Magazine article Humanities

Black in the Upper Midwest

Magazine article Humanities

Black in the Upper Midwest

Article excerpt

MINNESOTA HOW DOES GEOGRAPHY CARVE OUT literary expression in America? And what might that regional expression have to do with race?

These are questions author and editor Alexs Pate was occupied with when he set out to excavate the African-American experience in Minnesota. Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota is the product of his digging. Published by the Minnesota Humanities Center, and coedited with Pamela Fletcher and J. Otis Powell, Blues Vision spans 75 years, the breadth of the state, and every genre of written creative expression.

The 67-piece anthology contains poetry, memoirs, fiction, nonfiction, plays, and performance pieces-stories of delight, joy, and humor; of isolation, invisibility, and despair; of racism, the civil rights movement, hip-hop, jazz, blues, and gospel; and of beauty, love, and community. It is as political as Ralph Remington's memories of Black Panthers walking through his neighborhood in "To Be Black in America"; as graceful as Roy McBride's ode to spring in "Lilac Week"; as humorous as Evelyn Fairbanks's anecdotes about her disciplinarian mother in "Mama"; and as haunting as Etheridge Knight's visions of a lover departing in "As You Leave Me." Or as surprising as how poet Philip Bryant compares the music of Miles Davis to the lakes of Minnesota: "But it's the way the paper-thin / ice forms on the edge of the lake / in late October: / meeting at the cold dark water's edge/-still open and free though not for long-/with the ripples of these short choppy / muted notes of yours / blown just out of reach / this cool windy autumn morning."

Pate was born in Philadelphia in 1950 and moved to Minnesota in the 1980s. As a black writer in Minnesota, he was taken with the openness of the landscape, but felt "hypervisible" and "unknown." Intrigued by the influence of Minnesota on his own writing, Pate wondered about the experiences of other black writers in the state. So, he and his colleagues began mining Minnesota's black literary heritage. Blues Vision includes the work of eminent writers like Gordon Parks, Etheridge Knight, Philip Bryant, and Roy McBride, as well as lesser known and never-before-published material by contemporary writers. In some sense, the volume is a work of modern literary history. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.