Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Crisis1927NewArtist

I’ve been researching the year 1927 for a project and came across an issue of  The Crisis Magazine for that year. In this issue, several new artists were featured. Even though they were not the focus of my research, I became curious about who these people were and who they became. I knew of Countee Cullen but the others … I began by looking up Blanche Taylor Dickinson. The article in The Crisis notes that she “received honorable mention for her poem, “That Hill,” in The Crisis contest of 1926. Four of her poems have recently been accepted to appear in “Present Day Poets.” She was featured alongside Cullen, Loren R. Miller, Anita Scott Coleman and Eulalie Spence.

1200px-WEB_DuBois_1918

Three years earlier, Dickinson had written W. E. B. Du Bois, co-founder and editor of The Crisis. “I am a teacher and a reader of The Crisis but am just becoming a suscriber. You edit a fine magazine and it is a great factor in helping to bring us more and more into the recognition of the opposite race.” Enclosed with the letter were poems but no envelope with return postage because, as Dickinson wrote, if the poems were unacceptable to Du Bois, “you have a waste basket handy I am sure.”

Du Bois read her poems and then sent a reply, despite her lack of return postage. “You have some poetic feelings but are not good enough to publish. You must read more poetry. Buy Rittenhouse’s Little Book of Modern British Verse.”

Dickinson does indeed read Rittenhouse and other compilations. In 1925 she wrote Du Bois once more.

Once before I was ‘nervy’ enough to write you a personal letter and you were kind enough to advise. So pardon this second intrusion and say, ‘She is determined to hold out to the end.’ I have read or you might say studied the book you mentioned … and feel that I have profited thereby. I have made a study of several others, too. Now if I could see a few expressions of mine in our own magazine, CRISIS, I imagine I should feel as I imagine one feels in your own sphere. I am not working for money now but for RECOGNITION. It is unwomanly of me to beg favor of your staff but I do ask please read these lines from the angle of the writer and others less favored and see what you can find in them that deserves criticism or comment.”

Du Bois’s reply? “I do not think that the poems which are enclosed are quite good enough for publication but I do think that the course of study upon which you are embarked is worth while and I hope you will keep it up.”

Dickinson, who’d been writing since childhood, would continue to work at her craft and her poetry would be published in a number of publications during the late 1920s. A little but not a lot is written about her life. Born in 1896 to a prosperous Kentucky farmer, she did well in school (including having her writing published), attended university, became a school teacher and worked as a journalist. She married a truck driver and moved around a bit. In 1929 she interviewed Amelia Earhart for the newspaper, Baltimore Afro-American. In 1930 Dickinson would deliver a speech about “The Cultural Values of Negro Poetry,” but little writing can be found after this time.

Her poetry is quite moving and suggestive of how she (or perhaps women around her) may have felt about life as a woman in the 1920s in general and as an educated African American woman specifically.

“Ah, I know what happiness is …

It is a timid little fawn

Creeping softly up to me

For one caress, then gone

Before I’m through with it …

Away, like dark from dawn!”

— excerpt from poem, A Sonnet and a Rondeau, 1927

Her words can be raw as in this excerpt from, The Good Wife, appearing in a 1932 newspaper, where her words reference the to-this-day divisive issues of class, color and even education level within the African American experience.

All day long

I been sipping suds.

Money making’s mine- 

Money spending’s Bud’s.

Folks keep asking,

How could I

Let a man black as Bud

Take my eye.

I keep rubbing

‘Till my po’ head swim.

‘T ain’t worthwhile to answer

‘Cause Bud ain’t courted them!

BlancheTaylorDickinson

Her work can be found online and in print anthologies from and about the period known as the Harlem Renaissance. Blanche Taylor Dickinson died in 1972.

Sources & Additional Reading

http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b168-i213

http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b169-i545

http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b169-i546

Shadowed Dreams: Women of the Harlem Renaissance by Maureen Honey

Kentucky African American Encyclopedia edited by Smith, McDaniel and Hardin, p. 142

New Negro Artists, The Crisis, February 1927, p. 206

The Good Wife, The Greeley Daily Tribune, October 10, 1932, p. 3.

Revelation, https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/revelation-16

Read Full Post »

One thing people might not know about me is that as an adult I learned how to play the harmonica. I’d never played an instrument before. The class was in part an opportunity to do something different and also an homage to my father who played the harmonica when I was a child. I have a very nice harmonica tucked away somewhere. I haven’t played or thought about playing for years until I came across a 1975 recording of Babylon is Falling Down sung by Deacon Dan Smith with Nick Hallman & the Georgia Sea Island Singers. The music is on the disc, Shall We Gather at the River, highlighting Florida’s African American religious music. This song and 14 additional tracks can be accessed online via the following link: https://www.floridamemory.com/audio/cd3.php  Well worth a visit to that page and the larger Florida Memory site to learn about the diverse history of the peoples that have shaped a place that is an important part of the American puzzle.

