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Here's To You Jesusa! by Elena Poniatowska. New York. 2001. Farrar Straus Giroux. Translated from the Spanish by Deanna Heikkinen. 303 pages. Jacket design by Leslie Goldman. Jacket photograph courtesy of Fototeca Nacional del INAH. Author photograph (c) Jerry Bauer. 0374168199. Original title: Hasta no verte Jesusa mio!, 1969 - Ediciones Era, Mexico.

 

0374168199FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

     Elena Poniatowska’s long-awaited HERE’S TO YOU, JESUSA! is a rich, sensitive, and compelling translation of her groundbreaking testimonial novel, Hasta no verte Jesusa mio!. First published in 1969, this blend of documentary and fiction blurred the boundaries of conventional genres, providing a new means of challenging official history and changing the path of Mexican literature. Based on Josefina Bórquez, a working-class woman whose difficult life spanned some of the seminal events in early-twentieth-century Mexican history, Poniatowska’s Jesusa is a tough, coarse-mouthed, cantankerous character who pushes contradiction to its limits. Mystical yet practical, she faces the obstacles in her path with gritty determination. A native of Oaxaca, Jesusa loses her mother at a young age, and she lives with her father until one of his girlfriends stabs her. Moved to her godmother’s house, where she serves as a maid, Jesusa is reunited with her father during the Mexican Revolution, and joins the cavalry unit in the army of General Jesus Carranza. She marries another soldier, a chronic womanizer who systematically abuses and finally abandons her. After the Revolution, embittered by its failure to live up to his promises to the poor, Jesusa finds work in Mexico City, first as a domestic, then in a series of factories, and begins her long history of run-ins with the police. Poniatowska documents a life of brutal deprivation, extraordinary hardship, and hardscrabble humor while providing a unique perspective on politics and the place of women in twentieth-century Mexico. Reprinted more than twenty-eight times in the original Spanish, HERE’S TO YOU, JESUSA! stands as a classic of Mexican literature. ‘Elena Poniatowska is one of Mexico’s leading literary figures.’ - Robin Lippincott, The New York Times Book Review. ‘HERE’S TO YOU, JESUSA! is a journey. Traveling through the many lives hidden inside the life of a woman, the trip goes deep into the many secret Mexicos which Mexico conceals. Warning to all readers: no return tickets will ever be available.’ - Eduardo Galeano, author of MEMORY OF FIRE.

 

Poniatowska ElenaElena Poniatowski (born May 19, 1932) is a French-born Mexican journalist and author, specializing in works on social and political issues focused on those considered to be disenfranchised especially women and the poor. She was born in Paris to upper class parents, including her mother whose family fled Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. She left France for Mexico when she was ten to escape the Second World War. When she was eighteen and without a university education, she began writing for the newspaper Excélsior, doing interviews and society columns. Despite the lack of opportunity for women from the 1950s to the 1970s, she evolved to writing about social and political issues in newspapers, books in both fiction and nonfiction form. Her best known work is La noche de Tlatelolco (The night of Tlatelolco, the English translation was titled 'Massacre in Mexico') about the repression of the 1968 student protests in Mexico City. She is considered to be “Mexico's grande dame of letters” and is still an active writer.

 

 


 

 

 

On Sociology and the Black Community by W. E. B. Du Bois. Chicago. 1978. University Of Chicago Press. 320 pages. hardcover. 0226507963.

 

0226507963FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Throughout his long life, W. E. B. Du Bois was an active sociologist as well as a historian, writer, poet, editor, journalist, educator, and civil rights advocate. His sociological writings stand alone as a significant body of empirical research on black Americans during the early years of the twentieth century. Despite his pioneering work, Du Bois’s sociological contributions have been overshadowed by his role as a civil rights crusader. With this volume, Dan Green and Edwin Driver make available to sociologists and other interested scholars a representative selection from Du Bois’s most productive years as a sociologist (1896—1910), including many papers that are now out of print and difficult to obtain. Du Bois’s primary concern as a sociologist was to develop a science of sociology which used an inductive, empirical approach and emulated the orientation of the physical sciences. He believed that empirical sociologists could alleviate race problems by careful, scientific studies of American blacks. He encouraged small studies of isolated communities of blacks, arguing that when the field was limited in this manner, observation and measurement were possible. An early series of publications which Du Bois edited, The Atlanta Studies, initiated the technique of measuring social change through continuous resurveys of particular social phenomena. The collection begins with a group of says outlining the tasks of sociology. In these writings, Du Bois reviews the twelfth census and explores the problems facing blacks in America. The next section provides an examination of black communities in northern and southern regions, and includes a selection from THE PHILADELPHIA NEGRO, a sociological study of the largely black seventh ward in Philadelphia and one of the earliest empirical monographs in American sociology. Section three is devoted to black culture and creativity, and in the final section Du Bois speculates on the changing patterns in race relations.

