This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, March 24, 2023.
All of the seasons of the year have their special charms (yes, even winter), but none engenders my personal excitement like spring. The earth is coming back to life. Trees and flowers are beginning to bud and bloom, and if the frosts will remain at bay these plants will come to full flower soon.
The growing and the flowering will continue throughout the spring and into the summer. Much of it will be just the same as has happened in years past. But there are always surprises, always new things sprouting up, always small miracles that you never noticed before.
And that is the point, I suppose. Watching, waiting, and seeing. In the spring, the earth changes visibly every day, and if you look, you can see it. It’s like watching grass grow—and it’s glorious.
Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.
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The extraordinary life of Josephine Baker (part 2)
By the time World War II ended, Josephine Baker had spent the first two decades of her adult life in the midst of tears, excitement, fame, and life-threatening danger.
But by then, Josephine Baker, in 1946, was barely 40 years old with much of her life still in front of her. The next two decades, although not riven by war, would prove almost as tumultuous as the previous years of her life had been.
Though she had renounced her American citizenship in 1937 and had become a citizen of France, she still considered the United States her home, and she returned there in 1946 with high hopes that the nation’s attitude toward Black people had changed. What she found, however, was shocking and disturbing.
Before all that occurred, Baker had come back to Paris when it was liberated, and with her work with the French resistance, had become well known. In 1949, she made a trial for return to the stage of the Folies Bergère. She had changed her act to include serious music and subject matter, and her French audience responded with rousing enthusiasm.
In 1951, she was invited back to the United States by a Miami nightclub. She refused to make the engagement unless she had assurances that the audience would be desegregated. The nightclub resisted, but finally gave into her demands. That launched a tour of America that was nothing less than triumphant. It climaxed with a parade in Harlem, celebrating the fact that she was the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People’s “Woman of the Year.”
Baker had become an early and outspoken advocate of civil rights for America’s Black citizens, and her activities sent an early signal to American society that in the postwar era Blacks would not be satisfied or accepting of a second class role that they had occupied for nearly a century since the abolition of slavery.
During her 1951 tour of America, she was in New York at the famous Stork Club, where she openly denounced the owner and his policies of discouraging Black patrons. Her actions there made her an important friend and a vicious enemy. The friend was Grace Kelly, the famous actress, who happened to be at the club when Baker raised her ruckus. Kelly went over to Baker, and arm and arm the two women left the club with Kelly vowing never to return. That was a minute of friendship that proved very valuable to Baker for the rest of her life.
But during that time Baker also criticized columnist Walter Winchell for not rising to her defense. Winchell had been an ally of Baker and an avid supporter, but his sensitivity to her criticism turned him into a vicious enemy. He loudly denounced Baker as having communist sympathies. His influence through his column was so extensive that the United States government revoked Baker’s work visa. She was forced to cancel all of her engagements in the U.S. and return to France. She was unable to come back to America for more than a decade.
That did not silence her at all. She continued to speak out against America’s segregationist policies, and she wrote a number of widely disseminated articles about how unfair America had been to its Black citizens. As the Civil Rights movement progressed and expanded during the 1950s and early 1960s, Baker’s name was continually associated with it.
By the early 1960s, Baker had been able to return to the United States. During the famous 1963 March on Washington in support of the Civil Rights bill that Congress was considering, Baker was chosen to be one of the main speakers, and to represent the women who had been involved in the Civil Rights movement. During that speech, she said the following:
“I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens, and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”
When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Coretta Scott King, his widow, asked Baker if she would assume the unofficial leadership of the Civil Rights movement. She seriously considered it but ultimately she declined.
The main reason she gave for not accepting the offer was that she wanted to spend time raising the children that she had adopted over the previous decade. It is unclear exactly how many children she had, but they were from multiple races and ethnic backgrounds, and she referred to them as her “rainbow tribe.”
Baker’s finances were also in shambles, and she lost her château in France because of unpaid debts. By this time, her good friend, Grace Kelly, had married Prince Rainier of Monaco, and they became generous supporters, offering her money and a place to live.
With their help, Baker got her life in order enough to go back on stage and she spent the late 1960s and early 1970s touring various locations in Europe. She had never lost her onstage magic as an entertainer, and her audiences loved her.
In April 1975, she starred in a retrospective review in Paris to celebrate her 50 years in show business. The show was sold out immediately and demand for tickets exceeded the supply. The opening night audience included celebrities, such as Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, and Shirley Bassey, just to name a few.
Four days later, on April 12, 1975, Baker was found lying in a hotel bed surrounded by newspapers that had given her show rave reviews. She was in a coma, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and she died a few hours later.
More than 20,000 people attended her funeral and its procession. France hailed her as both a wartime and a peacetime heroine.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Women With Words: emerging
My latest book, Women With Words: Female Journalists and Writers, Heads and Tales Volume 2, is beginning to emerge from behind its publication walls.