 

Read Full Post »

In the words of Rebecca Solnit, “It’s very important to say that hope is not optimism. Optimism is a sense that everything’s going to be fine no matter what we do. Hope is something completely different. The kind of activist hope I believe in is that, although we don’t know what will happen, that uncertainty still means there’s grounds for intervening even without being sure of the outcome.

An excerpt from a very thought provoking piece that is well worth a read: https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/22/we-have-to-resist-rebecca-solnit/#

Read Full Post »

When do we see ourselves? How do we see ourselves? How is our sense of self shaped by the images of others?  This past year, I spent a lot of time researching U.S. history, mostly pre-Civil War into the early twentieth century.  One of the things that I re-discovered for myself was an evolution in the illustration and other visual representation of African Americans that reflected the sentiments of a rapidly evolving nation.  A nation that had loosely reknit after a Civil War, thirty-years later still in rancorous debate about the “Negro Problem”, and now having to deal with waves of mostly non-English speaking European immigrants making their way to a promised land. Culture clashes took place at every level of society. And those tensions were reflected in the arts and how “others” were represented.

I chanced upon an 1898 issue of the magazine, The Art Amateur: Devoted to Art in the Household, a popular type of magazine at the time.  The article that caught my attention, by E. Day McPherson, focused on Drawings of the Negro Character, an actual tutorial for how to capture the character of your artistic subject.  When reading the text I tried to keep in mind the context of the time. For example … “Character might be defined as the result of emotional habit, and certainly the lines expressive of character are those which show what emotions the person is most frequently subject to and in what degree he is accustomed to repress or hide them.  The negro is much more accustomed to give his emotions free play than white people, and they more than the yellow and the red races. To the Japanese we seem as “funny” as the negro seems to us …”

But my focus was not the words but the artist’s work.  Most publications from that time, outside of publications produced by African Americans, were already presenting stereotypical images of African Americans, if any images were being shown at all.  I was struck by Dee Beebe’s portraits of young African Americans, possibly in Galveston, Texas, in the casual clothing of their day.  I don’t know if she captured their character but she captured their beauty for me.

I couldn’t find out much about the artist. She was born in 1870 into a prominent family in Galveston, Texas. Her artistic skills were clear at an early age.  As one writer noted in 1896:

At the Art Academy of Cincinnati, she studied with Frank Duveneck.  In New York, she studied with William Merrit Chase and Kenyon Cox, and later with Theodore Wendel in Gloucester, MA.  Throughout her life she was a teacher while continuing to produce oil and watercolor paintings as well as etchings. The last reference to an exhibit that I could find was 1922.  She exhibited at the Ainslie Galleries in New York, seventy-five watercolors, “including bits of Holland and Switzerland, views of New England, the Arizona desert and around San Francisco and studies of flowers in localities as diversified as Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Switzerland and Holland.” She died in 1946.

It would be intriguing to see more of the work of this artist. I found a few landscapes online.  The 1898 article says that at one period while back home in Texas she “devoted much time to the portrayal of negro types.” Perhaps those other images, if they still exist I might not like so much, but I am glad she created these images and that they were shared with the public in that popular magazine.

Sources

The Art Amateur: Devoted to Art in Household, Volume 39-40, 1898

Prominent Women of Texas (1896), p. 82

Magazine of Art, 1922

 

Read Full Post »

The recipes are good. They are simple, elegant and refined, like the family sharing its history through food.  The preface describes the book as telling the story of five kitchens and three generations of women. “Mother-daughter duo” Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams use the book to share stories from the kitchen, a place that could be both forboding and a place of great calm, depending upon one’s generation (e.g. slavery) and one’s location (e.g. north vs. south).  Traditional, mostly southern recipes, are reworked.  Flavoring agents like bacon dripping, ham hocks, and butter are replaced by olive oil, or no oil at all.  But fear not.  As I told my big brother, a traditional southern cook, flavors have been retained if not indeed heightened with the liberal use of spices. My favorite recipes were the simplest like the Warm Onion and Rosemary Salad, Herb-Roasted Salmon Fillet, Fiery Green Beans and Links Salad composed of green beans, green peas, cucumber and basil.

