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One of my favorite books, and later animated movies, of my childhood was Watership Down by Richard Adams. This little fellow, nibbling away in Mount Auburn Cemetery, reminded me of the rabbit Fiver, the nervous little one who could see into the future.

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That is what I encourage you to do if you choose to view the poem, Refugee, written by Miki Byrne and beautifully illustrated by Podessto:

http://popshotpopshot.com/posts/20170215-refugee.html

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ejsimage

I tend to think of Emmett Jay Scott as one of those individuals upon whose shoulders giants stand. Though today he is largely unknown, during his lifetime he was a noted author, educator, activist and entrepreneur. For eighteen years he served as personal secretary to Booker T. Washington. He was Washington’s closest adviser, publicist and his friend. I knew of Emmett J. Scott because of previous research into Washington’s life and visually Scott was almost always at his side. Like Frederick Douglass, Washington was a figure well-photographed in his day. I accepted his presence but it wasn’t until  I chanced upon the book, Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919), that I decided to learn more.

book-cover

The title page states that it is a complete and authentic narration, from official sources, of the participation of American soldiers of the Negro race in the World War for democracy, profusely illustrated with official photographs. I was captured by the words “profusely illustrated.” As I perused the book online I was astounded by both the words and imagery in a publication that has been somewhat lost to time as has its author.

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington

Born in February 1873 in Houston, Texas, Emmett J. Scott was the child of ex-slaves. He attended Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, then worked a series of jobs before employment at a small Houston newspaper. He would eventually co-found the first African American newspaper in Houston, The Texas Freeman, and he would work with political activists like Norris Wright Cuney.  Impressed by Scott’s skills, Booker T. Washington, principal of Tuskegee Institute, hired him in 1897.

washingtontuskegee

Biographers note that “He became widely recognized as the leader of what was to later be known as the “Tuskegee Machine,” the group of people close to Booker T. Washington who wielded influence over the Black press, churches, and schools in order to promote Washington’s views.“[1] Like Washington, Scott believed that uplift for blacks would come through business development, the creation of strong financial institutions and nurturing economic self-sufficiency within African American communities. He ran the National Negro Business League founded by Washington in 1900. At Washington’s side, Scott was also active in U.S. politics at home and abroad. In 1909, Scott joined the American Commission to Liberia appointed by President Taft. After Washington died in 1915, Scott co-wrote a biography about his friend and mentor with Lyman Beecher Stowe, the grandson of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

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Scott in 1909 as part of the Liberian Commission

Following Washington’s death, Scott remained at Tuskegee and continued to promote Washington’s philosophy through endeavors like the National Negro Business League. As Scott and other black leaders like a young W. E. B. DuBois sought to identify future opportunities for advancement while celebrating current achievements, a storm brewed across the nation.  The early 1900s was a tumultuous period. Race riots proliferated and not just in the South as highlighted in this 1900 dispatch from Columbia, South Carolina regarding a New York riot.

scriot1900

A 1908 Springfield, IL riot and lynching prompted ministers, both black and white, to speak directly to the incident. From a New York pulpit, the Rev. Dr. Madison C. Peter’s would remark:

peterswords

Seven years before Thomas Dixon’s book would be brought to the big screen by D. W. Griffith as Birth of a Nation, Peters  would go on to add, “We are reaping what we have allowed to be sown. Dixon’s novels and Tillman’s speeches have been a menace to the best interests of our republic … keeping alive the race antagonism North and South, which is setting men at one another’s throats when their hands should be clasped in brotherly love.

clansman

Thomas Dixon Jr.

