"The Kindergarten of New Consciousness": Gwendolyn Brooks and the Social Construction of Childhood.
We watch strange moods fill our children, and our hearts swell with pain. The streets, with their noise and flaring lights, the taverns, the automobiles, and the poolrooms claim them, and no voice of ours can call them back.... We cannot keep them in school; more than 1,000,000 of our black boys and girls boys and girls
mercurialisannua. of high school age are not in school.... It is not their eagerness to fight that makes us afraid, but that they go to death on city pavements faster than even disease and starvation can take them. As the courts and the morgues become crowded with our lost children, the hearts of the officials of the city grow cold toward us. (Wright 136)
I GIVE YOU MY GALLERY.
So many boys. Boys. Lincoln West. Merle merle
a pattern of coat color pigmentation with dark, irregular blotches on a lighter background. Seen in some Collies and Welsh corgis. In shorthaired dogs, e.g. Great Danes and Dachshunds, the similar pattern is called dapple. . Ulysses. Shabaka. Martin D. The Near- Johannesburg Boy. Diego. Kojo. Seven boys in a poolroom pool·room
A commercial establishment or room for the playing of pool or billiards.
Noun 1. poolroom - a room with pool tables where pool is played during schooltime. The Pool Players, Seven at The Golden Shovel-
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon. Today, many such boys--their girl friends, too--EXPECT to "die soon." In Chicago. In New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of . In Springfield, in Philadelphia. In Whatalotago, Alabama. In Detroit. (In Washington D.C.?) They do not expect to become twenty-one. They are designing their funerals. Their caskets will be lined with Kente ken·te
1. A brightly patterned, handwoven ceremonial cloth of the Ashanti.
2. A durable machine-woven fabric similar to this fabric, prominently featured in Afrocentric fashion. cloth. They choose their music: they want rap, they want Queen Latifah
In Report from Part One, Gwendolyn Brooks Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an African American poet. Biography
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas to Keziah Wims Brooks and David Anderson Brooks. gives an account of her "conversion" to Black  militancy at the 1967 Fisk Fisk , James 1834-1872.
American railroad financier and speculator who attempted in 1869 to corner the gold market with Jay Gould, leading to Black Friday, a day of nationwide financial panic. Writers' Conference. Impressed by the energy and anger in the work of Amiri Baraka Amiri Baraka (born October 7, 1934) is an American writer of poetry, drama, essays and music criticism. Biography
Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey. (then LeRoi Jones Noun 1. LeRoi Jones - United States writer of poems and plays about racial conflict (born in 1934)
Baraka, Imamu Amiri Baraka ) and others, Brooks recognized that "there is indeed a new black today." Acknowledging that for most of her life "almost secretly [she] had felt that to be black was good," she writes that she had "'gone the gamut' from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brain·wash
tr.v. brain·washed, brain·wash·ing, brain·wash·es
To subject to brainwashing.
The process or an instance of brainwashing. brothers and sisters to a surprised queenhood in the new black sun." "I...am qualified," Brooks proclaims, "to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now" (84). Since In the Mecca (1968), Brooks has published her work exclusively with Black presses such as Broadside, Third World Press, and her own David Company, work characterized by a turn toward free verse free verse, term loosely used for rhymed or unrhymed verse made free of conventional and traditional limitations and restrictions in regard to metrical structure. Cadence, especially that of common speech, is often substituted for regular metrical pattern. as well as increasingly direct political content. Although the "kindergarten of new consciousness" fostered in Brooks a new Black identity an d a new sense of Black people as her primary audience, her poetry, as she insisted in an interview with Claudia Tate Claudia Tate (1947-2002) was a noted literary critic and professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is credited with moving African American literary criticism into the realm of the psychological.
Tate was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. , has always been "'politically aware'" (42).
Part of her political project has been a clear-eyed, tough, and compassionate look at the plight of children. From A Street in Bronzeville (1945) to the present, Brooks's work has used the image and voice of the child to negotiate a complex poetic strategy that explores "childhood" as a position from which to critique prevailing constructs of class and race. For Brooks, the subject of childhood represents a means through which she can interrogate and unmask dominant notions of domesticity and child-rearing as part of her own radical social and poetic agenda.
Childhood as a subject would gain force in the '40s and '50s for other American poets, including Robert Lowell Noun 1. Robert Lowell - United States poet (1917-1977)
Lowell, Robert Traill Spence Lowell Jr. , Elizabeth Bishop Elizabeth Bishop (February 8, 1911 – October 6, 1979), was an American poet and writer. She was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950. She enjoyed critical acclaim in her lifetime, and her poetry continues to be widely read and studied. , and Randall Jarrell Noun 1. Randall Jarrell - United States poet (1914-1965)
Jarrell . But for most poets the subject of childhood was steeped in nostalgia, indicative of the growing trend toward introspection among White intellectuals occasioned by the rise of a newly psychologized self. By contrast, Brooks chose to write about "the children of the poor," to borrow the title of her sonnet sequence sonnet sequence
A group of sonnets having a single subject or controlling idea. Also called sonnet cycle. from Annie Allen. Critic Gary Smith Gary Smith may refer to:
Prior to the McCarthy-era backlash, Chicago had become an intellectual and artistic mecca; according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Robert Bone, "the flowering of Negro letters that took place in Chicago from 1935 to 1950 was in all respects comparable to the more familiar Harlem Renaissance Harlem Renaissance, term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City. During the mass migration of African Americans from the rural agricultural South to the urban industrial North " (448). Brooks's career began in those years, during the same cultural moment as the newly prominent Black social scientists trained by Robert Park's Chicago School Chicago School
Group of architects and engineers who in the 1890s exploited the twin developments of structural steel framing and the electrified elevator, paving the way for the ubiquitous modern-day skyscraper. of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Years before cultural critics would routinely discuss the social construction of race, gender, and sexuality, works written in part or in whole by these social scientists attest to how profoundly the material and emotional circumstances of children are affected by "color-caste" and class distinctions. Drake and Cayton's Black Metropolis (1945), a sociological study of Brooks's South Side neighborhood,  Dollard and Davis's Children of Bondage (1940), and Davis and Gardner's Deep South (1941) demonstrate clearly that childhood is a social cons truct. Many of these same scholars contributed to An American Dilemma An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy is a 1944 study of race relations authored by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal and funded by The Carnegie Foundation. , Gunnar Myrdal's 1944 study of race relations race relations
the relations between members of two or more races within a single community
race relations npl → relaciones fpl raciales
in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. which would prove controversial when the Supreme Court relied on its findings in deciding Brown v. Board of Education Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka)
(1954) U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (1954).  Although the opportunities and working conditions for Black scholars in the U.S. were still "shaped by racism," as William Banks This article is about the alderman. For the Egyptologist, see William John Bankes.
William Banks is alderman of the 36th ward in Chicago; he was first elected in 1983. notes (130-31), the emergence of the new Black scholarship coupled with the promise of integration made the '40s a hopeful time. But this hope proved to be short-lived. By the 1950s, anti-communist hysteria fueled a resurgence of White supremacist white supremacist
One who believes that white people are racially superior to others and should therefore dominate society.
white supremacy n.
Noun 1. racism as virulent as that during the early decades of the twentieth century. After the '40s, the redefinition of childhood was subsumed under the prevailing cold war family values family values
The moral and social values traditionally maintained and affirmed within a family. ideology.
Brooks's poetry explores even more fully the view shared by Black scholars that no single definition of "childhood" could accurately describe the lives of Black children. When A Street in Bronzeville was published on August 15, 1945, World War II was coming to an end and the Cold War was still on the horizon. Despite segregationist seg·re·ga·tion·ist
One that advocates or practices a policy of racial segregation.
segre·ga policies in the armed forces, the war years and immediate postwar years promised expanded opportunity for Black males in the urban North. In her "public" war poems in the volume, Brooks confronts the complicated intersection of race and masculinity. But while the war poems are the most overtly political poems in the volume, A Street in Bronzeville is no less engaged with homefront politics. The complexity of Brooks's depiction of masculinity in the volume both complements the more "domestic" poems in the book and foreshadows Brooks's Annie Allen (1949) and The Bean Eaters (1960), later poetry which, Susan Schweik observes, "more and more confront[s] political conflicts and violenc e within U.S. culture U.S. culture has two main meanings:
Among the models for social protest that Brooks had likely read was Richard Wright's documentary book 12 Million Black Voices (1941), an eloquent and searing sear 1
v. seared, sear·ing, sears
1. To char, scorch, or burn the surface of with or as if with a hot instrument. See Synonyms at burn1.
2. indictment of the plight of urban Blacks after the Northern migration, lavishly illustrated with photographs chosen by Edwin Rosskam from the files of the Farm Security Administration. Long a fan of Wright's work, Brooks was delighted to receive Wright's complimentary reader's report for Harper which concluded, "Miss Brooks is real and so are her poems." Writing to thank him, Brooks confessed to Wright that he "had been a literary hero of hers for years" (Kent 63). Among the poems Wright had singled out for praise, was Brooks's now-famous poem "kitchenette building": "Only one who has actually lived and suffered in a kitchenette could render the feeling of lonely frustration as well as she does" (qtd. in Kent 62). Wright's indictment of the kitchenette in 12 Million Black Voices paints kitchenette life as hopeless in a way that Brooks's poem does not:
The kitchenette is the author of the glad tidings Glad Tidings is a free Bible magazine published monthly by the Christadelphians (Brethren in Christ). that new suckers are in town, ready to be cheated, plundered and put in their places.