 

Du Bois W E BW. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was internationally renowned as a writer, scholar, and activist. Among his published works are THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLKS, JOHN BROWN, and BLACK RECONSTRUCTION: AN ESSAY TOWARD A HISTORY OF THE PART WHICH BLACK FOLK PLAYED IN THE ATTEMPT TO RECONSTRUCT DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, 1860—1880. He also wrote other major fiction, including DARK PRINCESS.

 

 

DAN S. GREEN is associate professor of sociology at the University of Arkansas. Pine Bluff.

 

 

EDWIN D. DRIVER is professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts.

 


 

 

 

Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes On The State Of The Union by June Jordan. New York. 1992. Pantheon Books. 228 pages. November 1992. hardcover. 0679406255. Jacket illustration and design by Royce Becker.

 

0679406255FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Distinguished African-American poet, activist, essayist, and teacher, June Jordan gives us an extraordinary new collection of essays on a rich variety of contemporary American themes, like Barbara Ehrenreich’s THE WORST YEARS OF OUR LIVES or Angela Davis’s WOMEN, RACE, AND CLASS, TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES offers a bracing account of life as it is lived in America today. Whether she is discoursing on growing up in Brooklyn with immigrant parents searching for the American dream; the myths of race and class so pervasive in the American psyche; her formation as a writer confronting the romance of the individual artist; Martin Luther King. Jr. and Jesse Jackson; the poverty of American education; the fall of Mike Tyson; or Anita Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, June Jordan is always incendiary. Her writing is all of itJordan June remarkable for its preternatural clarity. Here are essays that constitute a major writer’s manifesto of hope, anger, and visionary power.

 

June Jordan (1936-2002) was a professor of African American studies at U.C. Berkeley, and author of 11 books of poetry, five children's books, a novel, three plays, a memoir, and five volumes of political essays.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara. New York. 1972. 177 pages. October 1972. hardcover. 0394482018. Jacket design by Karin Gurski Batten. 

 

0394482018FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   No writer anywhere understands controls, and expresses better than Toni Cade Bambara the Black Style - a style at once ineffable and immediately recognizable. Survivalist, graceful, hip, human, ironic, generous, tortured - such terms only approximate its essence. In these fifteen superb stories, her touch is so sure, her ear so keen, we are turned up, on, and inside out as we move from uptown New York to small-town North Carolina, from sassy black girls to cunning old men, from basements to F.A.O. Schwartz. Sharing the world of what she calls her ‘straight-up fiction’ is a stunning experience. ‘She has captured it all, how we really talk, how we really are; and done it with both love and respect. I laughed until I cried, then laughed again. I loved it! She must love us very much.’ - Lucille Clifton. ‘You’d hardly call them ‘stories.’ These are shavins off our Black experience - like chocolate. Bittersweet, that is.’ - Mari Evans.