In 1910 when black fighter Jack Johnson beat white fighter James Jeffries in Reno, Nevada in a fight dubbed “the fight of the century” riots broke out across the nation.

jack_johnson1

Jack Johnson

newspaperclipping2

Meanwhile, by 1914, war raged in Europe. The U.S. would eventually join. On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany in order to make the world safe for democracy.  The Selective Service Act of 1917 temporarily authorized the government to raise an army through the compulsory enlistment of Americans. The resulting American Expeditionary Force would be sent to Europe under the command of General John J. Pershing.

pershing

Pershing

When the U.S entered the war, it was unclear what the role of black soldiers was to be, assuming there was to be any role at all. After much discussion and vociferous debate it was decided all American men were needed in this Great War, and Emmett Jay Scott was to play a pivotal role in their involvement. As one biographer notes:

motonwilson

Robert R. Moton, President of Tuskegee and President Woodrow Wilson

…there was considerable uneasiness as to what would be the status of the Negro in the war and quite naturally Tuskegee Institute was one of the centers which helped in adjusting these conditions. Dr. Moton, Principal, and Mr. Scott, made frequent visits to New York and Washington, and were constantly in consultation with the authorities at Washington. Out of these discussions and together with the activities of other agencies working towards the same end, the Officer’s Training Camp for Negro Officers was established at Des Moines, Iowa, and later, following a conversation between Dr. Moton and Mr. Scott, Dr. Moton interviewed President Wilson and suggested that a colored man be designated as an Assistant or Advisor in the War Department to pass upon various matters affecting the Negro soldiers who were then being inducted into the service and as the result, Mr. Scott went to Washington on October 1st, 1917, and from then until July 1st, 1919, served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of War.” [2]

draftees

draftees

Over a million African Americans responded to their draft calls and nearly three-quarters of a million served. Even as hundreds of thousands stepped forward to answer Wilson’s call, “race antagonism” continued unbridled. On July 2, 1917, a riot broke out in East St. Louis between black and white workers that left over a hundred blacks dead. In a July 4th address, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt preceded his war address to remark, “There has just occurred in a northern city a most lamentable tragedy. We who live elsewhere would do well not to be self-righteous about it, for it was produced by causes which might at any time produce just such results in any of the communities in which we individually dwell.

stlouisriot1

Even as over one hundred indictments were being made in the St. Louis incident, an altercation took place in Houston, TX between black soldiers stationed at Camp Logan and white residents. In the end, according to one source, “Three military court-martial proceedings convicted 110 soldiers. Sixty-three received life sentences and thirteen were hung without due process. The army buried their bodies in unmarked graves.” [3]

Emerging out of the resulting nationwide protests was the question – if we are to make the world safe for democracy shouldn’t we make America safe for democracy?

 

soldiers-from-chicago

soldiers from chicago arriving in france

Despite outright discrimination, verbal and physical abuses, and segragation among troops, African Americans served with distinction at every level (as they had in previous engagements like the Spanish-American War).

buffaloes

troop 367th known as the buffaloes

Today I know of many people, of diverse backgrounds, who have no idea of the significant role of African Americans in World War I. Why is that? In part, it is because the visuals were not produced or those that were produced — the illustrations, the paintings, the photography — were not widely distributed. They were not reproduced in the consumer publications of the period. The heroics of individuals, with rare exception, or of whole troops, with rare exception like the Harlem Hellfighters, were not retold, and certainly not in the classroom, as part of the narrative of America’s victory in the Great War.

croix

two officers who received the croix de guerre

What was Emmett J. Scott thinking when he decided to produce his book? He tells us in the preface: “The Negro, in the great World War for Freedom and Democracy, has proved to be a notable and inspiring figure. The record and achievements of this racial group, as brave soldiers and loyal citizens, furnish one of the brightest chapters in American history. The ready response of Negro draftees to the Selective Service calls together with the numerous patriotic activities of Negroes generally, gave ample evidence of their whole-souled support and their 100 per cent Americanism. …

philadelphia

troop from philadelphia

It is difficult to indicate which rendered the greater service to their Country—the 400,000 or more of them who entered active military service (many of whom fearlessly and victoriously fought upon the battlefields of France) or the millions of other loyal members of this race whose useful industry in fields, factories, forests, mines, together with many other indispensable civilian activities, so vitally helped the Federal authorities in carrying the war to a successful conclusion. … 

corporal-mcintyre

corporal fred mcintyre of the 369th

It is because of the immensely valuable contribution made by Negro soldiers, sailors, and civilians toward the winning of the great World War that this volume has been prepared—in order that there may be an authentic record, not only of the military exploits of this particular racial group of Americans, but of the diversified and valuable contributions made by them as patriotic civilians.

