This photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston taken in 1899 of a class of African American and Native American students at Hampton Institute engaged in the study of the traditional costume of a fellow classmate I have chosen to spearhead the Blues People Curriculum for this semester. It was this very photograph, which has been widely reproduced and misinterpreted by American Studies scholars, that has played a key role in the formation of my current conception of the role played by historically Black Colleges, the Blues, and the lives of such extraordinary figures as WEB Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells in creating the cultural signature of a people who had once been slaves, whose image was once reviled, but whose legacy has inspired struggles for freedom and democracy all over the world. 

Just by way of explanation of what is going on in this picture.  Hampton University had a Museum, to which were donated artifacts of African and Native American tribes, often as gifts from the students or their parents.  

In this picture I would propose that the young man in Native American costume is actually John Wizi, son of Chief Wizi of Cross Creek, South Dakota.  His presentation in the album elsewhere in Western dress and haircut suggests perhaps that he was an influential person among the students.  As is often the case, the commentary included with the pictures is unreliable and impressionistic.  In another photograph of Native American students, of which there were a great many in the original scrapbook but very few of which were used in the Album, there is a shot of the "Indian Orchestra," one of whom might also be John Wizi, in the center in the back on a large drum. 

Also, Hampton held pageants in which the native dress of Africans and Native Americans were a key aspect of the program, as described in the chapter on the Hampton Museum in ART/Artifact: African Art in Anthropology Collections, The Center for African Art & Prestel Verlag, 1989.  William Sheppard, a Hampton graduate visited the "Belgian" Congo as a missionary and ultimately devoted his important collection of Kuba art to the Hampton Museum, as well as also becoming one of the leading voices condemning King Leopold's persecution of the people of the Congo.  This is just part of the story of the connection between historically black colleges and the Congo as described by Professor Ira Dworkin in his dissertation in the English Ph.D. Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, 1999.  

1909--NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ) is founded in order to attack segregation, lynching and race riots.  Du Bois hired as Director of publications and research.  Moves to New York to found, edit and write The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the NAACP.

1910--National Urban League founded to direct migrants from the South to jobs, housing and education.

1912--Jelly Roll Morton publishes his first song, "The Jelly Roll Blues."

1913--Du Bois writes and stages The Star of Ethiopia, a pageant celebrating black history to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the emanicipation.

1914--Du Bois supports women's suffrage in CRISIS editorial.

1915--NAACP Campaigns actively against the public exhibition of THE BIRTH OF A NATION

1917--Marcus Garvey founded the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association)

1918--Du Bois writes "Close Ranks" editorial in THE CRISIS urging black men to enlist to fight in WWI in exchange for their liberty at home.

"Let Us while this war last, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our whhite fellow citizens and the alllied nations that are fighting for democracy."
WEB Du Bois, 1917


II. Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)
The Jean Toomer Pages, University of Buffalo 1996

Visuals: James VanDerZee, Aaron Douglas, Aspects of Negro Life (1934)
Music:St. Louis Blues, dir. Dudley Murphy with Bessie Smith (1929)Louis Armstrong Collection: Dinah, On the Waterfront, Black and Blues, A Sleepy Time Down South III.

III. Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues (1926)

Yale University Beinecke Library: "Langston Hughes at 100 http:/highway49.library.yale.edu/langstonhughes/web.html

IV. Vernacular Culture Section--African American Literature/Norton Anthology, 2nd Edition

Mahalia Jackson, "Soon I Will Be Gone," on The Norton Anthology Audiotape

VI. Richard Wright, "The Man Who Lived Underground" (1941) in Eight Men

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