Monday, March 21, 2011

Tennessee Williams Centennial Week

This week is noted as Tennessee Williams Centennial Week. Several locations are celebrating Tennessee Williams this week. Here are  some links I have found.  What other activities do you know about? Please share! Check out old posts on the Tennessee Williams segment of the 4Ws Writing Institute.

What is your favorite Tennessee Williams play? I truly miss my 4Ws Colleagues!

Tennessee Williams - The Clarion Ledger

Tennessee Williams Centennial Celebration

Thursday, December 2, 2010

50 Years w/o Richard Wright

November 28, 2010 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Richard Wright’s death, bringing to closure the celebration of his centennial. November 28, 2010 marks the birth, for those who demand reason and critical thought in a time of crisis, of principled readings and rereadings of Wright’s published works. They read in anticipation that some of his unpublished works will be printed in the coming years. Truly, Wright’s works are equipment for living in the chaotic twenty-first century as much as they were in the troubled twentieth century. The moment of birth and rebirth involves reconfiguring how the voice of a genius from Mississippi continues to bid the world to listen!

But it is not easy to listen to Wright in 2010, especially for people who cling to hope as they desperately seek to confirm the goodness of mankind. They do not hear the soothing platitudes they need for comfort. Skeptics and cynics, however wrongheaded they might be, stand a better chance of hearing Wright’s demands for a truth, for making justice more palpable, and for the purging of guilt. Yet, it is inevitable that all must listen to Wright, or at least overhear what he is saying, because his spirit haunts the world in a quest for peace.

Fifty years ago, Hoyt W. Fuller was able to find a small measure of peace and to mitigate his grief by remembering Wright “has spoken with eloquence and with all the power of his great overburdened heart that which he felt so deeply” (550-51).[1][1] Fuller concluded his meditation on Richard Wright with a modicum of hope: “Richard Wright was an American, tugging at the conscience and the submerged sense of reason of America, and American should be proud to have produced him. Perhaps someday a more mature America will embrace her rejected native son. Perhaps that time will come “(555). Unlike Fuller, we are suspicious of America’s conscience and sense of reason, beholding them as quite remote possibilities. We have greater anxiety about America’s capacity to remember.

Thus, the word perhaps opens cautionary dimensions. Perhaps those for whom Wright is more a living presence than a canonized writer, those who will to learn from Wright’s works the dignity of critical reflection and the great suffering that integrity demands -----well, perhaps they will succeed in persuading others of the unending importance of Wright’s visions, questions, and ideas. Perhaps they will fail. We can take consolation in the fact that they shall not fail and succeed simultaneously in a future of unarticulated designs. Perhaps the sheer force of uncertainty is our best assurance that the most essential qualities of Wright’s intelligence and foresight will not just vanish in the twenty-first century. Even from another world, Mississippi’s native son has audible authority in the world we inhabit.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
Dillard University

Monday, February 1, 2010

Making the Wright Connection

The video is a forecast of some exciting things for the Richard Wright institute in July. Share with K-12 teachers.

Jerry Ward

Sunday, November 22, 2009

4Ws Reunion

Yesterday, participants in the MS 4Ws Writing Institute reunited after a long six months from being a part. We discussed how we transformed the experience into a personal sanctuary of reading, writing, and literary discussion.  It's amazing how spending nine months together molded the participants into a wonderful learning committee.  Sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council, the 4Ws Writing Institute was formed not only to provide pedagogy for educators, but it was formed to intellectually stimulate educators and make the learning process personal.  Being able to take related field trips provided educators with a specific time and place to connect the literature being read.

The institute began at the Mississippi Archives. Dr. Harrison provided a historical overview, which left each participant bubbling with excitement. The tour of the archives and viewing Eudora Welty's handwritten notes made the experience even more exciting. Dr. Ward enlighten the participants in spite of the technologically glitches. The trip to Natchez and the pit stop at The Forks in the Road caused thoughtful personal recognition and influenced the mindset of many of the participants.  Dr. Peggy and Dr. Noel discussion on Eudora Welty helped to provide many ideas for teaching students to appreciate Eudora's works.  Hearing Eudora actually read her works confirmed many of the participants analysis of several of her works.  Dr. Colby helped the participants process Tennessee Williams by including pedagogy and literary analysis of Tennessee's plays.  Finally, Dr. Graham ended with Margaret Walker Alexander at Jackson State and the Mississippi Archives.

