Black History

Lee Friedlander Captures The Conflict In Civil Rights

by Brian Slattery | Jan 25, 2017 3:09 pm | Comments (1)

Friedlander, Courtesy
Eakins Press Foundation It’s not just that we see what the photographer is seeing; the way the photograph is composed, we’re there, in his shoes. We’re in the midst of a crowd, people seated in rows of chairs. The women are all in dresses. The men are wearing suits. Most are wearing hats. Most of them seem to be paying attention to whatever’s in front of them.

But then, front and center in the photograph, is a kid in a Scout uniform. His arms are crossed. His brow is furrowed. His eyes pierce the camera’s lens.

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When Poetry And Exploitation Collided

by Allan Appel | Jan 23, 2017 7:44 am | Comments (1)

Beinecke Library A black novelist was so sick of the portrayal by his fellow writers of the Negro as fundamentally different from other homo sapiens that he wrote a satire, Black No More, starring a doctor who invents a procedure to lighten skin pigment.

A white champion of the new black lit himself penned a novel called Nigger Heaven, featuring sexual promiscuity; it sold well, and he was accused of exploitation.

And one of Langston Hughes‘s earliest blues-inspired poems was called “Fine Clothes to de Jew”; it broke new ground but its subject infuriated the black middle class — and, yes, there already was one in the Harlem of the 1920s and 1930s.

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Harlem Renaissance Swings Back To Life

by Brian Slattery | Jan 19, 2017 1:31 pm | Comments (1)

Van Vechten Langston Hughes and Gladys Bentley greet you at the entrance to the Beinecke Library. So does Cab Calloway, conducting his orchestra at the Cotton Club. Augusta Savage is there, too, maybe about to create her next sculpture.

Walk a little farther and you almost hear not only the voices of the luminaries of the past, but those of their neighbors: People going out for a night on the town. People dancing in the apartment next door. People just trying to make rent, any way they can.

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Collective Consciousness Theater Climbs “Mountaintop”

by Brian Slattery | Jan 18, 2017 10:22 pm

Brian Slattery Photo The fluorescent overhead lights were still on in Collective Consciousness Theater, in Erector Square. Actor Terrence Riggins was seated at a desk on the set for The Mountaintop. Fellow actor Malia West was standing in front of him. Neither of them were in costume yet, and West had a decidedly anachronistic plastic water in her hand. But as soon as Riggins and West fell into character, running through a scene late in the play, their voices changed, taking on a stronger Southern accent. Their body language shifted. They became the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Camae, a maid at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. It was 1968, and it was King’s last night on earth, and in The Mountaintop, he was working on a speech.

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