 

 

Bambara Toni CadeTONI CADE BAMBARA was a New Yorker who grew up in Harlem, Bedford-Stuy, Jersey City and attended several public, private, and boarding schools in New York State, Jersey, and the South. She once described herself as ‘the mother of Karma (who will be two in the spring), the sister of Walter Cade the painter, and a writer since childhood who nevertheless planned to be a doctor, lawyer, artist, musician, and everything else.’ The name Bambara she took from a signature on a sketchbook she found in her great grandmother’s trunk.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Hard Times by Charles Dickens. New York. 1961. Signet/New American Library. Afterword By Charles Shapiro. CP259. 301 pages. Cover art by Milton Glaser.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

sc hard times cd79   Murdering the Innocent! Facts, Facts, Facts. Teach these children facts, not fancies. Sense, not sentimentality. Conformity, not curiosity. Proof and demonstration, not poetry and drama. On this bleak tenet is run the Gradgrind model day school in HARD TIMES. No other work of Dickens presents so relentless an indictment against the callous greed of the Victorian industrial society and its misapplied utilitarian philosophy as this fiercest of his novels. With savage bitterness Dickens unmasks the hellish industries that imprisoned the bodies of the helpless labor class and the equally satanic institutions that shackled the development of their minds. 'Carlyle never voiced a more burning denunciation of the dismal science of classical economic theory.' - Edgar Johnson. 'This is Karl Marx, Carlyle, Ruskin, Morris, Carpenter, rising up against civilization itself as a disease.' - G. Bernard Shaw.

 

Dickens CharlesCharles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. During his life, his works enjoyed unprecedented fame, and by the twentieth century his literary genius was broadly acknowledged by critics and scholars. His novels and short stories continue to be widely popular.

 


 

 

 

The Buccaneers Of America by Alexander O. Exquemelin. Baltimore. 1969. Penguin Books. Translated From The Dutch By Alexis Brown. With An Introduction By Jack Beeching. L212. 233 pages. The cover shows a detail from 'Battle at Sea' by Jan Peeters.

 

A terrific first-hand account of pirate life during the 17th century.

 

pc bucaneers of americaFROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

   There are few accounts of piracy to equal the book published in Holland by Alexander Exquemelin in 1678. His eye-witness record of the feats of the English, French, and Dutch sea-rovers who ravaged shipping arid terrorized Caribbean settlements in the seventeenth century makes a vivid story of courage, endurance, and inhuman cruelty. And if any figure stands out in this gallery of unhung rogues, it is that of the infamous, romantic Welshman, Sir Henry Morgan, whose exploits were crowned by his impudent seizure of Panama.

 

Exquemelin Alexander OAlexandre Olivier Exquemelin (c. 1645–1707) was a French, Dutch or Flemish writer best known as the author of one of the most important sourcebooks of 17th-century piracy, first published in Dutch as De Americaensche Zee-Roovers, in Amsterdam, by Jan ten Hoorn, in 1678. Born about 1645, it is likely that Exquemelin was a native of Harfleur, France, who on his return from buccaneering settled in Holland, possibly because he was a Huguenot. In 1666 he was engaged by the French West India Company and went to Tortuga, where he stayed for three years. There he enlisted with the buccaneers, in particular with the band of Henry Morgan, whose confidante he was, probably as a barber-surgeon, and remained with them until 1674. Shortly afterwards he returned to Europe and settled in Amsterdam where he qualified professionally as a surgeon, his name appearing on the 1679 register of the Dutch Surgeons' Guild. However, he was later once again in the Caribbean as his name appears on the muster-roll as a surgeon in the attack on Cartagena in 1697. The bibliographic legacy of Exquemelin's 'History of the Bouccaneers of America' is complex. The German translation, published in 1679 is a faithful translation of the original Dutch. A Spanish translation, adds new material quite freely and without acknowledgment, and mistranslates the Dutch frequently, while the English translation of 1684 appears to be as much a translation of the Spanish edition, including most of its deviations from the Dutch original. The French translation of 1686 is substantially a new work with many additions, including new pirate biographies and complete rearrangements in some sections incorporating new material of unknown source. Subsequent editions and translations added additional new material and whole biographies. For example, he wrote about the wrongs committed by the Scottish pirate Jonathan Mcloud. For a comparison of the 1678 Dutch edition and the 1686 French translation, see the 1974 translation and interpretation by the Danish author and historian Erik Kjærsgaard. For a contemporary reprinting, see Esquemeling, Alexander O., The Buccaneers of America. A true account of the most remarkable assaults committed of late years upon the coasts of West Indies by the Buccaneers of Jamaica and Tortuga (both English and French), containing also Basil Ringrose’s account of the dangerous voyage and bold assaults of Captain Bartholomew Sharp and others. Peter Benchley, in his book The Island, referred to Exquemelin at length, having used his work in his research.