Each participant left the reunion with a newfound spirit, encouraging them to be an educator and research scholar all over again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Freedom Rider Returns to Mississippi

Look at this fresh idealistic face!
"Freedom Rider Returns to Mississippi"
appeared in the Commercial Appeal today,
and I found myself captivated by her Christian mugshot!
Looks like they have arrested Anne of Green Gables!

The article is less about the return
of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland to her reunion at Tougaloo,
and more about a current student's
creative tribute to her through music.

What do you think?
Read article here and Happy Fourth Everyone! ~ Maggie

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maryemma Graham

Dr. Maryemma Graham did an amazing job as our instructor on Margaret Walker. Dr. Graham, a Professor of English at the University of Kansas, has been a wonderful inspiration for me. Her prolific knowledge of Margaret Walker and her actually experiences with her just blew me away.

Some of her publications include:

How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature by Margaret Walker (1990); Conversations with Ralph Ellison (1995); On Being Female, Black and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker, 1932-1992 (1997); Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice (1998). Fields Watered With Blood: Critical Essays on Margaret Walker (2001), Conversations with Margaret Walker (2002), The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker (work in progress).

Check out these following sites that she is affiliated with:

The Project on the History of Black Writing - She is the co-founder.
Langston Hughes National Poetry Project - She is the director.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Digital Storytelling

Teaching our students to enjoy reading works by Welty, Wright, Williams, and Walker can be a very challenging feat. However, we can find amazing and creative ways to encourage our children to become readers and writers beyond the classroom. I have been really intrigued by digital storytelling. The University of Houston has a wonderful site to teach educators about digital story telling. Try it out in your classroom.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Inspired By Margaret Walker

After reading Margaret Walker's poetry, I have been inspired to write poetry which transforms actually people and historical events into the subject matter of my poems. Loving how she used prophets to discuss activists, like Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr., I have been researching several historical events to write about. How will you teach the poetry of Margaret Walker? What historical event will you discuss to entice your students to write historical poetry.

Posted with LifeCast

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Margaret Walker Alexander (1915 ~ 1998)

When I was about eight, I decided that the most wonderful thing, next to a human being, was a book.
~Margaret Walker


Jubilee (1966)


A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker (1974)
Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work (1988)
How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature (1990) Editor Maryemma Graham
On Being Female, Black, and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker, 1932-1992


For My People (1942)
The Ballad of the Free (1966)
Prophets for a New Day (1970)
October Journey (1973)
For Farish Street Green, February 27, 1986 (1986)
This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (1989)

Note: I pulled this list from the Mississippi Writer's Page. If I left out something please leave a comment and I will add it to the list. Happy Reading ~ Maggie

Friday, May 22, 2009

Unit Lesson on Poetry

I have completed a unit lesson to accompany the poetry book by Patricia Neely-Dorsey. This unit lesson will be posted on our MS 4Ws ning. Presently, I am working on a unit lesson for Margaret Walker. Have you completed a unit lesson? What are your plans for the next school year? Are you going to teach any of the 4Ws?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


English actress calls Clarksdale visit ‘invaluable’
Golden Globe nominee to portray Stella in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’

CLARKSDALE – When English actress Ruth Wilson takes center stage as Stella in “Streetcar named Desire” in London this summer, she’ll be remembering Clarksdale’s Cutrer Mansion, Moon Lake, and Mississippi Delta plantation homes.

To immerse herself in the world of Tennessee Williams, this raven-haired beauty and Golden Globe nominee, traveled here to experience the playwright’s childhood home and its influences on his famous plays.

Among the sites she viewed were St. George’s Episcopal Church, the Cutrer Mansion and Clarksdale’s historic district where the spent his childhood, the Stovall and Anderson plantations, Uncle Henry’s Place on Moon Lake, and miles of green Mississippi River levees, farmland, and cypress brakes.

Wilson’s performance in the Masterpiece Theatre television series “Jane Eyre” earned her four Best Actress nominations including a Golden Globe. In a BBC Best Actress viewer poll she was rated second.

The role of Stella’s sister Blanche Dubois is being portrayed by Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, who won a 2006 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the movie, “The Constant Gardner.”