There’s a Homemade Peanut Butter recipe. The authors describe peanut butter “as a bass note that can carry a wide variety of top notes” and encourage users, once comfortable with the basic recipe, to add spices. Be creative. Set no limits.  It’s a sentiment that fits the family.

Many of the book’s recipes from Mama’s Tequila Ice to Eggplant Tower with Mashed White Beans open with brief headnotes that describe the family connection to the dish.  Whether its a variation on a meal served while hosting parties during the Harlem Renaissance or a reworking of a meal had as family members traveled overseas in Yugoslavia, each recipe clearly has meaning.

While its an eclectic mix of recipes, overall the book is quite a culinary inspiration.  The recipes don’t begin until page 80.  Those first seventy-nine pages are a poetic examination of five kitchens, and American history, beginning with Minnie Randall (1897-1976) through Caroline Randall Williams (b. 1987).  Reviewing the book has reawakened my desire to ask family members about their memories of food past and what they’d like to cook in the future.  You don’t need to be of African American heritage to enjoy this book.  It’s an American experience that can be shared, quite deliciously, by all.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

More Info …

Author Bios

SoulFoodLove

Read Full Post »

Yes, I have sought out stained glass in Prague and what beauty there is to be found like these images from the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle.

Only a quick glimpse this trip …

… I hope to visit again for a longer period of time.  The windows were breathtaking as was the light they cast upon the stone.

Learn more about this cherished structure here: https://www.hrad.cz/en/prague-castle/guidepost-for-visitors/st-vitus-cathedral.shtml

Read Full Post »

Previous Interludes

photo by Joseph A. Horne, Mt. Olivet Cemetery

photo by Joseph A. Horne, Mt. Olivet Cemetery

In 1949, when Joseph A. Horne received an award from the Netherlands for his part in the restitution of books to that country, he was Chief of the American Information Center in Frankfurt, better known as Amerika Haus.  In a 2013 blog post, illustrator Eric Carle described his experiences at Amerika Haus as a young man:  “The Amerika Haus countered the negative view of the United States and the free world. It housed a library with books and magazines mostly in English, arranged discussion groups, performed plays, concerts, movies and exhibitions, for instance, a show on architecture from the United States. From time to time, the Amerika Haus arranged joint ventures with German cultural institutes …  The concept of the Amerika Haus was ingenious, successful and resonated with the German population eager for more contact with the outside world from which it had been isolated for many years.” A 20-year old art student, Carle would be hired to design posters for Amerika Haus events.

Libraries as places of cultural exchange was not a new idea.  Since 1938, the U. S. State Department had operated a global Cultural Relations Program, working with private citizens and organizations like the American Library Association, establishing libraries, orchestrating and/or collaborating with others to produce a wide range of activities from teacher/student exchanges to fine art exhibitions.  In post-war Germany the first Amerika Haus was established in Frankfurt by October 1947.  Others quickly followed.

The_Logan_Daily_News_Thu__Oct_22__1953_(3)

These centers, soon located across Germany, drew peoples of all ages and backgrounds curious about the U.S. and seeking education and cultural opportunities that had been denied under Hitler, and then again under Stalin for those people living in Soviet-occupied areas.

By 1953, the libraries were being operated under the auspices of the United States Information Agency (USIA), known abroad as the United States Information Service (USIS).  Established under President Eisenhower, USIA focused on public diplomacy, and consolidated a number of foreign information activities into one agency, including the existing network of libraries.  The USIA would focus on delivering programming overseas with the Department of State providing foreign policy guidance. Titles changed and field operations shifted, but people like Joseph Horne continued what they had been doing since the end of the war, serving as liaison and ambassadors of U.S. culture and democratic ideals. The libraries were a focal point.  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hal Boyle, reported from Berlin in 1954:

The centers were viewed by many as a strategic investment against the rise of the Soviet Union and communism, not by using force, but by using arts, literature, music and commercial publications.  As Joseph Horne would later tell his son, “One of the most powerful pieces of U.S. propaganda ever was the Sears Roebuck catalog.

As the Cold War intensified, libraries, and especially Amerika Haus libraries in Germany, would become unexpected targets as the anti-Communist fervor intensified across the U.S.

Concerns had escalated to the point that government employees had to swear they were not Communist. Television networks made their employees sign loyalty oaths. Public media encouraged people to report anyone suspected of being “red.””

Excerpt from The_Pittsburgh_Courier_Sat__May_31__1952_

Excerpt from The_Pittsburgh_Courier_Sat__May_31__1952_

Lists were compiled by private groups as well as government agencies.  Celebrities were especially put under a spotlight.  People were blacklisted. They lost their jobs.  People were threatened with jail and expulsion from the country.