 


 

 

 

 

The Outsider by Ernesto Sabato. New York. 1950. Knopf. Translated From The Spanish By Harriet De Onis. 177 pages. Jacket design by ALVIN LUSTIG. Originally published in Spanish as El Tunel, 1945.

 

outsider sabato knopf 1950FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

   'I am Juan Pablo Castel, the painter who killed Maria Iribarne. Everybody knows that I killed Maria. But nobody knows how I became acquainted with her, just what the relations between us were, and how I developed the idea of killing her. I shall try to tell everything impartially.' So begins this compact, explosive short novel by a new star in the literary galaxy. The rest of the book is the pell-mell, at times breathless explanation of how Castel first saw Maria, how he searched the streets, buildings, and byways until he found her again, how she became his mistress, how he was involved with her cousin and the blind scholar to whom she was married - and how and why he had, at last, to kill her. Albert Camus recommended to his French publishers that they bring out this extraordinary piece of psychological yarn-spinning by a young Argentine. We are proud to bring it to the attention of American readers. A book of genuine literary distinction, The Outsider is also a real spellbinder.

 

 

 

 

0345351924Sabato, Ernesto. The Tunnel. New York. 1988. Available Press. 0345351924. Originally Published As The Outsider by Knopf In 1950. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. 138 pages. paperback. Cover by Alicia Segal/Sevil.  

 


FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

THE TUNNEL is one of the most highly regarded short novels of the twentieth century. Admired by such writers as Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene on its first publication in 1948, it has been translated into most of the major languages of the world, but has been long out of print in English for several decades. Now is a fresh and compelling translation by Margaret Sayers Peden, it is available for a new readership.

 

 

 

9780143106531Sabato, Ernesto. The Tunnel. New York. 2011. Penguin Books. 9780143106531. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. 140 pages. paperback.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

An unforgettable psychological novel of obsessive love, The Tunnel was championed by Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene upon its publication in 1948 and went on to become an international bestseller. At its center is an artist named Juan Pablo Castel, who recounts from his prison cell his murder of a woman named María Iribarne. Obsessed from the moment he sees her examining one of his paintings, Castel fantasizes for months about how they might meet again. When he happens upon her one day, a relationship develops that convinces him of their mutual love. But Castel's growing paranoia leads him to destroy the one thing he truly cares about.

 

 

 

Sabato ErnestoErnesto Sabato (June 24, 1911 – April 30, 2011) was an Argentine novelist, essayist, painter and physicist. According to the BBC he "won some of the most prestigious prizes in Hispanic literature" and "became very influential in the literary world throughout Latin America". Upon his death El País dubbed him the "last classic writer in Argentine literature". Sabato was distinguished by his bald pate and brush moustache and wore tinted spectacles and open-necked shirts.  He was born in Rojas, a small town in Buenos Aires Province. Sabato began his studies at the Colegio Nacional de La Plata. He then studied physics at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, where he earned a PhD. He then attended the Sorbonne in Paris and worked at the Curie Institute. After World War II, he lost interest in science and started writing. Sabato's oeuvre includes three novels: El Túnel (1948), Sobre héroes y tumbas (1961) and Abaddón el exterminador (1974). The first of these received critical acclaim upon its publication from, among others, fellow writers Albert Camus and Thomas Mann. The second is regarded as his masterpiece, though he nearly burnt it like many of his other works. Sabato's essays cover topics as diverse as metaphysics, politics and tango. His writings led him to receive many international prizes, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize (Spain), the Legion of Honour (France), the Jerusalem Prize (Israel), and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (France). At the request of President Raúl Alfonsín, he presided over the CONADEP Commission that investigated the fate of those who suffered forced disappearance during the Dirty War of the 1970s. The result of these findings was published in 1984, bearing the title Nunca Más (Never Again).

 


 

 

 

Memoir Of Italo Svevo by Livia Veneziani Svevo. Marlboro. 1990. Marlboro Press. Preface by P. N. Furbank. Translated from the Italian by Isabel Quigly. 178 pages. 0910395578.

