Summer Reads

My first Harry Potter book!It’s summertime! Time for backyard barbeques, vacations, family reunions, block parties, swimming, festivals, fireworks, fireflies, and relaxing. I look forward to summer because I can sit on my balcony and read a good book. It’s my favorite way to relax.

Every now and then, I like to take a break and read something that has absolutely nothing to do with my research or teaching. This summer I have started reading the Harry Potter books. I quickly finished the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I am already reading book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As usual, the books are so much better than the movies. I can see why the younger set fell in love with these books; they are wonderfully written. I especially like the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I am fascinated by this whole “wizarding” world that J. K. Rowling created. She has an amazing imagination.

To be honest, I have read other young adult/teen novels including Twilight and The Hunger Games trilogy. So, far Harry Potter is definitely my favorite.

Well, the cat is out of the bag: I like Harry Potter. So, what are you reading this summer?

Still talking about Slavery in 2013: Why 12 Years a Slave Now?

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, you may be luxuriating in the afterglow of 12 Years a Slave’s Best Writing, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Motion Picture wins. Therefore, I thought it was a good time to revisit Da Hype 1‘s post on slave narratives. To her credit, she realized the importance of 12 Years a Slave some time ago.

Why We Write/Talk about Slavery

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

I have been teaching African American literature for more than a decade now. During this time, I have taught a number of narratives that address the subject matter of slavery. In fact, during Fall semesters, I teach a course called The Slave Experience. When teaching these courses, my students and I often discuss, “Why it is important to continue to write/talk about slavery?” This question has arisen in the mainstream media and in social media lately, with the movie release of Solomon Northrup’s narrative, 12 Years a Slave.

I teach about the subject matter of America’s institution of slavery for a number of reasons, but the one that seems to be the most pronounced for me and for my students is the fact that we (others who study slavery and other human atrocities) want to be connected to, give voice to, and honor the humanity of those who have been robbed of the status of “human.” My classes are filled with students who elect to take a course on slavery that is not required because they genuinely believe that by better understanding the experience of American slavery, they will be better citizens and better humans. For me, this is what education in the humanities is all about.

Writing/Righting the Accounts of Slavery

Below, you will find a list of some accounts of slavery. I decided to list both fictional and non-fictional accounts because there is so much to learn from them both.

Traditional/Conventional Slave Narratives

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

This list consists of narratives written by or dictated by slaves themselves, once they escaped bondage. Those who were incapable of writing themselves, often received help from others to chronicle their experiences. These narratives were primarily written as a way of validating (or give witness to) the horrors of slavery, in hopes that the escaped slave’s story could support the abolitionists in emancipating all of those still enslaved.

The conventions of the writing reveals that those who escaped were gracious enough to not only tell their personal stories, but they also wanted to give voice to all who were still silenced and victimized by slavery. They had to tell the stories of how they escaped carefully, without revealing too many details of those who aided them to “freedom”. Assisting a slave in escaping slavery was a federal crime and it could result in prison time or worse for all of those caught participating.

This is only a short list of slave narratives:

  1. Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
  2. Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831)
  3. Frederick Douglass, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  4. Henry Bibb, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1849)
  5. Henry Box Brown, Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide (1849)
  6. Josiah Henson, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849)
  7. Solomon Northrup,12 Years a Slave (1853)
  8. Harriet Wilson, Our Nig (1859)
  9. William Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (1860)
  10. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

Neo-slave Narratives

Gayl Jones's Corregidora

Gayl Jones’s Corregidora

Not to be confused with conventional or traditional slave narratives, the genre of literature often called the “neo-slave” narrative, consists of works of fiction that address the institution of slavery. Generally speaking, there are two types of neo-slave narratives: a.) works that have the institution of slavery as its setting, and b.) works that revisit slavery within a contemporary context.

Oftentimes, the narratives were based on actual documented accounts of slavery, as in the case of Beloved, which is loosely based on the experiences of Margaret Garner. These contemporary writers took the opportunity to address, without the rules and conventions of the 19th century, the realities of slavery that perhaps the traditional slave narratives could not. For example, 19th century works of fiction could not explicitly address the sexual violence black women experienced in slavery because the writers did not want to jeopardize the Abolitionist Movement by offending supporters of the movement with their stories of being raped by white slave masters. After all, no one wanted to address the rape culture that existed in American Slavery.

