peers, but I did go to OBAC on the third Wednesday of October, 1969. I took the El from Evanston to 35th Street, I got off and walked the three blocks over. And the workshop was at 77 East 35th Street and the door was opened by Walter Bradford, the poet who had done the Black Stone Ranger workshop, organized that workshop with Gwendolyn Brooks and also present was another poet named Evan (ph.) Higgs, and they were very warm and kind to me. Later on the place started to fill up. It was a lovely fall evening, the place started to fill up, people floated in and sat down in the chairs and on the couches of that store front and after a while Don L. Lee came in and he slid through the room. [Dr.] Ann Smith came in and she walked through the room. Then Hoyt Fuller came in and he strolled through the room, and he sat at the front, and I was sitting on a couch and he looked up and looked at me and he smiled and that was how my OBAC experience began and I was a member of OBAC for roughly twenty years.

S. Pearl Sharp

Writer, actor and filmmaker Saundra Pearl Sharp was born on December 21, 1942 in Cleveland, Ohio to Clarence and Faythe Sharp. Sharp’s family was active in the local NAACP, and she was raised in Antioch Baptist Church. Sharp graduated from John Adams High School in 1960, and attended Bowling Green State University, where she pursued a double major in music education and radio-TV production. She became the first Black member of the BGSU chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, the music honor society, and produced a children’s story series and music interviews on the campus radio station. During the summer, Sharp interned at WABQ-AM in Cleveland, under the tutelage of Valena Minor Williams, LeBaron Taylor and Jack Gibson.

Graduating in 1964, Sharp moved to New York City, where her first job was as a copywriter for T.V. Guide. She studied acting under the Poverty Program’s HARYOU-ACT with Cleveland’s Karamu Theatre alumni Al Fann and Minnie Gentry. She performed in J.E. Franklin’s Black Girl, in the chorus of the Pearl Bailey company of Hello Dolly from 1967 to 1968, Uniworld’s radio serial Sounds Of The City, and in Gordon Parks’ film, The Learning Tree. Sharp also starred in the TV movies Minstrel Man (1976) and Hollow Image (1980), had recurring roles on Wonder Woman (1978), St. Elsewhere (1984/87) and Knots Landing (1985), and was a leading commercial spokeswoman.

A poet from childhood, Sharp attended John O. Killens’ Writers Workshop at Columbia University where she completed two volumes of poetry and her first play, The Sistuhs, in addition to forming the literary performance troupe Poets & Performers.
In the mid-1970’s Sharp moved to Los Angeles. She created Poets Pay Rent, Too, and served as publisher/editor of Robert E. Price’s Blood Lines (1978), Directory of Black Film/TV Technicians and Artists, West Coast (1980), The BAD-C (Black Anti-Defamation Coalition) Media Matters Newsletter (1981-84) and The Black History Film List (1989). Publisher Glenn Thompson re-issued her 1978 poetry volume Soft Song (1978, 1991) and published Typing in the Dark (Harlem River Press, 1991) and the non-fiction Black Women for Beginners (Writers & Readers, 1993). Sharp was a co-founder, with Robert E. Price, of the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition which monitored the image of Blacks in the media (1980-85).

In 1980 Sharp shifted her focus to filmmaking, studying at Los Angeles City College. Her films include Back Inside Herself (1984), Life Is A Saxophone (1985), Picking Tribes (1988), It’s OK to Peek (1996), The Healing Passage/ Voices From The Water (2004); and for the City of Los Angeles, Central Avenue Live! (1996) and Fertile Ground: Stories from the Watts Towers Arts Center (2005).

Sharp was an essayist and commentator on NPR from 2003 to 2009, and has served as a volunteer segment producer for KPFK-FM, Pacifica Radio Network. Her non-fiction writings are collected in The Evening News- Essays And Commentaries From NPR And Other Clouds (2015).

S. Pearl Sharp was interviewed for The HistoryMakers on April 27, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.110

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/27/2005 |and| 2/26/2018

Last Name

Sharp

Middle Name

Pearl

Schools

John Adams High School

Bolton Elementary School

Robert Fulton Elementary School

Bowling Green State University

Alexander Hamilton Junior High School

Los Angeles City College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

S.

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

SHA03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Don't Do To Others What You Don't Want Done To You. What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/21/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Playwright, film actress, stage actress, and poet S. Pearl Sharp (1942 - ) was among the cast of Gordon Parks’ The Learning Tree, and Minstrel Man. Sharp has also published six books and produced and directed eight films and stage plays.

Employment

TV Guide

Actress

Voices Incorporated

Author

Juneteenth Audio Books

‘The Tavis Smiley Show’

‘News and Notes’

Favorite Color

Gray, Purple, Red, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of S. Pearl Sharp's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her family's origin

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers stories of her maternal grandmother singing opera

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her mother's life in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her maternal great-grandfather, Mason Garner

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls her move to Cleveland, Ohio's Mount Pleasant neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her family's community involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her family's love of music

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her school experiences in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls racism at her nursery school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes John Adams Senior High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers watching 'The Nat King Cole Show'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the Little Rock Nine visiting Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the radio station at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls interviewing Miriam Makeba for her college radio station

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the integration of student housing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the racial climate at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her education and activities at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes traveling to New York City in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her first job at TV Guide

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her contemporaries at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her experience on 'Captain Kangaroo'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes HARYOU-ACT and the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes poetry in the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her acting and singing career with the Al Fann & Co.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes performing in Pearl Bailey's 'Hello Dolly' in 1967

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes Pearl Bailey

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp explains the divisions in New York City's theatre community

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers helping Babtunde Olantuji design dashikis

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about black theater

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp describes being in the first all-black commercial

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp explains how African Americans broke into entertainment industry unions

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her play 'The Sistuhs'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her role in 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers filming a lynching scene for 'Minstrel Man'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her experience with 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes filming scenes for 'The Minstrel Man'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her work with the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about BADC's campaign against 'Webster' and 'White Dog'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about BADC's campaign against the Malcolm X movie

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her role on the soap opera 'Knots Landing'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes a Betty Crocker commercial she was in

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her work helping others to get published

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of S. Pearl Sharp's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the founding of the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls her civil rights activism in the entertainment industry

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers her early networking in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her Broadway career in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls acting in Gordon Parks' film, 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers her audition for 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the 'Our Street' public television program, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls studying writing under John Oliver Killens at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the 'Our Street' public television program, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the 'Minstrel Man' television movie

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her friendship with Beah Richards

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers actress Beah Richards

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the representation of black America in Hollywood

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her early interest in writing, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her sister

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her early interest in writing, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers her program on WGBU Radio in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her early career in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her group, Poets and Performers

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the Black Arts Movement, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the Black Arts Movement, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the differences in New York City's art scenes

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her poem, 'It's the Law: A Rap Poem'

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers her introduction to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the black Russian community

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls her early acting career in Los Angeles, California, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her early supplementary income

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls her early acting career in Los Angeles, California, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls enrolling at Los Angeles City College in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers her early television commercial appearances

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the creation of her film, 'Back Inside Herself'

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her documentary, 'Life Is a Saxophone,' pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her documentary, 'Life Is a Saxophone,' pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the group, Reel Black Women

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the '1980 Directory of Black Film/TV: Technicians, West Coast,' pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the '1980 Directory of Black Film/TV: Technicians, West Coast,' pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the work of the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the work of the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the impact of HIV/AIDS

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes Mildred Pitts Walter, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about journalist Margaret Prescod

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp describes Mildred Pitts Walter, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the civic engagement of Sandra Evers-Manly

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp remembers the legacy of Mayme Clayton

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the Alfred and Bernice Ligon Aquarian Collection

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her book, 'Black Women For Beginners,' pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her book, 'Black Women For Beginners,' pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp describes the Juneteenth Audio Books

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her film, 'The Healing Passage: Voice from the Water'

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - S. Pearl Sharp recalls the reception to 'The Healing Passage: Voices from the Water'

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her early career at National Public Radio

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her NPR program, 'News and Notes'

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her essay collection, 'The Evening News'

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her consultancy, The Gate is Open

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - S. Pearl Sharp describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - S. Pearl Sharp reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - S. Pearl Sharp reflects upon her life

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - S. Pearl Sharp describes her advice to black aspiring entertainment industry professionals

Tape: 12 Story: 10 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about the importance of voicing concerns

