Tag Archives: segregation

How Literature Saved Richard Wright

In his memoir, Richard Wright describes how literature gave him a framework and spurred him to action in the segregated south.

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My “Last Lecture”

I share here my “last lecture” from my retirement ceremony. (But rest assured: I will not be retiring from this blog.)

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Robinson Ran Against Walls, Never Broke

A Ken Burns documentary on Jackie Robinson gives me an excuse to run this short, powerful Lucille Clifton poem honoring the player who broke baseball’s color line.

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Children Lit’s Changing Racial Landscape

My mixed race granddaughters have children’s books with protagonists of color. It’s a far cry from the Dick-Jane-and-Sally books of my childhood and of the reality described by Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye.”

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My Memories of a Mountain Writer

May Justus, an Appalachian author who wrote children’s books and poetry, has a great poem about windy weather. Recalling it recently brought back other memories of this remarkable woman.

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Twain Was No Racist (Not Even Close)

“I hope that like Mark Twain, 100 years from now people will see my work and think, ‘Wow. That is actually pretty racist.’” –Tina Fey accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Thanks to a visiting lecturer in our Mark Twain series, I have a new understanding of Huckleberry Finn that is exciting me […]

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Lifting Ev’ry Voice in Church

  Let me end this series of posts concerning racism in America on an up note.  This past Sunday I was singing in the Trinity Episcopal Church choir (in St. Mary’s City, Maryland) and we concluded the service with a rousing rendition of hymn 599, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the black […]

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Redemption through Interracial Friendship

  I write today about the father of Andre Dubus III, whose House of Sand and Fog I looked at last week.  The elder Andre Dubus, now dead, is one of my favorite short story writers, and his novella Deaths at Sea came to my aid when I felt twisted and turned by racial tension.  I […]

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Desegregation Tales from My Childhood

  I mentioned yesterday the debt I owe to the NAACP, which this year is celebrating its 100-year anniversary.  Today I will talk about some of my past history with the organization, along with a discussion of how Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird helped me in some difficult years during the Civil Rights era. I’ve […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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