My Visit to National Museum of African American History and Culture

On May 23, 2017 I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest part of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC.

Despite what I had heard about the impossibility of getting admission tickets for less than three months in advance, I was able to get a same-day ticket online at 6:30 AM that morning. They were all gone by 8:30 that morning. There are also “walk up tickets” available at 1:00 PM until they are gone. Continue reading

Notes and Links about Lorraine Hansberry and A RAISIN IN THE SUN

The next “film community discussion” will be Monday, May 8 at 7 PM at the Boone Home (4th Street next to Second Baptist) in Columbia,Missouri  to hear reactions to “A Raisin in the Sun” that will be playing at the  Maplewood Barn Theater April 27 thru April 30  and May 4th thru May 7 at 8 PM.

For tickets,

Below are links to several interviews and reviews that I enjoyed.

A Raisin in the Sun: An Introduction

An introduction to the play, with interviews with Phylicia Rashad, the actors, and a number of scholars of Lorraine Hansberry and African American literature. This video guide includes commentary on the play’s path to Broadway, biographical information about the Hansberry family’s fight for housing, the play’s cultural significance and Hansberry’s lasting legacy.


Author unknown, “To be Young, Gifted, and Black”


A mini documentary


There are several full texts of the play online. Here is one:


Review of the original 1959 Broadway play from the New York TIMES.


Review of 2016 London performance from The Guardian

Notes and Links for “I am Not Your Negro” discussion March 27 at Boone Home

Notes and Links:” I am not Your Negro”

                Additional information for the Community Discussion of “I am not Your Negro” on Monday, March 27 7:00 at the Boone Home (next to Second Baptist Church) Columbia Missouri

1.       New York TIMES review

2. New York Review of Books

3.       NPR Director Raoul Peck: James Baldwin was speaking directly to me

4.       Travis Smiley interview with Raoul Peck February 3, 2017

This Travis Smiley interview contains (at 0:40-1:15) a memorable and powerful part of the film. It is James Baldwin responding to a Yale philosophy professor on “Dick Cavett” in 1968:

                “I don’t know what most white people in this country feel. But I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian Church which is white and a Christian Church which is black. I know, as Malcom X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly can’t trust the Christian church. I don’t know whether the labor unions and their boss really hate me—that doesn’t matter—but I know I am not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children and the schools we have to go to. Now, this is evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.”

5.        ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ brings James Baldwin’s words to life” CNN February 17, 2017

6.       Official trailer  At 1:25 another memorable quote:

“The future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives—it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with embrace the stranger who they have maligned so long. What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a “nigger” in the first place, because I am  not a nigger, I’m a man. But if you think I am a nigger, you need him.  . . . If I’m not the nigger here and you invented  him, you the white people invented him, then you got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it is able to ask that question.”

Beaver Plants a Tree

Leave it to Beaver, Beaver Plants a Tree                        

     In my effort to curb my intake of political news, I caught a “Leave it to Beaver” re-run. It was titled “Beaver’s Tree” and first aired November 11, 1959 and tells of Beaver remembering a tree that his father gave him for his birthday due to his class reciting a poem that begins “what does he plant who plants a tree?”  The dramatic twist is that the Cleavers had moved from their original house, leaving the tree behind. After indirectly asking his mother’s advice (e.g. “if you put a million dollars in the bank, and the bank gets a new owner, don’t you still have the million dollars?”), Beaver returns to his old house and digs up the tree and takes it to his new home.

            In my youth, we only saw “Leave it to Beaver” when me or my siblings were sick in bed, but we planted lots of trees. I’ve left trees behind in at least four states so I was curious about the poem used in Beaver’s grade school class. Thanks to the internet, I learned the poem (“The Heart of a Tree” ) was by Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896), whom I was unfamiliar. It is a comforting, sentimental three verses.

The Heart of the Tree

by Henry Cuyler Bunner

What does he plant who plants a tree?

   He plants a friend of sun and sky;

He plants the flag of breezes free;

   The shaft of beauty, towering high;

   He plants a home to heaven anigh;

      For song and mother-croon of bird

      In hushed and happy twilight heard—

The treble of heaven’s harmony—

These things he plants who plants a tree.


What does he plant who plants a tree?

   He plants cool shade and tender rain,

And seed and bud of days to be,

   And years that fade and flush again;

      He plants the glory of the plain;

      He plants the forest’s heritage;

      The harvest of a coming age;

The joy that unborn eyes shall see—

These things he plants who plants a tree.


What does he plant who plants a tree?

   He plants, in sap and leaf and wood,

In love of home and loyalty

   And far-cast thought of civic good—

   His blessings on the neighborhood,

      Who in the hollow of His hand

      Holds all the growth of all our land—

A nation’s growth from sea to sea

Stirs in his heart who plants a tree. (in the public domain)

MIND WITHOUT FEAR and Committing Verse to Memory  

James Bishop Jr.’s EPITAPH FOR A DESERT ANARCHIST: The Life and Legacy of Edward Abbey (1994), describes Abbey’s early years spent in eclectic primary school and family education involved in the literature of the day and nature exploration of the surrounding environs. Together, they developed Edward Abbey’s appreciation for nature and natural writing he demonstrates in THE DESERT SOLITARE earning the informal title of the “Thoreau of the West.”

One of Abby’s lifelong treasure was a portion of Walt Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS that Edward learned from his father and could recite by memory:

“This is what you shall do:  Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.”


This got be thinking what can people, including me, recite by memory today? More importantly, do we even try to select a prize poem or verse and raise it to the esteem the warrants committing it to memory?  I suppose the availability of pop music reduced the glamor of classic verse and the internet made memorization not essential.

As late as the 1980s students in Indiana were expected to commit verses of James Whitcome Riley “The frost is on the pumpkin” to memory. I know of no similar requirement similar for Missouri students in 2017.

As for me, I can recite the Eight Beatitudes from my early Catholic education and I can recall short small passages from several presidential speeches or writings such as those affixed to the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. However, I don’t have a repertoire of verse appropriate for any occasion.

The closest I have to a memorized verse that I carry with me in my head for inspiration and reassurance is Rabindra Tagore’s GITIANJI that I discovered in Jawaharla Nehru’s GLIMPSES OF WORLD HISTORY while teaching in South Korea in 2009.

Mind Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.