Tape: 12 Story: 11 - S. Pearl Sharp talks about her health and spirituality

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

9$4

DATitle
S. Pearl Sharp remembers watching 'The Nat King Cole Show'
S. Pearl Sharp describes her role in 'The Learning Tree'
Transcript
--The other media event was Nat King Cole's program ['The Nat King Cole Show'].$$His TV show.$$The TV show. So when Nat King Cole came on, on Monday night for fifteen minutes, everything stopped, you know. I mean I was a chief dishwasher. I didn't even have to wash dishes. You know, we're usually were eating dinner around that time. Everything stopped, 'cause we all loved Nat King Cole. He was the first black, you know, to have his own show (clearing throat) came on Cleveland [Ohio]. And I mean your phone didn't ring or anything. Only somebody out of their mind would call between 6 and 6:15 on Monday (laughter), you know, 'cause 'The Nat King Cole Show' was on, and everybody black was tuned into a television. If you didn't have one, you went to somebody's house--$$Now I didn't--$$--to watch.$$--realize, I guess I was too young at the time. I remember seeing the show and the excitement around it, but I didn't realize it was only fifteen minutes.$$Initially, it was only fifteen minutes, right; yeah, that's all they gave him because they couldn't get sponsors for anything else, right (laughter), yeah.$$That's amazing, but he had like [HistoryMaker] Harry Belafonte on the show and you know.$$Um-hm, yeah, yeah, and the what--also, the interesting thing about was, because I came up in a very class conscious community, and we don't talk very much about class in the black community. We talk about the color consciousness but not about class. So, conk was off limit. I brought somebody home with a conk once, and my mother [Faythe Sharp] would not let him in the house, okay. The conk was the processed hair.$$That's right. Now that was supposed to be a pimp style--$$Right. But Nat King Cole had a conk, okay, so he was the only person who was allowed. They made an exception for Nat King Cole because he conducted himself in a certain way. He was a singer; he was an entertainer; but he was a gentleman, you know. We--he never embarrassed black people. So it was always interesting to me that this exception was made for Nat King Cole (laughter), you know. He, it was okay that he had--it wasn't okay, but we not gon' talk about it (laughter); we're not gon' talk--$$But wasn't it then--$$--about his conk.$$--in, in those days it was like, it was considered on the street more of a pimp style thing. But in the, entertainers felt compelled to do that for some reason. Sammy Davis, Jr. had one, Johnny Mathis, other people.$$Right, James Brown, yeah, yeah. But see, James was, was doing jump up music, so you kind of expected him to have a conk. Nat King Cole wasn't doing jump up music, all right. Nat King Cole had class (laughter), but he had a conk. So basically, it was like, mm, we see it, but we just don't discuss it (laughter).$$What's interesting, for women it seemed to be the opposite. If you did not have your hair pressed, you were considered--$$That's right.$$--back, backward or country or something, you know.$$Yep. And Cicely Tyson was the one to break, break down that barrier on her show 'East Side/West Side,' and she worn an afro.$$Was she the first?$$She was the first on television--$$Okay.$$--to wear an afro. And boy, would the, the gossip, and the phones, and the newspaper columns, and I mean it would just, the beauty parlors, there was nothing else to talk about. This woman went on national television with her hair in an afro, you know, depending on which side it was: "Yeah, she wore an afro," or "She went up there with all them naps, didn't have her hair did." You know, so there was this divide in the community, and she got a lot of flack about that. Even when Abbey Lincoln did the movie with Sidney Poitier, what was that film?$$'For Love of Ivy.'$$'For Love of Ivy,' right, beautiful film, wonderful story. Most of the dot- most of the rap in the community was about her wigs, whether she had on a wig or not, whether she should have had on wigs or not (laughter). So hair has always taken precedence in the dialogue of the community.$Yeah, I guess we're about to time of 'The Learning Tree,' I guess, sixty--$$Ah 'The Learning Tree,' yes.$$Yeah.$$Yeah, yeah.$$All right, now how did you get in that project?$$I was in 'Hello, Dolly!' And the word went out that they were gonna cast 'The Learning Tree' and that there was a part for a young fifteen or sixteen year, there was a part for a fifteen year-old and a sixteen year-old. And at that time I was twenty-five, but I was still--I had just stopped doing teenage modeling 'cause I did--I know people will say well, you know, it's an ego trip when you say this, but I really did not look my age. I was actually playing younger parts. And I could not get an audition for this role to save my life. And you know that a part is yours when other actors are coming up to you and saying, "You auditioned for that didn't you? 'Cause you'd be good for that" (laughter), you know--'could not get an audition. And a, a modeling agent that I had called up finally and said--and I could not get the book. Everybody, every copy of the book in the, the universe had been, you know, consumed by actors who were trying to read the story. So this ad, this agent called up and says, "Barbara so and so has an audition for 'The Learning Tree,' for the part of the sister, and she's in Cleveland [Ohio]"--my hometown--, "so would you please do me a favor? Would you go over there and pretend to be her, and let me know what happens?" And I was like, "Oh, sure (laughter), sure." So I got myself together and I, I started to put braids. I said no, everybody else was gonna do braids, so I just wore my hair long, and I put a big bow, bow, kind of old fashioned bow, 'cause it's a period piece, period to us. And I went over. And the other thing that happened before I went was, because I had stopped being a teenage model and I was now trying to be sophisticated and a real adult, I had had new pictures made, the new sophisticated, you know, looking Saundra Sharp [HistoryMaker S. Pearl Sharp], right. And so I got my little pictures, and I go over. And the minute I walked in the door I saw the receptionist. Her antenna kind of went up, and she's lookin' at me like this, you know. So I sign in I'm here for the role of Prissy. I sign in and she takes me in to meet [HistoryMaker] Gordon [Parks], and I see her kind of give Gordon a signal. And I sit down and meet Gordon. We talked a little bit. He asked me to read. At the end of the reading Gordon says, "That was good." He said, "Yeah, I like that, but these are the worse goddamn photographs I have ever seen." And he takes my photos and he tears them up (laughter) into pieces. And I just wanted to, like, become part of the carpet, I was so humiliated (laughter). And then a couple of months went by, and I got a call that I was being flown out to California to screen test. And I did my screen test. And the only other person that I know that was up for her screen test at the same day was [HistoryMaker] Quincy Jones' daughter, who had a totally different look than I did and totally different field. And then I got a call that I had the part. And I was doing 'Hello, Dolly!' at that time. So I was the second actor to leave 'Hello, Dolly!' to go do something else and went out to Kansas. And it was just absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Working with Gordon I learned so much. The cast was just incredible. Stelle, Estelle Evans, Esther Rolle's sister, played the mother, and Kyle Johnson played Gordon [sic. Newt Winger]. And a number of newcomers, a young man [Stephen Perry] who now owns a restaurant, has owned a restaurant for a number of years, called Stevie's On The Strip [Los Angeles, California], he was one of the little boys, little boy they called Beniger [ph.] that Gordon saw driving down the street and pulled over and said, "What's your name?" He said, "Beniger." He says, "That's your name, "Beniger?" "Yeah." "You ever do any acting?" "No." "Want to?" "Unh-uh." "Come with me," (laughter) so. And just to watch Gordon operate in front of the, I mean behind the camera with the, the sense of family that he created, because everyone who's there wanted this project to succeed because Al--just for the record, Gordon Parks was the first African American to, to direct a major feature film for a major studio, which was Warner Bros. [Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.], so there was a lot on the line. So he not only broke the unions, but he went back to Kansas where, when he left his little boy, he had experienced where--when he lived there as a little boy, he had experienced a lot of discrimination. Now he's coming back as this internationally known artist and bringing all of these people and his money and this, you know, this project with him. And so there were, there were moments that, that, that reflected back on that period.

Sonia Sanchez

Poet Sonia Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 9, 1934. Sanchez's mother died a year later, leaving the young girl to be raised by her paternal grandmother, who unlocked her gift for poetry. At age four, Sanchez learned to read, and by the age of six, she began to write. Unfortunately, soon after, Sanchez's grandmother died and the young girl drifted between relatives and family friends. Sanchez went on to spent three decades in Harlem, where she studied creative writing at Hunter College, graduating in 1955.

Sanchez counted the negritude poets among her artistic influences, but also found inspiration from her work as an activist with CORE in New York. While with CORE, Sanchez came into contact with Malcolm X, whose direct truthfulness moved her to write blunt, passionate, and painfully honest poetry about the African American experience.

In 1976, Sanchez settled in Philadelphia, and the following year became, chairperson of the English Department at Temple University. During the course of her career, Sanchez wrote several books and collections of poetry that captured, often with wrenching emotion, the plight of her community. Sanchez found herself profoundly affected by the 1985 bombing of a house full of black political radicals affiliated with MOVE, and eulogized them in Elegy: For Move and Philadelphia. Sanchez's 1984 book Homegirls and Handgrenades: Poems won the American Book Award the following year. Some of Sanchez's other noteworthy works include: Under a Soprano Sky (1987); Wounded in the House of a Friend (1997); and Shake Loose My Skin (2000).

Sanchez received several awards for her work both as a poet and an activist. Sanchez traveled around the world to read her poetry, and also wrote children's fiction and plays.

Accession Number

A2003.084

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/19/2003

Last Name

Sanchez

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Tuggle Elementary School

I.S. 164 Edward W. Stitt Junior High School

Hunter College

Manhattan Middle School for Scientific Inquiry

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sonia

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

SAN01

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Ebay eyah (It will get better.) Peace.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

9/9/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Oatmeal, Bananas

Short Description

Poet and english professor Sonia Sanchez (1934 - ) is an author whose work includes 'Homegirls and Handgrenades,' which won the American Book Award. In 1976, she became chairperson of the English Department at Temple University.

