Discovery of 1st Black Female Novelist

The discovery of the author’s real identity will forever change the history of African-American literature.

Screenshot of The Bondwoman's Narrative

Screenshot of The Bondwoman’s Narrative

(The Root) — Each February the Swann Auction Galleries in New York City holds an auction of rare artifacts from the black past. It features all sorts of treasures, like slave chains and other instruments of torture, daguerreotypes and sepia-tinged photographs, rare books and lithographs and occasionally handwritten manuscripts, usually letters but sometimes something as rare as a work of literature written by a canonical author such as Phillis Wheatley, let’s say. That auction is like taking a trip in a time machine to the black past; think of it as “black to the future.” Anyway, scholars and collectors look forward to receiving the beautifully edited four-color catalog that rare-book dealer Wyatt Houston Day prepares each year for the auction with the same anticipation that children look forward to Christmas morning.

The catalog for 2001 contained an entry that riveted me. It was entitled The Bondwoman’s Narrative, written by a woman named Hannah Crafts. It was claimed to be a “301-page handwritten manuscript purportedly written by a female fugitive slave.” The manuscript was being put up for auction by the estate of my old friend, Howard University librarian and editor Dorothy Porter Wesley, who had actually mentioned the manuscript to me years before when I authenticated the identity of Harriet E. Wilson, who published the novel Our Nig in 1859, still the first novel actually appearing in print and written by a black woman (in this case, by a free Northern woman who had been an indentured servant). Dorothy told me that she had a treasure that was even more rare and valuable than Our Nig tucked away in a file cabinet, but she was too busy to undertake any thorough research about it or its author.

To be honest, I really thought that she was just playing the dozens with me — that is, until I read the Swann catalog. Now here was that same manuscript, which, according to the note in the catalog, Dorothy thought was authentic. I decided that I would purchase it and see.

To avoid elevating the bidding, I asked a friend to bid in my stead. It went for $8,500, a lot of money, I know, but which I gladly paid. And when I read it, cover to cover, nonstop, I understood why Dorothy was so excited. It read like a book that could only have been written by a black woman and a slave. So I decided to devote as much time as I could to authenticating the date the manuscript was written, to find as much detail about the events and places about which she wrote in the novel and hopefully to find the author herself.

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Old, New in East Harlem

Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal Pedestrians cross Lexington Avenue in East Harlem.

Mark Abramson for The Wall Street Journal
Pedestrians cross Lexington Avenue in East Harlem.

‘When Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public-access center for cable TV, expanded to the East Side last year by taking over a decommissioned firehouse at 175 E. 104th St., it sent a signal that East Harlem was ready for prime time.

2½-year restoration of the firehouse kept the historic shell but completely retrofitted the interior with production equipment and high-definition studios for use by area residents. But more importantly, it gave the neighborhood access to technology that has long eluded it.

La Casa Azul bookstore on East 103rd Street

La Casa Azul bookstore on East 103rd Street

“This studio is squarely aimed at breaking the digital divide,” said Daniel Coughlin, MNN’s executive director.

The restoration, however, is also a metaphor for much of what’s happening in the neighborhood these days, as East Harlem becomes increasingly gussied up while its residents struggle to avoid the pitfalls of gentrification.

As development creeps north of 96th Street—the historic dividing line between Spanish Harlem and Yorkville—residents and business owners worry the cultural heritage that so keenly defines the neighborhood will erode. Many locals say they don’t want to see a replication of the gentrification on the Lower East Side.

Manhattan Neighborhood Network's El Barrio Firehouse Center on East 104th Street.

Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s El Barrio Firehouse Center on East 104th Street.

“We need places that are owned and operated by people who know what the community wants and who are answering the call for things that reflect their culture and history,” said Marina Ortiz, executive director of East Harlem Preservation, a advocacy group that promotes the neighborhood’s heritage.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda, a West Coast transplant, opened La Casa Azul bookstore in East Harlem in a two-level brownstone at 143 E. 103rd St. 10 months ago. She was initially inspired to open her store by what she couldn’t find—anything dedicated to Latino literature—and as she developed programming around her customers’ requests, she realized a greater need.

Firehouse Engine 53, on 175 E. 104th Street. Published Credit: FDNY

Firehouse Engine 53, on 175 E. 104th Street. Published Credit: FDNY

“There’s nothing that supported the literary arts in the way I was hoping to find,” she said. “We have locals who come in and say ‘we’ve been here for generations and haven’t had a space like this.’ It is a mission to be part of the community, but a major component of that is to be receptive to the community.”

The store has grown into a cultural gathering spot that has hosted 200 events such as children’s workshops, cooking classes, readings and film screenings.

The balance between new development and such organic, community-based growth is but one issue here as multigenerational shops are replaced by polished retail spaces.

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Film Revisits Swing Era Via Chick Webb

Members of the Savoy Ballroom house band (Courtesy of 'The Savoy King')

Members of the Savoy Ballroom house band (Courtesy of ‘The Savoy King’)

(The Root) — Celebrating the world of swing, The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America revisits the music’s heyday through the life and legacy of Chick Webb, the house-band leader at the legendary Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.