The kitchenette is our prison, our death sentence, without a trial, the new form of mob violence that assaults not only the lone individual, but all of us, in its ceaseless attacks.
The kitchenette with its filth and foul air, with its one toilet for thirty or more tenants, kills our black babies so fast that in many cities twice as many of them die white babies....
The kitchenette creates thousands of one-room homes where our black mothers sit, deserted, with their children about their knees.
The kitchenette blights the personalities of our growing children, disorganizes them, blinds them to hope, creates problems whose effects can be traced in the characters of its child victims for years afterwards. (105-10)
Though Brooks depicts unflinchingly the "blights" on the personalities of children and adults in Bronzeville, her kitchenette is not merely the site of victimization victimization Social medicine The abuse of the disenfranchised–eg, those underage, elderly, ♀, mentally retarded, illegal aliens, or other, by coercing them into illegal activities–eg, drug trade, pornography, prostitution. . Brooks's "things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, / Grayed in and gray," feel the "giddy sound" of dreams, unable to compete with the "strong" demands of" 'rent,' 'feeding a wife,' 'satisfying a man.'" A place of "crowding darkness" with its share of "child victims," the street of the title sequence is populated by specific human beings. If in other circumstances Brooks's kitchenette dwellers might "Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms," they have more pressing and practical concerns:
We wonder. But not well!
not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of
the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water,
hope to get in it. (Blacks 20) 
Hortense Spillers has noted Brooks's "commitment to life in its unextraordinary aspects," which shows us that "common life is not as common as we suspect" (234). Brooks's kitchenette dwellers are potential artists whom necessity has reduced to numbers waiting in line for the kitchenette's overcrowded o·ver·crowd
v. o·ver·crowd·ed, o·ver·crowd·ing, o·ver·crowds
To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms. bathrooms, but the ironic diminishment of their "hope" nevertheless points to that hope's tenacity. Without obscuring the material circumstances of her characters, Brooks nevertheless insists on their value beyond their status as victims. And Spillers (echoing an earlier essay by Houston Baker) describes this dynamic in terms of a dialectic that offers the reader "a model of power, control, and subtlety" that "transcends ideology." 
If by "transcending ideology," Spillers means that Brooks's poetry refuses to approach the political in programmatic ways, then perhaps she is accurate in her assessment. Brooks writes poetry, after all, not the kind of documentary realism so effective in the Wright/ Rosskam volume. But Brooks's poetry is ever attentive to the dominant ideologies of the postwar era, when liberal historians and critics were to proclaim "the end of ideology" altogether.  An age of so-called "consensus history," the '50s saw the invention of the White suburban family as a cultural norm and media icon. Exaggerated fears of the Red Menace Red Menace may refer to:
Daniel Bell (born 10 May 1919 in New York) is a sociologist and a professor emeritus at Harvard University. He is also a director of Suntory Foundation and a scholar in residence of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. would tell the affluent readers of The End of Ideology (1960) that there was an "actual decline of crime in the United States Crime in the United States is characterized by relatively high levels of gun violence and homicide, compared to other developed countries although this is explained by the fact that criminals in America are more likely to use firearms. ," and point out that most crimes were now committed by "youths and ... minority groups, principally the Negroes.... The greatest number of crimes in Chicago," c ontinues Bell, "is committed in 'Bronzeville,' the narrow, choked Negro ghetto which runs like a dagger down the south side" (141). But Bell goes on to reassure his White audience that, "however fierce the juvenile gang wars in East Harlem, the intermittent slashings in Bronzeville, or the rumbles in North Beach, it is clear that the score of violence today in no way approaches the open, naked brawling of even thirty or forty years ago" (157).
Dismissing the "assertion that modem life is more violent" as "largely a literary creation," Bell describes the "myth of crime waves" as a result of "the blurring, culturally and ecologically, of class lines.... With the rise of movies and other media," he concludes, came a "widening" of" 'windows' into the full range of life, from which the old middle class had largely been excluded" (157). Bell's "dagger down the south side," viewed through middle-class television windows, was willfully willfully adv. referring to doing something intentionally, purposefully and stubbornly. Examples: "He drove the car willfully into the crowd on the sidewalk." "She willfully left the dangerous substances on the property." (See: willful) blind to the vibrant life so apparent in Brooks's Bronzevile. Most telling is Bell's equation of "youths" and "minority groups, principally the Negroes." A culture that reduces the man "of De Witt De Witt, uninc. town (1990 pop. 8,244), Onondaga co., central N.Y., a residential suburb of Syracuse. Williams on his way to Lincoln Cemetery Lincoln Cemetery can refer to:
... the delicate rehearsal shots of my childhood massed in mirage before me. Of course I was a child
Made me wild.
And my first swallow of the liquor of battle bleeding black air dying and demon noise
It was kinder than that, though, and I showed like a banner my kindness. (Blacks 48-49)
The equation of child and Black man as (in this instance, noble) primitive is successfully interrogated in the poem. The speaker rejects the notion that his heroic act is occasioned by the mere "boy itch to get at the gun." The image of the wild child is rejected in favor of the image of a man: "I loved. And a man will guard when he loves." This is not to say that the "Negro Hero" has rejected his child-self; rather, he rejects a naive version of childhood, and by showing "like a banner" his kindness, he also rejects a stereotypical version of Black male adulthood. Brooks recognizes that Black men's and women's attempts to construct their subjectivities are impeded by the "constant back-question" of a culture that insists on their inferiority (49). That her heroes are often able to negotiate successfully the intra-subjective relationship between their adult and child selves is remarkable in that they must not only bridge the temporal and experiential gap between maturity and childhood, but they must do so in opposition to a law that circumscribes their material and emotional existence. The White middle-class view that equates childishness with blackness per se negates full participation in citizenship, both for Black American soldiers and for growing Black children.
Instead, Brooks's heroes, like Maud Martha, "reckon" with "annoyances," a gray existence of "roaches, and having to be satisfied with the place as it was":
The sobbings, the frustrations, the small hates, the large and ugly hates, the little pushing-through love, the boredom, that came to her from behind those walls (some of them beaver-board) via speech and scream and sigh--all these were gray. And the smells of various types of sweat, and of bathing and bodily functions Bodily Functions
See also body, human.
the process or act of swallowing.
the shedding of the superficial epithelium, as of skin, the mucous membranes, etc. (the bathroom was always in use, someone was always in the bathroom) and of fresh or stale love-making, which rushed in thick fumes fumes
odorous gases and other volatile materials; inhalation of irritating fumes causes coughing and, if sufficiently severe, irreversible pulmonary edema. to your nostrils as you walked down the hall, or down the stairs--these were gray.
There was a whole lot of grayness here. (Blacks 205-06)
Had Bell attended to "literary creations" like Maud Martha (1953), he would have seen Bronzeville heroes and heroines deprived of a widening of windows, who nevertheless have a clear-eyed perception of the world outside through "a half-inch crack" (Blacks 319). These "literary creations" struggled to make sense of the maimed maim
tr.v. maimed, maim·ing, maims
1. To disable or disfigure, usually by depriving of the use of a limb or other part of the body. See Synonyms at batter1.
2. bodies of men home from the war and the dissonant dis·so·nant
1. Harsh and inharmonious in sound; discordant.
2. Being at variance; disagreeing.
3. Music Constituting or producing a dissonance. images in "the Negro press (on whose front pages beamed the usual representations of womanly wom·an·ly
adj. wom·an·li·er, wom·an·li·est
1. Having qualities generally attributed to a woman.
2. Belonging to or representative of a woman; feminine: womanly attire. Beauty, pale and pompadoured)" which "carried the stories of the latest Georgia and Mississippi lynchings" (Blacks 319-21). If the "kitchenette folks" of Maud Martha's (and Brooks's) Bronzeville "would be grand, would be glorious and brave, would have nimble hearts that would beat and beat" (321). they would do it in the face of a relentless racist ideology. Bell's stereotypes, in fact, find their antithesis in Brooks's poetry, which works to undermine the ways in which even liberal ideology interpellates its victims.
