LHC Newsletter 09 2014

Langston Hughes Center Newsletter
September 2014

Hello Everyone,

This is the e-newsletter for the Langston Hughes Center (LHC).  The Langston Hughes Center (formerly the Langston Hughes Resource Center, founded in 1998) is an academic research and educational center that is building upon the legacy and creative and intellectual insight of African American author, poet, playwright, folklorist and social critic, Langston Hughes.  The Center coordinates, strengthens and develops teaching, research and outreach activities in African American Studies, and the study of race and culture in American society at the University of Kansas and throughout the region.  Each month the LHC sends out an e-newsletter to inform you about upcoming events at KU and throughout the region, as well as provide you with any recent news of general interest to those concerned with the work of the Center.
See below for the latest LHC e-newsletter.  More information about our events and programs can be found on our website. Please feel free to pass this information along to friends and colleagues.
In this newsletter:
  1. Upcoming Events: Jessie B. Semple Brownbag; Place, Race, and Space Seminar, Tuttle Lecture
  2. In the News: African American Literary Blog; W. E. B. Du Bois & the American Soul; Why  We're Wrong About Affirmative Action; White's Perception of Blacks and Crime; Nina Simone; Understanding Ferguson; On Ferguson; Black Body; Ferguson's Experience; The Fire This Time; Don't Deny My Voice; Fannie Lou Hammer; New Black Activism; Not Black Rage 
Shawn Leigh Alexander
Associate Professor of African and African-American Studies
Director, Langston Hughes Center
University of Kansas 
Upcoming Events 
Jesse B. Semple Brownbag Series

 "\Justice Postponed is Justice Denied:' Lucile Bluford and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Missouri" – James Baker, University of Kansas

When:  Monday, September 8 @11:30 am - 1:00 pm (11:30 –12:00 social period and brownbag lunch)

Where:  Langston Hughes Center, Room 1, Bailey Hall (University of Kansas, Lawrence Campus)

Cost per person: FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Sponsors of this Event: 
Langston Hughes Center

About The Jesse B. Semple Brownbag Series:  The Jesse B. Semple Brownbag, every second Monday of each academic month, is an informal forum for the African Americanist community and those who are interested in the general study of race, culture, and American society. The forum discusses activities on campus, historical and current issues related to race, and culture and social relations in America. It offers opportunities for visiting scholars, KU faculty, and KU students to present their ongoing research.

Langston Hughes' character Jesse B. Semple, or Simple first appeared in the Chicago Defender on February 13, 1943.  Semple became a voice, often in comic or satirical fashion, through which Hughes could comment on international relations, current events and the everyday concerns of the African American community.
Place, Race & Space Seminar 

 "Creating a Spiritual Past: African American Heritage Connections to West African Islam" – Beverly Mack, University of Kansas

When:  September 8 @ 3:30 pm

Where: Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas

Cost per person: Open to KU Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students 

Sponsors of this Event:  Hall Center for the Humanities, Langston Hughes Center
7th Annual Tuttle Lecture

 "My Pen, My Voice, My Vote: Frederick Douglass in the Age of the Civil War" – David W. Blight, Yale University
When:  October 2 @ 4:00 pm

Where:  Kansas Union, Woodruff Auditorium (University of Kansas, Lawrence Campus)

Cost per person: FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Sponsors of this EventDepartment of American Studies, Hall Center for the Humanities

In The News

African American Literary Blog

The Late Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander & Arnold Rampersad on W. E. B. Du Bois & the American Soul
| July 10, 2014 | On Being with Krista Tippett

One of the most extraordinary minds of American and global history, W.E.B. Du Bois penned the famous line that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." He is a formative voice for many of the people who gave us the Civil Rights Movement. But his passionate, poetic words speak to all of us navigating the ever-unfolding, unfinished business of civil rights. We bring Du Bois' life and ideas into relief for the 21st century — featuring one of the last interviews the great Maya Angelou gave before her death.

Listen to the full program


Why We're Wrong About Affirmative Action
William A. Darity, Jr., Alan A. Aja & Darrick Hamilton |July 28, 2014| Huffington Post
Earlier this month a divided Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the University of Texas' right to use race amongst its criteria for undergraduate admissions, however limited that right may be. While the decision will be viewed as a small victory for supporters of race-based affirmative action, there is little reason to believe that the widely held claim that black and Latino students enter selective universities as comparatively inferior students will not cease to rear its ugly head. It is a pervasive stereotype that minority students must face from matriculation to graduation, a stigma with undoubted adverse psychological and economic consequence that follows them well beyond higher education and into the labor market.

Read the full article


Stanford Research Examines White's Perception of Black and Crime
Shara Tonn | August 6, 2014 | Stanford Report

Although African-Americans constitute only 12 percent of America's population, they represent 40 percent of the nation's prison inmates.

But informing the white public of this disproportionate incarceration rate may actually bolster support for the very policies that perpetuate the inequality, according to a studypublished in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Stanford psychology researchers Rebecca Hetey and Jennifer Eberhardt found that when white people were told about these racial disparities, they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities.

The Many Battles of Nina Simone
Claudia Roth Pierpont | August 11, 2014 | The New Yorker
"My skin is black," the first woman's story begins, "my arms are long." And, to a slow and steady beat, "my hair is woolly, my back is strong." Singing in a club in Holland, in 1965, Nina Simone introduced a song she had written about what she called "four Negro women" to a young, homogeneously white, and transfixed crowd. "And one of the women's hair," she instructed, brushing her hand lightly across her own woolly Afro, "is like mine." Every performance of "Four Women" caught on film (as here) or disk is different. Sometimes Simone coolly chants the first three women's parts—the effect is of resigned weariness—and at other times, as on this particular night, she gives each woman an individual, sharply dramatized voice. All four have names. Aunt Sarah is old, and her strong back has allowed her only "to take the pain inflicted again and again." Sephronia's yellow skin and long hair are the result of her rich white father having raped her mother—"Between two worlds I do belong"—and Sweet Thing, a prostitute, has tan skin and a smiling bravado that seduced at least some of the eager Dutch listeners into the mistake of smiling, too. And then Simone hit them with the last and most resolutely up to date of the women, improbably named Peaches. "My skin is brown," she growled ferociously, "my manner is tough. I'll kill the first mother I see. 'Cause my life has been rough." (One has to wonder what the Dutch made of killing that "mother.") If Simone's song suggests a history of black women in America, it is also a history of long-suppressed and finally uncontainable anger.
Understanding Ferguson: Understanding White Supremacy
David Leonard | August 16, 2014 | New Blackman (In Exile)
To look at Ferguson, Missouri is to look at America and its history of white supremacy.
To understand white denial and white privilege one need only look at Ferguson and its aftermath—from the history of racism, housing discrimination, racial profiling  (African Americans account for 86% of all stops, 79% of all searches, and 93% of all arrests), and educational inequality, one need only look at Ferguson and its aftermath.
Reading about Michael Brown's school is to read a snapshot of America.  His becoming yet another victim of racial terror and yet another African American blamed for his own death, is an index of race in America.  Ferguson is indicative of entrenched white supremacy and hyper militarism; the war on drugs, and how police forces have militarized through federal grants which have allowed them to buy helicopters and tanks, but also  it is also emblematic, as dream hamptondescribes, "the criminalization of black corpses."
On Ferguson, Missouri: History, Protest, and "Respectability" 
Clarence Lang| August 17, 2014 | Labor Online

It is difficult to write about the situation in the black working-class community of Ferguson, Missouri, which began last week with the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. It is difficult because the details of the case have evolved so rapidly and unpredictably. Who knows where all of this is going? But here is what is clear to me. Data collected by the State of Missouri since 2000 shows that African Americans have consistently been targets of racial profiling by law enforcement officers. In 2013, black Missourians were 66 percent more likely to be stopped by police, though they were not more likely than whites to be in possession of contraband. In fact, white Missourians were more likely to be found with contraband (34 percent) than were their black counterparts (22 percent). In Ferguson, police stop black people at a higher rate than they do whites, with black drivers twice as likely to be searched. In 2013, African Americans constituted 92 percent of searches and 80 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) currently has a complaint against police in St. Louis County – where Ferguson is located – for racial profiling. This is a large part of the context in which the fatal encounter involving Brown and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson occurred, and in which the resulting civil turmoil has unfolded.

Black Body: Rereading James Baldwin's "Stranger in the Village"
Teju Cole| August 19, 2014 | New Yorker
Then the bus began driving into clouds, and between one cloud and the next we caught glimpses of the town below. It was suppertime and the town was a constellation of yellow points. We arrived thirty minutes after leaving that town, which was called Leuk. The train to Leuk had come in from Visp, the train from Visp had come from Bern, and the train before that was from Zurich, from which I had started out in the afternoon. Three trains, a bus, and a short stroll, all of it through beautiful country, and then we reached Leukerbad in darkness. So Leukerbad, not far in terms of absolute distance, was not all that easy to get to. August 2, 2014: it was James Baldwin's birthday. Were he alive, he would be turning ninety. He is one of those people just on the cusp of escaping the contemporary and slipping into the historical—John Coltrane would have turned eighty-eight this  year; Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned eighty-five—people who could still be with us but who feel, at times, very far away, as though they lived centuries ago.
Ferguson's Experience Offers Lessons on Integration
Douglas Belkin & Matthew Dolan| August 22, 2014 | Wall Street Journal

Sharon Golliday grew up in the Pruett-Igoe public housing project in St. Louis, a high-rise complex so violent that even the police were afraid to enter.

So like many African-Americans, she and her family took advantage of a sea change in federal housing policy in the 1980s and 90s that came to regard projects as part of the problem. Using a government voucher to subsidize the cost, they eventually landed in this suburb.

"We needed to get out," said Ms. Golliday, a 58-year-old teacher. "No one forced us to move—we left."

 Read more »


The Fire This Time: America's Withdrawal from the Fight Against Racism Guarantees More Fergusons

Bob Herbert | February 26, 2014 | The American Prospect

I remember the stunned reaction of so many Americans back in the summer of 2005 when legions of poor black people in desperate circumstances seemed to have suddenly and inexplicably materialized in New Orleans during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Expressions of disbelief poured in from around the nation: "How can this be happening?" "I had no idea conditions were that bad." "My God, is this America?"

People found themselves staring at the kind of poverty they thought had been largely wiped out decades earlier. President George W. Bush seemed as astonished as anyone. He made an eerie, oddly-lit, outdoor appearance in the city's French Quarter on the evening of September 15 to announce that his administration would wage an all-out fight against the economic distress that continued to plague so many African Americans.

Read more »


Project to Focus on Poetry That Sprung from Civil Rights Era

George Diepenbrock | August 26, 2014 | KU News

As many iconic events of the Civil Rights Movement reach their 50th anniversary this decade, the University of Kansas' Project on the History of Black Writing will take a closer look at how such an influential period in American history spurred a new era of poetry.

"In the 1960s, if you think about the country as a whole, this is probably the busiest period for social change," said Maryemma Graham, HBW's founder and director. "One way of measuring what's happening is in the products. Poetry is certainly an art form, but in this case, poetry is also a product."

HBW recently received its 15th National Endowment for the Humanities grant in the project's more than 30-year history. The $156,000 grant will fund a second institute in 2015, Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement, as part of its special series, Don't Deny My Voice, which received initial NEH funding in 2012.

See more


I Question America: Remembering Fannie Lou Hamer's Famous Speech 50 Years Ago

Peter Dreier | August 26, 2014 | Huffington Post

"I question America " -- the famous words spoken by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer fifty years ago this week at the tumultuous Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City -- is a fitting reflection of the soul-searching that the country is once again going through in the wake of the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri.

To understand both the progress America has made, and the many challenges it now faces, in terms of racial justice, it is useful to remind ourselves of the battle that occurred a half century ago and the life of Ms. Hamer, a sharecropper and activist from the Mississippi Delta who galvanized the country with her stirring words and her remarkable courage.

In her testimony before the credentials committee at the Democratic Party's convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hamer explained why the committee should recognize the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party over the state's segregated official party delegation. Her statement made her a national figure and a symbol of the struggle for civil rights.

Read more »


How Trayvon Martin's Death Launched a New Generation of Black Activism

 Mychal Denzel Smith | August 27, 2014 | The Nation

On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American 17-year-old walking home from a 7-Eleven. What The Washington Post and other media outlets had dubbed "the trial of the century" was over, with a deeply unsettling verdict. In the fifteen months between Trayvon's death and the beginning of the trial, people across the country had taken to the streets, as well as to newspapers, television and social media, to decry the disregard for young black lives in America. For them—for us—this verdict was confirmation.

Read more


Ferguson isn't about black rage against cops.  It's white rage against progress.

Carol Anderson | August 29, 2014 | Washington Post

When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we've actually seen is the  latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn't have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama's ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there's a reaction, a backlash.

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Contact Information:

Langston Hughes Center
1440 Jayhawk Boulevard
Room 9 Bailey Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045-7574, USA
Phone: (785)864-5044
Fax: (785)864-5330
Shawn Leigh Alexander
Associate Professor of African & African American Studies

NEH Summer Instittute

The Langston Hughes Center received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a June 2017 summer institute for high school teachers, entitled "Teaching the 'Long Hot Summer' of 1967 and Beyond."  The project will be led by Shawn Alexander, Clarence Lang, and John Rury. See <http://www.summer67.dept.ku.edu/​>

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