Category Archives: Reference Materials

This category includes materials excerpted from a variety of reference books, as well as other material used as reference sources such as learning supports and style sheets.

James Baldwin to Angela Davis

“If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

“Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis” (1971)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Richard Wright on Inequality

“Goddamit, look! We live here and they live there. We black and they white. They got things and we ain’t. They do things and we can’t. It’s just like living in hell.”

Native Son, bk. 1 (1940)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Jack Johnson

(originally John Arthur) (1878-1946) U.S. heavyweight boxing champion, the first black to hold the title. Born in Galveston, Texas, his career was marked from the beginning by racial discrimination. He won the national heavyweight crown in 1908 by knocking out Tommy Burns and kept it until 1915, when he was knocked out in Havana by Jess Willard in 26 rounds. After he became champion, a cry for a ‘Great White Hope’ to defeat him produced numerous opponents. He was excoriated by the press for twice marrying white women. In 1912 he was convicted of violating the Mann Act for transporting his fiancée across state lines. He fled to Canada and then to Europe, continuing to fight as a fugitive before surrendering in 1920 to serve a one-year sentence. He died in a car crash. He won 80 of his 114 bouts.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Dr. King on America’s Defaulted Debt

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.”

Speech at Civil Rights March, Washington, D.C., 28 August 1963

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Imamu Amiri Baraka

Formerly Leroi Jones, 1934-2014). American poet and playwright. Dutchman, a taut one-act play, part realistic, part ritualistic, crystalizing the conflicts between white and black cultures, established Baraka as an important force in stimulating black playwriting and production. Slave Ship (1967), relies on music and action as much as language to unfold its haunting story. Baraka’s theater is aggressive and provocative, yet lyrical in its theatrical effect. His prolific output of essays and poetry includes Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961) The Dead Lecturer (1964), Black Magic (1969) and Hard Facts (1976); his work is collected in Selected Plays and Prose and Selected Poetry (both 1979). Two other works appeared in 1979: a collection of poetry AM/TRAK and Spring Song. Reggae or Not, prose writings, appeared in 1981. Baraka’s later works have become increasingly polemical and separatist, causing many white liberals to desert him. He also published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987), Shy’s Wise: The Griot’s Tale (1994), and Jesse Jackson and Black People (1994).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

W.E.B. DuBois as Psychologist

“The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world—a world which yields him no self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in universal contempt and pity.”

“Strivings of the Negro People” (1897)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

James Baldwin

(1924-1987) American novelist and essayist. Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, about the religious awakening of a fourteen-year-old black youth, was based closely on Baldwin’s own experience as a young storefront preacher in Harlem. His subsequent novels, including Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), are movingly written accounts of emotional and sexual suffering and growth, often played out against the background of social intolerance toward freely expressed sexuality (particularly homosexuality) as well as racism. Baldwin was a distinguished essayist whose nonfiction works include Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), and The Fire Next Time, all passionately angry indictments of an American society that institutionalizes race discrimination. In his own protest against inhumane conditions, Baldwin left the U.S. at twenty-four to live in France, where most of his work was written; he returned to America in 1977. He also wrote plays, such as The Amen Corner (1955), Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), and One Day, When I Was Lost (1973), a script based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Baldwin’s sixth novel, Just Above My Head (1979), is a thirty-year saga of a group of Harlem friends whose individual odysseys through wars, poverty, and the civil rights struggle bring them to various fates. In 1985 he published The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-Fiction, 1948-1985, and in 1986, Evidence of Things Not Seen, an analysis of racism in the light of the Atlanta murders of black children.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.