Employment

Temple University

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sonia Sanchez interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sonia Sanchez's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her family history not having been preserved

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sonia Sanchez describes her parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sonia Sanchez shares memories of her chilldhood in Alabama and New York

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sonia Sanchez names the schools she attended

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sonia Sanchez recalls her youth in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sonia Sanchez describes her youthful interest in poetry and creative writing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sonia Sanchez recounts her experiences at Hunter College, The City University of New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sonia Sanchez describes her post-college pursuits and first published poems

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her civil rights work with CORE in New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sonia Sanchez recalls an encounter with Malcolm X after a speech

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sonia Sanchez remembers black youths' admiration for Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sonia Sanchez discusses why she didn't go to the South as a civil rights worker

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sonia Sanchez describes her connection to Birmingham, Alabama, her childhood home

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sonia Sanchez considers the contributions of Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sonia Sanchez recalls a day of extremes in her youth: being "un-hired" due to race and discovering the world of black literature

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sonia Sanchez remembers the road to getting published

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sonia Sanchez remembers her relationship with Schomburg Center curator Jean Blackwell Hutson at the end of her life

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sonia Sanchez discusses Broadside Press

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her meeting and collaborations with Amiri Baraka

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her career in the mid-1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sonia Sanchez recalls an FBI investigation and threats for teaching banned black writers

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sonia Sanchez recalls events around the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her involvement with the Nation of Islam, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sonia Sanchez discusses her involvement with the Nation of Islam, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sonia Sanchez details her progressive philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sonia Sanchez recounts a moment shared with her father

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sonia Sanchez describes how she'd like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Sonia Sanchez discusses her meeting and collaborations with Amiri Baraka
Sonia Sanchez recalls an FBI investigation and threats for teaching banned black writers
Transcript
You were talking about meeting LeRoi Jones who is now Amiri Baraka.$$Oh, yeah. We had gotten a poetry group in the [Greenwich] Village [Manhattan, New York] where we met on Charles Street. We met down there for close to three years. Some Wednesday nights when we finished, we'd go into a jazz place to hear some jazz and one night, one Wednesday night, we went into a place called the Five Spot and there was LeRoi Jones, also known as Amiri Baraka, sitting there with a hat, sitting acey-deucy, smoking gold-tipped cigarettes, drinking a boilermaker and listening to the music, writing review for 'Down Beat'. I'm sure it was 'Down Beat' at that time. He was writin' reviews for some of the magazines, and when I passed by he says, "Sanchez," and I jump because I didn't know this man knew my name, right? And everybody in the workshop, you know, all eight of us, six, seven, turn like this and said, "He called you. He called you." And so I stopped and said, "Yes," and he said, "I'm editing an anthology out of France, Paris, France. Would you send some of your work to me?" And I said (unclear) and kept going, right? And they said I sat down at the table, [they] said, "Oh, wow, you got, you know, you published." I said, "Oh, he didn't, you know, he doesn't want my work. He doesn't know me from beans." And I went on about my business, didn't send it out. About maybe three weeks later we're coming into the same place. He's sittin' there, and I thought he didn't see me, and I passed by, and low and behold he says, "Sanchez, I guess you don't want to be in the anthology, huh?" And I said, "Oh, were you serious?" And he said, "Yes, yes. I was serious." And I went whoa. Okay. Okay. Okay. I will, you know, I will do that. And, you know, that's what I did. I rushed--in fact, I went and got--I went and told them goodbye, went and got in my VW [Volkswagen automobile], raced up the highway, got in my house, sat down and typed up the stuff, came back outside, went back downtown, and dropped in the main post office, and I got a letter for him that say, "Yeah. We'll use this, okay? Thank you," and whatever. I think I still have that letter in my papers, but that's how I first met and then from then on, you know, I published in there, and then when he had some of his plays being done on off-Broadway, he would send me invites, and I would go and see it, and when "Dutchman" was done, I was part of the people invited to go to the actor's show, you know, I think it was somebody's house on Park Avenue was giving it, right? And that was the first time I saw African art when I went into that I mean, you see African art but not, I mean, African art that was expensive African art. I mean African art that looks like, Whoa! all over in this man's study, and I just stood there looking in, enclosed in, you know, in these cases. And I was just stricken by that. I just stood there looking at all that artwork. It was an amazing moment for me. And so he waited until the reviews came out. Someone went down and got the ['New York] Times' and came back and the reviews were wonderful, you know, for "Dutchman." So that is why, I guess, because of that association of my going I realized that I wanted to write plays also and started to write plays that when Baraka decided to move up town up in Harlem, that he sent letters out to all the writers and artists, actually, musicians, writers, painters, and said that, you know, after Malcolm [X] was assassinated that he was coming back home to Harlem [New York] and that, you know, they were gonna have a brownstone there, and he was calling on all of the writers, all of the artists to help him to continue the great work of Malcolm. And, you know, that's what many of us did, you know. We helped with that.$I was teaching black lit and, of course, what I taught were the books that Miss [Jean Blackwell] Hutson [Curator of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York] had given me. We did not have books, but I was privy to my own books, so I gave my books to people and they would type--they would mimeo, put on the mimeo [mimeograph copy machine], and they would run off the sections. So our hands were forever purple and blue, you know, from that period 'cause we didn't have Xerox machines.$$No Xerox.$$No Xerox machines yet, you know, people I was telling this story years ago and I said Xerox. I caught myself. Say what, Xerox? There were no Xeroxes. We had mimeoed. And one day I was at home off campus, and there was a knock at my door, and I opened the door and there was my landlord and two men and one guy this guy put something and says, "I'm from the FBI." And I said, "Yes." I said, "What's happening?" 'cause I lived two blocks up from Haight-Ashbury [San Francisco, California], so something was always going on in that area. And he said to me--he put his hand in my face. He said, "You're out there teaching [W. E. B.] DuBois, [Marcus] Garvey, [Langston] Hughes, [Paul] Robeson. I mean right in my face, and I kinda backed up. I say, "Excuse me?" I'll tell you how naive we were, huh, at that time. I said, "Yes, that's so true. I'm teaching black literature." Just what Miss Hutson told me, I was teaching, right? And he looked at me like I was--he went duh, duh, duh, are you stupid, you know? And, "Don't you realize that you're teaching people that we have banned, that nobody's teaching?" And I didn't get it. So I said to him, I went to explain to this man "Yes, I'm doing Black Lit I. You have to teach 'Souls of Black Folk' [by W.E.B. DuBois]. You have to teach Garvey, or you can't teach the Harlem Renaissance. You have to teach Robeson because, you know, whatever.$$It's academic.$$Right. And this man is standing there and he put his hand--"You're out there teaching DuBois," and he got red in the face and furious at me, and he turned to my landlord and said, "Put her out. Put her out. She's one of those troublemakers out there on San Francisco [State University, San Francisco, California]. Put her out." And I'm trying to compute--I can't figure this out. I'm standing there saying, "What is wrong?" And my dog--I had a dog by the name of Snow, a Samoyed who had been given to me by my next-door neighbors who were Japanese-Americans, a man who bred these beautiful dogs. They were very expensive thoroughbreds, right? And he says, "Well you need something here 'cause, you know, you're here by yourself a lot, so you need something to protect you." And he had just brought this dog to me maybe two or three weeks ago and I had been closing that dog off in rooms, so I said, "This dog is gonna eat me up," you know. It's just this huge, white dog, and I heard these big feet come down the hallway, and it was Snow. And he came and sat next to me and looked up at the guy and just sat very still. And I looked at the dog and said what's wrong with that dog I'm thinking. And I'm still attempting to explain to this man that I am teaching black literature. "What is your problem? Why are you so upset? Yes, I do teach DuBois. Yes, I do teach Hughes, whatever. What's the problem?" I still haven't gotten it yet. And he said, "You should put her out. She's teaching." And this thing comes over me at some point I'm beginning to understand finally by the third time, and he put his hand in my face. Snow leaped for him, and he said, "Lady, watch your dog." And I said, "Snow?" I mean, I said Snow like Snow? Snow? Snow? Snow, you know, and Snow sat down and looked up at me but he kept his eye right on--and the guy had told me that Samoyeds are great protectors of family. They will die for you protecting you. And he sat down but he never--and I'm lookin' at this dog, you know, at the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] man and the dog, and I got it, you know. And I said, "Well, okay. Well, I'm gonna close the door now," I said, "because I got what you were saying, okay?" My landlord was leaving, you know. He was like, "She has a lease. She has a lease. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?" And I closed the door, and I went back down the hallway with Snow, and I said, "What a great dog you are." I said, "I'm gonna keep you," you know, and I went and found something great for him to eat. I think I gave him something, meat or something, you know, that was in the house, you know, and I fed that dog. That dog was so happy that day. But I called back east. I called some friends. I said, "Can you help me?" I said, "I just got a visit from the FBI, and they said "Uhhuh, uhhuh, uhhuh." They listened, and they said, "Well, Sonia, you gotta realize that these [authors] are men that are on the list for the FBI and nobody's teaching them. And what you all have done with Black Studies is that you've rescued them, you resurrected these men," and nobody mentioned Robeson's theme in the hallways of academic life, you know. And I said, "Oh I got it," you know. That's what I had done. And so they were mad because all of a sudden we had unearthed these people that they had banned forever, and here you had students reading 'Souls of Black Folk', and this is so apropos because this is centennial of 'Souls of Black Folk', you know, now. And I remember about maybe, maybe eight to ten years ago when 'Life' magazine put out that 'A Hundred--', really, they put on this 'Hundred Men and Women Who Have Influenced America.' Remember they put that out? And I'm turning the pages and on that page I got to DuBois. You know I cried. I sobbed because you see, my brother, at some point you have to know what you have to do in your time. You have to be willing to do it, and I am not saying that finally he would not have been unearthed again, but at some point you unearth people or you do things when you're supposed to do them, you know, and because I had done that, of course, my name got on a list as a consequence of that too, you know. But I was telling Miss Hutson years later when I came back home to New York. She said, "Sonia," she said, "you had to do that." She said, you know, she said, "You could not have realistically taught lit, African-American lit, Black Lit as we called it then, without teaching DuBois. And she said, "So you had to cut through whether they thought he was, Communist or leftist or whatever, but you had to do that." She said, "Of course, you had to take the weight for doing it," you know. And she said, "Of course, many of you didn't know what you were doing when you did it." Remember I taught Robeson "Here I Stand," you know. I didn't know, you know. And Hughes and Garvey, you know. What they did to Garvey, you know, but you couldn't do the Harlem Renaissance without mentioning Garvey. You'd be lying, you see. And so what I remember is coming home, grabbing Miss Hutson, saying to her, "You know what happened to me on the West Coast?" And she laughed when I told her that. She said, "Of course." She said, "Dear, you know, I coulda told you that," she said "but, you know, yes they did not want this man's name mentioned in the halls of academic life at all," but what we did is that we unearthed him and said, "Here." You cannot get an education without reading "Souls of Black Folk" or "Black Reconstruction," you know, or any of the things that he's done, you know. You gotta read "Here I Stand" 'cause you gotta know how this man stood tall in the midst of some terrible times in this place called America, and you gotta know that someone said back to Africa before you're not saying Africa. You know, Marcus Garvey, you know, and the UNI[A, or the United Negro Improvement Association] was a glorious organization that became before the Nation [of Islam]. I mean all of that, you know, came about, and so it was wonderful that I did it, but it was a scary thing having the FBI knock on your door, you know, and put their throw their fist--hand in your face and actually threaten you, you know, about what you're doing. But you have got to do it 'cause you know it's right. It's correct.