“This visit to Clarksdale has been invaluable,” Wilson says. “For me as an actor, it is very important to fill my body and mind with sense memories.”

“So on stage when I talk about Belle Reve (the Cutrer Mansion is generally regarded as the ancestral home of sisters Stella and Blanche in “Streetcar”) or Moon Lake, I have an immediate and natural reaction to those places, those people,” she says.

“It is a way for me to immerse myself in the world of the play; I can literally hear, smell, feel, and see those places, those people,” she continues.

Wilson says Moon Lake was particularly interesting because of its isolation from Clarksdale.

“Being surrounded by a fast flowing river gave it a romanticism and sereneness, but also a deep sense of danger,” she says.

“You could understand why Tennessee depicted it as a place of wild freedom and danger,” she continues.

To learn more about the South, Wilson began her travels in Charleston, South Carolina, and moved on to Savannah through Alabama, and Mississippi to New Orleans.

“What was common about people from the South and what I loved was not only the wonderful generosity, but also incredible humor,” she says.

“You all have such quick minds, but slow mouths; it is the Tennessee (Williams) way of speaking – funny and sharp but rhythmic and languid; it is completely unique and completely beautiful – I hope I can re-create some of that,” she said.

“The more I read of Tennessee’s work, the more poetry I find. He had such a beautiful and rhythmic way with words. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to put voice to them,” Wilson adds.

Wilson says “Streetcar” opens July 28 in London at the Donmar Theatre that is currently producing “Hamlet” with Jude Law.Other actors have spent time in Clarksdale researching Tennessee Williams plays including English actress Frances O'Conner who played Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in London and actors from France who performed in "Orpheus Descending."

Clarksdale’s 17th Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival will be held Oct. 16-17 and will continue its focus on the playwright’s Delta plays including “Spring Storm,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Summer and Smoke,” “Orpheus Descending,” and others.

A “Stella” shouting contest is a popular component of the festival’s Student Acting Competition. For additional information and updates, view

Photo cutlines: English actress Ruth Wilson, a Best Actress Golden Globe nominee, visits Clarksdale’s historic Cutrer Mansion to experience sites from the world of playwright Tennessee Williams for her portrayal of Stella in the play, ‘Streetcar Named Desire.’ Giving her a tour of the mansion that is generally regarded as Belle Reve, the ancestral home, of Stella and Blanche in ‘Streetcar’ is Lois McMurchy, director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perfect Program for Inspiring Young Poets!

This past Tuesday at 2:30 we had the honor of hearing Patricia Neely-Dorsey read from her new book of poetry titled Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia: A Life in Poems!

In attendance for the event was her handsome husband and chauffeur, James, who drove the two hours to Senatobia and then back home for Miss Patricia. ;D Others in the audience could tell they were very much in love (and I'm sure - still are) as she stole glances his way while reading her poem, "Mississippi Man".

Pat's visit was my first official program as Public Service Librarian. Regrettably, I still have loads to learn when it comes to scheduling an event on an active campus! I can say, those in attendance were rewarded with an intelligent and witty woman behind the podium and behind the poems we were hearing. Those students that attended left inspired. She is an engaging speaker and I highly recommend her program to all Mississippi librarians and especially to those who read this blog!

I purchased a few signed copies to give away during the Southern Reading Challenge! Yay, Y'all!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Summer Reading List!

Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow, but I left yesterday with a summer full of reading ideas. Thank you Maryemma for the stimulating session full of new terms for this inspired librarian. For those in attendance and for those who regretfully missed, I made a reading list based on the book titles or authors thrown into the conversation yesterday. If I miss one, please leave a comment and I will add.

No one will forget Vija Lee's moving book talk on Kneebaby by R.S. Cannon! Thank you for having the courage to share with us Vija.

Books entering yesterday's conversation because they are similar in nature to Jubilee include,

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
and slightly over-top, Fairoaks by Frank Yerby.

Too Similar to Jubilee!?!

Roots by Alex Haley

Tragic Mulatto is a new genre I cannot wait to explore this summer. It reminds me of the tragic young adult books of the 60's and 70's. In this genre, someone would die because the main character committed a moral sin such as drinking and driving, having a baby out of wedlock, or experimenting with drugs.

The Wedding by Dorothy West
Passing and Quicksand by Nella Larsen
Comedy, American Style,
Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral and
There is Confusion by Jessie Redmon Fauset
Short Story The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Want to discover more about Jessie Fauset and Dorothy West? I found this read which carries a bonus author Zora Neale Hurston!

Rereading the Harlem Renaissance: Race, Class, and Gender in the Fiction of Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, and Dorothy West by Sharon L. Jones

Hear the melody in this book of sermons,

God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse by James Weldon Johnson.

Modern day slavery is the topic of these two reads:

My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban by Latifa
Slave: My True Story by Mende Nazer

Want to spend your summer analyzing the Uncle Remus and Uncle Julius stories then write a compare/contrast article for Black Magnolias Literary Journal? Here’s two books that will get you started.

Charles W. Chesnutt Stories, Novels and Essays by Charles W. Chesnutt
Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the 'Cornfield Journalist': The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris by Walter M. Brasch

One book, one curriculum idea called the Cardozo Project and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Maryemma spoke about, used The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison to inspire teamwork amongst teachers and students for a full year. I love the science classes figuring through DNA the chances of producing blue eyes.

To round out the student/teacher experience someone mentioned 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.

~Happy Reading from Maggie!

Our Last Meeting!

I will SO miss our monthly discussions. :(
Keep in Touch Everyone! ~Maggie

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"R" Runaway

In Jubilee, Lucy runs away. After being captured, her punishment is the branding of the letter "R" on her face. Even after Lucy's torture and humiliation, she manages to escape from the plantation. Did you think that she would try to escape again? What was your reaction to her second escape? How did you feel about her being branded like an animal? Did it make you cringe?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let's Discuss...

The following questions were developed by Dr. Jerry Ward for the short story Bright and Morning Star by Richard Wright. ~Maggie

1.) Why does Wright borrow the title from a hymn?

2.) What aspects of Southern life were threatened by cooperation between black and white Communists in the 1930s?

4.) What is the nature of the new faith that Aunt Sue learns from her sons Sug and Johnny-Boy?

“If in the early days of her life the white mountain had driven her back from the earth, then in her last days Reva’s love was drawing her toward it….”

5.) How does the white mountain function as a metaphor? What does the passage reveal about Aunt Sue’s conception of self?

6.) Why does the sheriff not hesitate to brutalize an old black woman? What does his action reveal about racial hatred?

7.) Is Aunt Sue’s reaction to her beating similar to or different from Reverend Taylor’s reaction to his whipping in Fire and Cloud? How does gender function as a determining element in their responses?

8.) What does Aunt Sue’s suffering and ultimate sacrifice for her son Johnny-Boy suggest about a woman’s determination?

New Ning Site

Since some of you were weary about participating on Facebook, I have created a Ning site, catering specifically to the 4ws Writing Institute. On the Ning site, you can create your own profile, blog post, and submit photos and events. I created this in order for us to keep in contact and share the exciting lessons and classes we will create and teach. I have added photos and hope you do the same. The Ning site is by invite only. Please check your email for the invite! I am excited about our last meeting on Saturday! See you then!!!!!!

Visit Mississippi 4Ws Writing Institute:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Poet to Speak at NWCC!

Join us Tuesday May 5th at 2:30
in the veiwing room of the
R.C. Pugh Library
on the Senatobia Campus
of Northwest MS Community College!
For more information call Me!
~Maggie 662-562-3268

The 4Ws Spread!

Beth Bunce, 4Ws participant and Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC) English instructor, will provide 1-hour CEU credit for a week-long class discussion on Tennessee Williams for educators!

Look what you have done Colby!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Black Code

Walker writes about the importance of the Black Code to regulate the movement of slaves in her book, Jubilee. The Black Code, also known as the slave code, monitored the movement of slaves and helped enforce the laws of slavery in the South. Here are a few resources to refer to when discussing the Black Code. How do you think you would address the topic of Black Codes in the classroom?

