Here are links to some recommended reads.
Ellen Holly (1931- ) is an American actress, the first black actress ever to appear regularly on a soap opera. She played Carla Hall on “One Life to Live” from 1968 to 1985. She also played the president’s wife in “School Daze” (1988).
Holly grew up in New York, the daughter of a chemical engineer and a librarian. She studied acting at Hunter College and went on from there to act on stage. By 1956 she was on Broadway. She got in to the Actors Studio, the first black woman ever to do so. She later got parts in film and television too.
In 1968 Holly wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times about what it was like to be a light-skinned black woman. Agnes Dixon, who was then starting a new soap called “One Life to Live”, read that letter. It led her to create the character of Carla Gray (later Hall). She offered the part to Holly herself. Holly took it and became the first regular black female character on a soap. Other soaps soon followed their lead and had black characters of their own too.
I remember watching Holly on One Life to Live as a teenager. At the time, I didn’t appreciate that she was breaking new ground for black actors in the soaps.
I can see why so many people thought she was white: it wasn’t until the late 1960s that color TVs started selling in large numbers. On black and white TV, her light skin did make her look white.
She started out on the show doing a story line where she is a black person passing for white. A white male character on the show actually proposed to her, but she had to reject the proposal because she was not white. I later found out that the theme of the “tragic mulatto who passes for white” was a not an uncommon one for Hollywood (see Imitation of Life). But at the time, I was shocked that this kind of race-sensitive stuff was being shown on daytime television.
Monroe, Louisiana is a city of about 50,000 in north central Louisiana. It’s about a half hour drive from Grambling University. The following is from a recent story in the Monroe Free Press, which is one of the city’s African American newspapers:
Monroe: The city where it’s safe to say Nigga
City won’t fire or reprimand foul mouthed department heads
It started a few years back when we started reporting about the tendency of our police chief to curse and use extremely foul and graphic language publicly. In one instance he even told the police chief of Sterlington to get under the table and suck his…
There were no reprimands, lost days of pay, or other slaps on the wrist. The subliminal message is that such language is acceptable for department heads…
The most recent problems occurred this year when Sean Benton the Superintendent of Monroe’s Water Distribution plant was accused of referring to black employees of his department as Niggas and routinely using foul language and expletives in his references to others. Police had to be called once when Benton took off his shirt to fight a subordinate…
What raises eyebrows is that Benton is black. Most of his “Nigga” comments were made to blacks. The issue that this raises is whether or not “Nigga” is an generally offensive by whites but acceptable when used by blacks.
Because Benton has not been fired or reprimanded by the city’s black mayor it appears to be an endorsement of “Nigga” as acceptable language for a black professional in a department head status to use toward subordinates.
There’s been a slew of articles written in the past year or so about Tyler Perry. A recent piece about him in Entertainment Weekly, titled Tyler Perry: The Controversy Over His Hit Movies, claims to go “inside black America’s secret culture war”:
 No Obama = Black Community Drama?
Recent articles from The Wall Street Journal (Black Voters Fret Over Obama) and the Washington Post (The Big ‘What If’) discuss the possible fall-out in the black community from a Barack Obama loss in the November election.
From the WSJ article:
An anxious murmur is rising among black voters as the presidential race tightens: What if Barack Obama loses?
Black talk-show hosts and black-themed Web sites are being flooded with callers and bloggers reflecting a nervousness — and anger — over the campaign. Bev Smith, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, devoted her entire three-hour show Monday night to the question: “If Obama doesn’t win, what will you think?”
“My audience is upset,” she said in an interview. “Some people said they would be so angry it would be reminiscent of the [1960s] riots — that is how despondent they would be.”
Myself, I think this talk of a devastating blow to the collective black psyche from an Obama loss is itself overblown. People will no doubt be unhappy, but they’ll get over it. The black community has been through much worse.
My own concern is this: will the organizational structures and practices that are being used in this campaign be repurposed as part of an ongoing effort to boost black political participation? If they are, then that will be a lasting legacy of this campaign. If they are not, then this will wind up being a bright and shining moment with no long term impact. Now that would be something to get upset about.
 11 Black Americas
…based on demographics, values and consumption patterns, black Americans were segmented into 11 distinct groups. The following are abbreviated descriptions of the groups, from youngest to oldest group:
1. Connected Black Teens: “They are tech savvy, highly social, brand driven and fans of Black music (Hip Hop
2. Digital Networkers: “Over half of this web savvy, high tech, mobile segment are college or high school students who ‘network’ heavily using Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging and their cell phones.”
3. Black Onliners: “Heavy web users, this mostly male segment is stressed by their work/life balance and the need to straddle Black and White worlds; they are focused on money as the most meaningful measure of success and are the most stressed of any segment about ‘having to fit in’.”
The rest of the list can be found at the Thora Institute site. Refer to the post dated 8/17/08.
 Condoleezza Rice: Not Enough Blacks at the State Department
CNN reports that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there are too few black Americans in the State Department. She was delivering the keynote speech at the annual Conference of the White House Initiative on National Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”
The article also notes that “Rice praised partnerships between federal government departments and agencies and black colleges. Last year, such colleges received $5 million in scholarships and grants from the State Department for language training, study abroad and exchange programs.”
 Obama Stumps the Experts
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article titled Wanted: More-Sophisticated Theories of Racial Politics. The article discusses an address by Dianne M. Pinderhughes, who is the first African American female president of the American Political Science Association, to the association’s annual conference in June:
…as recently as a year ago, Pinderhughes and many of her colleagues failed to predict that Mr. Obama’s campaign would succeed — an error that she likened to the discipline’s failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The failure to foresee the possibility of Mr. Obama’s success, Ms. Pinderhughes said, was just one small symptom of the discipline’s general failure to develop serious models of the politics of race. “We must begin to consider race in a complex way,” she said, “in the same way that we consider the Founding, international relations, and constitutional law. We’re facing a profound change in American public life without the theoretical tools that we need to explain it.”
It’s an interesting thought. But the fact is, the Obama candidacy surprised a lot of people inside and out of academia. Sometimes it’s about vision, not theory.
 Black Minority in Iraq Faces Discrimination; Is Inspired by Obama
I want to give a hat tip to Tariq Nelson.com for pointing to an article from the LA Times, IRAQ: Black Iraqis hoping for a Barack Obama win. The article speaks of the struggles of the African minority in the majority Arab country of Iraq, and how Barack Obama, who is seen as a son of Africa, inspires them.
The post on Nelson’s blog has some interesting comments concerning race as a factor in Islamic culture and relations.
 Former Nation of Islam Leader W.D. Mohammed Dies
Wallace Mohammed, AKA Warith Deen Mohammed, son and successor to Elijah Muhammad as a leader of the Nation of Islam, passed away on September 9th. W. D. Mohammed was notable for abandoning the Nation’s previous views on white supremacy and moving its followers into mainstream Islam.
However, W. D. Mohammed was never able to gain the media prominence of Minister Louis Farrakhan, who broke with Mohammed over the changes to the Nation’s philosophy and direction. Farrakhan went on to lead his own group, also called the Nation of Islam.
I was surprised at how little news coverage there was of this. At one time, the Nation of Islam captured the imagination, if not large numbers of members from, large segments of the African American community, especially in the North and Midwest. The scant attention given to Mohammed’s passing shows how weak a force the Nation has become in black America’s consciousness.