Such pervasive misconceptions of Black life in America were wide-ranging and historically sedimented in intellectual circles, and so the Black scholars in the '30s and '40s relied on the strategic erasure ERASURE, contracts, evidence. The obliteration of a writing; it will render it void or not under the same circumstances as an interlineation. (q.v.) Vide 5 Pet. S. C. R. 560; 11 Co. 88; 4 Cruise, Dig. 368; 13 Vin. Ab. 41; Fitzg. 207; 5 Bing. R. 183; 3 C. & P. 65; 2 Wend. R. 555; 11 Conn. of race. Though among what Du Bois Du Bois (d`bois, dəbois`), city (1990 pop. 8,286), Clearfield co., W central Pa., in the region of the Allegheny plateau; inc. 1881. termed "the talented tenth," they knew firsthand the effects of racial discrimination. Allison Davis, the first Black professor hired by the University of Chicago and the first to receive tenure (in 1948), had spent most of his life earning intellectual distinction in segregated institutions.  His research during the forty years he was at Chicago focused on the personality and development of children and adolescents, particularly the influence of social class on learning, which led to pioneering work on cultural bias in intelligence testing. He was the co-author of two major studies of social anthropology--Children of Bondage: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in the Urban South (1940), with John Dollard, and Deep South (1941), with Burleigh and Mary Gardner.
Under the influence of White mentors like W. Lloyd Warner William Lloyd Warner (b. October 26 1898, Redlands, California; d. May 23 1970, Chicago, Illinois) was a pioneering anthropologist noted for applying the techniques of his discipline to contemporary American culture. Career at Harvard
Warner received his B.A. , author of Social Class in America (1949), scholars like Davis recognized the rigidity of "color-caste" distinctions and chose to focus on economic and social class as a strategy for a more effective remediation of inequities. In addition, recognizing the growing influence of psychoanalysis and social psychology, they enlisted the new prestige of those disciplines in order to make their case. In his preface to Children of Bondage (1940), Davis thanks his collaborator John Dollard for helping him achieve "a genuine integration of psychoanalytical and sociological understanding" (xvii). Employing a Freudian-inflected behaviorism behaviorism, school of psychology which seeks to explain animal and human behavior entirely in terms of observable and measurable responses to environmental stimuli. Behaviorism was introduced (1913) by the American psychologist John B. as an interpretive schema, Davis and Dollard present case histories of "eight Negro adolescents in the Deep South [New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded , Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi Natchez is the county seatGR6 and largest city within Adams County, Mississippi. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 18,464. ] selected to represent all class positions in Negro society [whose] experiences illustrate the fundamental controls which each class exercises over the socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.
n. of its members" (xxiii-xxvii). Firm in their insistence that social-Darwinist theories of race are unscientific unscientific Unproven, see there , they argue that differences between groups are cultural and social, and that the effects of invidious in·vid·i·ous
1. Tending to rouse ill will, animosity, or resentment: invidious accusations.
2. discrimination are psychologically damaging to children.
In 1947, with his colleague, psychologist Robert J. Havighurst Robert James Havighurst (June 5, 1900 in De Pere, Wisconsin – January 31, 1991 in Richmond, Indiana) was a professor, physicist, educator, and aging expert. Both his father, Freeman Alfred Havighurst, and mother, Winifred Weter Havighurst, had been educators at Lawrence , Davis published a child-rearing manual with the commercial publisher Houghton Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Company is a leading educational publisher in the United States. The company's headquarters is located in Boston's Back Bay. It publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers . Titled Father of the Man: How Your Child Gets His Personality; the book is a curious amalgam of self-help and scholarship. Addressed to middleclass mothers (10), and concerned mostly with private behavior and psychological concerns, Father of the Man nevertheless draws on the authors' scholarly study "Social Class and Color Differences in Child-Rearing," published in the December 1946 issue of American Sociological Review The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The ASA founded this journal (often referred to simply as ASR) in 1936 with the mission to publish original works of interest to the sociology discipline in general, new . This research, based on 200 "guided interviews" with "fifty mothers [of young children] in each of four groups, white middle class, white lower class, Negro middle class, and Negro lower class"--most of them residents of Chicago's South Side ("Social Class" 700)--is also presented as Appendix I in Father of the Man (215-19).
Though the Wordsworthian title of the latter study might suggest a Romantic faith in divine childhood, more accurately, it reflects Davis's background as a poet and literary critic Noun 1. literary critic - a critic of literature
critic - a person who is professionally engaged in the analysis and interpretation of works of art .  In addition to chapter epigraphs by Shakespeare, Auden, William Saroyan Noun 1. William Saroyan - United States writer of plays and short stories (1908-1981)
Saroyan , Steinbeck, and Lewis Carroll, Davis includes epigraphs from Sterling Brown's Southern Road and Brooks's A Street in Bronzeville, published two years earlier. His use of Brooks's work in the context of a child-rearing manual from a major trade publisher for an audience of middle-class (presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. White) mothers illustrates the cultural and ideological dissonance between his claims for childhood as a universal human stage and his concern about the specific effects of social-class and colorcaste distinctions on actual children. Chapter III of Father of the Man, entitled "Silver Spoon or Sugar Teat?" bears two epigraphs, one from Brooks and one from Davis's mentor, W. Lloyd Warner:
A class system also provides that children are born into the same status as their parents. A class society distributes rights and privileges, duties and obligations, unequally among its members. --W. Lloyd Warner
I've stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back....
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play,
I want a good time today.
They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine.
How they don't have to go in at quarter to nine.
Gwendolyn Brooks (17)
Davis's omissions from Brooks's poem are telling. Aside from truncating the end of the third and all of the last verse paragraphs, the ellipsis A three-dot symbol used to show an incomplete statement. Ellipses are used in on-screen menus to convey that there is more to come. omits the speaker's hunger and urgency to explore the unfamiliar, and most likely her sexuality: "Where it's rough and untended and the hungry weed grows. / A girl gets sick of a rose. / I want to go in the back yard now" (Blacks 28).  Abstracted from its context in the "Street in Bronzeville" sequence, "a song in the front yard," in Davis's edited version, is a far less threatening--and a far less complex--poem. The little girl who speaks "a song" expresses admiration for the "bad woman" Johnnie May because she intuits that her "bad" identity is largely a matter of masquerade:
But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.
And I'd like to be a bad woman, too.
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the street with paint on my face. (Blacks 28)
Davis intentionally obscures the issue of race in his study as part of a strategic insistence that class differences are far more important than color differences.  Brooks's front-yard singer, however, is far more rebellious and complicated: The emblems of her rebellion are both "brave" and "night-black." The painted face seems to the speaker to provide an identity that can be assumed at will, perhaps a form of racial as well as sexual masquerade, but the poet maintains an ironic distance from the speaker, knowing that such performances have limited transgressive trans·gres·sive
1. Exceeding a limit or boundary, especially of social acceptability.
2. Of or relating to a genre of fiction, filmmaking, or art characterized by graphic depictions of behavior that violates socially potential. However, the child speaker's monologue as "a song" helps her to negotiate difficult questions of self in the context of a specific culture and community. As Brooks demonstrates in the volume as a whole, identity, like community and culture, cannot be satisfactorily reduced to "good" vs. "bad." The diversity of Bronzeville belies easy moral distinctions; populated by a wide variety of characters from the heroic to the hypocritical, A St reet refuses to shy away from Verb 1. shy away from - avoid having to deal with some unpleasant task; "I shy away from this task"
avoid - stay clear from; keep away from; keep out of the way of someone or something; "Her former friends now avoid her" the neighborhood's pervasive tensions over class and color.  And Brooks as author generally refrains from easy judgment. One surmises, for instance, that the mother of the front-yard singer has acted out of love and concern for the child's well-being. But since, inevitably, "a girl gets sick of a rose," that protective restraint has left the girl ill-equipped to confront the realities of the world she longs to experience. The mother's too rigid morality is inadequate sustenance for the incipient adolescent, who begins to question the binaries of class--working poor vs. charity cases--of sexuality, and, arguably, of color--the purity of the rose vs. night-black lace stockings.
