What Happened to the Black Literary Canon?
One of my fondest childhood memories was going into a closet in our home where my father kept some of his books. My Pop was an auto-mechanic, a blue collar guy, so you would think his reading selection would be limited to those five inch thick repair manuals that grease monkeys always kept handy for the latest technological change to a vehicle’s specs. That was not the case with my old man. From The Autobiography of Malcolm X to Sammy Davis Jr.’s, Yes I Can, my Pop kept a wide variety of books at his disposal. Invariably many of these books dealt with either a Black figure or some issue of Black life. As a Haitian immigrant having lived less than a decade in the United States at that time, my father’s interest in such books was a testimony to the extent he placed importance on awareness of the plight of the Black community in his adopted homeland. There was also the assortment of old Time Magazine issues with pictures of Richard Nixon, Black Panthers, and global conflicts in that same literary treasure trove. So for me, reading books and magazines always had the connotation of something serious people should do. My Pop was a serious man, so for him to be spending time indulging in this material meant that this was an endeavor I needed to engage in.
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