The book is now widely available (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and on a number of other platforms) and can be purchased as a hardback, paperback, or ebook. At this moment, I am working to increase its distribution through other platforms.
Perhaps you know a young woman who loves to read and write and needs some inspiration. This would make a great gift and a perfect birthday or Christmas present. (I know, it’s March, but is it really too early to start your Christmas shopping?)
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
The women in this volume of the Heads and Tales series have a way with words. They are remarkable women, all with remarkable and sometimes extraordinary stories.
Jim Stovall, in this volume, brings us his unique journalistic and artistic vision of women whose writings and lives were always notable, sometimes notorious, and occasionally astonishing. Some of these women, such as Louisa May Alcott, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Eleanor Roosevelt, you will have heard of or read. Others will have receded—often unfairly—into the mists of history.
What you will find here about each of these women is something new—some part of their story that you had never known.
Louisa May Alcott, famously the author of Little Women, was also A.M. Bernard, author of what was in her time known as the “blood and thunder” novel, the gothic sensationalism that many readers of her day craved. Such writing put food on her family’s table.
Aphra Behn, possibly the first female writer in English to make her living as a writer, was not only a popular playwright but also a spy for King Charles I.
Anne Brontë, the least well known of the Brontë sisters, wrote the most shocking and forward-looking feminist novel of them all—a novel that sister Charlotte hardily disapproved of.
Rachel Harding Davis, mother of the famous journalist and early 20th century heart-throb Richard Harding Davis, supported her family by writing some of the first American realism stories—decades before her male counterparts in the realism school took up their pens.
And we haven’t even gotten to page 25 yet.
There are many more such stories: the first female presidential candidate (far earlier than you might think); the first American detective novelist; the first voice from the White House that Americans heard after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The list goes on and on.
And then there are the caricatures. These drawings by the author himself add insight and entertainment to this unique and powerful collection.
In addition to those women mentioned above, discover the stories of Helen Gurley Brown, Maxine Cheshire, Mary Mapes Dodge, Mary Anne Evans (George Elliot), Wanda Gág, Martha Gellhorn, Susan Glaspell, Anna Katharine Green, Angelina Grimké and Sarah Grimké (and their collaborator Theodore Weld), Fannie Lou Hamer, Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Marguerite Higgins, Emma Lazarus, Caroline Norton, Helen Kirkpatrick, Ann Radcliffe, Catherine Parr, Mary Seacole, Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (Nellie Bly), Ida Tarbell, Dorothy Thompson, Mercy Otis Warren, Victoria Woodhull, and Mary King Ward.
Read and be entertained and delighted.
Swarms and swarm hives, part 1
A swarm hive, sometimes referred to as a “bait hive,” is a wooden box that is specially designed and equipped to capture bee swarms. In my experience, not many beekeepers make use of this technique of acquiring bees. The swarm hive is something that I will be using for the first time this spring as I begin the 2023 process of “keeping” bees.
A colony of bees reproduces itself by what we sometimes refer to as “casting swarms.” A colony has only one queen, and when the colony seems to be running out of room in its hive, it will begin to make a new queen. When that queen is finally produced, the old queen will leave the hive, taking as many as 25 to 50 percent of the bees with her. That’s what constitutes a swarm.
That swarm will alight usually around a tree limb or some other object and will stay in that position long enough to send out “scout bees” to look for a new home for the swarm.
What the scouts look for is some closed or protected space that has a small entrance. A swarm hive is designed to attract the scout bees so that they will direct the swarm to the box and occupy it as their new home. One of the means of attracting the scouts is to sprinkle a few drops of lemongrass oil near the entrance of the box. The bees are attracted to this aroma.
I am currently in the process of making and placing several swarm hives, or boxes, in our area. March, April, and May are known as the swarm season for honeybees. I hope that I will be able to attract swarms of wild bees and use them to create colonies for my hives. I will let you know how it goes.
Picture: A swarm of bees that is looking for a new home.
Group giveaways for March
Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:
Rah! Rah! Rah! Varsity Sports Themed YA and NA Novels
Crime Thriller Giveaway (Feb. 12 – March 12)
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
Check out last week’s newsletter
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Mountain church
Best quote of the week:
The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad. James Madison, 4th U.S. president (1751-1836)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
1st United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee (full disclosure: my home church) is offering daily devotionals that will land in your in-box every day during Lent. They are written by church members and take less than a couple of minutes to read. (And yes, I have written one of them.) Sign up to receive them here.
Helping those in need
Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
You can connect with Jim on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and BookBub.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Josephine Baker, Handel’s comeback, and baseball’s pitch clock: newsletter, March 17, 2023
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