 

0910395578FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

    Italo Svevo, who died in 1928 and whose books include THE CONFESSIONS OF ZENO and AS A MAN GROWS OLDER, has now taken his place alongside Kafka, Musil and Proust in modern European literature. This memoir of him by his wife of thirty-three years offers a discreet yet revealing and often humorous portrait of an enigmatic man who was simultaneously a successful businessman and, almost until the last moment, an unsuccessful writer. Livia Veneziani had known her husband's family as a girl before marrying into it, and she set down her book after his death, surrounded by his unpublished papers and copious correspondence. She was also familiar with Svevo's earliest associates and friends, and with the literary and political circles in which he was an active participant. She was thus able to supply the essential local background for understanding Italo Svevo and his largely autobiographical work, besides painting an engaging portrait of a man and his marriage. In 1907, at the age of forty-six, Svevo became a private pupil of James Joyce who was teaching English in Trieste. The two men struck up a friendship, documented in this memoir, which also records how Joyce’s influence, mainly in Paris, brought about the long-delayed successful publication of Svevo’s work. P.N. Furbank is the author of ITALO SVEVO: THE MAN AND THE WRITER (1966) and of the standard biography of E.M. Forster. ‘This memoir first appeared in Italy more than thirty years ago. It is good to have it in English of last [...] a perceptive and generous tribute from one connoisseur of the ordinary universe to another.’ - Paul Bailey.

 

Svevo Livia VenezianiLivia Veneziani Svevo was born in 1874 to a family of middle-class Catholics. After a childhood spent partly in Marseilles, she returned to Trieste with her family in 1885. At age eighteen she struck up a friendship with a distant Jewish cousin named Ettore Schmitz (Italo Svevo), a bank employee and would-be writer thirteen years her senior. They married in 1896. Declared a Jew under Italian racial laws, she fled Trieste during World War II and wrote Memoir of Italo Svevo while in hiding.

 

 


 

 

 

Havoc by Tom Kristensen. Madison. 1968. University of Wisconsin Press. Translated from the Danish by Carl Malmberg. Introduction by Borge Gedso Madsen. 427 pages.

 

havocFROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

    That a man should reduce his life to havoc in the hope of finding his soul among the ruins-such seems to be the one course left open to the intellectual Ole Jastrau, living in Denmark in the 1920’s. He experiences the failure of all the nostrums men resorted to in the tormented time between the wars to cure the pervasive malaise of disillusionment. Religion promises him regeneration but offers instead the monotonous logic of a dogmatic theology. The great rebellion of the workers disintegrates into a comic spectacle in the streets of Copenhagen; and tired, disillusioned radicals retreat into their own intellectual circle to talk endlessly around the clichés of a failed ideology. ‘Beware of the soul and cultivate it not,’ runs the motto of this novel, ‘for doing so can be a form of vice.’ For Jastrau only complete chaos, havoc, remains. The progress of his degradation and the sickness of the moral and intellectual milieu that provokes him to such an awesome self-destruction Kristensen records with detail so accurately observed, insight so ironic, and symbolism so powerful as to compel the conclusion that Jastrau’s course through the chaotic 1920’S, if disastrous, was the meaningful response of a sensitive man to a time that was out of joint. Kristensen described in HAVOC a period and a society that he knew intimately. HAVOC is a valuable and significant addition to the literature in English of the period in our history that did much to shape the modern consciousness. But it is more than that. Although the novel is peculiarly a product of Denmark in the twenties, Kristensen’s portrait of the sensitive man’s alienation from his society and hisKristensen Tom compulsion to create his identity out of the anarchy of his own soul-themes that continue to inform contemporary literature-makes Kristensen the spiritual contemporary not only of Eliot, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, but of Camus, Beckett, and Bellow as well.

 

Born in 1893, reared in Copenhagen, and awarded the M.A. degree in Danish, English, and German in 1919, Kristensen established himself firmly in the Danish world of letters in the 1920’s with a remarkably versatile offering of poetry, fiction, a travel book on Spain, and critical essays on literature for the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken. In 1930, at the close of that highly productive decade, he published his finest novel, HAVOC, now available for the first time in English. Readers of HAVOC will not be surprised to learn that Tom Kristensen is considered one of Denmark’s most distinguished living writers.

