This was taped earlier this morning. Edwidge will also be on Leonard Lopate this afternoon.
Last Friday, I posted a picture of two gentlemen and asked readers to identify the person holding a copy of The Indignant Generation. As promised, I am revealing the answer here: Lawrence P. Jackson is shown speaking to David Wilson who is the President of Morgan State University, a school both of Jackson’s parents attended in the 1950s.
Speaking before a luncheon crowd of 100 at Morgan State University’s Student Center, Baltimore native Jackson impressed the crowd with a history lesson, a Morgan State University history lesson. Jackson, Professor of English and African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, spoke for an hour about the impactful careers of Morgan English teachers Nick Aaron Ford and Waters Turpin. Jackson cataloged the travails and triumphs of each men’s careers during the era of segregation. The lecture began with a shocking account of the violence black professors faced during the 1940s. Ford and Turpin both resisted the oppressive system. Jackson claimed that Dr. Ford, who served Morgan from 1946 through the 1970s, possessed a “black critical independent spirit.” Novelist Waters Turpin grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and published important works in the second half of the 1930s. Jackson suggested that Turpin’s obscurity today was due to his artistic vision which was too elegant for the Marxists and too militant for the assimilationists.
The lecture was drawn from Jackson’s new book The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960. The 600 page literary and cultural history is being published by Princeton University Press in mid-November. The audience included Morgan’s new president David Wilson, the school’s provost T. Joan Robinson, and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Burnie Hollis Jr. Agnes Edwards, a Morgan graduate and former student of both Drs. Ford and Turpin, said, “I didn’t know any of that, but I am glad that I do now.” When asked which portions of the new research he would use, Dean Hollis, another former student and friend of both men, smiled broadly and said, “All of it!”
**This text taken from Emory University’s event press release.
Edwidge had two sell-out events in Washington DC at Busboys & Poets and Politics & Prose. Next up, she is in Los Angeles for an event with the ALOUD series at the Los Angeles Public Library on October 26th. See you there!
While researching his biography of Ralph Ellison, Lawrence P. Jackson found a huge gap in African American literature–a gap in how it is studied and taught. Students of American literature are taught about the Harlem Renaissance, but what existed between this period and the later writers of the Civil Rights Period? Who were the writers of the in between years? Why haven’t they been studied as a cohesive group? With The Indignant Generation, Jackson finally gives voice to this generation of writers and their staunch supporters.
Emory University has recorded two podcasts with Jackson — one in which he discusses his new book The Indignant Generation, and the other in which he reads from the book. Click over to give them a listen.
You can listen in to her conversation with Virginia Prescott at Word of Mouth on New Hampshire Public Radio here. This was recorded earlier today.
It’s not often that an author attempts to coin the name for an entire generation of writers, but that is exactly what Lawrence Jackson has done with The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960. This group of writers exists somewhere between the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights period and until now has been, as a group, unnamed.
I asked Jackson how he came up with the title of the book and it turns out he had another title in mind when the book was first underway.
“When I arrived at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina in the fall of 2004 I had a title all ready for my book project, an epic literary history designed to fill the gap between the more plentiful works on the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. The book title was A Song in the Front Yard, after a Gwendolyn Brooks poem,” says Jackson. “To Brooks the poem’s title was ironic, because the speaker in the poem hoped to claim not just the front yard but the back alley too. I loved the sound of it, and so did my fellow humanists in Tar Heel country. But no editors had any confidence in those words to lure an audience.”
Though poetic, A Song in the Front Yard soon gave away to Indignation, but Jackson had not quite arrived at title of the book as it stands now.
“Next try, and the handle for the subsequent four years, was A Renaissance of Indignation. Educated Americans knew about the American Renaissance of the 1840s and 50s and the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance, so that word seemed worth its weight in gold. But when the chapters sailed out for review the balking began in earnest,” explains Jackson. “I learned that my title was contradictory, fussy and fractious. And by using a semi colon to clarify the work–’A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960′—I was guilty of writing the equivalent of War and Peace: A Novel.”
Though ‘renaissance’ was lost in the shuffle, ‘indignation’ stuck. Jackson describes the word as being like “a talisman, a fetish, a raven, an albatross.”
He further explains, “Indignation became the lingua franca that united my writers as a group, distinguishing them from the folk artists of the 1920s and the revolutionaries of the 1960s. In a letter detailing the power of Native Son, Ralph Ellison had praised the ‘indignant consciousness’ of Bigger Thomas, a shift in attitude among the lumpenproletariat that Ellison wagered would play a crucial role in making representative democracy in the United States a possibility. This kind of unapologetic defiance seemed to characterize the bunch, and, piggybacking a bit off of Tom Brokaw’s book title, The Indignant Generation was born.”
The Indignant Generation will publish in December 2010, but you might enjoy watching this video of Jackson describing the project and the research involved.
The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 won’t be out for many months, but I thought you might like hearing more from the author about how he came to write the book and how he conducted his research. You can place pre-orders online or follow the book on Facebook.
In case you were busy shoveling the latest coating of white stuff this past Friday and missed it, PUP author Catherine Manegold made her WBUR “Radio Boston” debut to field call-in questions about the buried history of slavery in the north. Check out the WBUR website to hear the fascinating podcast and view the slideshow of sites featured in the book, TEN HILLS FARM.
Black History Month has come and gone. Hard to believe since we’ve spent almost as many days out of the office as in it this February (not that we’re complaining too loudly!) so in March, let’s continue to be mindful of the forgotten past. Though the media may have moved onto more present concerns like the never ending healthcare debate and the latest in a string of blindsiding natural disasters, Catherine Manegold’s book brings tidings of great dismay to many who live under the deluded belief that the north was guilt-free when it came to owning slaves.
Click to listen to the podcast of the Brian Lehrer show!