None more so than Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy fanned the nation’s fears, with his fervent accusations of subversive activities at home and abroad.  In David Caute’s book, The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War, he describes McCarthy’s interest in the State Department libraries, places where he believed Soviet and communist-leaning propaganda was being distributed.

McCarthy’s two aides, Roy Cohn and David Schine, would embark on a highly publicized tour of numerous European cities “striking at the cultural centers known as America House. … A major purge occurred in Berlin and throughout West Germany where the [United States Information Agency] had 40 branch libraries visited by an estimated 15 million people in the course of 1952.” He goes on to quote a 1953 Herald Tribune reporter as writing, “The burning of books is now progressing merrily in all American diplomatic missions abroad for all to see.

Russian American Vera Micheles Dean was head researcher for the New York-based, and anti-Communist, organization Foreign Policy Association.  In 1953, when her books were ordered pulled from the Amerika Haus libraries by the State Department, she put two questions to Secretary of State Dulles:  Who was responsible for drawing up the list of proscribed books? On what grounds were her writings forbidden?

In a 1953 article in opposition to McCarthy’s attacks against the libraries, correspondent Raymond Wilcove writes:  “More than 35 million people in 67 countries continue to throng America’s overseas libraries as Congress debates their value. Those who have seen them in operation say they provide America’s best show-window to the world.

Horne would later share that he remembered his phone calls from Cohn.  While he did not share the detail of the conversations, he was not complimentary about the interaction.  Despite the purge, in the end, the Amerika Haus libraries would survive McCarthy.  McCarthy would not survive Edward R. Murrow.

Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow

In the 1950s, on his CBS program See It Now, developed with colleague Fred Friendly, Murrow produced a series of reports about McCarthy’s activities.  His March 9, 1954 broadcast is widely hailed as one of television’s great moments.  Murrow began the report with these words,

Because a report on Senator McCarthy is by definition controversial, we want to say exactly what we mean to say, and I request your permission to read from the script whatever remarks Murrow and Friendly may make. If the Senator feels that we have done violence to his words or pictures and so desires to speak, to answer himself, an opportunity will be afforded him on this program. Our working thesis tonight is this question: If this fight against Communism is made a fight between America’s two great political parties, the American people know that one of these parties will be destroyed, and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.”

Having been diligent at collecting film and audio clips of the Senator speaking in public, Murrow proceeded to air clips of the Senator, in his own words, making statements in one setting that he makes very differently in another. Murrow remarked,  “On one thing the Senator has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, interviewed many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to Communism, investigated and substantially demoralized the present State Department …

Murrow was dogged in his examination of the Senator, finally concluding, “No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

Pete Seeger Before McCarthy

Pete Seeger Before McCarthy Hearing

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

Langston Hughes Before McCarthy

Langston Hughes Before McCarthy Hearing

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.”

McCarthy’s influence waned. By the end of the year he would be censured by Senate.  In 1957 he died at the age of 48.  The libraries that he had so maligned were still going strong.  In 1959,  journalist Tom A. Cullen would write: “I have just visited the American “spy factory” in West Berlin.  That’s what the Communists call Amerika Haus, the new $250,000 United States Information Center.  But in an afternoon there I could find nothing more sinister than a few gray-haired grannies reading newspapers.  Or maybe it’s American jazz that’s sinister – there was a whole group of eager German youths listening to the latest long-playing jazz discs from the States.

Throughout this period, Joseph Horne’s foreign service activities would take him from Frankfurt, Germany to Genoa, Italy where he served as Public Affairs Officer. Intermittent time would be spent in the U.S. as his family grew.  In approximately 1957 or 1958 he would be assigned as Cultural Affairs Officer in Bangalore, India.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy would appoint Edward R. Murrow as director of the United States Information Agency.  “Edward R. Murrow was my boss,” Horne would tell his son. India during this time, like much of the world, was going through great change. More to follow in the next Interlude.

 

Sources & Additional Readings

Amerika Haus: The First Fifty Years

History of the Amerika Haus

http://ericcarleblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/amerika-haus.html

DAI Heidelberg Library & USA Information

Information Bulletin April 1949

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War … by David Caute, page 26

Joseph McCarthy

Cohn & Schine Time Cover 1954

Vera Micheles Dean

Edward R. Murrow addresses Joseph McCarthy full video

Transcript of Murrow addressing McCarthy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Control_Act_of_1954

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »