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Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1986) by August Wilson. Part III-III of III. Amiri Baraka Romare Bearden Blues Jorge Louis Borges. Wilson’s 4 B’s. Rutherford Selig Finding BLacks : Identity, Dispersal, History. Talking Points People Finding Selig’s History Finding Blacks in history

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wilson s 4 b s
Amiri Baraka

Romare Bearden

Blues

Jorge Louis Borges

Wilson’s 4 B’s
rutherford selig finding blacks identity dispersal history
Rutherford SeligFinding BLacks:Identity, Dispersal, History

Talking Points

People Finding

Selig’s History

Finding Blacks in history

Looking to the wrong man?

cycle history wilson rights history herald s quest and the mission of the pittsburgh cycle
Cycle History:Wilson Rights History: Herald’s Quest and the mission of the Pittsburgh Cycle

“Well, I don’t know what impact its going to have. I certainly hope it has one. At least you’ll have my idea of a dramatic history of black Americans. The fact is we have not been writing long. We’re relatively knew to this, We don’t have a large body of literature that has been developed by blacks, because at one time it was a crime to teach blacks to read and write. Europeans have been writing stuff down for hundreds of years. Blacks, coming from an oral tradition, didn’t see the necessity to write it down. But still it’s something that is relatively new to us. I think there are questions of aesthetics and questions of exactly how writers can contribute to the development of the culture that need to be addressed. This is our culture, how can we contribute? How can we develop it?”

“Blacks in America need to re-examine their time spent here to see the choices that were made as a people. I’m not saying the right choices have always been made. That’s part of my interest in history—to say ‘let’s look at this thing again and see where we’ve come from and how we’ve gotten where we are now.’ I think if you know that, it helps to determine how to proceed in the future.”

Talking Points

Herald’s Search and the Pittsburg Cycle

Dispersal

Reconnection

Christianity

writing an entire world this is our culture how can we contribute how can we develop it
Writing an Entire World“ This is our culture, how can we contribute? How can we develop it?”

“Of course, I use history and the historical perspective. I try to keep all of the elements of culture alive in my work, and myth is certainly a part of it. Mythology, history, social organization, economics—all these things are part of culture. I make sure that each element is in some way represented—some elements more so than others—in the plays, which I think gives them a fullness and completeness, creates the impression that this is an entire world” (August Wilson, 1991)

Mythology (Yoruban Cosmology, African Continuum, Borges)

+

History (Coming to Grips with untold histories of dispersal and disconnection caused by the Great Migration and the Middle Passage)

+

Social Organization (The Boarding House- Transience and Christianity)

+

Economics (Baraka and Black Nationalism)

=

An “entire world” / Wilson’s Contribution to Culture

the great migration and the black exodus
The Great Migration and The Black Exodus
  • When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed less than 8 percent of the African-American population lived in the Northeast or Midwest. During the Exodus of 1879, an estimated twenty thousand Afro-Americans migrated from southern states to Kansas. Ever since the Civil War, former slaves had been moving west, particularly to Kansas, where, encouraged by promoters like Benjamin ("Pap") Singleton, a number of black colonies had been established. These early black migrants fared reasonably well.
  • Then, in 1879, the slow westward stream became a flash flood. Advertising by the railroads and land promoters helped encourage the Exodus, but worsening conditions for blacks in the South played a larger part. With the end of Reconstruction, white supremacists had regained power, causing some to fear that slavery might be reestablished. A sense of impending doom, combined with an idyllic picture of life in the West, evolved into a millenarian vision of Kansas as the new Promised Land. During the spring of 1879, hundreds and then thousands of black families from all over the South joined the Kansas Fever Exodus.
  • Most of the "Exodusters" managed to reach Kansas, but their huge numbers and relative penury overwhelmed the resources of the various charitable organizations set up to assist them. Few had enough money to start farming; most had to turn to wage labor, and some became destitute. Public attitudes toward them hardened.
  • By 1880 the Exodus had ended. News of the first Exodusters' problems, the growing efforts by Kansans to discourage further immigration, and the difficulties of winter travel all broke the momentum. Kansas's black population continued to grow, but slowly. In 1880, southern Democrats in Congress produced a committee report blaming the migration on enticement by Republicans and promoters. But it seems clear that, whatever the attractions of the West, the Exodus of 1879 was primarily a desperate reaction to the economic and political repression faced by Afro-Americans in the South.
  • Even by 1900, approximately 90 percent of all African- Americans still resided in the South. However, migration from the South has long been a significant feature of black history. An early exodus from the South occurred between 1879 and 1881, when about 60,000 African-Americans moved into Kansas and others settled in the Oklahoma Indian Territories in search of social and economic freedom.
  • In the early decades of the twentieth century, movement of blacks to the North increased tremendously. The reasons for this "Great Migration," as it came to be called, are complex. Thousands of African-Americans left the South to escape sharecropping, worsening economic conditions, and the lynch mob. They sought higher wages, better homes, and political rights.
the great migration characters in movement and in search of identity through reconnection
The Great MigrationCharacters in Movement and in Search of Identity through Reconnection

“But this migration actually dispersed many African Americans because it removed them from a distinctly African American culture already present in the South.”

“The blood and bones of two hundred and fifty years of our ancestors buried in the South, and we came North. I think if we’d stayed in the South and continued to empower ourselves, in terms of acquiring land—we already had acres of farm land that we owned—we’d have ten black senators in the United States. We’d be represented. We’d be a more culturally secure and culturally self-sufficient people.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. calls the subject of Joe Turner’s come and Gone, “the sense of cultural loss that accompanied the “Great Migration” of rural Southern blacks to the urbanized North, where they believed a better life awaited them.

Themes:

Memory

Song

Reconnection

Reassembly

The Shaping of Self and Self-Worth

The Role of Dispersal in that Shaping

the disappointments of the great migration dispersal the shiny man and finding people
The Disappointments of the Great MigrationDispersal, “The Shiny Man” and “Finding People”

Talking Points

“But this migration actually dispersed many African Americans because it removed them from a distinctly African American culture already present in the South.”

“The blood and bones of two hundred and fifty years of our ancestors buried in the South, and we came North. I think if we’d stayed in the South and continued to empower ourselves, in terms of acquiring land—we already had acres of farm land that we owned—we’d have ten black senators in the United States. We’d be represented. We’d be a more culturally secure and culturally self-sufficient people.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. calls the subject of Joe Turner’s come and Gone, “the sense of cultural loss that accompanied the “Great Migration” of rural Southern blacks to the urbanized North, where they believed a better life awaited them.

1) Bynum’s Shiny Man

2) The disappointment of the Great Migration

3) People Finding

4) Borges

borges bynum and las ruinas circulares
Borges, Bynum, and Las Ruinas Circulares

“I am fascinated by the way Jorge Luis Borges, the short story writer, tells a story. I’ve been trying to write a play the way he writes a story. He tells you exactly what is going to happen, even though the outcome seems improbable [….] And he proceeds to tell the story, and it seems lie it’s never going to happen, And you look up, without even knowing, and there it is.”

las ruinas circulares
“Las RuinasCirculares”

Borges’ 1941 short story “The Circular Ruins” presents the tale of a man (or magician) who sets about the task of dreaming another man into existence only later to realize that someone else is dreaming him. Borges presents a fable that insinuates every man’s reality is someone else’s dream, and that the recognition of this fact undermines a sense of individual will or self. When Borges’ protagonist discovers that he is merely a part of another’s (his progenitor’s) dream, humiliation and annihilation ensue. Wilson borrows heavily from this short story- from its imagery and circular structure- but also makes significant additions to its thematic content. Wilson presents a play where every man must find his own song (where songs are the products of dreams or visions). When Herald Loomis discovers that his journey- his search for his own song- is a part of another man’s older song, a sense of empowerment occurs. Both works seem to center around a theme of individuality, but whereas Borges’ story seems to posit the negation of history, or as Bell-Villada puts it- “a denial of time, history, and human change”-, as the requisite for the illusion of subjectivity, Wilson’s work argues that self sufficiency begins by embracing history.

  • . Borges begins his story by referring to a “taciturn man [who] came from the South” whose “home had been one of those numberless villages upstream.” The man soon enters the circular ruins of a temple “whose God no longer received the homage of men”, and we learn that “his immediate obligation was to dream”, that “He wanted to dream a man; he wanted to dream him in minute entirety and impose him on reality. The magic project had exhausted the entire expanse of his mind; if some one had asked him his name or to relate some event of his former life, he would not have been able to give an answer.” Similarly, Wilson’s stage directions describe Herald Loomis as: a “son” of the “South”, “isolated, cut off from memory, having forgotten the name of the gods…[searching] for ways to reconnect, to reassemble, to give a clear and luminous meaning to the song which is both a wail and a whelp of joy”, a man seeking “to recreate the world into one that contains his image.” In addition to the striking similarities in imagery, both authors present protagonists that have been “cut off” from their past histories, but the implications for their characters could not be more different. Borges’ dreamer requires that history disappear, “the magic project” (of dreaming a man) requires “the entire expanse of his mind”, and this leaves no room for memory. Herald Loomis, on the other hand, must “reconnect” with his “memory” and “song” in order to “recreate the world into one that contains his image.”
borges and bynum
Borges and Bynum

Talking Points

Emphasis on speech over plot: the people’s history

Circular Structure

Bynum and Borges’ visions: annihilation or self-sufficiency as a product of history

the middle passage and talking bones folklore
The Middle Passage and Talking Bones Folklore

The Middle Passage refers to the forcible passage of African People from Africato the New World, as part of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Ships departedEurope for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; the enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials,which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade". A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking, and they were generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.The term "Middle Passage" refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed from their homelands.

They used to carry the slaves out into the woods and leave them there, if they killed them—just like dead animals. There wasn’t any burying then. It used to be a secret, between one plantation and another, when they beat up their hands and carried them off.

So John was walking out into the woods and seed a skeleton. He says: “This looks like a human. I wonder what he’s doing out here.” And the skeleton said, Tongue is the cause of y being here.” So John ran back to old Marster and said, “The skeleton at the edge of the woods is talking.” Old Marster didn’t believe him and went to see. And a great many people came too. They said, “Make bones talk.” But the skeleton wouldn’t talk. So they beat John to death and left him there. And then the bones talked. They said, “Tongue brought us here and tongue brought you here.

(Recorded by Richard Dorson)

blues
Blues

“I think that the music contains a cultural response of black Americans to the world they find themselves in. Blues is the best literature we have. If you look at the singers, they actually follow a long line all the way back to Africa, and various other parts of the world. They are carriers of culture, carriers of ideas—like the troubadours in Europe. Except in American society they were not valued, except among black folks who understood. I’ve always thought of them as sacred because of the sacred tasks they took upon themselves—to disseminate this information and carry these cultural values of the people. And I found that white America would very often abuse them. I don’t think that was without purpose, in the sense that blues and music have always been at the forefront in the development of the character and the consciousness of black America., and people have senselessly stopped or destroyed that. Then you’re taking away from the people their self-definition—in essence, their self-determination”

“blues provides a mediational site where the contradictions between the lived and recorded experiences of African-Americans might be resolved. The story of Joe turner’s chain gang is a case in point. Although the chain gang effected the personal lives of many African Americans, traditional histories of the United States make little or no mention of the phenomenon; historians have in effect written this experience out of existence. At the turn of the century however, a group of African American women musicaly documented the effect of the chain gang on their lives: ‘They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone…..Hot my man and gone.” By singing the blues, these woman became their own cultural historians and moved from an absent to an always present subject position.”

Talking Points

blues history collective memory and identity
Blues: History, Collective Memory, and Identity

Talking Points

Blues

History

Black Exodus

Bones People

Joe Turner and Jack Handy’s Memphis Blues

Chain Gangs and Slavery

Self-Worth

identity christianity vs african retentions
Identity: Christianity vs. African Retentions

“First our condition can always be improved. If you’re not here, you’re in a museum somewhere. The condition needs improvement. But spiritually, the Christian church has been important for us; and in some instances it has also failed us. I think we need to face [….] Let’s look at Loomis. Here’s a man who’s 31 years old which means he’s born in 1880. By the time you’re a little boy, seven years old, the first thing you discover if your daddy with the mule over there working the land. This is who you are, You’re not sent to school, you don’t learn anything about reading or writing, whatever you learn you learn from your daddy. There’s a place called Africa? Did people tell you that? Does your father even know that, when he’s out there working the land in the 1880s? You don’t know how big the country is, you don’t know anything about the United States, anything about Europe, anything about Africa. You don’t know anything about who you are. You don’t even know anything about slavery! [….] Loomis just doesn’t know who he is. So when he witnesses the bones rise up out of the water and take on flesh and they’re Black just like him, he is in effect witnessing himself being born. He understands then that his existence is a manifest act of the Creator. Therefore he is filled with God’s Majesty. Since he is of God, then he must be filled with His majesty. So that’s when he says, “Jesus? No. no! I don’t need anyone to bleed for me. I can bleed for myself.” [….] Self definition is self-determinaion. It’s a very important thing. You must define yourself.”

“Identity means understanding your political history as well as your social history. It means understanding you come from a long line of people who were slaves [….] I think that Bynum is simply saying that understanding and knowing who you are and also having that political understanding, that political awareness, as well as that social awareness as an African, is in essence your song. You in fact need that, and you must not let anyone take that away from you.”

“I set the play in 1911 to take advantage of some of the African retentions of the characters. The mysticism is a very large part of their world. My idea is that somewhere, somewhere in the course of the play, the Audience will discover that these are African People. Their Black Americans, but their world view is African.”

paul carter harrison and the african continuum or african retentions identity and history
Paul Carter Harrison and the African Continuum or African Retentions, Identity, and History

The African Continuum

  • Definition- Paul Carter Harrison calls it “a psychic and spiritual repository of values and survival strategies that authenticate experience and fuel the imagination for collective healing.
  • Vehicle- owing to its roots in African oral tradition, the African Continuum by means of story telling
  • Inherited Archetypes- Harrison points to the figure of the trickster whose “wit, cunning, guile, and godly sense of self-empowerment accord him the right to perform extravagant transgressions and who revels in the status quo”
romare bearden 1912 1988
Romare Bearden (1912-1988)

In the fall of 1977, Wilson came across the work of Romare Bearden. As he thumbed through Bearden’s series of collages “The Presence of Ritual,” he discovered his “artistic mentor” Bearden’s painting made simple what Wilson’s writing had so far only groped to formulate: Black life presented on its own terms, on such a grand scale, with all its richness and fullness, in a language that was vibrant and which, made attendant to everyday life, ennobled it, affirmed its value and exalted its presence.” I was looking at myself in ways I hadn’t though of before and have never ceased to think of sense.”

Wilson was interested in the black experience that Bearden depicted, a visual world populated by conjure women, trains, guitar players, birds, masked figures, and rituals of baptisms, funerals, parades, dinners, parades.

Wilson describes his own play as having this collagist form in their structure: “In Bearden you’ve got al these pieces. There’s an eye here, a head over there, a huge oversized hand on a small body, It’s like that with me. I’ve got all these images and the point is how I put them together. The pieces are always there; it’s how I put them together, the relationship between them that counts

“Mill Hand’s Lunch Box”

Romare Bearden- In the 1940s he moved away from socialist realism to modernism, painting portraits inspired by Greek myth, the Bible, and Literature. In the 1960s he turned to collage to capture the life of the working class in parts of the country where he had lived:”Spiritual ceremonies, baptism and burial…. The cycle of life and the rituals and social customs essential to it in 20th-century America.

yoruban deities eshu trickster and divine

Yoruban Deities:Eshu Trickster and Divine

Eshu is an orisha, and one of the most known deities of the Yoruba mythology and related New World traditions.

He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, deity of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death. Eshu is involved within the Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santeria/Lukumi and Candomble developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Eshu was sometimes identified with Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Michael [1] or Santo Niño de Atocha, depending on the situation or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colours red & black or white & black, and his caminos or paths (compare: avatar) are often represented carrying a cane, shepherd's crook, as well as a pipe.

Eshu is a god of Chaos and Trickery, and plays frequently tempting choices for the purpose of causing maturation. He is a difficult teacher, but a good one. As an example, Eshu was walking down the road one day, wearing a hat that was red on one side and black on the other. Sometime after he departed, the villagers who had seen him began arguing about whether the stranger's hat was black or red. The villagers on one side of the road had only been capable of seeing the black side, and the villagers on the other side had only been capable of seeing the red half. They nearly fought over the argument, until Eshu came back and cleared the mystery, teaching the villagers about how one's perspective can alter a person's perception of reality, and that one can be easily fooled. In other versions of this tale, the two tribes were not stopped short of violence; they actually annihilated each other, and Eshu laughed at the result, saying "Bringing strife is my greatest joy".

character names
Character Names

Herald Loomis- Shango, Ogun, Eshu

Seth Holly- Ogun

Bertha Holly- Oshun

Bynum Walker- Eshu, Ifa

Martha Pentecost- Christianity

---------

SLAVE NAMES

Mattie Campbell

Mollie Cunningham

Jeremy- (Almost Eshu)

Rutherford Selig- In German= “blessed” and later “foolish,” and comes to be associated with people who make their living on the water.

slide22
Ogun
  • Ogun comes to mount people in various aspects of his character, and the people are quite familiar with each oth them, Some of these aspects are: his status as a wounded warrior; his Christ-like scarifices which the people know well from the Orisha associated with him; and his tendency to lift a person up and carry him and her around to indicate his special attention and patronage. However, to al the aspects of Ogun, there is the dominant theme of militancy and power.
shango
Shango

In Yorùbá religion, Sàngó is perhaps the most popular Orisha; he is a Sky Father, god of thunder and lightning. Sango was a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third king of the Oyo Kingdom. In the Lukumí religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa. All the major initiation ceremonies are based on the traditional Shango ceremony of Ancient Oyo. This ceremony survived the Middle Passage and is considered to be the most complete to have arrived on Western shores. This variation of the Yoruba initiation ceremony became the basis of all Orisha initiations in the West.

oshun
Oshun

Ọṣhun in Yoruba mythology, is a spirit-goddess (Orisha) who reigns over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy.[1] She is worshipped also in Brazilian CandombléKetu, with the name spelled Oxum. She should not be confused, however, with a different Orisha of a similar name spelled "Osun," who is the protector of the Ori, or our heads and inner Orisha.

slide25
Ifa
  • Ifa, god of divination, who is usually termed the God of Palm Nuts, because sixteen palm-nuts are used in the process of divination, The name Ifa apparently means something scraped or wiped off: he has the title of Gbangba (explanation, demonstration, proof). Ifa's secondary attribute is to cause fecundity: he presides at births, and women pray to him to be made fruitful; while on this account offerings are always made to him before marriage, it being considered a disgrace not to bear children. To the native mind there is no conflict of function between Ifa and Obatala, for the former causes the woman to become pregnant, while the latter forms the child in the womb, which is supposed to be a different thing altogether.
  • Eshu and Ifa mediate between men and their Gods- Eshu is disruptive, If is not—Ifa is an oracle that can be called upon to know what choices to make
  • ), and a messenger called Opele. The bandicoot (okete) is sacred to him, because it lives chiefly upon palm-nuts. The first day of the Yoruba week is Ifa's holy day, and is called ajo awo, "day of the secret." On this day sacrifices of pigeons, fowls, and goats are made to him, and nobody can perform any business before accomplishing this duty.

An offering tray with palm-nuts

slide26
Juba, African Retensions, Middle Passage, African American Performace and Aesthetics-Metatheatrical Moment

Talking Points

Christianity

African Retention

African-American Aesthetics: call and response

African Aesthetics

Juba

The Middle Passage

shango crossroads bynum
Shango, Crossroads, Bynum

Talking Points

1) “Sack of Cotton”-

Denial of History

2) Christianity

3) Shango

4) Scarification

5) Self-Salvation

6) African Continuum

baraka black nationalism economics and identity
Baraka (Black Nationalism):Economics and Identity

Baraka’s influence has less to do with the way he writes and more with the ideas he espoused in the 1960s as a black nationalist—ideas I found vlue in and still find value in .”

“If I look at the honorable Elijah Muhammad’s program, then there is this idea of self-sufficiency. The idea of doing for one’s self is the idea that drew me sympathetically towards him [….] I think Elijah Muhammed is one of the most important black men who ever lived in America. I’d put him right up there with Du Bois, because he was one who had an idea. For instance, if you look at the criteria of culture using Maulanga Ron Karanga’s criteria of mythology, history, and religion, the one thing we did not have was a mythology. We had no origin myths. Elijah Muhammad supplied that. So you could say he contributed a lot to black American culture—the myth of Yacub, etc. These are things the culture was lacking, and now they are forever a part of us.”

“If you don’t see your god when you look in the mirror, you are worshipping the wrong God” (Amiri Baraka)

Herald Loomis, a man trying “to recreate the world into one that contains his image.”

baraka black nationalism
Baraka (Black Nationalism)

“Baraka’s influence has less to do with the way he writes and more with the ideas he espoused in the 1960s as a black nationalist—ideas I found vlue in and still find value in .”

“If I look at the honorable Elijah Muhammad’s program, then there is this idea of self-sufficiency. The idea of doing for one’s self is the idea that drew me sympathetically towards him [….] I think Elijah Muhammed is one of the most important black men who ever lived in America. I’d put him right up there with Du Bois, because he was one who had an idea. For instance, if you look at the criteria of culture using Maulanga Ron Karanga’s criteria of mythology, history, and religion, the one thing we did not have was a mythology. We had no origin myths. Elijah Muhammad supplied that. So you could say he contributed a lot to black American culture—the myth of Yacub, etc. These are things the culture was lacking, and now they are forever a part of us.”

you shining like new money ending fusion
You Shining Like New MoneyEnding/Fusion

Talking Points

The Shiny Man as:

Borgesian story telling

Baraka’s self-reliance

Blues- Becoming part of the Continuum