While she seems sympathetic to the girl's longings, as her biographer George Kent observes, Brooks "rejected the exotic vein of the Harlem Renaissance," injecting "satire and realism" into her portraits of ordinary Bronzevillians (66-67). Reminiscent of Allison Davis's 1928 Crisis essay (see n9), Brooks's contribution to Phylon's 1950 symposium on "The Negro Writer"--"Poets Who are Negroes"--cautions Negro writers against getting carried away by the "ready-made subjects" of Black life: "No real artist is going to be content with offering raw materials. The Negro poet's most urgent duty, at present, is to polish his technique.... The mere fact of lofty subject, great drive, and high emotion," Brooks argues, is insufficient to make poetry, because these qualities lack "embellishment," "interpretation," and "subtlety" (312). Though often read as a product of "the strain that Brooks felt in attempting to negotiate a fruitful relationship between race and art... during a historical period that mingled racial prid e with an integrationist ethos" (Mootry, "Down" 9), Brooks's essay assumes that the
Negro ... cannot escape having important things to say. His mere body, for that matter, is an eloquence. His quiet walk down the street is a speech to the people. Is a rebuke, is a plea, is a school. (312)
This is not the observation of a poet single-mindedly heralding art over political engagement. Her injunction to the Negro poet to "polish his technique" is directed at focusing "his way of presenting his truths and his beauties, that these may be more insinuating in·sin·u·at·ing
1. Provoking gradual doubt or suspicion; suggestive: insinuating remarks.
2. Artfully contrived to gain favor or confidence; ingratiating. , and, therefore, more overwhelming" (312).
In May, 1950, Brooks received the unexpected news that she had won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
Any of a series of annual prizes awarded by Columbia University for outstanding public service and achievement in American journalism, letters, and music. Fellowships are also awarded. , she was thrust into a public role as cultural observer and spokeswoman, particularly regarding race matters. Despite this newfound fame, she and her husband and son were still living in a two-room kitchenette at 623 East 63rd Street. In early 1951, the thirty-three-year-old Brooks was delighted to find herself pregnant with her second child, Nora. Hoping to raise enough money for a down payment on a house, she sought to supplement the meager mea·ger also mea·gre
1. Deficient in quantity, fullness, or extent; scanty.
2. Deficient in richness, fertility, or vigor; feeble: the meager soil of an eroded plain.
3. $500 advance she had received for her novel Maud Martha (1953) and turned to writing feature stories for popular magazines. Among these stories was "How I Told My Child About Race," published in the June 1951 Negro Digest. Brooks recalls an incident of racist violence, when "six or seven young white men" threw "handfuls of rocks" and shouted "'Look at the nig-gers' "at Brooks and her then five-year-old son Henry, Jr., during their evening stroll by "the beautiful buildings of the [U]niversity" of Chicago. Brooks vowed with bitter irony "never again to take evening walks east of Cottage Grove Cottage Grove, village (1990 pop. 22,935), Washington co., SE Minn., near the St. Croix River; inc. 1965. There is farming (cattle, sheep, corn, and soybeans) and manufacturing (chemicals and machinery). with [her] son":
Formerly I had felt that if any place at all was safe, the university district, mecca of basic enlightenment and progressive education would be safe. The buildings, with their delicate and inspiring spires, seemed now to leer, to crowd us with mutterings--"Oh no, you black bodies!-- no sanctuary here. You have found no sanctuary, you will find no sanctuary anywhere. This beauty is not for you, the architects, the builders, did not have the elongations of your filthy shadows in mind as they worked, as they shaped. Get out, get out, get out..." (30)
When Henry, Jr., asks "why-why-why--would 'those men' want to hurt us," his mother regains her composure, explaining that those with "light skins" feel that they are "better than us and that therefore they are entitled to rule others":
When you are bigger you may be able to help them change the way they feel by teaching them.... you are a person, and good, wise, and helpful to the world. Even without their education in mind, you would want to be good, wise and helpful anyhow. While you are little and helpless, you can do nothing but try to see trouble before it hits you with stones, and get away from it as best you can. (10)
The richly contradictory symbol of the University of Chicago occasions an expression of rage, though tempered somewhat by her tone of equanimity e·qua·nim·i·ty
The quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure.
[Latin aequanimit as she speaks to her son. Though it was home to Allison Davis and, for its time, represented a progressive approach to race relations, the University was nonetheless a stately and visible symbol of White privilege White privilege has the following meanings:
These concerns are further expressed in her early '50s journalism which appeared in Black journals like Phylon and Negro Digest, as well as in an essay Brooks wrote for the travel magazine Holiday titled "They Call it Bronzeville" (October 1951). Addressing the magazine's White audience using the conceit of a "white Stranger who enters Bronzeville for the first time" (61), Brooks demonstrates the intersection of class and race in the construction of childhood by contrasting the children of Woodlawn--"the elite area of Bronzeville"--with those of "Bronzeville proper." In the Woodlawn neighborhood of "brown-brick bungalows and attractive small apartment houses...the children"
But eight-year-old Clement Lewy lives "an interesting life, a life perhaps like an unmixed batter--lumpy, vaguely disheveled." Clement, a latchkey child latchkey child Social medicine A child who arrives home after school, lets him/herself into the house–with a 'latchkey', and is unattended until the parents' arrive from work. Cf 'Supermom.'. whose "mother has grown listless (programming) listless - In functional programming, a property of a function which allows it to be combined with other functions in a way that eliminates intermediate data structures, especially lists. since her husband deserted her," nevertheless
are very light, or maybe apricot, a sort of sunburst brown. If, unhappily, the children are dark, just plain out-and-out dark that nothing can be done about, that not even Golden Peacock or Black and White bleach can "help," then their parents have to spend money on clothes, have to force music or art through those black unfortunate finge rs, have to maneuver those black bodies into the right social situations, have to "scheme." (62)
looks alert, almost too alert; he looks happy, he is always spirited. He is in second grade. He does his work and has been promoted at the proper times. At home he sings. He recites little poems. He tells his mother little stories wound out of the air. His mother glances at him once in a while. She would be proud of him if she had the time. (63) 
As with the children who populate Brooks's first two volumes of poems, the restrictions of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color and class impinge on the promise of artistry. The very existence of a ghetto, "something that should not exist--an area set aside for the halting use of a single race," Brooks argues, has a profound effect on children's attempts to negotiate what is "essentially only what is ordinary: human struggle, human whimsicality whim·si·cal·i·ty
n. pl. whim·si·cal·i·ties
1. The quality or state of being whimsical.
2. A whimsical idea or its expression; a caprice.
Noun 1. , and human reach toward soul-settlement" (61).
The photographs accompanying the article (undoubtedly chosen by the editors rather than Brooks) contradict Brooks's portrayal of Bronzevillians as ordinary human beings. Rather, they are drawn as entertainers and exotics: a debutante ball at "an exclusive Bronzeville social club"; a gathering of artists and writers; Eldzier Cortor Eldzier Cortor is an African-American artist and printmaker born January 10, 1916, in Tidewater, Virginia, to John and Ophelia Cortor. His family moved to Chicago when Cortor was about a year old, eventually settling in that city's South Side, where Cortor attended Englewood High , nationally known Chicago artist, depicted with a nude man wearing a Haitian ritual mask; a light-skinned cover girl posing for "Tan Confessions, a racy rac·y
adj. rac·i·er, rac·i·est
1. Having a distinctive and characteristic quality or taste.
2. Strong and sharp in flavor or odor; piquant or pungent.
3. Risqué; ribald.
4. sister magazine of Ebony, influential Negro monthly"; and "Sepia Show Girls" at the White-owned Club De Lisa. The lone remaining photograph depicts a boy of six or seven drinking from a glass by a window in an obviously shabby apartment. The caption reads: "HIS ARM BROKEN, his mother dead, his father vanished, this Bronzeville waif looks wistfully at life from the window of his foster home" (114). Brooks's effort to teach the White Stranger that Bronzeville is "a place where People live" (116), is undercut by the photo spread which suggests that Bronzeville is a place of dancing, singing, happy, exotic, oversexed o·ver·sexed
Having or showing an excessive sexual appetite or interest in sex. adult Negroes who abuse and neglect their children.
