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His work challenged the usefulness of race as a social construct, and he eventually disavowed the idea of race altogether.


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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.

Frank Marshall Davis

Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for racial and economic difference. After Wright's break with the Left, the two writers fell out. Davis described Wright's essays as "an act of treason in the fight for our rights and aided only the racists who were constantly seeking any means to destroy cooperation between Reds and blacks. Davis promoted the ideal of a "raceless" society, based on his belief that race as a biological or social construct was illogical and a fallacy.

In his posthumously published memoir Livin' the Blues , edited by John Edgar Tidwell, Davis wrote of the period to , " I worked with all kinds of groups. I made no distinction between those labeled Communist, Socialist or merely liberal.

John Edgar Tidwell - Publications

My sole criterion was this: Are you with me in my determination to wipe out white supremacy? In Davis and his second wife, whom he had married in , moved to Honolulu , Hawaii. He also explored the history of blues and jazz in his columns. Davis published little poetry between and , when his final volume, Awakening, and Other Poems, was published.

In Davis wrote a pornographic novel, titled Sex Rebel: Black, publishing it under the pseudonym Bob Greene. His work began to be published in anthologies as there was a revival of interest in black writers due to the civil rights movement and increasing activism. Davis died in July , in Honolulu, of a heart attack, at age A Voice of the Black Press Davis was married to Thelma Boyd, his first wife, for 13 years. In he married Helen Canfield, a white woman whom he had met in one of his classes; she was 18 years younger than he.

Lynn, Beth, Jeanne, and Jill.

Davis said he was captivated by "the new revolutionary style called free verse. Sonnets and, in fact, all rhyme held little interest for" him.

Richard Guzman highlights Davis' poetry for its "social engagement, especially in the fight against racism" as well as its "fluent language and stunning imagery. Morgan states that in his work, Davis "delighted in contradicting reader expectations".

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Davis has been cited as being an influence on poet and publisher Dudley Randall. Davis described the way Kansas race relations were back then, including Jim Crow restrictions, and his belief that there had been little progress since then. As Obama remembered, "It made me smile, thinking back on Frank and his old Black Power , dashiki self.

In some ways he was as incurable as my mother, as certain in his faith, living in the same sixties time warp that Hawaii had created. One day Obama visited areas where Davis had lived, writing, "I imagined Frank in a baggy suit and wide lapels, standing in front of the old Regal Theatre , waiting to see Duke or Ella emerge from a gig. Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance.

Columns and news pieces from a great American journalist

He celebrates Davis's genius for employing both journalistic objectivity and poetic subjectivity in his crusade against [End Page ] white supremacy, red baiting, racial stereotyping, imperialism, colonialism, "home-grown fascism," and the internecine wars of the black community. Because Davis bluntly confronted white privilege in a voice Tidwell calls "arguably the most vituperative hypercritical tone to come from the traditional black press" xxiii.

Davis challenged white America to judge itself by the criteria it imposed on other societies. In columns written between and , Davis chronicled contradictions between the nation's cherished democratic ideals and its less than democratic social practices. Through the ANP syndication of his columns Davis reached a wide audience.

Tidwell organizes Davis's work thematically rather than chronologically, dividing it into four sections. The last section, "Democracy Hawaiian Style," resurrects Davis's ANP series about Hawaii, which his black friends considered "the best place under the American flag. Each section is preceded by excellent commentary establishing the historical context and providing biographical background.

These commentaries build on Tidwell's concise, well-argued introduction and advance his case that Davis "helped to reframe [American] political and cultural issues into an analytical critique for black social and political change" xiii. While dividing up Davis's work permits a focus on each subject area, it also precludes appreciating his uncompromising voice simultaneously breaking out in poetry, journalism, criticism, history, and political activism.