Useni Eugene Perkins

Useni Eugene Perkins is a distinguished poet, playwright and youth worker. Born in Chicago on September 13, 1932, he was the son of Marion Perkins, a sculptor, and Eva Perkins. Being exposed to the arts at a young age through his father would prove to be a major influence on his later years.

He attended Chicago's Wendell Phillips High School, where he developed an early interest in writing. Graduating in January 1950, he stayed in the city for his college education, earning a B.S. in group work from George Williams College in 1963. After graduation, he worked as the program director for the Henry Horner Chicago Boys Club. It was during this time that he also pursued an M.S. in administration, which he received in 1966.

In that year, Perkins became the executive director of the Better Boys Foundation of Chicago, a social agency involved in community, social, educational and cultural development. Raised in the housing projects of Chicago, and having established a career as a sociologist dealing with troubled youth, he authored the 1976 book Home Is A Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black Children.

Upon leaving his post with the Better Boys Foundation in 1982, Perkins became an executive consultant in Chicago with INESU Consultants, where he stayed for two years. He was still very active in writing, penning several sociological books on African American youth, as well as publishing books of poetry and authoring various plays that were produced in theaters in Chicago.

In 1986, he became the social director for the Chicago Urban League, and two years later became the chief executive officer of the Urban League of Portland, Oregon. Returning to Chicago in 1990 as the interim president of the DuSable Museum of African American History, Perkins founded the Association for the Positive Development of African American Youth in 1991, which he served as president, and became the project director of the Family Life Center at Chicago State University. He still holds these positions at the latter two organizations. February 25, 1999, was proclaimed Useni Eugene Perkins Day in Chicago. He is a married father of three, and lives in Chicago.

Accession Number

A2003.039

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/10/2003

Last Name

Perkins

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Useni Eugene

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

PER02

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

773-995-4475

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/13/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Poet and foundation chief executive Useni Eugene Perkins (1932 - ) wrote several sociological books on African American youth. Eugene also founded the Association for the Positive Development of African American Youth in 1991.

Employment

Henry Horner Chicago Boys Club

Better Boys Foundation of Chicago

Inesu Consultant

Chicago Urban League

Urban League of Portland

DuSable Museum of African American History

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Useni Eugene Perkins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about factories in Chicago's South during the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes the three elementary schools that he attended in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes living in the Ida B. Wells housing project

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about the demolition of housing projects on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins recalls his favorite teachers and his early interest in poetry

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins remembers reading as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins recalls his father's involvement with the Communist Party

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about how his father's Communism affected his military career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about the artists, writers, and cultural institutions on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1930s and 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins recalls meeting artists at HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs' home

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his brother, the artist Toussaint Perkins

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes attending Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes the various high schools and prevalence of drugs in his community

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes the gangs in his community

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about attending Winston-Salem Teachers College and Knoxville College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins remembers his training in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his discharge from the U.S. Air Force and his parents' deaths

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his father's artistic legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes working and writing while attending George Williams College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about how the Civil Rights Movement inspired his poetry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes working with youth in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about becoming the director of the Better Boys Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes the programming at the Better Boys Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his poetry book "An Apology To My African Brother" published in 1961.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins recalls the deaths of Ruwa Chiri and other poets

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes political activities on the west side of Chicago in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins recalls the violent aftermath of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his play "Black Fairy"

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Useni Eugene Perkins recites his poem, "Hey Black Child"

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes "Image Makers"

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about playwrights who influenced him and his plays

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his youth outreach

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his writing career

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about developing black artist programs in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his book "Home Is A Dirty Street"

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his book "Harvesting New Generations"

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about "The Black Child Journal"

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about being president of the Urban League of Portland, Oregon

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about being interim president of DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his work as a consultant

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Useni Eugene Perkins talks about running marathons

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Useni Eugene Perkins reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Useni Eugene Perkins describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Useni Eugene Perkins narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Useni Eugene Perkins talks about his play "Black Fairy"
Useni Eugene Perkins talks about playwrights who influenced him and his plays
Transcript
I guess the most well-known of your works, I guess, is a play called the Black Fairy. At least I believe that to be the most well-known of your works.$$It's been around a long time (laughter).$$It seems to have reached--I mean other than the sociology books, you know? (Simultaneous).$$Yes, right.$$Black Fairy is probably the most well-known piece.$$Yes.$$As a children's play and you use a lot of ingredients from the neighborhood to make it work. I mean, you know, things that you hear kids say on sidewalk, walking, in the community. And, tell me about the origin of that? How you conceive it--you know, there's been a record of it since the 70s [1970s]. It's been published all over places.$$Well, really, I used to take my daughter, Julia, to the Goodman Theater and see all the children's plays: Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and so forth, Cinderella. And, I recall one day she asked me are there any plays about black kids, about us? And, I thought about it and so "Black Fairy" was really written in narrative form and I sent it to the--what was it--the Interracial Council on Books and it received second place. It received an award. And when I, when I got it back or after it received the second place, I thought I'd put it into a play form. I was interested in plays so I just changed it into a play form and I knew music was important because it, basically, it was going to be for children. And, we had on our staff, Tony Lorenz very talented musician and so Tony wrote the music Pemon Rami was excited about it. He directed the play--interesting "Hey Black Child", which is recited by kids (laughter) even today all over the city, especially in the schools. Some schools recite it every day as a pledge. I wrote that the night before the play was going to open or two nights before because Pemon suggested we needed to end the play on up tempo because Johnny had been disillusioned and "Black Fairy" took Johnny throughout history--we wanted to show different times of history achievements of black folks and relate it to the streets, which "Black Fairy" does with queen mother. And so "Hey Black Child" is really a song and most people just read it as a poem but I wrote that about two nights before and Tony wrote the music and we put it in the play because, I think, it had an up tempo beat to it and that poem has been around since 1975. So that's how "Black Fairy" really came about and I follow that with young John Henry, Deadwood Dick and since then I've written about seven or eight children plays, musicals. And I think that now you have others doing children plays. Runako Jahi at ETA [Creative Arts], very talented playwright and he writes children plays. Now because, at one time, everybody would just do my plays. It was no other, at least locally.$I really became interested in writing plays much earlier in life. Although I had not really began because I was writing poetry, essays and finished the book, "Home Is A Dirty Street", but I've always was interested in playwriting. My father [Marion Perkins] took me to Othello with Paul Robeson and we went to the Erlanger Theater downtown and we were sitting up in the peanut gallery and I was just awed by this man, this majestic black man. And he came on the stage and that was with Jose Ferrer, Uta Hagen that was the famous cast.$$Right. Desdemona$$And play Desdemona. And I just knew I had to begin writing plays at some point in my life. I was just, just--and I began reading plays. Shakespeare, beyond doubt is just a fantastic playwright. I mean the way he deals with character. I've read Hamlet over and over and over and Henry V, a lot of his plays and O. Henry, and, the Russian-O. Henry was mainly short stories. I'm thinking about the Chekhov, Anton Chekhov the Russian playwright. I had a lot of admiration for Chekhov. It wasn't too many black playwrights that I would read about. I wasn't too familiar with black playwrights. I was familiar with black poets and black novelists because at that time many had been published but not black plays. And, I remember hearing about the Dutchman, Lerone --I mean Leroy Jones. And it just sound like an interesting play. I didn't see it until 'bout ten years afterwards though. But it won the Obie [Off-Broadway Theater Award], I think, Leroy Jones was in Greenwich Village [New York City, New York] and his poem Preface To A Twenty Volume Suicide, which I think is probably one of his best works, this volume of poems, Preface To A Twenty Page Suicide Note, something like that, beautiful. So he, I guess, I'm just saying that he had a influence on me, as a poet and a playwright but I didn't see the Dutchman until about ten years after I heard about it. But at least it motivated me to begin thinking about writing plays. I did see the Slave Ship. It came down to Chicago [Illinois] at the Eleventh Street Theater, Archie Shepp's music in the background, powerful drama. Play--on page was only about five or six pages but such a powerful statement and acting and the set and everything like that. And that's when I really became more involved in playwriting. Ted Ward, whom I had known for some time, who was a personal friend of my father, I looked up to Ted. I think the first--gee, I almost forgot I wrote this play "Turn A Black Cheek" about the Civil Rights Movement about the [North Carolina] A and T [State University] students who went to the Woolworth Five and Ten store. I wrote about that, that was very early. We did that at the center for (unclear) studies. So I've written many plays, a lot have not been produced. Professor JB did at the Expe [ph.], all of the children plays but, I think a lot of my plays are historical plays and sometimes they're a little heavy, little political 'cause I've written plays about Denmark Vesey, Steve B. Cole [ph.], W.E.B. DuBois.$$[Jean Baptiste Point] DuSable?$$DuSable, that's been done, the children's play. So--and several others. ETA did some parts of B Cole. Runako [Jahi] used to like the road, Steve B. Cole (sp?) definitely. And Fred Hampton would play (unclear), Fred Hampton. [HM] Val Gray [Ward] who is one of the founders of the Kuumba--said that was one reason why they start getting these city code violations, the police after the Fred Hampton play because it sort of points at the police as being primarily responsible.