return

369th returning home “bringing back the unique record of never having had a man captured, never losing a foot of ground or a trench, and of being nearest to the Rhine of any allied unit where the armistice was signed, and the first detachment of allied troops to reach the Rhine after the armistice.”

In The American Negro in the World War Scott produces a comprehensive account of the involvement of black Americans in World War I, those in the field and those on the home front. I believe it is an important archival record.

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red cross canteen war workers in chicago

After the war Scott’s efforts with the military were both applauded and criticized. Some, like W. E. B. Du Bois, felt he should have been more vocal about the systemic racism and segregation among the troops stationed in Europe. But in wartime correspondence, just declassified in the 1980s, its clear that Scott worked hard to be a voice for the soldiers and to address injustices committed.

scott-and-team

dr. emmet jay scott and his faithful office corps who co-operated in the performance of his duties as special assistant to the secretary of war

After the war, Scott would move on to Howard University. Outside of his university duties as Secretary Treasurer, he would continue to promote and invest in business development opportunities nationwide. He died December 12, 1957 at the age of 84.

Sources & Additional Reading

The American Negro in the World War – https://archive.org/details/scottsofficialhi00scot_0

or http://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/comment/Scott/ScottTC.htm

[1] Emmett Scott, Administrator of a Dream

http://www.blackpast.org/aah/scott-emmett-j-1873-1957

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booker_T._Washington

[2] http://afrotexan.com/AfroPress/Editors/scott_emmett.htm,  a Sketch from the National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race (1919)

They Came to Fight: African Americans and the Great War

 

[3] http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-world-war-i.html

http://www.npr.org/2015/10/25/451717690/birth-of-a-race-the-obscure-demise-of-a-would-be-rebuttal-to-racism

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James Weldon Johnson and Aaron Douglas

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and Aaron Douglas (1899-1979)

Originally published in 1927, James Weldon Johnson’s book, God’s Trombones, is a slim volume composed of a prayer and seven poems: Listen, Lord–A Prayer, The Creation, The Prodigal Son, Go Down Death, Noah Built the Ark, The Crucifixion, Let My People Go, and The Judgement Day. The verses were inspired by his experiences attending black churches throughout the American south. The preachers’ oratory inspired Johnson to write these poems and, in the book’s preface, to reflect upon the nature of oration and folk traditions. His poems, I assume, inspired his artistic collaborators, Aaron Douglas and Charles B. Falls. The signature styles of two very different artists were brought together to complement Johnson’s words.

lettering by Charles Buckley Falls

Lettering by Charles Buckley Falls (1874-1960)

A publication was produced that is really quite distinctive with regard to words, images and overall concept. Johnson as scholar as well as poet produced a tome that captured in a unique way the power and importance of religion in the African American experience. He makes real even for those not having attended black churches how the preachers – God’s trombones – used word, rhyme and rhythm to give voice to the stories in the bible even when no bible was present.

Illustration

It would be easy to pick up this book, to skip the preface and go straight to the poems. But don’t. Johnson’s preface is critical, for his brief and cohesive insights into religion and the American experience, and for his guidance in how to truly appreciate what he was attempting to do with this book.

I claim no more for these poems than that I have written them after the manner of the primitive sermons. In the writing of them I have, naturally, felt the influence of the Spirituals. There is, of course, no way of recreating the atmosphere — the fervor of the congregation, the amens and hallelujahs, the undertone of singing which was often a soft accompaniment to parts of the sermon; nor the personality of the preacher — his physical magnetism, his gestures and gesticulations, his changes of tempo, his pauses for effect, and, more than all, his tones of voice. These poems would better be intoned than read; especially does this apply to “Listen, Lord,” “The Crucifixion,” and “The Judgment Day.” But the intoning practiced by the old-time preacher is a thing next to impossible to describe; it must be heard, and it is extremely difficult to imitate even when heard. …

“… The tempos of the preacher I have endeavored to indicate by the line arrangement of the poems, and a certain sort of pause that is marked by a quick intaking and an audible expulsion of the breath I have indicated by dashes. There is a decided syncopation of speech — the crowding in of many syllables or the lengthening out of a few to fill one metrical foot, the sensing of which must be left to the reader’s ear. The rhythmical stress of this syncopation is partly obtained by a marked silent fraction of a beat; frequently this silent fraction is filled in by a hand clap. …

The ensuing poems do read like song and the power of the words are echoed and strengthened by the complementary visusals.

Illustrations by Douglas for the poems, The Creation, The Prodigal Son, and Go Down Death.

Illustrations by Douglas for the poems, The Creation, The Prodigal Son, and Go Down Death.

Noah Built the Ark

Illustration and complementary chapter head for Noah Built the Ark

Illustration for The Crucifixion

Illustration for The Crucifixion

Illustration for Let My People Go

Illustration for Let My People Go

     

Both Johnson and Aaron Douglas are considered key figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Charles B. Falls was a noted illustrator and designer especially remembered for the posters he created during World War I and II as part of the Victory Books Campaign.

Over time the book has been reprinted numerous times including an edition by Penguin Classics, edited by Henry Louis Gates and with an introduction by Maya Angelou. As Johnson wrote in his preface the poems are really meant to be performed and over the years many individuals and institutions have done just that. Recordings can be found online.  You can also find the book fully digitized and viewable online thanks to the Documenting the American South project at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my primary source for this post. I hope you have the opportunity to view the book in-hand or online: http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/johnson/johnson.html

 

Sources & Additional Readings

God’s Trombones (digitized) – http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/johnson/johnson.html

James Weldon Johnson – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Weldon_Johnson

Aaron Douglas – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Douglas

Charles Buckles Falls – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Buckles_Falls

The New Negro Renaissance – http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-renaissance.html

More about the Victory Books Campaign – http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/exhibits/ww2/services/books.htm

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In short, from front to back, each page of The Flower Workshop is a treat. Am I biased? Perhaps. This is the kind of book that I can imagine on the table in front of me as I sip sweet tea, just flipping through the pages. Strangely enough, it was my younger brother who recently reminded me that that is exactly what I used to do as a child with my mom’s gardening books. Just sit and peruse them over and over again. Well-written and beautifully photographed, the book provides step-by-step instruction for producing 45 floral arrangements. But beyond those specific projects, the reader is truly educated in how to “branch out” and experiment with how to work with flowers, foliage, fruit and more to create what I consider to be ephemeral works of art.

Will I be producing a flowering dogwood display anytime soon? No but I do have a greater appreciation for the skill as well as imagination behind such displays that I had perhaps taken for granted in churches, hotels and even the homes of friends. And I also take away a deeper understanding of everything from the rule of three to the subtle use of color to establish mood.  There’s a nice index and seasonal flower guide. Simply a lovely resource.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review. Please check out the following links for more information.

