Wednesday, July 19, 2017

dr. nathan hare emails marvin x on the true history of black scholar magazine

photo adam turner

Marvin. And as far as The Black Scholar is concerned, whenever people are talking about something they never have but part of the picture. I used to get couples in who’d broken up years ago but the courts or/and the schools demanded they get treatment re their child in trouble, and sometimes they’d be surprised of things they thought had happened or didn’t know what happened. 

Say people would see articles by nationalists or somebody (and by the way, they wanted to reject Marxism that wasn’t acceptable, like Eldridge Cleaver was a no-no, a very creative professor little known in Canada), and they observer wouldn’t know what nationalism had  been rejected or how hard I fought to get in something by Haki Madhubuti, or what had been rejected by whomever. 

People might communicate with Chrisman as editor, but then when everything is brought to the editorial meeting before each issue he might not be for  it. Plus Chrisman was always editing people’s stuff. The very first article I did, on the festival in Algiers in the first issue, he changed the first sentence. Then when we were drinking one night, he said remarked that I was a sociologist who could write like Hemingway (that sentence had been patterned after Hemingway). 

I told him Bob he shouldn’t be chopping up these leading authors’ stuff a and don’t toucha sentence of mine. He wanted to be an English teacher and a chiseling poet. He could write short pieces, but not long ones. Poetry he could get together a few words a drink and take his time, but he couldn’t do a long essay very well  if at all. He took off once for a month to write on a book we haven’t seen yet. He objected to m y article  on Black Ecology. He’d already written one in Scanlon’s (?) short-lived but well promoted white magazine, saying “Ecology is a Racist Shuck.” Then here I come with “Black Ecology” saying we could take it higher but blacks would have to show them the way, because our ecological condition was more social, the solution would have to be more social and thus more human. It went all over the  place. He opposed my publisher’s statements, according to Al Ross, particularly the one in the second issue written partly when I was in jail.  

Or so Al told me. So I stopped doing them in a huff because I always had some writing assignment in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Harvard professor included me among “Thirteen Black Intellectuals” in an Esquire article, just saying, I didn’t need it but Bob Chrisman did because, even today, his name is nothing apart from The Black Scholar.  And, though I haven’t seen a copy in many years, I’d wager it’s nothing  like  it was when I was there, if anybody wants to check it  out.  We used to do each issue on a special topic. About a very few in, Bob Chrisman announced we’d run out of topics, but I rattled off about five on the spot and we kept on, at least as long as I was there.

The Black Scholar kicked off so well because a white guy who usually got a thousand dollars for designing covers (say ten thousand in today’s terms) voluntarily did the cover through Alan Ross, who was co-owner of Graphic Arts of Marin. But he didn’t fund us, though he’d print free at first and let us use an office in the building free at first. But we started the journal by chipping in three hundred dollars apiece, except that it didn’t total nine hundred dollars,  just seven hundred and fifty, because Bob Chrisman couldn’t come up with but half of his. That’s why the irony of his willing it to his daughter. Who would have thought of such a thing. I made many mistakes  in life, but one was not in leaving with Al Ross as he continued to implore me to do, as we could have put The Black Scholar in the shade.

Nathan Hare
From: Nathan Hare 
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 11:32 AM

Just thinking, for what it’s worth to your friend who missed seeing me at The Black Scholar, you don’t see much of any head people when you go into a place or enterprise, seldom the president of the bank when you go to make a loan let alone to make  a deposit or cash a check. Like people who go to church don’t see God there but testify that they saw him somewhere else and want to be saved. Plus when I went back to school, essentially leaving The Black Scholar except for helping them get two grants of $10,l000, in money of that day, like a $100,000l each now. I was on the Board of the San Francisco Local Development Corporation s well as on the Point Foundation in Sausalito. Among others. When Al Ross left in 1973, Robert Allen had come on as associate editor and I agreed with Bob Crhisman to let Robert Allen take Al’s place on the Board, if he’d let my former secretary, Glroia Bevien, who had been assisting Al Ross, be Business Manager. In time, with me gone, returning to school in September 1973, I was only at The Black Scholar for the weekly Friday morning business meeting. In my mind, I was going to leave when I got the degree. Al Ross  kept trying to get me to leave with him and would ask me to stop by the Black Scholar Book Club he had taken with him to an office in a church at the edge of Marin City. I could have taken the Black Scholar Lecture Bureau (both entities would fold anyway) and God knows what else we could have done from there. 

You didn’t have that kind of black book club in those days or black lecture bureaus who knew that the trick  is not getting a list of prominent speakers so much as getting the gigs by courting BSU leaders and Black faculty and while college lecture chiefs. You can always get the speaker or the next best thing if you are presenting them with a gig. Conference planners and the like. One needs a clerk  on the phone all day courting such individuals, not the speakers you can get with the drop of a dollar bill. So my office was in the back, the biggest one, usually with the door closed, and in which I even did copyreading and would find umpteen errors after the staff had finished; the office we held the weekly meetings in,. But after 1973, I wasn’t even on the premises other than Friday mornings. I left in late March of 1973, instead of August as I had planned when I returned to school, because I was getting so upset when all three  continued to team up against me in my absence, which I guess they resented and Bob had as a good selling point to the  unenlightened, so a meeting blew up, and I came home and Julia called Al Ross’s widow, as he had recently died, and she came over with their daughter and the three women urged me to quit then instead of August. I guess they feared something might happen  though I was no longer packing, because things had come to a head that morning.