Slave Codes of the State of Georgia

The Black Code in Georgia

Black Code

Black Codes of 1865

Mississippi Black Code

Mississippi Black Code

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Margaret Walker Discussion #1 Video

View part of the discussion on Margaret Walker's poetry! I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Participating In Writing Institute

I was amazed yesterday when a coworker asked me about the book I was currently reading. Since participating in the 4Ws Writing Institute I have shared my love for the institute and shared the books and topics we have been covering. Apparently, I have shared so much that my coworkers know I am reading something new each month. Explaining to him that we are studying Margaret Walker, I shared with him her book of poetry. Unfamiliar with her poetry, he read her poetry intently and we even had a discussion about it. I am so happy to be apart of such a phenomenal experience. Being able to read wonderful books by Mississippi authors, along with discussing the books with such wonderful colleagues is priceless.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Haiku Friday!


My cigarette glows
Without my lips touching it,
—A steady spring breeze.

Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright

2004 Southern Breeze "Lallah Award" for Most Innovative
(Psst - I think the art looks like the end of a cigarette.) ~Maggie

Monday, April 13, 2009

Creating Essays Using Margaret's Poetry

Having students chose one of Margaret's poems and write a literary analysis essay is a great way to incorporate her works in the classroom. I found an essay on Margaret Walker on the Modern American Poetry website. You may find this essay helpful to use in the classroom.

Mystic Years Part Deux

I'm very excited to see a new book on our shelves titled Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray. Dray was in the running for a Pulitzer Prize for his work, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, that won two other awards that year. This book features the the lives of 16 black southerners who tried to change the government; woefully, they were out numbered by corruptible white congressmen during the Mystic Years of Reconstruction.

I have not read it. I gave the library copy to one of our history teachers and she brought it back raving. She said, "It is readable history!" That leads me to believe not all history is readable. ~Maggie ;D

The Margaret Walker Research Center

Located on the campus of Jackson State University, the Margaret Walker Research Center "houses" records of the past to preserve the African-American culture. The center has an oral history collection database available online. Welcoming records, personal papers, and other important items related to African-American culture, the center also has items belonging to Margaret Walker. We were very privileged to have the opportunity to view Margaret's first journal, given to her by her father, documents written and typed by her, one of her favorite hats, and her typewriter. Dr. Harrison provided us with a tour of the amazing facility. Ironically, Maurine was able to discover that her field trip to Jackson State University with her students has been documented and added to the archives of the Margaret Walker Research Center. The pictures were taken at the center.

How Shall We Celebrate?

April 13, 1909
Does anyone wish to declare a favorite Welty short story or book?
Leave a comment! ~Maggie

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Mississippi Poet!

Help me get the word out, 4Ws! I am currently participating in Celebrate the South Blog Tour honoring poet Patricia Neely-Dorsey of Tupelo, Mississippi. I have her new book of poetry titled, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia: A Life in Poems, if anyone wants to read it and share with their classroom. I would like the book back afterwards to place in the library collection. Here is my contribution to the tour. ~Maggie

Visit Pat at her blog or purchase her book through Amazon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Tennessee Williams Rewrite

I did it! I did a Tennessee Williams rewrite!

My plan was to write about poetry this week, but then I looked at the calendar and freaked. My column's deadline is Wednesday at 12 p.m. and Welty's birthday is Monday. The newspapers tend to stagger my appearance with The Southern Reporter running the next day, Thursday, and The DeSoto Times-Tribune running two weeks later. The other three papers run Book Talk in the following week's edition.

It was either write it today or skip it all together. I decided to follow in Williams' footsteps and rewrite the post from Monday. I thought of Williams while in my panic. I remember Colby telling us he would rewrite over and over until he got the response he wanted from the audience. I want to provide the 4W readers with information. I want newspaper readers to pick up a book, any book, even if it is to throw at me!

Here is this week's Book Talk...Duck! ~Maggie

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

David Walker

Teaching Jubilee in the classroom can also incorporate history as well. After discussing Walker's poetry and realizing that she often refers to real people in her writings, I decided to look up David Walker. Aunt Sally goes to a secret meeting at Rising Glory Baptist Church and describes her interaction with the papers being discussed and her knowledge of David Walker. After doing much research, I learned some interesting things about David Walker. Born in North Carolina, David Walker used his pamphlet, "Appeal," to cause slaves to revolt against their master. A true abolitionist, David use his pamphlet to deliver his message throughout the south.

Teaching David Walker in the secondary classroom maybe somewhat difficult. Using this teacher resource can help you in teaching the history behind David Walker.
*Each link leads to different information on David Walker.

Here are a list of other resources: