Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Notes from the Master Teacher of Black Studies to Marvin X: Dr. Nathan Hare
Also folded in the book with the birthday greeting card to me from Max Stanford, aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed (most feared black militant by FBI in the late 1960s) is a note from a boy named Cadence, saying “I love Dr. Julia Hare.”
I notice you left the birthday card from Max Stanford (Muhammad Ahmed), I guess because it was tucked in one of a stack of books. One of them, “Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology” (Macmillan, 1972), has me and Tolson in it (pre-Great Debaters, Wiley College, where he practiced and James Farmer was a student before Tolson moved on to Langston and left debating for poetry and drama, aiming at Broadway and hitting Hollywood); indeed the editors discuss Tolson and celebrate him as one of my teachers in the preface to my essay, “The Challenge of a Black Scholar,” I see they gave it a section all by itself, “Essay” under “Part VI: The Present Generation: Since 1945,” though near the tail end of the book, just before Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and The Blues, in that order.
Talk about black studies, which they also mentioned, the article was also reprinted in a number of places, like such other articles as “Black Ecology,” in a number of different languages around the world. In fact I just got a call on Friday from a University of Pennsylvania black female professor of ethics (as you know they worry about what’s right and wrong -- while I worry about what’s right, I know what’s wrong ), wanting to interview me on the article. I told her I’d have to take a look at it and get back to you, because I’ve forgotten what I said in it, especially since I was writing it while I was in jail in San Francisco (they didn’t let me keep anything but a paperback I had with me when arrested, Karl Mannheims “Idelogy and Utopia.” No pencil, so I used my thumbnail to mark off passages I wanted to quote or paraphrase. But I didn’t just use Mannheim, lest black intellectuals say it’s not black enough, not even black studies in the first place. And anyway, how come you didn’t mention Moses.
I also don’t want you to take the book, “Medicine in the Ghetto” too lightly, not even my essay in it. Its editor, John Norman, was the director of the conference put on by the Harvard Medical School at Wentworth-by-the-Sea in New Hampshire in the late spring of 1969, but he was black, as were most of the participants. On my panel was the now late Charles Sanders, then the managing editor of Ebony magazine, when magazines were magazines and print media was print, The chairman of the panel, I believe, was the president of Meharry Medical College (I know he was the one who invited me). I forget the other person or two.
Some people think black studies is equivalent only to ancient history (“contributionism” a term I coined in the early 1960s at Howard – I note that white individuals have taken it up but could find no reference before the early 1960s, and certainly I coined it for myself and my students at Howard. Indeed circa 1970 the black sociologist, West Indian, at Harvard, wrote an essay in the” Crimson,” in which he referred to me and “Contributionsm” but added two categories. Jancie Hale Bensin in her book on black children, their cultural roots and learnin styles, summarizes Patterson’s article but gives “contributionism” not to me as Patterson had, but to him. (Patterson may have mentioned me but kept the term for himself, a common ploy of black intellectuals (creatures who think black studies is equivalent only to an account of how the first physician or something was black, Imhotep, and arguments over the proper spelling of his name, Immutef, or the first god was black (wouldn’t you know it?), the first devil, to the first person to make a spool or a piece of thread, etcetera. That’s one reason black studies and black intellectuality in general got bogged down and locked in antiquity from 1969 to 2009; and only came out to wail and bash the first black president for not picking them up and flinging them into the kingdom of snow white liberation.
As regards the stuff in my storage in the office building, I admit I wasn’t up to the challenge of taking those heavy file cabinets of files packed and crammed in there last Sunday morning. Don’t know whether that’s worth just going one day back again and wrenching the cabinets out and seeing what if anything we need to keep that’s not in current use. If so we would need Ali or some such heavyweight to help, I think, to boost the meager might of two old men and a pretty woman or two; although it was precisely two women of the physical stature to rival Ali who crammed them in there in the first place. The ringleader was a literary enthusiast and skimmed and got away with my big volume of the complete works of Shakespeare and God knows what. We weren’t thinking about archives -- at least I wasn’t. It’s like one continual try in a marathon game of finders keepers.
It’s good you’re making a movement out of the Archives Project, just don’t make me the sacrificial lamb. I’m trying to work my way out of this quagmire, this nightmare of deprivation, before I wrap my smothering blanket around me and lie down to pleasant dreams.
Hotep (is that black enough for you?),