Mr. Smith Could Use your Help

Dear Friends,

The nephew of a friend of mine is a new high school English teacher in the DC area and he’s building a small library in his classroom.  If you are looking for a way to make a difference in young person’s life, consider donating a few books for Mr. Smith’s library. He has a wish list at Amazon.com. Please take a look and consider donating today.  Cheers!

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A Jazz Star in the Making

This past June, and also in 2010, my niece participated in the University of North Texas Vocal Jazz Workshop.  The girl’s got talent and my sister and I are her biggest fans.  Last year she sang “Nature Boy” and this year she sang “My Funny Valentine.”  Paris Rutherford, UNT Division of Jazz Studies Professor Emeritus, accompanied her on piano.  Take a moment and listen to both “Nature Boy” and “My Funny Valentine.”  Enjoy!

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Chicago Blues Camp for Kids

Chicago’s PBS station profiles Fernando Jones’ Blues Camp, a summer camp for aspiring blues musicians.  Sounds like the kids had a lot fun!

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Black Swan Records

Check out this New York Times article about a 1920s black-owned record company in Harlem.

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Exhibit | Malcolm X: A Search for Truth

Malcolm X: A Search for Truth is  on view at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture through January 7, 2012.  The exhibit is a reprise of the 2005 Malcolm X: A Search for Truth.  The 2011 brochure provides an overview of the exhibit.  And, be sure to view the 2005 exhibit web site for additional informational including an Educational Resource Guide.

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Exhibit | Romare Bearden: The Soul of Blackness – A Centennial Tribute

As mentioned on April 2 and June 9, 2011 is Romare Bearden’s centennial birth year.  Another exhibit has opened to honor his magnificent work.   Romare Bearden: The Soul of Blackness – A Centennial Tribute  is on view at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City through January 12, 2012.  The exhibition brochure provides additional details.

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African American Photographs Assembled for the 1900 Paris Exposition

I love old photographs, especially ones taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The African American Photographs Assembled for  the 1900 Paris Exposition is one of my favorite collections.  The photographs, housed at the Library of Congress and available online, were commissioned by W. E. B. Du Bois and Thomas J. Calloway, to show the world the progress of African Americans post emancipation.

Most of the images are individual and group portraits of what I like to call prosperous looking Negroes.  Many of the individual portraits are of unknown men, women and children.  The group portraits represent academia, business, and civic organizations and include a Howard University graduating law class; the Board of Directors of the Coleman Manufacturing Company; Claflin University’s Brass Band, and the Negro Officers of the Women’s League in Newport, R.I. just to name a few.  There are beautiful images of churches, buildings at universities and homes of Black leaders.  Of course the images of libraries at Fisk, Claflin, and Howard warm my heart, even if they have the appearance of being staged.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC.

If I had to pick just one favorite of the nearly 500 images, it would have to be the one to your right, titled, “African American woman, three-quarter length portrait, seated with left arm over back of chair, facing front.”  Why this one photo?  One friend calls her my doppelgänger, another friend calls her my ancestress.  I love the ring of ancestress and truly, she looks like she could be my great-grandmother. In truth, I have no idea who she is, other than the fact she lived in Atlanta, Georgia circa 1900.  I discovered the photograph over five years ago and immediately saw a resemblance.  The resemblance is so remarkable, my mother thought I had gone to a studio that specializes in period photographs!  But, seriously I really like the photo and really the whole collection.  I encourage you to peruse the collection at your leisure.  Perhaps you’ll find your twin from 1900!  You can search the collection or you can view by list, gallery, grid or slideshow.

Now, for you old school folks and lovers of books, selected images are included in A Small Nation of People: W. E. B. Du Bois and African American Portraits of Progress, published in 2003.   The book, which includes essays David Levering Lewis and Deborah Willis, is  available in trade paperback and digitally by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. (Sadly, hardcover is out of print.) You can get a preview via GoogleBooks.

For more information about the photographs check out the C-SPAN video of Lewis and Willis discussing A Small Nation of People on October 28, 2003 and a NewsHour transcript of a January 8, 2004 Gwen Ifill  interview with Willis.

Cheers!

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