When Ursula Nordstrom proposed a volume of children's verse in 1955, Brooks tackled the task with vigor, writing the poems in Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956) at the rate of a poem a day (Kent 122). Like most first-time children's writers, she was given no choice of illustrators or any input regarding the illustrations themselves. And once again the disparity between her text and the accompanying illustrations is telling. Ronni Solbert's black-and-white line drawings portray the Bronzeville children, sometimes with stylized styl·ize
tr.v. styl·ized, styl·iz·ing, styl·iz·es
1. To restrict or make conform to a particular style.
2. To represent conventionally; conventionalize. Black facial characteristics, but all with white faces. According to George Kent, Brooks found the illustrations disturbing. Granted, the poems themselves do not mention race, except obliquely, in keeping with the integrationist ethos then endorsed by Brooks. Perhaps recognizing that the poems would be judged according to the standards of what Nancy Larrick called "the all-white world of children's books," Brooks implies race only in the title of the volume and in the dramatic monologue dramatic monologue
A literary, usually verse composition in which a speaker reveals his or her character, often in relation to a critical situation or event, in a monologue addressed to the reader or to a presumed listener. by Gertrude, which begins "When I hear Marian Anderson sing, / I am a STUFFless kind of thing" (Bronzeville Boys and Girls 31). Portending the negative criticism Brooks would receive for being too political in her adult volume The Bean Eaters (1960), Doris M. King, writing in the Black quarterly Phylon, gently chided the poet for introducing "a note of social comment" into her otherwise delightful poems about "those untranslatable people who 'come trailing clouds of glory.'" Replete with condescending and universalizing descriptions of children--"the stubborn but facile minds of children, the literal though wildly imaginative" (93)--King's review faults the poems depicting the material conditions of Bronzeville because their "social comment" "encumber To burden property by way of a charge that must be removed before ownership is free and clear.
Property subject to an encumbrance may have a lien or mortgage imposed upon it. [s] the universal wonder of childhood." Preferring the poems that "interpret life from the inside out," King argues that the best poems in the book "are not about Bronzeville boys and girls, but simply boys and girls" (94).
That King should prefer the poems that are "unfettered by social implications" confirms the difficulty Brooks faced in disrupting the idealizing and sentimental view of childhood endorsed by mainstream culture in the '50s. In the best poems in the volume, Brooks employs a surface sentimentality in order to undermine it, as in the pathos of "Otto":
It's Christmas Day. I did not get
The presents that I hoped for. Yet,
It is not nice to frown or fret.
To frown or fret would not be fair.
My Dad must never know I care
It's hard enough for him to bear. (38)
D. H. Melhem has compared the poems of Bronzeville Boys and Girls to Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses A Child's Garden of Verses is a collection of poetry for children by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. The collection first appeared in 1885 under the title Penny Whistles, but has been reprinted many times, often in illustrated versions. (Gwenzdolyn 95-99), but although the comparison is sometimes apt, there is none of Stevenson's irony at the child's expense. The ironies of Brooks's volume explore the disparity between the sentimental conventions of a mid-'50s children's book (including the inapt in·apt
1. Inappropriate: an inapt remark.
2. Inept: inapt handling of the project. and often inept illustrations) and the everyday lives of Bronzeville children, such as "John, Who Is Poor," a boy reminiscent of the Clement Lewy of the Holiday article and Maud Martha:
Oh, little children, be good to John!-
Who lives so lone and alone.
Whose Mama must hurry to toil all day.
Whose Papa is dead and done.
Give him a berry, boys, when you may,
And, girls, some mint when you can.
And do not ask when his hunger will end,
Nor yet when it began. (38)
The last stanza's ironies seem doubly addressed to adult and child readers, as if Brooks anticipates that the child reader will inevitably ask the question the poet forbids. Doris King's preferred Wordsworthian childhood is confronted with the restricted urban spaces where nature is represented by a lone tree Lone Tree can refer to:
In the '50s, Brooks wrote as a young mother whose poetry was essential for the well-being of her own children in a racist society; today, she writes as a poet with decades of a political commitment to working closely with children and poetry. In her work of the '60s and '70s, Brooks's children are catalysts for change, both as symbols and through their own poetic voices: The remembered "infant softness" of Emmett Till Emmett Louis "Bobo" Till (July 25 1941 – August 28 1955) was a fourteen year old African-American boy from Chicago, Illinois brutally murdered  in Money, Mississippi, a small town in the state's Delta region. becomes a symbol that awakens the conscience of the Mississippi mother for whose sake he has been lynched ("A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon," Blacks 333-39), while the voice of the murdered Pepita S. in her couplet couplet
Two successive lines of verse. A couplet is marked usually by rhythmic correspondence, rhyme, or the inclusion of a self-contained utterance. Couplets may be independent poems, but they usually function as parts of other verse forms, such as the Shakespearean sonnet, at the end of "In the Mecca" ("I touch"--she said once--"petals of a rose. / A silky feeling through me goes!" [Blacks 4331) "becomes the most vital voice of the community," as Gayl Jones (203) points out. By 1975, Brooks had become increasingly concerned with fostering children's vital voices, so that rather than being "offere d in distorted images through the mirrors of others," as Jones says of Pepita, they may "speak for [themselves]" (203). In her ars poetica Ars Poetica is a term meaning "The Art of Poetry" or "On the Nature of Poetry". Early examples of Ars Poetica by Aristotle and Horace have survived and have since spawned many other poems that bear the same name. , published in a capsule course in Black Poetry Writing (1975), Brooks instructs novice writers to "Remember that ART is refining and evocative translation of the materials of the world!" (Brooks et al.11) and calls for "a new black literature" that will "italicize i·tal·i·cize
tr.v. i·tal·i·cized, i·tal·i·ciz·ing, i·tal·i·ciz·es
1. To print in italic type.
2. To underscore (written matter) with a single line to indicate italics.
3. black identity, black solidarity, black self-possession, and self address" (3).
This commitment and hopefulness manifested itself in action throughout the '70s and '80s as Brooks conducted informal poetry workshops for children in her neighborhood, published several writing guides for young people, and tirelessly promoted poetry and literacy as ways of living meaningfully in an increasingly hostile world. As Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress in 1985-86, Brooks gave generously to the Washington area community, visiting schools and paying for a series of readings by young poets out of her own pocket, as I and other members of the D.C. poetry community at the time observed firsthand. In Very Young Poets (1983) Brooks offers solid advice to child poets that poems can address both the fantasy worlds This is a partial list of fictional fantasy worlds, according to the medium they appear in: Novels and short stories
Clothes, especially pants, made of blue denim.
blue jeans npl → tejanos mpl; vaqueros mpl
, school and lessons and teachers and garbagemen, babies, old people, McDonald's hamburgers, gardens, jail and prisoners" (12). Rather than romanticize ro·man·ti·cize
v. ro·man·ti·cized, ro·man·ti·ciz·ing, ro·man·ti·ciz·es
To view or interpret romantically; make romantic.
To think in a romantic way. children's "stubborn but facile minds," Brooks exhorts her young poets to read not just the "many kinds of poetry," but "also he news, stories, biography, history, science books and newsmagazines. These will help you THINK," she admonishes, "and your thoughts will inspire more poems" (15). "In all this willful world / of thud and thump and thunder," she writes in one of the "Eight Poems for Children" concluding the volume,
By 1986, however, in The Near Johannesburg Boy, dedicated "to the students of Gwendolyn Brooks Junior High School, Harvey, Illinois Harvey is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 30,000, at the 2000 census.but a 2003 Census estimate showed the population dipped to 29,367. The ZIP code is 60426. ," it becomes clear that books alone may not provide enough "meat and medicine." For children who "flail in the Hot Time" (4) in South Africa South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2005 est. pop. 44,344,000), 471,442 sq mi (1,221,037 sq km), S Africa. , or who confront the possibility of "Early Death" in urban America with its proliferation of guns and the temptations of the "small seductive vial" of crack (18-19), poetry seems insufficient weaponry. In a world where Black children in South Africa "ask each other: 'Have you been detained yet? How many times have you been detained?'" (3) or where Black children in Chicago know that "Death is / just down the street; is most obliging o·blig·ing
Ready to do favors for others; accommodating.
o·bliging·ly adv. neighbor; / can meet you any moment," only a communal expression of grief and anger provides a fitting memorial "Of the Young Dead":
Books are meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower, steel, stitch, cloud and clout, and drumbeats on the air. (27)
What is to cherish is the child
who loved us, who loved science and
wished the world well.
Keeping those gifts of self, beyond the changes.
we keep the living light of our young dead. (18)
Faced with the erosion of Black empowerment in the '80s and '90s, even Brooks's optimism reaches its limits. In Children Coming Home (1991), a collection of twenty powerful dramatic monologues in children's voices, Brooks's children emerge as casualties of national policies which promote the fiction of a color-blind col·or·blind or col·or-blind
1. Partially or totally unable to distinguish certain colors.
a. Not subject to racial prejudices.
b. society while social and economic disparities between Black and White communities increase.