Nikki Giovanni

Award-winning poet, author, and civil rights activist, Nikki Giovanni, was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr,. on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A poet and spoken word artist, Giovanni entered Fisk University in 1960, where she edited the school's literary magazine and became involved in both the Writer's Workshop and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; she received her B.A. degree in 1967. Giovanni became active in the Black Arts Movement, organizing the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati; during this period of her life, she developed strong and enduring friendships with fellow writers James Baldwin and Sonia Sanchez. Radicalized by the assassination of Malcolm X and the rise of the Black Panthers, Giovanni's poetry in the 1960s and 1970s became the voice of many African Americans. Later, Giovanni applied for and was accepted into the graduate program of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work; she also went on to study at Columbia University's School of Fine Arts.

In 1970, Giovanni founded her own publishing company, Niktom Limited. Throughout her career, Giovanni published more than fourteen volumes of poetry, including: Black Feeling Black Talk, Black Judgement, Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, My House, The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni and Love Poems. She has also written and published books, including Racism 101 and Blues: For All the Changes. In 1987, Giovanni began working as a professor in the English department of Virginia Polytechnical Institute; there she taught writing, poetry, and literature, and was eventually named a distinguished professor.

Giovanni received many honors and awards for her work, including numerous honorary degrees; the NAACP Image Award for Literature in 1998 and 2000; and the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996. Giovanni was also named Woman of the Year by several magazines, including Mademoiselle, Essence and Ladies Home Journal. In 2008, Giovanni was commissioned by National Public Radio's program, All Things Considered, to pen an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama. A popular guest speaker, Giovanni was invited to read poetry at the Lincoln Memorial for the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth in 2009.

Nikki Giovanni was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 31, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.027

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/31/2003

Last Name

Giovanni

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Nikki

Birth City, State, Country

Knoxville

HM ID

GIO01

Favorite Season

None

Speaker Bureau Notes

Virgina Fowler 540-381-1490 (home)-scheduler

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

What kind of sense does that make?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

6/7/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Christiansburg

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Poet Nikki Giovanni (1943 - ) was the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and several books. She also taught writing, poetry and literature in the English department at Virginia Polytechnical Institute.

Employment

Niktom Limited

Vriginia Polytechnical Institute

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Nikki Giovanni explains her how she got the nickname Nikki

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Nikki Giovanni interview: date and location

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her family's history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her father's family history and Italian surname

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni remembers her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni describes her elderly cousin, Bea

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her relationship with her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her role as a niece, part 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Nikki Giovanni describes growing up with her father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her role as a niece, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Nikki Giovanni describes her family members

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Nikki Giovanni discusses memorable grammar school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni describes her continued relationships with teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni discusses how her family influenced her as a poet

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni shares her philosophy on writing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni evaluates influential black figures

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Nikki Giovanni remembers her adolescent social life

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Nikki Giovanni explains her decision to attend Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Nikki Giovanni recalls getting a coveted dorm assignment at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Nikki Giovanni recalls participating in the Nashville sit-ins while attending Fisk University, 1960

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Nikki Giovanni describes conflicts she had with the administration at Fisk University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Nikki Giovanni remembers influential classmates from Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her vocational choices

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her decision to leave Columbia University's MFA program

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni recalls her book party at Birdland for 'Black Judgment'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni discusses the gangster figure in the past and present

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Nikki Giovanni discusses motherhood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her son Thomas's educational decisions

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Nikki Giovanni expresses her interest in grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Nikki Giovanni discusses life with her only child, son Thomas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni discusses being pregnant and unwed in 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni considers the issues famous families face

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni describes her relationship with Queen Latifah

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni discusses highlights in her career

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Nikki Giovanni considers her commercial successes

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Nikki Giovanni describes her respect for hip-hop music

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Nikki Giovanni wants a Grammy Award for her album liner notes

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Nikki Giovanni considers rap's figurative dimension

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni considers how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni reflects on human existence

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni shares her reflections on life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni discusses the richness of the oral tradition

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sponsors of Nikki Giovanni interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Opening to 'An Evening With Nikki Giovanni'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Introduction of Nikki Giovanni with a performance of her poem, 'Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Nikki Giovanni reminisces about having to babysit Pearl Cleage as a child in Detroit

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Nikki Giovanni talks about the concept behind her poem 'Ego Tripping' and its longevity

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Nikki Giovanni discusses her family background and childhood in Cincinnati

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Nikki Giovanni recalls her grandmother and her first experience picketing

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Nikki Giovanni's poem, 'Lady of Pleasure' performed by Andrea Mills

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Nikki Giovanni shares her experiences at Fisk University

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Nikki Giovanni talks about getting her first poems published while at Fisk University

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Nikki Giovanni recalls one of her first jobs as a social worker

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Nikki Giovanni's poems performed by Adriana Santiago and Charlotte Della Cain

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Nikki Giovanni talks about H. Rap Brown and modern rap musicians

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Nikki Giovanni discusses recording her poetry to music

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Nikki Giovanni explains the concept of gender in her poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Nikki Giovanni's poem 'All Eyez on U (For 2Pac Shakur)' is performed

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Nikki Giovanni talks about rapper Tupac Shakur and other current rap artists

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Nikki Giovanni comments on what the future holds for Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Nikki Giovanni recites her poem, 'My House'

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Closing credits to 'An Evening With Nikki Giovianni'

