Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Poems for Niggers and Crackers [INSCRIBED & SIGNED] [PIONEERING ANTI-RACIST, AFRICAN-AMERICAN POETRY]

[Cairo]: Published by the authors, 1965. First edition. Softcover. Octavo. 54pp. Printed staple-bound tan paper wrappers with black lettering on the front cover. Inscribed and signed on the front free endpaper by author James v. Hatch and artist Camille Billops in pen. This shockingly-titled work is a scarce collection comprised of 31 poems from two American expatriate poets, one black (Ibrahim ibn Ismail, b.1934) and one white (James V. Hatch, 1928-2020). The poetry is accompanied by a total of 5 compelling and thematically relevant lithographic illustrations, finely printed in black by multidisciplinary artist Camille Billops (1933-2019), who was Hatch's wife. This was the first time the couple had collaborated.

In a way the work acts as a poetic dialogue between the two men, expressing their outrage and disillusionment with the state of race-relations in the United States, with both men having "grown to manhood in a society in which each submitted to the emotions which seemed the best defense against total destruction." The work was born out of "this uncontrollable hatred and despair of the black poet... and the unwanted guilt of the white poet... and the attempts of each to purge himself of these negative emotions through joint poetic experience." In addition to the expected poetic polemics against the socio-cultural institutions and philosophy of racism in United States, the poets also target their ire towards the capitalist system and also as the black bourgeoisie class in America. It is also important to note that this work was published only one month after the assassination of Malcolm X, a personal friend of Ibn Ismail, and there is poem dedicated to his memory. Two illustrative examples of the poets' perspectives can be found in these excerpts from the poems "Epitaph for Malcolm X" and "Some Black-American Faces", respectively:

1) "Your fight was meritorious and not in vain. You've inspired and put fire, into the black-man. Your life was exemplary, your death in pain, but we will carry-on your hopes and become free-men."

2) "Forget not in your escape, the unemployed of your brothers whose bellies scrape their backbone, while yours pokes out from ham and steak, making it hard for you to steer your Cadillac coupe, on the slimy street, past your brother in the stoop in despair, the holes in his shoes, the nits in his hair, making you shame you black."

The poetry is powerful and sometimes satirical and sarcastic, but always crackling with deep emotions and lived personal experiences. The two men met and collaborated while both living in Cairo, Egypt and its assumed that the book was published there, although no publisher's location is mentioned in the book.

The front of the book contains a fascinating introduction to the work by David du Bois, discussing the thought process behind this notable collaboration, as well as a table of contents. The back of the book contains short biographies on ibn Ismail, Hatch and Billops.

Minor staining and smudging along the spine of the wrappers. Interior clean and vibrant. Wrappers tight. Wrappers in very good+, interior in near fine condition overall. A very nice copy of the this scarce and powerful poetry collection. vg+ to near fine. Item #49392

About the authors:

American poet and activist Ibrahim ibn Ismail (b.1934) was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He spent much of his childhood in hospitals battling serious health problems. Later, he took to the road, and hitchhiked through the United States, becoming a traveling free spirit, and holding a variety of jobs along the way. He became politically active, was involved in the Black Muslim movement, and at the time of the publication of this work he was studying Arabic in Cairo, at the Al Azhar University. Malcolm X visited the city in 1964, while Ismail was there and the two men purportedly became friends.

James V. Hatch (1928-2020) was a writer and scholar, and a professor of English and Drama at a number of institutions, most notably at the City College of New York. He was known as a prominent historian of African American theater, and a promoter of black culture in the United States. With his wife, artist Camille Billops, he amassed an impressive collection of materials relating to the subject of black performance, letters, and the arts, numbering the thousands of pieces. The collection is has become known as the Hatch-Billops collection, and is an invaluable resource for academic study, currently held at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library, at Emory University

Camille Billops (1933-2019) was a pioneering and award-winning African American sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, archivist and educator. Born in Los Angeles, she graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a B.A. in education, in 1960. After meeting scholar and writer James V. Hatch in 1959, who was then a professor at UCLA, they subsequently married. At various points the couple lived and traveled abroad, with a notable multi-year period in Cairo, Egypt. By the late 1960s the couple had settled back in the the U.S. and were living in Manhattan, where Hatch got his position at City College of New York. There they started to amass the notable collection that now bares their name. As a visual artist Billops has exhibited internationally, and starting in 1982 started he career as a filmmakers. Among her work in the short-form and documentary fields, her autobiographical 1991 film "Finding Christa" was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.

David du Bois (1925-2005) was an American journalist, activist, scholar and professor of African American studies. During WWII he served in the United States infantry. Later, he worked for many years as a foreign correspondent, most notably in Cairo. In the 1960s also he served as a consultant to the government of Ghana, and in the 1970s he served for a time as the spokesperson for the Black Panther Party. His mother was Shirley Graham Du Bois (1896-1977) an award-winning author, playwright, composer, and activist. She married the famous W. E. B. Du Bois in 1951, and her son David took his new stepfather's name out of respect.

Price: $2,250.00