Deliberately abandoning the formal virtuosity that characterized her earlier work, Brooks represents children's voices through a seemingly simple, declarative de·clar·a·tive
1. Serving to declare or state.
2. Of, relating to, or being an element or construction used to make a statement: a declarative sentence.
n. method, which is underscored by the volume's design: an old-fashioned children's composition book, with a black-and-white mottled mottled /mot·tled/ (mot´ld) marked by spots or blotches of different colors or shades. cover. The prefatory pref·a·to·ry
Of, relating to, or constituting a preface; introductory. See Synonyms at preliminary.
[From Latin praef poem, "After School," delineates the odds against children's empowerment in a culture that devalues them:
Not all of the children
come home to cookies and cocoa.
Some come home to crack cocaine.
Some come to be used in various manners.
One will be shot on his way home to warmth, wit and wisdom.
One teacher mutters "My God, they are gone.
One is ripe to report Ten People to the Principal.
One muses "How have I served or disturbed them today?"
One whispers "The little Black Bastards."
One sees all children as clothing: the blue blouse--
the green dress-the tight-fitting T-shirt.
One will take home for homework each of the
twenty, the thirty, the forty one.
Against a backdrop of over-crowded classrooms, domestic and street violence, and even the war in the Persian Gulf Persian Gulf, arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman. , the twenty children who speak in the volume live a social reality far removed from--and far more complex than-the children of Bronzeville Boys and Girls. Institutionalized in·sti·tu·tion·al·ize
tr.v. in·sti·tu·tion·al·ized, in·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·ing, in·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·es
a. To make into, treat as, or give the character of an institution to.
b. violence against the family, which often breeds intra-family violence and abuse, is portrayed unflinchingly. Even attempts at Afro-centric education to foster self-esteem seem ineffective in the world of Children Coming Home. For Tinsel tin·sel
1. Very thin sheets, strips, or threads of a glittering material used as a decoration.
2. Something sparkling or showy but basically valueless: the tinsel of parties and promotional events. Marie, who has learned about "The Coora Flower" that "grows high in the mountains of Itty-go-luba Besa,"
School is a tiny vacation. At least you can sleep....
But now it's Real Business.
I am Coming Home.
My mother will be screaming in an almost dirty dress.
The crack is gone. So a Man will be in the house.
I must watch myself.
I must not dare to sleep. (1)
Sala learns that in "East Afrika" her name "means gentleness," but there is little gentleness in her life. Feeling herself "sucked into earth," "whipped through the wind," and "drowning, oddly, in an odd ocean," she anaesthetizes herself with alcohol:
Well, now I am coming home.
I shall be better
after the aspirin and wine. (8)
Undoubtedly, D. H. Melhem notes, Brooks "sees today's children Today's Children was the first nationally syndicated radio soap opera in the United States. Created and written by Irna Phillips, it aired from flagship station WMAQ in Chicago from 1932 to 1938, and later in national syndication (without the involvement of WMAQ) from 1943 in their context1 and... proclaims an emergency" ("Afterword" 158), but even in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of emergency the poems offer hope for children's potential to employ poetic language in order to make sense of their world. Though the monologues are spare and often despairing, their poetry emerges in the silences between declarative statements, in associative leaps, and in metonymic me·ton·y·my
n. pl. me·ton·y·mies
A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of resonances. Jamal's monologue, "Nineteen Cows In A Slow Line Walking," is a telling illustration of Brooks's craft. Jamal has seen the cows on a train "when [he] was five years old" (though the reader surmises he is not much older when he speaks the poem):
Each cow was behind a friend.
Except for the first cow, who was God.
I smiled until
one cow near the end
jumped in front of a friend.
That reminded me of my mother and of my father.
It spelled what is their Together.
I was sorry for the spelling lesson.
I turned my face from the glass. (2)
Jamal perceives the line of cows as an orderly procession led by a benevolent God. Reading the line of cows from the moving train, he witnesses a disruption of that order (which is also a breach of friendship) that "spells" out for him the disruption in his family life. Jamal's "reading" is supplanted by the institutional forces of family and school in such a way that he turns from the glass that is both his window on the world and a mirror in which he can see his own image. The associative seeing of the meaningful relationship among the cows is thus converted into a mere lesson in which getting it right produces an abdication abdication, in a political sense, renunciation of high public office, usually by a monarch. Some abdications have been purely voluntary and resulted in no loss of prestige. of poetic ways of seeing. And yet the process of that loss is reproduced by the monologue itself, so that, in a very real way. Jamal has achieved a saving grace by converting the loss into poetic utterance.
Jamal, like young Martin D., who finds in the books his father provides "fire" that is an antidote to "school," which "has made [him] crispy-cold," must fight to be resilient in a society in which children's empowerment through language has become an expendable luxury. As Brooks learned in "the kindergarten of new consciousness" of the Black Power Movement, the institutions of the school and the family, which should foster children's well-being, too often perpetuate their pain. Like the inhabitants
The game is based loosely on the concepts from SameGame. of the "kitchenette building" of the '40s, Brooks's children of the '90s must seek out their own strength and solace; Novelle takes comfort in the love of her "warm and wide and long" Grandmother with whom she eats "walnuts and apples / in a one-room kitchenette above The / Some Day Liquor Gardens" (4). As the poems m Children Coming Home attest, the "crowding darkness" of A Street in Bronzeville has intensified.
In the sonnet sequence "the children of the poor" (Annie Allen ), Brooks questions the efficacy of art for embattled children; "First fight. Then fiddle" (118), she advises. Her poetry, at once advocacy and artistry, demonstrates that fighting and fiddling may be part of the same project. In the course of over fifty years of writing for and about children, Brooks's complex negotiation of childhood teaches us that the failure to see children in the specificity of their lived circumstances "makes a trap for us." Childhood, seen through the reifying lens of a romanticized nostalgia, naturalizes children's "little lifting helplessness, the queer / Whimper-whine" (115). Rather than empowering children, we see them, at best, as representations of our own "lost softness." We look away from evidence of suffering, making "a sugar" in the face of their vulnerability. By posing uncomfortable social questions in the disarming voices of child speakers, Brooks subtly employs the image of the innocent child to expose not-so-innocent social practices, and offers a compelling critique of the ways in which these practices construct the child as "quasi, contraband" (116). In letting children speak, through her own poetic voice, and in helping them Find their own voices, she provides both "arms and armor" for social change. In the '40s, Brooks first posed the question "What shall I give my children? who are poor, / Who are adjudged the leastwise least·wise
In any event; at least.
Adv. 1. leastwise - if nothing else (`leastwise' is informal and `leastways' is colloquial); "at least he survived"; "they felt--at any rate Jim felt--relieved though in the land" (Blacks 116). At the end of the century, her question has not yet received a sufficient answer.
Richard Flynn is Professor of Literature at Georgia Southern University Georgia Southern University, established 1906, is a regional university located in Statesboro, Georgia, USA, and part of the University System of Georgia. It is the largest center of higher education in the southern half of Georgia and is the sixth largest institution in the , where he specializes in contemporary poetry and children's literature children's literature, writing whose primary audience is children.
See also children's book illustration. The Beginnings of Children's Literature
The earliest of what came to be regarded as children's literature was first meant for adults. . He wishes to thank Professor Gareth Matthews of the University of Massachusetts The system includes UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth (affiliated with Cape Cod Community College), UMass Lowell, and the UMass Medical School. It also has an online school called UMassOnline. and the National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
U.S. independent agency. Founded in 1965, it supports research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. for the opportunity to participate in Professor Matthews's 1998 NEH NEH
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar "Issues in the Philosophy of Childhood," during which much of the initial research for this essay was conducted. Special thanks are also due to Professor Alden Nielsen of Loyola Marymount University Marymount University is a coeducational, four-year Catholic university whose main campus is located in Arlington, Virginia. History
Marymount was founded in 1950 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) as Marymount College, a two-year women's school. in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. and to Professor Patricia Pace of Georgia Southern University for their valuable suggestions on earlier drafts of this essay. Professor Flynn dedicates this essay to the memory of his father, Richard James Richard James may refer to:
A person, typically an attorney, employed as an assistant to a judge or another attorney, especially in order to gain legal experience. in 1954, was the author of the controversial footnote 11 in Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483), which cited the work of sociologists Kenneth Clark and Gunnar Myrdal, among others , as a basis for overturning Plessy v. Ferguson Plessy v. Ferguson, case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. The court upheld an 1890 Louisiana statute mandating racially segregated but equal railroad carriages, ruling that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth amendment to the U.S. (1896), 163 U.S. 537. His gift of The World of Gwendolyn Brooks on his son's seventeenth birthday introduced Professor Flynn to the work of this remarkable poet.
