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by John Edgar Tidwell

 

After Winter

For more than sixty years, Sterling A. Brown, poet, folklorist, cultural critic, literary historian, teacher, and raconteur, profoundly shaped the development of African American literary and cultural studies.  After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling A. Brown, a book-length collection of new and exemplary writings coedited by John Edgar Tidwell and Steven C. Tracy, provides the most extensive effort to recover, reassess, and reassert Brown’s enduring significance for contemporary scholars, students, and nonacademic readers too.  This engaging recuperative effort is structured around four distinctive but cogent features: (1) new and previously published essays that sum up contemporary approaches to the various genres of Brown’s works; (2) interviews with Brown and with his acquaintances and contemporaries who articulate his influential aesthetic vision and communicate his importance as a scholar, creative writer, and teacher; (3) two discographies of source material that innovatively extend the study of Brown’s acclaimed poetry by focusing on recordings of folk materials relevant to the subject matter, style, and meaning of individual poems from his oeuvre; and (4) an updated version of the most comprehensive bibliography of Brown’s published writings, by Robert G. O’Meally.  After Winter aptly demonstrates how Brown, in words from one of his familiar poems, continues to “just get hold of us dataway.”


monatge

Frank Marshall Davis (1905-87) was a central figure in the black press, working as reporter and editor for the Atlanta World , the Associated Negro Press, the Chicago Star , and the Honolulu Record. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis, A Voice of the Black Press presents a selection of Davis 's nonfiction, providing an unprecedented insight into one journalist's ability to reset the terms of public conversation and frame the news to open up debate among African Americans and all Americans. His commentary on race relations, music, literature, and American culture was precise, impassioned, and engaged. The height of World War II found Davis boldly questioning the nature of America 's potential postwar relations and their meaning for African Americans and the nation. His challenge of race as a social construct eventually led him to disavow the idea of race altogether. Blues and jazz, he argued, were responses to social conditions and served as weapons of racial integration. This radical vision was complemented by his book reviews, which commented on how literature reshapes one's understanding of the world. Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for racial and economic difference. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis reveals a writer in touch with the most salient issues defining his era and his desire to insert them into the public sphere.


monatge


Sterling A. Brown, poet, essayist, critic, teacher, and raconteur looms as a pivotal figure in African American letters. His writing established a new vocabulary, one that created a complex portrait of African American lives and a deep knowledge of folk speech and forms. One of his great works, however, a nonfiction study of mid-century black life in the South, was never completed and never published. Brown scholars Tidwell and Sanders have pieced together from extensive archival sources the book Brown envisioned, and present it here for the first time. During the Second World War, Brown traveled widely across the South, immersing himself in the beliefs, culture, customs, and mores of a people historians had distorted or, worse, ignored. So rich and varied were the experiences that only a book hybrid in form could contain them. Not unlike James Agee’s depiction of southern sharecroppers in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Negro Looks at the Southemploys oral history, documentary, reportage, autobiography, vernacular philosophy, ethnography, and literary sketches in order to depict the struggles and strengths of everyday black people. Thus, Brown created a remarkable document of the 1940s and provided an intimate collage of America’s persistent geographical and racial divide.


Frank Marshall Davis (1905-87) was a central figure in the black press, working as reporter and editor for the Atlanta World , the Associated Negro Press, the Chicago Star , and the Honolulu Record. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis, A Voice of the Black Press presents a selection of Davis 's nonfiction, providing an unprecedented insight into one journalist's ability to reset the terms of public conversation and frame the news to open up debate among African Americans and all Americans. His commentary on race relations, music, literature, and American culture was precise, impassioned, and engaged. The height of World War II found Davis boldly questioning the nature of America 's potential postwar relations and their meaning for African Americans and the nation. His challenge of race as a social construct eventually led him to disavow the idea of race altogether. Blues and jazz, he argued, were responses to social conditions and served as weapons of racial integration. This radical vision was complemented by his book reviews, which commented on how literature reshapes one's understanding of the world. Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for racial and economic difference. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis reveals a writer in touch with the most salient issues defining his era and his desire to insert them into the public sphere.




Cogently framed by John Edgar Tidwell's insightful introduction, Black Moods: Collected Poems recovers the rich variety of Frank Marshall Davis's poetic expression, much of it informed by his political convictions and by his multifaceted work as a journalist.  His early work helped promote Chicago as a site of the New Negro Renaissance in the 1930s; late in his career the Black Arts Movement welcomed him as "the long lost father of modern Black poetry."  Between these two signposts, Davis engaged in a tireless struggle for social, intellectual, political, and aesthetic freedom, lending his considerable energies and intelligence to the fight against racial segregation, anti-Semitism, labor exploitation, and other injustices.



Livin' the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet chronicles Frank Marshall Davis's battle to overcome a negative self-image and to construct a healthy, self-assured life.  Realizing early on that the white world aimed to silence Black men, Davis devoted his life to self-empowerment through the written and spoken word and to vigorous promotion of Black expression through art and activism.  The common thread connecting the disparate events of Davis's life is the blues.  By rooting itself in a blues sensibility, Davis's life story is one of triumph over economic hardship and racial discrimination.