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Nikki Giovanni recalls participating in the Nashville sit-ins while attending Fisk University, 1960
Nikki Giovanni recalls her book party at Birdland for 'Black Judgment'
Transcript
You started off on a good foot [at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee]. Unfold for us the years that you bloomed and as you bloomed intellectually (simultaneously, unclear).$$Oh, I enjoyed Fisk, you know, but you're in college. You've got a lot of freedom and you've got a repressive institution, which my concept of college was going to be what I had seen in the movies or what I had heard, you know, that you do these things. I'm able to do the work. I tested out of freshman English, you know, you're doing that, so I'm in good shape with the work. I'm enjoying that very much, but and I say repressive, and I mean no disrespect on that, but they wanted to fine tune you and we're in the '60s [1960s] and the sit-ins are there and there's a lot of volatility going on. The [1960] sit ins in Nashville, as you know, were started by Tennessee State [University, Nashville, Tennessee], and it was the State kids who led it and the Fisk kids were--not that we weren't involved--but they were, kind of, watching it. But Tennessee State, the president [Walter S. Davis] was not a strong man and that was understated. Some would say he was crazy and evil but I wouldn't probably push it that way. But he was compelled in his own mind to expel the students. And so he expelled the leadership of the student movement which was not yet SNCC [The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] in--from Tennessee State, you know, they all got these pink slips. And so a girl who I know you have interviewed or should certainly, Diane Nash, and so Diane Nash said, "Well, Fisk will take it up," and Diane did. And I was a foot soldier. I did enough to know that it was very frightening and that's the truth. And people talk about the days--I know how brave those children were in Birmingham [Alabama, protests in 1963] because we didn't have that in Nashville, and it was still very frightening to get in the line of people and go downtown and protest. I've got an angel sitting somewhere on my shoulder, you know, or certainly I did at that point because the group spread out to do different things. They gave us--this was my first march--they gave us different targets and I could easily have been in the group going to the bus station, but they had sent my group over to the restaurants. There was a place called the Simple Simon['s] and we were to go in. Well the Simple Simon actually, which was, you know, just a restaurant. And when we came in the man said, you know, "We're not serving you." And we were told, you know, you sit down and, you know, you dressed respectfully, whatever. And so we sat down and he sent the staff home and locked the doors, said, "I'm just locking the doors." Well in many respects this probably saved our lives because at the bus station [which Nashville students also attempted to integrate], the young, crazy whites came because where I grew up--when I grew up riot meant white people. And they beat those--I mean in the bus station you were slipping. The blood was so bad, they just beat people to death. We were locked in, right? So even if somebody had wanted--and I'm saying we because there were, like six of us and we were told to sit, you know, so that's what we're doing. We're sitting on the counter. But now you're sitting on the counter watching what's going on on the outside, and of course, you know, you saw the people begin to run because it was--there was the--it was, was the Nashville riot [The violence against protesters actually did not reach the level of a riot.] It was a, it was a really terrible thing but nobody came to let us out until night, and so now it's dark. It's ten o'clock at night, so we've been there. We knew better than to eat or drink anything, you know, we're just sitting there and waiting to see what's going to happen. So the guy opens the door and now you're afraid that he's opened the door and we're going to go out and somebody's going to kill us. And we're a pretty good distance, you know, Fisk is on the other side of town, and so we just grouped off into two's and walked back to the campus. We just got lucky nothing happened, you know. We cut through and there we were.$I had an apartment which I had gotten, you know, through their [Columbia University, New York, New York] good offices and I don't know what you know about Manhattan [New York, New York], but being a Columbia student I also get my phone turned on on time because if it wasn't for Columbia in those days you could wait a year, you know. Now, of course, everybody's got a cell phone. But we got that and that was wonderful. And I had a book ['Black Feeling, Black Talk'] and so all I had to do was find a way to sell the book. So I had five hundred books at five hundred dollars which meant if I sold them for a dollar, which I knew I should because I need to get it below movie fare in order to be able to sell it. So I'm going to lose thirty cents every time I sell a book, so I know I'm going to go broke, right? 'Cause there's not that many--you know that's econ 101. But I wrote the book 'Black Judgment,' and I decided that 'Black Judgment,' you know, if it's going to be my swan song it's going to be a good one. My mother's [Yolande Cornelia Watson's] a real jazz fan and I'm, as I said, I'm close to Mommy. So I had decided when 'Judgment' came out--my friend Bill helped me out and got it illustrated and we got it printed, and so now it's great. And I wanted to have a book party because I'm a southerner and I'm used to how you work small towns, right? New York just a bigger, small town. So I decided I wanted to have it at Birdland. I thought this is great because Birdland is the home--I mean it's [musician] Charlie Parker, right? A little gangster--he's a wonderful man, he's dead, he got murdered--named Harold Logan who was a partner with Lloyd Price own Birdland. And so, I went down, I made a call and I made an appointment with Mr. Logan and went down. Now, I know Mr. Logan (laughing) is a gangster because he was. I get dressed up and I go down, because Birdland is down [in midtown Manhattan], you know. I go down and Logan is there and, "How are you doing Mr. Logan? I'm a poet," yak yak yak. And said, "On Sunday you're closed," which they are, "and I would like to have a book party," you know, "and I wondered if I could have it on Sunday. It wouldn't cost you anything and maybe we could make a deal that would make sense." He said, "Well how much money--(imitating his voice) how much money do you have?" I said, "Well, I don't have any money, Mr. Logan, I'm a poet," you know, "Where am I going to get any money?" I was--I said, "I was thinking, well, if we did that," you know, "you could open the bar and," you know, "that would be your money. I'm not trying to make it I'm just trying to sell books." And so I'm sure, you know, Logan thought, "What the hell is this?" And he said, "Well, I'll tell you what," he said, "Bring me one hundred people and you can have the club. Bring me ninety-nine people and you owe me five hundred dollars." I said, "You're on," I said, "That's great. Thank you," and I shook his hand. I walked back upstairs into the sunlight of Broadway and it hits me, Harold Logan is a gangster. I bring ninety-nine people into this club, he's going to break my legs or something, because that's what he is, he's a gangster, you know. It's like, "Oh, my God." So I started doing late night radio. You know, WWRL I started all over the city, you know. And what we kept saying is "'Black Judgment' is coming." And so people got into the habit, and so now you started to hear people uptown, because now my base is Harlem [New York, New York] and I'm going to bring Harlem downtown without even realizing I was doing something extraordinary. It was like up in Harlem everybody said, "'Black Judgment' is coming. 'Black Judgment's' at Birdland." And so people are coming to say, you know, "Yeah, we're going to do that." My neighbor's [actor] Morgan Freeman, right? Morgan agreed to read with me. Barbara Ann Teer read, Larry Neal read, you know. So, I had all of my actors and, you know, friends. Amanda Ambrose and them. And of course Birdland is overlooked by the New York Times [Building]. So Sunday about two o'clock people start to line up, and it's going to be a four o'clock show, so the line is going to grow and grow and grow. Now, the New York Times is watching this line and they're, "What's going on?" So they sent a reporter down. And the reporter, you know, is asking people in line, "What's going on?" They said, "'Black Judgment,'" right? And so at the time I was like, "Wow, what's going on?" So somebody finally, you know, said Nikki Giovanni. So a reporter comes over to me and says, you know, "I'm looking for Nikki Giovanni." I said, "Yeah." "Well where is he?" And I said, "I'm Nikki Giovanni." "I need to talk to him 'cause you're not listening." I said, "I'm Nikki Giovanni." "I just want, I--." "I'm Nikki Giovanni." And he said, "You're Nikki Giovanni." I said, "I'm Nikki Giovanni." "So what is this?" And I had the same answer, "It's 'Black Judgment.'" So they took a picture and the line went from here and then turned on 42nd Street--it was a phenomenal thing. So I got the second news front, 'Black Judgment,' right? So my book is, like, okay, this is going to do really beautiful because this is going to get the attention of William Morrow, who is still my publishers. The 'Amsterdam News,' [Harlem-based African American newspaper] of course, was a weekly at that point and the 'Amsterdam News' ran it and 'Muhammad Speaks' [Nation of Islam newspaper] ran it, and it was 'Muhammad Speaks' that called me 'the princess of black poetry' and it stuck.$$Beautiful story.$$Yeah. Oh, it was wonderful. Yeah, Harold--.$$What year was that?$$'69, '68 [1968] excuse me. Harold [Logan] did, by the way, get murdered, shot down on Broadway [New York, New York]. He was a gangster, but I always liked Mr. Logan. I wrote a poem for him because he was my kind of gangster. I mean he stood for something. He's not--I mean he earned his living the way he earned his living the way he earned his living. What did--Don Corleone [fictional character from 'The Godfather'] he said, "I apologize for nothing." He did what he had to do, but you could talk to Mr. Logan and you could work with him and he worked with--he didn't have to do that, you know, but of course, it was good for Birdland. I mean he, he--but when he did it, he had no idea. All he knew was there was some poet standing there who didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. He didn't have to do that. And so I always appreciated that, because I didn't know Lloyd [Price], but I know Lloyd well enough to know it was Harold who made that decision.$$And you brought in the drink--Sunday afternoon--,$$I did.$$--at 4:30 [p.m.], cash register.$$I did. He did okay with it but he didn't do it for that reason. He did it from his heart and I always loved him for that and I was very unhappy with his death.

Kalamu ya Salaam

Poet, editor, music producer and arts administrator, Kalamu ya Salaam was born Val Ferdinand III in New Orleans on March 24, 1947. Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes and the civil rights movement in New Orleans, Salaam became interested in writing and organizing for social change. Graduating from high school in 1964, he joined the U.S. Army and served in Korea. After service, Salaam attended Carleton College but returned to New Orleans in 1968 to earn an associate's degree from Delgado College.

During the Black Arts Movement, Salaam was a member of John O'Neal's Free Southern Theater for five years and was a founder of BLACKARTSOUTH. Changing his name along the way to Kalamu Ya Salaam, which is Kiswahili for "pen of peace," he was a founder of Ahidiana Work Study Center. He also assumed the editorship of the Black Collegian magazine, a post he held from 1970 to 1983. Salaam published cultural and political essays in Black World, Black Scholar and Black Books Bulletin. In 1977, he was part of the first African American activist delegation to the People's Republic of China.

Today, he is senior partner of Bright Moments, a public relations firm. He is also the founder of WordBand, a poetry performance group; the NOMMO Literary Society, and Runagate Press. Salaam has written seven books of poetry. His play, "The Breath of Life", was honored by Louisiana State University, and "BLK Love Song #1" won a Best of Fringe Award from The Manchester Evening News in England. A respected music writer and critic, he is the arts and entertainment editor for The New Orleans Tribune and is a regular contributor to Wavelength, The Louisiana Weekly and The New Orleans Music Magazine. He was executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for many years, and produced "A NATION OF POETS" for the National Black Arts Festival.

Selected Bibliography

Salaam, Kalamu ya. What is Life? Reclaiming the Black Blues Self. Third World Press: Chicago, 1994.

------Tarzan Can - Not Return to Africa But I Can (1996)

------He's The Prettiest: A Tribute to Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana's 50 Years of Mardi Gras Indian Suiting. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1997.

------360° A Revolution Of Black Poets. Alexandria, Va.: Black Words; New Orleans: Runagate Press, 1998.

------Magic of Juju: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement. Third World Press: Chicago, 1998.

Accession Number

A2002.205

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/14/2002

Last Name

Salaam

Maker Category
Middle Name

ya

Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Kalamu

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

SAL01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

None

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $750 minimum
Preferred Audience: Any

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

3/24/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Red Beans, Rice, Seafood, Beets

Short Description

Poet and music critic Kalamu ya Salaam (1947 - ) was born Val Ferdinand III. He founded BLACKARTSOUTH and Ahidiana Work Study Center. He is senior partner of Bright Moments, a public relations firm. He is also the founder of WordBand, a poetry performance group; the NOMMO Literary Society; and Runagate Press. Salaam has written seven books of poetry.

Employment

Ahidiana Work Study Center

Black Collegian

Bright Moments

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kalamu ya Salaam's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kalamu ya Salaam lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his parents, Vallery Ferdinand, Jr. and Inola Copelin Ferdinand

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes himself as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes New Orleans during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a student at Carlton College in Minnesota

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about his experience serving in the U.S. Army in Korea

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes creating a safe environment with other black soldiers in Korea

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about developing a Third World consciousness in Korea, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about developing a Third World consciousness in Korea, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes the influence of African anti-colonial leader Amilcar Carbal on his ideology

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about serving in the U.S. Army in El Paso, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about the camaraderie that developed among the black soldiers in Korea

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about being discharged by the U.S. Army in 1968 and joining the Free Southern Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his Civil Rights militancy in the late 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about his community activism with the Free Southern Theater, Black Collegian magazine, and the Lower Ninth Ward Health Center

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes being part of the first African American delegation to the People's Republic of China in 1977

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about traveling around Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America during the 1970s and 1980s in support of anti-colonial liberation movements

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about co-founding and editing Black Collegian magazine in 1970

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about the golden age of black magazines in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his involvement with the Congress of African People in Atlanta, Georgia in 1970

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about forming the community school and publishing organization, Ahidiana in 1977

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes the ideology behind Black Nationalist Movements in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about changing his name and aligning with international cultural change movements

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kalamu ya Salaam reflects on his involvement in various global independence movements as well as his travels to Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about the global missionary cultural movement's influence in black communities across the world

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kalamu ya Salaam reflects on lasting changes in the liberation movements of the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kalamu ya Salaam talks about his involvement with the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kalamu ya Salaam reflects on the rising black prison population

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kalamu ya Salaam reflects on global capitalism, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kalamu ya Salaam reflects on global capitalism, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his writing career

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Kalamu ya Salaam describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Kalamu ya Salaam describes being part of the first African American delegation to the People's Republic of China in 1977
Kalamu ya Salaam describes his writing career
Transcript
Yeah, no, so I'm saying that, the this is, this is an analysis that I make, and I don't claim it as my analysis. It's simply an analysis that I make, and a lot of other people have pointed it out before me. I remember the Chinese, we had a meeting with the Chinese, and they were talking about it. When I said, had a meeting with the Chinese, we, we were in China in 1977, all-black tour of-$$Right.$$--educators from independent black schools across the country which we had organized. And while we were there, we, you know, we were--they were taking us around. We went all over China, from--came in at Shanghai, went up to Wuxi, the old capital, Nanking [Nanjing], went over to Xi'an, which is like in the middle of the country, and then from there a couple of other places, and then we flew in to Beijing. But while we were there, after we'd, you know, we'd see all the sights, you know, the tourist things, and then, then of course show you the, the communes and the educational centers and this, that, and the other. We said okay, we wanna have some ideological discussion, and we kept (unclear). So finally, in Xi'an, this was towards the last third of the trip. We were there for I think either nineteen or twenty-one days, something like that, the last third of the trip, and said, "we're gonna have a meeting, and we'll have some discussions in the cotton factory tomorrow night." So fine. We get to the cotton factory. And we're in the room, and these cats walk in and immediately I know this is a different breed than we've seen before. And we have some ideological discussions and struggle, and that's when I heard the Chinese run it down, Jack. I mean the cat said, you know, "after every major war we have advanced, and the United States has lost ground." And they went, they went through and showing it point by point. They said, "We're not afraid of war. We don't want war, but we're not afraid of war; and in fact, we're prepared for war." And they have, in China--I don't know what it is now. This is '77' [1977]. At that time, all of the major cities, there were cities below ground. They had already literally put an infrastructure below ground, because they would--they were certain that there was gonna be a nuclear war, and they were preparing--as, as the guy said, "We are prepared to lose, you know, two hundred million people if this war comes. We are prepared. We know that this is gon'," you know, you know. And they was--I mean I've seen some of the--I have--what I--what, I'm sure what they showed us was just minimal compared to what exists at, existed at that time, but they were prepared for it.$Speaking of beautifying the world, let's talk about your art some. You are--(simultaneous)-$$We always--we've, we've been doing--that's all we been doing (laughter).$$(Simultaneous)-$$I mean that's just the basis from our-$$You can't separate art from life, but-$$Yeah.$$But, and then (unclear)--you, you, you did have a career as poet, as a critic, and, and people read what you write. And you--tell me about your writing career.$$Langston Hughes is the first major influence.$$Did you ever meet Langston Hughes?$$Nope.$$Never got a chance to meet him?$$Second major influence was James Baldwin, whom I met a couple of times; and in fact, Baldwin did a film. One of the film documentaries he did, we shot some sequences of he and I walking through [Louis] Armstrong Park [New Orleans, Louisiana] talking. They didn't use those sequences in the, in the final edit, but he credits me in the, you know, in the credits and so forth and so on. And the third influence was Amiri Baraka, whom of course I'm--I know and worked with and, and continue to work with on, on a number of issues. After that, there are no other literary, direct literary influences except those three. And I would say that was like the first ten or fifteen years. After that, James Baldwin fell off, then [Amiri] Baraka fell off as a literary influence. Langston Hughes has remained a major influence, that's why I work in all genres. There's no genre that I don't work in. I've done a little bit of everything, actually have been more successful than most in terms of playwriting and theater working and so forth and so on. But as far as I'm concerned, all of my writing is filtered through my activity as a, as a human being who's, who decided to be an activist in the transition between segregation and raw imperialism to global capitalism, what we're--the period we're in now. But see, this is gonna change also, not necessarily because of political or military struggles, but because it's--the environment is gonna play a big role in what, what comes next. It's gon' play a major role in what comes next, a major role. And people who, I think, who become active and understand that--and I don't mean environmentalism like we've traditionally known it here. I mean there're some, there're some, there're some doozies coming, some real questions about--we could get into talking about urban societies, what they mean and so forth and so on. I go back to Ibn Khaldūn from North Africa who said that societies are like people. They are born, they grow, develop, mature, and die. And if there is no way--if you don't have it in your, your life cycle a rebirth, and a rebirth can only happen after a death, that is, there's no way to fundamentally change your, your society. Move away or you know, make some, some changes. If that's not, if that doesn't happen, you just gon' die and that's gon' be it. There will be no rebirth, and I think the same thing with America. See, people thing that America's gonna be around forever, but you know, it's only a couple of hundred years, 1776, the foremost started its thing, you understand? And we're not even 300 years later. You understand what I'm saying? So now in terms of the--and to think that humankind has--had societies for over 10,000 years. I ain't nothing but a drop in the bucket, you know. And, and, and this whole question of urbanization, there have been urban societies before. But all urban societies have problems, major--when you, when you get these conglomerations, millions and millions of people in on spot, like, like I always say the way I describe it is, one of the things that rev--all revolutions have to do--have to determine, is how do you deal with shit, both literally and figuratively, when you've got all of these people-$$Waste and management.$$(Laughter) Waste management, waste management becomes a major, a major issue. And I, I tend to think that--I live in a metropolitan area, and I'm not in no hurry to move outside of it. But I tend to think that that's gonna be one of the major struggles that United States is gonna have to deal with. And how they did with it, I don't know. For instance, we're seeing across the country a breakdown of public education. That cannot continue. The public schools cannot continue for another ten years the way they are now.

Samuel Greenlee

Over the course of his career, Sam Greenlee has been a novelist, poet, screenwriter, journalist, teacher, and talk show host. Born in Chicago on July 13, 1930, he attended Chicago public schools. At age fifteen, Greenlee participated in his first sit-in and walked in his first picket line. His social activism continues to this day.

In 1952, Greenlee received his B.S. in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the following year he attended law school. Deciding against a law career, he transferred to the University of Chicago, studying international relations from 1954 to 1957. In 1957, he began a seven year career with United States Information Agency as a Foreign Services Officer, serving in Iraq, East Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece, and in 1958, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for bravery during the Baghdad revolution.

Greenlee's first and most well known novel, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, was published in 1968. This prize-winning novel quickly became an underground favorite for its fictionalization of an urban-based war for African American liberation. Greenlee co-wrote a screenplay adaptation of the novel, and in 1973 The Spook Who Sat by the Door was released on film. The film was an overnight success when it was released and was then unexpectedly taken out of distribution.

Greenlee has written numerous novels, stage plays, screenplays, poems. He recently moved back to Chicago after several years of voluntary exile in Spain and West Africa and is currently hosting a radio talk show program.

Sam Greenlee passed away on May 19, 2014.

Accession Number

A2001.028

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

11/1/2001

Last Name

Greenlee

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Betsy Ross Elementary School

William W. Carter Elementary School

Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy

Englewood High School

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Samuel

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GRE01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

When you sleep on the floor, you can't fall out of bed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/13/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Peas (Black-Eyed)

Death Date

5/19/2014

Short Description

Fiction writer and poet Samuel Greenlee (1930 - 2014 ) began a seven-year career with the U.S. Information Agency as a foreign services officer in 1957 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Award for bravery during the Baghdad revolution in 1958. He was best known for his prize winning book, 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door,' which became an underground favorite for its fictionalization of an urban-based war for African American liberation.

Employment

United States Information Agency

Delete

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sam Greenlee interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee describes his father's history and traces ancestors to pre-Civil War days

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee describes his mother, Desoree Alexander, a successful jazz tap dancer

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee talks about his maternal grandfather John Charles Alexander

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee talks about his childhood exposure to music and musicians

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sam Greenlee describes his family's legacy of militancy

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sam Greenlee shares memories of his early home life in 1930s Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses his family's working class status

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee remembers his brother

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee recalls childhood aspirations and his friendship with Gwendolyn Brooks

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee talks about his studies and his longtime interest in writing

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee reveals the incident that caused him to leave the U.S. Foreign Service

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee describes the sounds of his Chicago neighborhood in the 1930s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sam Greenlee explains why he quit law school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sam Greenlee describes his social network in his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sam Greenlee reflects on the black history that is not taught

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sam Greenlee recalls his undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee details his refusal to wear Confederate insignia in the Army's "Dixie Division"

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee recalls his graduate years at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee discusses his years in the U.S. Foreign Service

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee talks about serving with USIS in Iraq, East Pakistan and Indonesia during coups and violence

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee describes himself as "a blues man"

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee explains his foreign service work as cultural officer with the U.S.I.S.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee shares lessons from his foreign service in Muslim countries

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses his resignation from his "fast track" Foreign Service career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee discusses black radical groups, revolution and the inspiration for 'Spook'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee compares "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" with other African American literature

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee urges the need for African Americans to return to developing their own institutions

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee analyzes the failures of integrationism

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee contrasts success abroad and suppression at home for 'Spook'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee discusses the publication of 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee discusses publicity and reaction to 'The Spook Who Sat By the Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee recalls making the film version of 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his writing style in 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Samuel Greenlee recalls ambivalent response of some blacks to his film 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sam Greenlee discusses tokenism

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sam Greenlee recalls initial success, then FBI suppression of his film "The Spook Who Sat By the Door"

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his participation in the college lecture circuit in the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Samuel Greenlee recalls persecution after "Spook" and his life in the 1980s-2001

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Samuel Greenlee details his years spent abroad

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Samuel Greenlee discusses his two marriages

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Samuel Greenlee discusses changes in his personality and recent health issues

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Samuel Greenlee considers his literary influences

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Samuel Greenlee considers the spectrum of black political thought

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Samuel Greenlee reflects on hip hop culture

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Samuel Greenlee shares his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Samuel Greenlee evaluates his citizenship

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sam Greenlee talks about how black history has been obscured

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sam Greenlee reflects on a new generation of black artists

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sam Greenlee considers his family's reactions to his success

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sam Greenlee considers his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sam Greenlee reflects on how art has kept black people sane

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Sam Greenlee talks about serving with USIS in Iraq, East Pakistan and Indonesia during coups and violence
Sam Greenlee discusses the publication of 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'
Transcript
Now what, what training did they [unclear] prepare you for in the [unclear]? How did they--$$I was trained in all media. Radio--television, which was just beginning to come into the third world. Journalism, trained as a cultural officer in all aspects of the media. The first two years, I was on probation. My first post was in Baghdad. And I found out later on that the staff had voted to have me dropped from the program. Except during the revolution, I and the executive officer had to go across the [Tigris] river to lead a U.S.I.S. [United States Information Service] family back across the, the river. And we brought 'em back across under fire. And I was recommended for a medal. And, of course, you can't fire a hero! So I got through that period. And then the next time, I was awarded the Meritorious Service Award--the third highest award in the U.S.I.A. So I was an authentic hero. So I survived probation. And after that, it's like being a tenured professor. Once you get in the Foreign Service, it's almost impossible to fire you. And my first post was Baghdad. I survived the revolution there. I went to East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, and I was there when Ayub Khan ordered his coup. And my third post was in Jakarta, Indonesia. And I was there when the U.S.I.S. [or the Central Intelligence Agency who were supplying aid to Indonesian rebels] tried to assassinate President Sukarno by a pilot flying, flying a MIG jet--they attacked the palace. And he was supposed to have had a staff meeting in one wing. But being the playboy he is, he canceled the meeting so he could dilly dally on the other side of the, the palace with one of his mistresses. So they blew up the empty wing. And I happened to know the pilot, because I was going out with his sister. His name is Henk Maukar and his sister was named Sylvia [Maukar]. And they were both Manadonese separatists. They were trying to break away Manado was in the Moluccas [islands, Maluku province, Indonesia] and they were trying to break away from Indonesia. As it turned out, she pretended to be a socialite and dilettante, but in effect, she was the commander of the underground separatist army in, in Java. I got--caught up in, in the politics simply because I was in love. And I detailed that in my third novel, 'Djakarta Blues.'$You're living basically--you're still in Greece [after having finished writing his novel 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door' in 1966].$$(Simultaneously) Um-hmm.$$Are you coming back and sending it to publishers here [the U.S.]? Or what's...$$I'm sending it to publishers. You know, as soon as I get a rejection, I send it out again. I met a young Englishman, Alexis Lykiard. He's a writer, and he had published several books. An uncle and aunt had a house in Mykonos. And he used to come out during spring breaks. We had a mutual interest in jazz and blues. And he'd come up in my house, and we'd smoke hashish and drink wine, and listen to music and talk about literature. And I let him read some of 'The Spook who Sat By the Door.' And he said, "Man, I gotta help you get this published." So he took a manuscript back with him and gave it to his publishers, and they rejected it. And he passed it around to a half a dozen others, and they all rejected it. And the next time he came to Mykonos, he said, "Look! Sam, I got a couple of friends of mine, Clyde Allison and Margaret Busby. And they've been publishing poetry. They're friends--they both work for publishing houses, and they want to open up their own house." And he said, "Would you mind if I gave them your manuscript?" I said, "No." So he passed it along to them. And when I came through London [United Kingdom] in [19]67, I was staying in Jame--in Jimmy [James] Baldwin's house. He had rented a house in Chelsea on Tedworth Square. I was staying with his sister Paula and his brother David. Jimmy wasn't there. He was in Hollywood, trying to write a film script. I think he was writing a film script on Malcolm X, that he was gonna produce.$$Hmm.$$And I was supposed to meet these two for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Well I didn't like Clyde Allison. He was a typically pompous white boy, who was over compensating for the fact that he was trying to show me he wasn't prejudiced [unclear]. So I thought I could get a meal out of it. And then in walked Margaret. This fine sister--she was so pretty. And she set down there, and she was articulate and well spoken. She was born in Ghana. And a couple of years ago, she was inducted as a queen mother of the Fante tribe. You know. I felt when I was sitting there falling in love with this woman, "Where's the contract?" (laughing) Though, they [Allison and Busby publishing house] published the book. Started the country--company with fifteen thousand pounds, which amounts to about twenty thousand dollars, and brought me over to promote it. And I'm a wind up toy. you know, point me to a camera or a microphone and I do my thing. Like I'm doing now. And it kind of just took right off.

Oscar Brown, Jr.

Born October 10, 1926, in Chicago, Oscar Brown, Jr. defied narrow definition. Throughout his forty-year career, he was part jazz singer, part poet, part entertainer and part songwriter. As an aspiring young playwright in 1960, Brown made an unprecedented two-hour appearance on NBC soon after writing "Kicks & Company". Though the play never made it to Broadway, Brown had arrived. He began sharing the stage with such greats as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Nancy Wilson and Julius "Cannonball" Adderley. His London-based, two-hour, one-man show, "Oscar Brown, Jr. Entertains," led him to be hailed as a musical genius. He also made headlines with a project that worked effectively with local gang members, done in conjunction with his performance partner and wife, Jean Pace. Among their many discoveries were the Jackson Five. A composer of several hundred songs and more than a dozen full-length feature pieces, Brown lived in Chicago with his family.

He passed away on May 29, 2005 at age 78.

Accession Number

A2000.010

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2000

Last Name

Brown

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Cicero

Schools

Frances E. Willard Elementary School

Englewood High School

Lincoln University

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Oscar

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BRO03

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

McCormick Tribune Foundation

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/10/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date

5/29/2005

Short Description

Poet, entertainer, and music composer Oscar Brown, Jr. (1926 - 2005 ) was a black music theorist whose compositions included the song “Afro Blue” which was performed by Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Liz Wright.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Brown

DAStories

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown, Jr. narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown, Jr. narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr.'s favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. describes his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. remembers his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. shares memories from his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Oscar Brown Jr. describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Oscar Brown Jr. remembers his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls his childhood environs in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. details his interests as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. lists the schools he attended

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. details his early radio career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses his early activism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls his early endeavors in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. details his experiences during the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls his dismissal from the Communist Party

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls writing his play 'Kicks and Company'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Oscar Brown Jr. recounts the production of his play 'Kicks and Company'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses his career pursuits after 'Kicks and Company'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls his Chicago performances

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses race and power in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. describes his study of black bodies in motion

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr. shares his personal philosophy on modern society

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. expresses his hopes for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. reflects on his life's work

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. recalls his time in various cities

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses his relationship with entertainer Jean Pace, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses race, citizenship and taxation in the U.S.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses his relationship with entertainer Jean Pace, part 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Oscar Brown Jr. discusses the role of hats in his personal style

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Oscar Brown Jr. considers his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Oscar Brown Jr. sings 'Brown Baby'