Nathan Hare
Phone: 415-474-1707
Fax: 415-589-7983

On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 2:32:40 PM PDT, Marvin X Jackmon wrote:

I just took a notion to try to see  what kind of articles The Black Scholar might be doing ideologically these days – to see if it wasn’t more petite bourgeoisie noir or otherwise cloaked in Afrocentrism in the kingdom of Africana -- and this popped up wherein some clowns are saying The Black Scholar was founded by Al Ross and Robert Chrisman, with no mention l’il ol’ me!  You can take an egocentric so-an-so out of white studies and polka dot studies and make him afrocentric or ethnocentric or just let him stay eccentric, if you want him to. Either way –  as Don King put it recently , he’ll still be “just a nigger” (Disclaimer: Don King’s words, not mine).

marvin x reply to dr hare

doc, you know we call this revisionist negro history, another crisis of the negro intellectual. they often give their narratives of black history that jump from marcus garvey to malcolm x, never mentioning elijah muhammad. in the black arts movement history, they make me a minor player, although i worked in bam coast to coast, wrote in soulbook, black dialogue, journal of black poetry, negro digest/black world, black theatre, black scholar and muhammad speaks; founded black arts west theatre, black house, san francisco and worked at the new lafayette theatre in harlem, taught black studies at fresno state u., san francisco state u, uc berkeley, uc san diego, mills college, laney and merritt; have written 30 books. minor player my motherfuckin ass!
--marvin x

John Woodford 
To:Marvin X Jackmon
Jul 19 at 3:31 PM
Subject: Re: black bird press news--dr. nathan hare on the true history of black scholar magazine
Nathan Hare has always seemed to me a man of fascinating, wide-ranging opinions, some (just a few) of which, to me, miss the point. But when it comes to brass tacks, or hard facts, he seems to hit the nail on the head, so this is a sniper of history to take seriously.

 Bob Chrisman was one of those unusual people who could speak in a string of bon mots on a variety of topics--music, literature, sports, politics, technology and more -- profound and poetic in conversation, but, as Hare notes, for some reason, except in his poetry, not given to longer prose runs. Yet, being as dogged as he was stubborn, he pulled himself together here in Ann Arbor to write a doctoral dissertation on Robert Hayden.

 In the years I knew him, however, whenever I heard him speak of the founding of the Black Scholar, he always mentioned Nathan Hare as present at the creation. Since I knew that anyway, the private statement may not amount to much, and I don't know what he had to say publicly on that question. I could sense there was bad blood of some sort between them arising from the Scholar relationship. He didn't invite questions on the matter and I was not one to probe for gossip, but he didn't disparage you, Nathan. And as you may perhaps agree, 

I don't know anything about Ross, but it strikes me, looking back, that it is too bad the Hare-Chrisman-Allen triumvirate couldn't hold, since it was certainly a constellation of mind and talent that could have produce a publication that blazed  even more brightly and remarkably than it did in its prime. 

Hey, Marvin: I sure like that T shirt!!

1 comment:

  1. Greetings, Prof. Woodford,
    Yes, everybody who gets a Ph.D. produces a dissertation under supervision as an academic requirement but, if and when it gets published, that is mostly all that many will ever publish, as it is essentially an exercise in research under the direction of some professor as major advisor (and his or her ideas).
    As for not talking about me, Bob’s willing of The Black Scholar to his daughter or anybody, as I’ve read, says enough. We founded the journal under the Black World Foundation, of which I was president. I suppose it no longer exists. When I left I didn’t try to hurt tinker with anything there (people suggested I sue), once I was gone, as I had hopes for a better life and had better things to do and didn’t want to hurt The Black Scholar any more than I had to, certainly not to kill it. It’s ironic that many of The Black Scholar clerical staff opposed Al Ross for the simple reason that he was white, but it was Bob Chrisman who made it impossible for Al Ross to continue and also in time for me, though I tried. I’d stayed on in part because of the black/white thing myself. In our minds – and in Bob’s I thought then -- The Black Scholar was beyond our conception of ourselves as individuals. We founded it under the Black World Foundation as a nonprofit entity. The staff thought it belonged to black people as a whole.
    If Al Ross had been black and/or Chrisman had been completely white (his father was white but Bob tried to live as an African American, though his brother was known to pass), I would have left with Al. By chance I decided to return to school and to leave at the end of that.
    Plus I had dreams of wedding psychology and sociology toward a deeper understanding of the family decay I saw in the face of the strong black family mythology popular among black intellectuals after the Sixties, fueled by a misreading of the so-called Moynihan Report, if they read it at all in too many cases. The very first sentence in a report aimed to get black males into the labor force read: “Racism has produced a terrible tragedy.” The report then went on to present some of the highest correlations yet known to social science, such as the difference between the “illegitimacy rate” of the white female and the black female had gone up and down with the difference between the unemployment rate of the black male and the whire male, and there had never been any more difference between the fertility rate of the black female and the white female had gone up and down witth the difference in the unemployment rate of the black male and the white male. (I may have mixed the variables of fertility and unemployment). The black intellectuals said he had hurt the image of the black family by referring to it by the metaphor used previously by W.E.B. DuBois and E. Frankln Frazier: “matriarchy” (referring to the broken patriarchy, as there has never been any anthropological evidence for the existence of a matriarchy in the sense that women as a group ruled men as a group. They may have traced their ancestry through the mother – which makes all good sense – instead of the father; i.e. matrilineal but not matriarchal except in mythology. You also had mermaids in mythology and a myriad of other things}.
    Then feminists piled on with the charge that Moynihan had blamed the black woman for the black family’s plight by using the long accepted metaphor “matriarchy” to describe the situation of the black male’s relative psychosocial functioning in the socioeconomic circumstances of a patriarchal racism.
    In my own case, my position on these matters, in the face of conventional intellectual wisdom, prevented me from ever getting back on a regular fulltime faculty, let alone a tenure track, anywhere in the hallowed grounds of the United States of America, including the kingdom of Africana, let alone an HBCU.