Website of Ariella Chezar

Details about the book: The Flower Workshop

Photographer Erin Kunkel

 

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My mother kept a bucket of chickens next to the back porch.  It was a big white bucket like an old stew pot.  Hens and chicks was what she called the little spiky plants growing in there. No matter how hot the summers, no matter how many other flowers and vegetables died in the baking Virginia sun, those plants survived to flourish the following year. They were easy to transplant. I remember picking up the little ones … they just popped right up out of the soil … and tossing them into another little cup of dirt. My mom told me to stop doing that because she’d specifically positioned her pot of chickens. Their singular location, next to the porch, was part of her garden design.

photo by cynthia staples

Now my mom and I did not formally speak of things like garden design and water-saving plants like her cacti. My dad did not discuss these things either though I remember he kept a barrel to collect rainwater and that he rotated crops in our little vegetable garden. He didn’t really explain the why of his actions. It was just what you did if you understood the system of which you were a part.

photo by cynthia staples

That’s what stands out for me in books like The Water-Saving Garden by Pam Penick.  Penick invites readers who are interested in gardening to deepen their understanding of how their world works.  My parents grew up in a time and place and were of a generation that knew the sources of their water and understood that those sources were not guaranteed. For all sorts of reasons that knowledge was lost as human ingenuity and engineering made water readily available in many places and seemingly endless.  Today, people are aware that engineering is not enough. We are a part of a complicated system. Water is not endlessly available for our needs. But what if you really want a garden?

It almost seems selfish but I have to admit I’m one of those people. If at all possible, for my peace of mind, I like to see something green growing around me and know I had something to do with it. And despite my fond memories of my mother’s chickens, I don’t necessarily want to grow them. What are my other choices in a water-saving garden?

photo by cynthia staples

photo by cynthia staples

Pennick’s book stretches one’s imagination about what form that garden can take. She reminds and encourages people to take the time to understand the landscape and climate particular to their region. Humor is sprinkled throughout the book (e.g. “Think of your plants as astronaut-explorers, boldly going where no plant has gone before.”) as well as lovely and informative pictures.

The Water-Saving Garden is content rich and makes a nice addition to the reference shelf. Every idea can’t be tried all at once. It’s a resource I can imagine filling the margins with notes of lessons learned as I try to garden more wisely while still having fun.

You can learn more about this book via the following links. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

Additional Links

About Pam Penick: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/152546/pam-penick/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/246914/the-water-saving-garden-by-pam-penick/

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Bees are not the only pollinators in this world but they are a major one. There are many different species of bees. Growing up in Virginia, I’d heard of sweat bees, and knew bumblebees on sight, but it was the honeybee with its soft gold and black coloring that I most thought of when I heard the word bee. I took for granted its production of honey and the wax harvested from colonies for my candles.  And I was quick to bat the insect away when I walked through a field of flowers. As for its role as pollinator, I didn’t think too much about that nor did many until reports of colony collapse disorder made national and international news.

photo by cynthia staples

As noted in the introduction of The Bee-Friendly Garden, “over 70 percent of the world’s plants depend on the pollination services of bees, including many nuts, fruits, tomatoes, peppers, or berries.” While the world might survive without bees, it would be a very different place to say the least.

One of the delights of this book is that the authors, a professional garden designer and an ecologist, educate, inspire and encourage.  Regarding the U.S., they describe the difference between native bee species and honeybees, and how bees and wasps look similar but behave very differently.  Honeybees with their yellow and black banded bodies are probably the most common image of bees, but native bees come in many shapes, sizes and colors, their bodies evolved to collect the pollen from a wide variety of plants, shrubs and trees.  Lists are provided by region of bee-friendly garden compositions, and in turns out that many of those same gardens — a mix of annuals, perennials and more — can attract and support other important pollinators like bats, butterflies and hummingbirds.

The book is an incredible resource and reference guide and I would suggest it as a wonderful addition to one’s gardening library.  The authors make clear with straightforward content that you don’t need to be a master gardener or landscape designer in order to create beauty around you and do some good in the world as well. As some of you know, I love to give seeds and plants to friends and family who live across the U.S.  This year I will certainly be using this book’s regional plants lists to help guide my selection of seeds.

photo by cynthia staples

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.  Detailed book information available via this link: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/243475/the-bee-friendly-garden-by-kate-frey-and-gretchen-lebuhn/

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