 


 

 

 

Tolson, Melvin B.. A Gallery of Harlem Portraits. Columbia. 1979. University of Missouri Press. 0826202764. Edited and with an afterword by Robert M. Farnsworth. 276 pages. hardcover. Jacket art by Jerry Dadds.

 


0826202764FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

A Gallery of Harlem Portraits is Melvin B. Tolson's first book-length collection of poems. It was written in the 1930s when Tolson was immersed in the writings of the Harlem Renaissance, the subject of his master's thesis at Columbia University, and will provide scholars and critics a rich insight into how Tolson's literary picture of Harlem evolved. Modeled on Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology and showing the influence of Browning and Whitman, it is rooted in the Harlem Renaissance in its fascination with Harlem's cultural and ethnic diversity and its use of musical forms. Robert M. Farnsworth's afterword elucidates these and other literary influences. Tolson eventually attempted to incorporate the technical achievements of T.S. Eliot and the New Criticism into a complex modern poetry which would accurately represent the extraordinary tensions, paradoxes, and sophistication, both highbrow and lowbrow, of modern Harlem. As a consequence his position in literary history is problematical. The publication of this earliest of his manuscripts will help clarify Tolson's achievement and surprise many of his readers with its readily accessible, warmly human poetic portraiture.

 

collier harlem gallery  0813918642 no dw   harlem gallery book 1 the curator

 

 


Tolson Melvin BMELVIN B. TOLSON (February 6, 1898 – August 29, 1966) was an American Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician. His work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems. His work was influenced by his study of the Harlem Renaissance, although he spent nearly all of his career in Texas and Oklahoma. Tolson is the protagonist of the 2007 biopic The Great Debaters. The film, produced by Oprah Winfrey, is based on his work with students at predominantly-black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and their debate with University of Southern California(USC). Tolson is portrayed by Denzel Washington, who also directed the film. Born in Moberly, Missouri, Tolson was one of four children of Reverend Alonzo Tolson, a Methodist minister, and Lera (Hurt) Tolson, a seamstress of African-Creek ancestry. Alonzo Tolson was also of mixed race, the son of an enslaved woman and her white master. He served at various churches in the Missouri and Iowa area until settling longer in Kansas City. Reverend Tolson studied throughout his life to add to the limited education he had first received, even taking Latin, Greek and Hebrew by correspondence courses. Both parents emphasized education for their children. Melvin Tolson graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City in 1919. He enrolled at Fisk University but transferred to Lincoln University, Pennsylvania the next year for financial reasons. Tolson graduated with honors in 1924. In 1922, Melvin Tolson married Ruth Southall of Charlottesville, Virginia, whom he had met as a student at Lincoln University. Their first child was Melvin Beaunorus Tolson, Jr., who, as an adult, became a professor at the University of Oklahoma. He was followed by Arthur Lincoln, who as an adult became a professor at Southern University; Wiley Wilson; and Ruth Marie Tolson. All children were born by 1928. In 1930-31 Tolson took a leave of absence from teaching to study for a Master's degree at Columbia University. His thesis project, "The Harlem Group of Negro Writers", was based on his extensive interviews with members of the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry was strongly influenced by his time in New York. He completed his work and was awarded the master's degree in 1940. After graduation, Tolson and his wife moved to Marshall, Texas, where he taught speech and English at Wiley College (1924–1947). The small, historically black Methodist Episcopal college had a high reputation among blacks in the South and Tolson became one of its stars. In addition to teaching English, Tolson used his high energies in several directions at Wiley. He built an award-winning debate team, the Wiley Forensic Society. During their tour in 1935, they broke through the color barrier and competed against the University of Southern California, which they defeated. There he also co-founded the black intercollegiate Southern Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts, and directed the theater club. In addition, he coached the junior varsity football team. Tolson mentored students such as James L. Farmer, Jr. and Heman Sweatt, who later became civil rights activists. He encouraged his students not only to be well-rounded people but also to stand up for their rights. This was a controversial position in the segregated U.S. South of the early and mid-20th century. In 1947 Tolson began teaching at Langston University, a historically black college in Langston, Oklahoma, where he worked for the next 17 years. He was a dramatist and director of the Dust Bowl Theater at the university. One of his students at Langston was Nathan Hare, the black studies pioneer who became the founding publisher of the journal The Black Scholar. In 1947 Liberia appointed Tolson its Poet Laureate. In 1953 he completed a major epic poem in honor of the nation's centennial, the Libretto for the Republic of Liberia. Tolson entered local politics and served three terms as mayor of Langston from 1954 to 1960. In 1947, Tolson was accused of having been active in organizing farm laborers and tenant farmers during the late 1930s (though the nature of his activities is unclear) and of having radical leftist associations. The film, The Great Debaters, portrays him as having been a possible Communist. In the film, Tolson's arrest for union organizing galvanizes the black community of the town of Marshall, Texas. Tolson was a man of impressive intellect who created poetry that was “funny, witty, humoristic, slapstick, rude, cruel, bitter, and hilarious,” as reviewer Karl Shapiro described the Harlem Gallery. In 1965, Tolson was appointed to a two-year term at Tuskegee Institute, where he was Avalon Poet. He died after cancer surgery in Dallas, Texas, on August 29, 1966. He was buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma. From 1930 on, Tolson began writing poetry. He also wrote two plays by 1937, although he did not continue to work in this genre. In 1941, he published his poem "Dark Symphony" in Atlantic Monthly. Some critics believe it is his greatest work, in which he compared and contrasted African-American and European-American history. In 1944 Tolson published his first poetry collection Rendezvous with America, which includes Dark Symphony. He was especially interested in historic events which had fallen into obscurity. In the late 1940s, after he left his teaching position at Wiley, The Washington Tribune hired Tolson to write a weekly column, which he called "Cabbage and Caviar". Tolson's Libretto for the Republic of Liberia (1953), another major work, is in the form of an epic poem in an eight-part, rhapsodic sequence. It is considered a major modernist work. Tolson's final work to appear in his lifetime, the long poem Harlem Gallery, was published in 1965. The poem consists of several sections, each beginning with a letter of the Greek alphabet. The poem concentrates on African-American life. It was a striking change from his first works, and was composed in a jazz style with quick changes and intellectually dense, rich allusions. In 1979 a collection of Tolson's poetry was published posthumously, entitled A Gallery of Harlem Portraits. These were poems written during his year in New York. They represented a mixture of various styles, including short narratives in free verse. This collection was influenced by the loose form of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. An urban, racially diverse and culturally rich community is presented in A Gallery of Harlem Portraits. With increasing interest in Tolson and his literary period, in 1999 the University of Virginia published a collection of his poetry entitled Harlem Gallery and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson, edited by Raymond Nelson. Robert M. Farnsworth is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and an author in the genres of biography and literary criticism. He has written about prominent literary figures and civil rights activists including Melvin Tolson and Leon Jordan. Farnsworth was born in 1929 in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a PhD from Tulane University in 1957. Farnsworth wrote a biography of assassinated civil rights leader Leon Jordan. Jordan had helped to found a political organization known as Freedom, Inc. before his long-unsolved murder. Farnsworth had met Jordan in 1961 and said he was "in awe of him." He also wrote a biography of poet Melvin B. Tolson titled Melvin B. Tolson, 1898-1966: Plain and Poetic Prophecy. The book was reviewed in World Literature Today. In Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947, author David Gold wrote, "Robert M. Farnsworth's finely balanced and carefully researched biography does little worse than suggest that Tolson's love for argumentation may have intimidated his children, who nonetheless respected him and loved him dearly." Farnsworth also edited Caviar and Cabbage: Selected Columns by Melvin B. Tolson from the Washington Tribune, 1937-1944. The book included selections from a weekly newspaper column on black culture that Tolson had written for seven years. He authored a biography of journalist Edgar Snow titled From Vagabond to Journalist: Edgar Snow in Asia, 1928--1941. The work was described in Kirkus Reviews as a "resonant briefing on an American who bore eloquent witness to a turning point in Asian history." The book was one of two Snow biographies published in 1996. Farnsworth is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

 


 

 

 


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