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Writings of Frank Marshall Davis

Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press

Frank Marshall Davis
Edited with an introduction by John Edgar Tidwell
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Writings of Frank Marshall Davis
    Book Description:

    Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987) was a central figure in the black press, working as reporter and editor for theAtlanta World, theAssociated Negro Press, theChicago Star, and theHonolulu Record.Writings of Frank Marshall Davispresents a selection of Davis's nonfiction, providing an unprecedented insight into one journalist's ability to reset the terms of public conversation and frame the news to open up debate among African Americans and all Americans.

    During the middle of the twentieth century, Davis set forth a radical vision that challenged the status quo. His commentary on race relations, music, literature, and American culture was precise, impassioned, and engaged. At the height of World War II, Davis boldly questioned the nature of America's potential postwar relations and what they meant for African Americans and the nation. His work challenged the usefulness of race as a social construct, and he eventually disavowed the idea of race altogether. Throughout his career, he championed the struggles of African Americans for equal rights and laboring people seeking fair wages and other benefits.

    In his reviews on music, he argued that blues and jazz were responses to social conditions and served as weapons of racial integration. His book reviews complemented his radical vision by commenting on how literature reshapes one's understanding of the world. Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for racial and economic difference. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis reveals a writer in touch with the most salient issues defining his era and his desire to insert them into the public sphere. John Edgar Tidwell provides an introduction and contextual notes on each major subject area Davis explored.

    John Edgar Tidwell is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas. He edited Frank Marshall Davis'sLivin' the Blues: Memoirs of a Black JournalistandPoet and his Black Moods: Collected Poems.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-149-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xxxii)
    John Edgar Tidwell

    By the middle of the twentieth century, the pressure to force America to fulfill its constitutional promise of equal rights for all its citizens intensified dramatically. Determined members of racial and ethnic minorities became even more vociferous in decrying the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision that rendered the concept of “separate but equal” the law of the land. As a result, the threat of nuclear warfare and the McCarthy paranoia over Communist incursion slowly gave way to a stark reality: America was on the verge of a very different social and political interracial dynamic. Before television nightly brought the struggle for...

    (pp. xxxiii-2)
    (pp. 3-42)

    The disparate articles gathered in this section implicitly form a series, one that coalesces around a controlling theme: that the history of blues and jazz is a political and cultural narrative of the black quest for racial equality in the United States and of the role music plays in constructing this history. In the 1930s and 1940s, when the formal criticism of blues and jazz was emerging, Davis used his ANP columns to shape African American cultural taste by rating the new swing or “hot jazz” records as they appeared. By the mid-1950s, black music criticism had become more systematic,...

    (pp. 43-84)

    Davis’s book reviews reveal a determining relationship between racism and fascism and demonstrate how creative and nonfiction literatures participate in dismantling these political constructs. As a critical act, book reviewing became more widespread and important beginning in the New Negro Renaissance, when journals such asOpportunity, Crisis, The Messenger, and a whole host of “little magazines” began reconsidering the significance of book production as a marker of racial progress, cultural transformation, and political consciousness-raising. Initially, this practice came from academically trained scholars, critics, reviewers, and historians. In fact, except for a small, specialized group as diverse as post-Victorian Benjamin Brawley...

    (pp. 85-152)

    In “Passing Parade,” his most unsubtle series, Davis challenged the very assumptions of patriotism and reset the public conversation about the meaning of democracy, at a time when economic and social contradictions disenfranchised people of color and laborers. At the height of World War II, the flagging hopes for an Allied victory abroad were revived, while, at home, race riots disillusioned people of color in their quest for full racial equality. In the midst of this flux, Davis wrote “Passing Parade,” from September 15, 1943, to July 19, 1944. While his column was not intended to have the cachet, say,...

    (pp. 153-180)

    Why Davis left Chicago for the Territory of Hawaii in December 1948 is still the source of some speculation. But the planned vacation, which evolved into a permanent relocation, did little to dampen his fervor for racial and labor politics. Over a four-month period in 1949, he maintained his connection with the Associated Negro Press by writing a series of articles under the collective title “Democracy: Hawaiian Style.” As the name of this series suggests, Davis used this opportunity to probe the nuances and peculiarities of Hawaii’s version of the American creed and its practice. Ultimately, his observations would be...

    (pp. 181-212)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 213-221)