(1.) In keeping with Brooks's practice, I use the term Black rather than African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. throughout this essay. One reason Brooks prefers the term Black is that it promotes solidarity among people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important throughout the world; another is that she continues to see the usefulness of the term for promoting Black pride; her speaker Kojo in Children Coming Home says, "I am other than hypenation." Brooks explains her unpopular "objection . . . to the designation African-American" in Report from Part Two (132-33).
(2.) Brooks's article "Why Negro Women Leave Home" in the March 1951 issue of Negro Digest engages in a public debate with St. Clair Drake's "Why Men Leave Home" (Apr. 1950) and Roi Ottley's "What's Wrong with Negro Women" (Dec. 1950). For an account of the debate in relation to Brooks's war poetry, see Schweik 115-22. Black Metropolis was based on the Cayton-Warner research in the '30s, research which also formed the basis for Wright's 12 Million Black Voices. Wright contributed the introduction to the first edition.
(3.) Though the work of progressive Black scholars was published frequently during the 1940s, their names (including Dr. Davis's) are relegated to the acknowledgments in Myrdal's book. Nevertheless, in light of what Stuart Whitfield describes as the "right wing and racist attacks on his book as Communist [which] became common in the following decade" (23), it is evident that the intellectual climate before the Cold War was much more hospitable to the work of Black scholars than it would become under the specter of McCarthyism. The chilling effects on the social sciences of "the alliance between anti-Communists and white supremacists" after Brown is discussed in Schrecker 393, 404-11.
(4.) Schweik argues that poems such as "Negro Hero" and "Gay Chaps at the Bar" both transgress normative gender roles and serve as ironic protests against the segregationist policies of the armed forces. The passage of "Negro Hero" that Schweik finds most telling is the third and fourth stanzas, in which the speaker figures himself in the "image of the soldier-as-really-a-child ... half-feral and half-spoon-fed" and in the "image of the soldier-as-Real-Man ... with full self-awareness." That the two images exist simultaneously in the Negro Hero's "divided self," Schweik argues, "provide[s] a startlingly star·tle
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.
2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten. subversive representation of maleness" (119-20). Though I offer a somewhat different reading of the passage, my reading reinforces rather than negates Schweik's analysis. In another useful essay, Ann Folwell Stanford argues that Brooks's "battlefield exists simultaneously on foreign fronts, in the trenches, on Chicago streets, and even at home" (198).
(5.) For an interesting and provocative interpretation of Wright's and Brooks's depictions of kitchenette living, see Griffin, esp. 69-82 and 100-14.
(6.) Even as late as the '70s, ideological was a negative adjective in the literary critic's lexicon. Baker, in his pioneering 1972 essay "The Achievement of Gwendolyn Brooks," concludes that "the critic (whether black or white) who comes to her work seeking only support for his ideology will be disappointed for, as Etheridge Knight has pointed out, she has ever spoken the truth. And truth, one likes to feel, always lies beyond the boundaries of any one ideology" (28). Spillers's essay, which first appeared in Gilbert and Gubar's anthology Shakespeare's Sisters in 1979, concludes, "No ideologue i·de·o·logue
An advocate of a particular ideology, especially an official exponent of that ideology.
[French idéologue, back-formation from idéologie, ideology; see , Brooks does not have to be" (235). One recognizes, of course, the cultural moment in which Baker and Spillers write, but one must also recognize that Brooks's writing, editing, and teaching during the same cultural moment was explicitly and unashamedly un·a·shamed
Feeling or showing no remorse, shame, or embarrassment:
(7.) The phrase the end of ideology is from Daniel Bell's 1960 book of the same title. Stuart Whitfield's comment on the orthodoxy of public school textbooks influenced by the "consensus history" is germane ger·mane
Being both pertinent and fitting. See Synonyms at relevant.
[Middle English germain, having the same parents, closely connected; see german2. here: "Intellectuals who wrote obituaries for ideology in the 1950s either used the term in a restrictive sense (referring to the eclipse of socialism among themselves) or had not examined the American history texts that public schools adopted" (55). Drawing on Frances FitzGerald's description of how history textbooks underwent an "ideological freeze during the Cold War" (FitzGerald 44), Whitfield discusses how attacks by "business associations and right-wing citizens' groups" made textbooks bland in order to make them acceptable to a host of conservative ideologues. The Texas legislature, for instance, voted to require loyalty oaths of all textbook writers and passed a resolution requiring that textbooks emphasize "'our glowing and throbbing throb
intr.v. throbbed, throb·bing, throbs
1. To beat rapidly or violently, as the heart; pound.
2. To vibrate, pulsate, or sound with a steady pronounced rhythm: history of hearts and souls inspired by wonderful American prin ciples and traditions'" (FitzGerald 37-38).
(8.) Davis, the first Black professor employed by the University of Chicago, was hired only because the liberal Julius Rosenwald Fund paid his salary; he was not permitted to buy a house in Hyde Park or even to use the faculty club (Hillis 117). The valedictorian of the class of 1924 at Williams College, Davis had not been permitted to live on that campus (Oleck 39). Hoping to become a poet, Davis then took the M.A. in literature from Harvard, taught for a few years and studied anthropology, eaming a second M.A. from Harvard in 1932 and becoming co-director of field research in social anthropology until he took a teaching position at the historically Black Dillard University in 1935. Joining the University of Chicago in 1940 as a research associate, he earned the Ph.D. in 1942. Later in life, he served as a member of the President's Commission on Civil Rights under Lyndon Johnson, and was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" shortly before his death in 1983.
(9.) A contributor of poetry and essays to W. E. B. Du Bois's The Crisis during the '20s, Davis was not only concerned with literature for its own sake, but was concerned with what he took to be stereotypical representations of Blacks in literature, by both Black and White authors. In a 1928 essay for The Crisis, Davis assailed the vogue of primitivism primitivism, in art, the style of works of self-trained artists who develop their talents in a fanciful and fresh manner, as in the paintings of Henri Rousseau and Grandma Moses. during the Harlem Renaissance: Our 'intellectuals,' then," he states in his conclusion, 'both those in literature and those in race criticism, have capitalized on the sensational aspects of Negro life, at the expense of general truth and sound judgment. Primitivism has carried the imagination of our poets and storytellers into the unhealthy and the abnormal. A sterile cynicism has driven our Menckenized critics into smart coarseness" (286).
(10.) Davis and Havighurst's chapter concerns two families, the Washingtons, who are poor and Black and live in a kitchenette, and the Bretts, who are comfortably middle-class, White, and live in a ten-room home (though the race of neither family is directly specified in the book). For Davis and other Black sociologists of his generation, the strategic erasure of race intended to appeal to their liberal audiences and mentors led them to think of class in social rather than economic terms. Such strategies were challenged by more radical thinkers such as Marxist sociologist O. C. Cox. In a series of articles and in his major study Caste, Class, and Race (1948), Cox took on the Black sociological establishment and the "Negro as caste" school for their failure to realize "the reality that capitalism requires the continuation of an exploitable class in order to preserve itself" (Jones 157-58). See Cox, esp. 489-508.
(11.) "a song in the front yard" can be fruitfully read alongside other poems in A Street that concern intra-racial color prejudice, including "patent leather," "southeast corner," "the ballad of chocolate Mabbie," "Ballad of Pearl May Lee," and, arguably, "Sadie and Maud." What Brooks later termed "the angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brothers and sisters" (Report from Part One 86) provides a significant inspiration for Brooks in many of the poems in A Street in Bronzeville. The earliest discussion of the theme of intra-racial color prejudice in Brooks's work is Arthur P. Davis's 1962 article "The Black-and-Tan Motif in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks." The theme, which grew out of Brooks's own experience of prejudice as a dark-skinned Black, is present throughout her career--in Annie Allen and Maud Martha, as well as poems as recent as "The Life of Lincoln West" (1970) and Fleur's dramatic monologue "Our White Mother Says We Are Black But Not Very" from Children Coming Home (1991). Fo r an excellent discussion of the theme of intra-racial prejudice in Brooks's work, see Erkkila 185-234.
(12.) Chapter 13 of Father of the Man, "The First Child Against the Second," concerns sibling rivalry sibling rivalry Psychology The intense, emotional competition among siblings–brothers and/or sisters that pits one against the other to obtain parental affection, approval, attention, and love. See Cain complex. Cf Oy child, Sibling relational problem. and bears as one of its epigraphs the first stanza of Brooks's "the murder": "This is where poor Percy died, I Short of the age of one./ His brother Brucie, with a grin, / Burned him up for fun" (Davis and Havighurst, Father 119; Brooks, Blacks 38). Davis and Havinghurst's point is that sibling rivalry is inevitable in the "restricted" nuclear family prevalent in Europe and America, and they point to "folk groups" where extended families alleviate such rivalry. In Brooks's poem, the "murder" is the result of the mother's leaving her children unsupervised (kitchenette living being unconducive to extended families). But she obscures the role that material conditions play in the children's being left alone by allowing the "murder' to take place while the mother "gossip[s] down the street" (38). In a March 1969 interview with George Stavros, Brooks corrects this false note in the poem: "'The Murder [sic] really ha ppened except for the fact that I said the boy's mother was gossiping down the street. She was working. (I guess I did her an injustice there.)" (Report from Part One 153-54).
(13.) The portrait of Clement Lewy is reproduced nearly verbatim in the "kitchenette folks" chapter of Maud Martha (Blacks 256-58), albeit with a more poetic beginning: "Then there was Clement Lewy, a little boy at the back, on the second floor./ Lewy life was not terrifically tossed. Saltless, rather. Or like an unmixed batter. Lumpy."
(14.) See George Kent's account of Brooks abandoning her novel-in-progress The Life of Lincoln West in order to write Bronzeville Boys and Girls (119-23). The first chapter of the novel was eventually published as a short story in 1963, and as a poem in 1970. Lincoln, "the ugliest boy / that everyone ever saw," is a victim of intra-racial prejudice, because of his pronounced Black features. When he is seven, a White man in a movie theater, makes a racist remark to his friend about Lincoln: "'THERE! That's the kind I've been wanting / to show you! One of the best / examples of the species. Not like / those diluted Negroes you see so much of on / the streets these days, but the / real thing. / Black, ugly and odd. You / can see the savagery. The blunt / blankness. That is the real thing'" (Blacks 487-88). Lincoln disregards the racist context, focusing on the phrase the real thing, which the narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete. says "comforted him" (489). That a work of similar power didn't make its way into Brooks's 1956 children's book i s understandable, but in her later poetry for and about children, such issues are raised in an effort to "speak the truth to the people," as she says, quoting Man Evans, in the epigraph ep·i·graph
1. An inscription, as on a statue or building.
2. A motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme. to Children Coming Home.
Baker, Houston A., Jr. "The Achievement of Gwendolyn Brooks." 1972. Mootry and Smith 21-29. Banks, William M. Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life. New York: Norton, 1996.
Bell, Daniel. The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. Glencoe: Free P, 1960.
Bone, Robert. "Richard Wright and the Chicago Renaissance." Callaloo cal·la·loo
1. The edible spinachlike leaves of the dasheen.
2. A soup or stew made of these leaves or other greens, okra, crabmeat, and seasonings. 28 (Summer 1986): 447-68.
Brooks, Gwendolyn. Blacks. Chicago: Third World P, 1987.
---. Bronzeville Boys and Girls. Pictures by Ronni Solbert. New York: Harper, 1956.
---. Children Coming Home. Chicago: David, 1991.
---."How I Told My Child About Race." Negro Digest June 1951: 29-31.
---. The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems. Chicago: Third World P, 1986.
---. "Poets Who Are Negroes." Phylon 11(1950): 312.
---. "They Call it Bronzeville." Holiday (Oct. 1951): 60-67,112-16.
---. Report from Part One. Prefaces by Don L. Lee and George Kent. Detroit: Broadside P, 1972.
---. Report from Part Two. Afterword by D. H. Melhem. Chicago: Third World P, 1996.
---. Very Young Poets. Chicago: Third World P, 1983.
---. "Why Negro Women Leave Home." Negro Digest Mar. 1951: 26-28.
Brooks, Gwendolyn, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Haki R. Madhubuti Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee on February 23 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States) is a renowned African-American author, educator, and poet. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, and served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963. , and Dudley Randall. a capsule course in Black Poetry Writing. Detroit: Broadside P, 1975.
Cox, Oliver, Jr. Case. Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. New York: Doubleday, 1948.
Davis, Allison. "Our Negro 'Intellectuals.'" Crisis 35 (Aug. 1928): 257, 268-69, 284-85.
---. Social-Class Influences upon Learning. The Inglis Lecture, 1948. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1948.
Davis, Allison, Burleigh B. Gardner, and Mary R. Gardner. Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1941.
Davis, Allison, and John Dollard. Children of Bondage: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in the Urban South. Washington: American Council on Education Established in 1918, the American Council on Education (ACE) is a United States organization comprising over 1,800 accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities and higher education-related associations, organizations, and corporations. , 1940.
Davis, W. Allison, and Robert J. Havighurst. Father of the Man: How Your Child Gets His Personality. Boston: Houghton, 1947.
---. "Social Class and Color Differences in Child-Rearing." American Sociological Review 11(1946): 698-710.
Davis, Arthur P. "The Black-and-Tan Motif in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks." CLA CLA,
n.pr See acid, conjugated linoleic. Journal 6 (Dec. 1962): 90-97.
Drake, St. Clair Drake, (John Gibbs) St. Clair (1911–90) sociologist, cultural anthropologist; born in Suffolk, Va. Son of a West Indian immigrant who became a Baptist preacher, he graduated from Hampton Institute in 1931 and participated in Quaker peace and racial justice . "Why Men Leave Home." Negro Digest Apr. 1950: 25-27.
Drake, St. Clair, and Horace R. Cayton. Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City Rev. ed. Intro. by Richard Wright. New Forward by William Julius Wilson William Julius Wilson (born December 20, 1935) is an American sociologist. He worked at the University of Chicago 1972-1996 before moving to Harvard.
William Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. . Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.
Erkkila, Betsy. The Wicked Sisters: Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.
FitzGerald, Frances. America Revised: History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century. Boston: Atlantic Monthly P, 1979.
Griffin, Farah Jasmine. "Who Set You Flowin?": The African-American Migration Narrative. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.
Hillis, Michael R. "Allison Davis and the Study of Race, Social Class, and Schooling." Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Ed. James A. Banks. New York: Teachers College P, 1996. 115-28.
Jones, Butler A. "The Tradition of Sociology Teaching in Black Colleges: The Unheralded Professionals." Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1974. 121-63.
Jones, Gayl. "Community and Voice: Gwendolyn Brooks's 'In the Mecca.'" Mootry and Smith 193-204.
Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1990.
King, Doris M. "The Feeling and Texture of Childness." Rev, of Bronzeville Boys and Girls, by Gwendolyn Brooks. Phylon 18 (First Quarter 1957): 93-94.
Larrick, Nancy. "The All-White World of Children's Books." Saturday Review 48 (11 Sep. 1965): 6365, 84-85.
Melhem, D. H. "Afterword." Brooks, Report From Part Two 146-60.
---. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1987. Mootry, Maria K. "'Down the Whirlwind of Good Rage': An Introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks." Mootry and Smith 1-17.
Mootry, Maria, and Gary Smith, eds. A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1987.
Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma. New York: Harper, 1944.
Oleck, Joan. "Allison Davis: 1902-1983." Contemporary Black Biography. 12. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 38-41.
Ottley, Roi. "What's Wrong With Negro Women." Negro Digest Dec. 1950: 71-75.
Schrecker, Ellen. Many are the Crimes; McCarthyism in America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.
Schweik, Susan. A Gulf So Deeply Cut: American Women Poets and the Second World War. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1991.
Smith, Gary. "Paradise Regained: The Children of Gwendolyn Brooks's Bronzeville." Mootry and Smith 128-39.
Spillers, Hortense. "Gwendolyn the Terrible: Propositions on Eleven Poems." 1979. Mootry and Smith 224-35.
Stanford, Ann Folwell. "Dialectics of Desire: War and the Resistive resistive /re·sis·tive/ (re-zis´tiv) pertaining to or characterized by resistance. Voice in Gwendolyn Brooks's 'Negro Hero' and 'Gay Chaps at the Bar.'" African American Review The African American Review is a quarterly journal and the official publication of the Division on Black American Literature and Culture of the Modern Language Association. 26(1992): 197-211.
Tate, Claudia. Black Women Writers at Work. New York: Continuum, 1983.
Warner, W. Lloyd Warner, W. (William) Lloyd (1898–1970) anthropologist, sociologist; born in Redlands, Calif. His doctoral dissertation, A Black Civilization (1937, several times revised), was a major work on aboriginal tribal kinship systems. , with Marchia Meeker and Kenneth Eells. Social Class in America: A Manual of Procedure for the Measurement of Social Status. New York: Harper, 1949.
Whitfield, Stuart. The Culture of the Cold War. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.
Wright, Richard. 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States. Photo direction by Edwin Rosskam. New York: Viking, 1941.