Directed by Jeff Kaufmann and featuring narrations by Bill Cosby and Tyne Daly, The Savoy King intertwines historical anecdotes of Webb with as-of-yet-untold stories of the famed drummer and bandleader.

The Savoy King has screened at this year’s 50th annual New York Film Festival on Sept. 29 and is scheduled to screen again Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m. A panel discussion at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is also set to complement the film’s two showings at NYFF, featuring Webb’s nieces, actress and playwright Gertrude Jeannette and swing choreographer Norma Miller, as well as Richard Gale, the son of Moe Gale, owner of the Savoy Ballroom.

Visit the film’s website. For further information on the film and tickets to The Savoy King at this year’s NYFF, visit the festival’s website.

African-American Art: Why It’s So Unique

art

African American art is really hot and stuffy. there are many reasons here for hot art which we discuss bellow. If we look deep into the mater than we will know about the intensity and culture these are those factors that make is hot and attractive for all people.

Johnson may be known as a low-budget comedy routines and booty-shaking music videos, who led a successful bet, the cable channel he founded that has transformed the first black American billionaire in 2001. Johnson may be known as a low-budget comedy routines and booty-shaking music videos, who led a successful bet, the cable channel he founded the uterus, it has become the first black American billionaire in 2001.

Suspension Den Robert Johnson is an oil from 1930 by an African-American artist named Palmer Hayden. The painting depicts a black American businessman to shine his shoes. The painting depicts a black American businessman to shine his shoes.

The issue is smartly dressed in suits and disputes, as Johnson himself, a yellow ribbon down sport shirt crisp and bright blue. The issue is smartly dressed in suits and disputes, as Johnson himself is a yellow bow down sport shirt crisp and bright blue.

But in his private moments, he was moved by art that documents the struggles and achievements of black people in America. But in his private moments, he was moved by art that documents the struggles and achievements of black people in America. Since the 1980 Johnson, 62, brought together about 250 works of 19 century and 20, African-American artists. Since the 1980 Johnson, 62, brought together about 250 works of 19 century and 20, African-American artists.

Although the collection of Johnson is probably only worth a couple million dollars, contains some of the biggest names in the genre: Cubist-inspired collage artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988), Modernism in Harlem artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000 ) and Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), who studied with Thomas Eakins in 1880 and was the first black artist to receive international awards. Although the collection of Johnson is probably only worth a couple million dollars, contains some of the biggest names in the genre: Cubist-inspired collage artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988), Harlem modernist painter Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) and Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), who studied under Thomas Eakins in 1880 and was the first black artist to receive international awards.

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http://thenymag.net/african-american-art-why-is-so-unique.html

Defiant Daughter – Harlem Renaissance Era Drama

A distinctly New York play finally lands in the city when Knock Me A Kiss, by playwright Charles Smith, begins previews Thursday in its Off-Broadway premiere at the New Federal Theatre on the Lower East Side.

Leading the cast, Tony Award nominee Andre De Shields said the role of W.E. B. Du Bois presented a great and satisfying surprise. “The role is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tragic king, Lear, due to Du Bois’ inability to be spontaneous, his Ptolemaic need to be the center of his self-crafted universe, and his controlling relationship with his daughter, Yolande,” said De Shields. “Those similarities afforded me the opportunity to mine the tragic elements of Du Bois’ character.”

From left, sitting, Andre De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois, and Sean Phillips as Countee Cullen. Standing, from left, Marie Thomas as Nina Du Bois, and Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois.

The year is 1928, and the daughter of America’s foremost black intellectual, Du Bois, is just one month away from marrying a young poet, Countee Cullen, whose work was considered one of the pinnacles of the New Negro movement, which we now know as the Harlem Renaissance.

The marriage marked the height of the renaissance and was viewed as the perfect union of African-American talent and beauty. It would unfold during the apex of a cultural phenomenon, which through intellect, literature, art, and music challenged the era’s pervasive racism and stereotypes, and redefined how America and the world perceived African-Americans.

What could go wrong?

“I want the audience, after seeing this play, to investigate these characters and dig deeper into the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, and the Harlem Renaissance,” said Chuck Smith, the Chicago-based, Emmy winning director of the play and one of its producers. “I want viewers to see what’s changed, and get more involved in our culture. They should know that the lifestyle of affluent black Americans is not that much different than anyone else,” Smith said.

Erin Cherry as Yolande Du Bois and Morocco Omari as Jimmy Lunceford.

The play opens as jazz bandleader, Jimmy Lunceford, woos a willing but skittish Yolande Du Bois, who insists that she and Lunceford be married in a manner befitting her stature. She tells her friend, Lenora, “I want to touch and kiss and all he wants to do is hump and bump.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/len-hollie/defiant-daughter-emerges-_b_780960.html