Octavia Butler's Kindred

Octavia Butler’s Kindred

Below, you will find a list of some neo-slave narratives. This list is, by no way, exhaustive:

  1. William Wells Brown, Clotel (1853)
  2. Margaret Walker, Jubilee (1960)
  3. Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
  4. Alex Haley, Roots (1976)
  5. Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada (1976)
  6. Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
  7. Sherley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose (1986)
  8. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  9. J. California Cooper, Family (1991)
  10. Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008)

Please share with us your experiences reading these narratives.

Our Favorite Civil Rights Books

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington has 2 Dope Sistahs thinking about the Civil Rights Movement. Often the narrative is decidedly male-centered, so we decided to share some our favorite books that focus on women’s activism.

wcover[1]

Melba Patillo Beals, Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High

annemoody

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

4freedomssake

Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

LettersFromMS

Elizabeth Martinez, ed., Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer

soulisrested

Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered

BusBoycott

Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

light-of-freedom[1]

Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

EllaBaker

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

trailblazers

Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965

freedomsdaughters

Lynee Olson, Freedom’s Daughters : The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement

Hey 2Dope Readers, did we miss your favorite? Don’t be shy. Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite titles!!!

_________________________

There are great resources on the internet. We have included a few links below:

Malcolm X vs. Bayard Rustin Debate (January 1962)

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Letter From a Birmingham Jail (April 1963)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at the Great March on Detroit (June 1963)

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Testimony, Democratic National Convention (August 1964)

Wacky Wednesday: What Are You Reading?

Da Hype 1

Junie B. JonesRecently, my 6 year old has gotten into to Junie B. Jones books. I have enjoyed reading these books with her because I love watching her fall in love with a character. I have learned that reading a book series allows children the opportunity to get engaged and stay engaged with a character. Since she was a baby, we have read entire series of books. The characters are familiar to her and she looks forward to the newest experiences they face.

Junie B. Junes, who will not engage you unless you call her by her entire name, gets into trouble and she is brazen and fearless. She is spunky, and she gets into the type of mischief that was historically reserved for boys in literature. She is also creative and smart. I like reading about her new escapades and discussing them with my daughter. Her behavior also provides us opportunities to discuss how I want my 6 year old to behave.

I love watching my daughter explore literature and I am happy that we can now explore it together.

Da Realist 1

I just completed While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of whileworldwatchedAge during the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry. As the title suggests, McKinstry was at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church when it was bombed on September 15, 1963. In fact, she had just seen her friends Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair in the bathroom before the explosion.

I was interested in Maull’s perspective as teenager and as a survivor of such a tragic, violent event. As one might imagine, she had survivor’s guilt. She lost her best friend in the bombing. Psychologically she was traumatized, but she had no opportunity to discuss her feelings. No one talked about what happened–not at school, not at home, and not at church. When the church’s damage was repaired, the bathroom where the girls were killed was literally walled off. When she left Birmingham to attend college, she began drinking as a method of coping. It took her many years to come to terms with her alcoholism and her feelings about the bombing.

While the World Watched is compelling when discussing events that Maull participated in or witnessed. But the sections on other historical events and actors (like JFK and “Bull” Conner) are much less effective. Her narrative is not written chronologically; as a result, it is somewhat repetitive.

It was important for McKinstry to share her story of survival and illustrate the impact of the bombing on her life. While we mourn and pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement, we give considerably less attention to the effects of violence on those who lived through it. Though I may have issues with this book, I’m glad she wrote it.

Our Favorite Civil Rights Books

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington has 2 Dope Sistahs thinking about the Civil Rights Movement. Often the narrative is decidedly male-centered, so we decided to share some our favorite books that focus on women’s activism.

wcover[1]

Melba Patillo Beals, Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High

annemoody

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi

4freedomssake

Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

LettersFromMS

Elizabeth Martinez, ed., Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer

soulisrested

Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered

BusBoycott

Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

light-of-freedom[1]

Charles M. Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

EllaBaker

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

trailblazers

Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965

freedomsdaughters

Lynee Olson, Freedom’s Daughters : The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement

There are great resources on the internet. We have included a few links below:

Malcolm X vs. Bayard Rustin Debate (January 1962)

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Letter From a Birmingham Jail (April 1963)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at the Great March on Detroit (June 1963)

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Testimony, Democratic National Convention (August 1964)