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Archive for 'African-American'

Michal Scott: African Americans and The Religious Society of Friends (Contest & Excerpt)
Friday, May 7th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!

I must be honest with you from jump street. What I knew about Quakers was formed by elementary school stories about William Penn and movies like The Angel and the Bad Man and Friendly Persuasion. It took meeting real-life Quakers who kindly corrected my ignorance to free me of clichés and caricatures I hadn’t realized I harbored. The first thing they informed me was officially they are the Religious Society of Friends and they refer to themselves as Friends. So decades later when I created inspirational historical romances set in the 1880s in which my African-American characters have been helped by Friends, I scurried down a wonderful new research rabbit hole.

I Iearned that four Friends in Germantown Pennsylvania wrote one of the earliest protests against slavery in 1688. In 1700 on May 7th — one hundred eighty years before my stories are set — William Penn began monthly meetings for African Americans that promoted manumission. However, Friends weren’t always that quick to invite African Americans among them and it took another eighty years for the denomination itself to take a public stand against slavery. Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye document this journey in their book, Fit For Freedom, Not For Friendship. Prior to the American Revolution Quakers owned slaves and shared the same attitudes about African Americans as non-Quakers in American society. McDaniel and Julye do give the Society kudos for being the first large Christian denomination to require its members to stop participating in slavery.

I was amazed to learn that I was familiar with African-American Quakers by name but didn’t know they were Quakers. I knew of the abolitionist and back-to-Africa work of Paul Cuffe (1759-1817). I didn’t know Cuffe established the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone in 1811. Probably the most famous African-American Quaker known to me is Bayard Rustin (1912-1987). I had always known of Rustin’s civil rights and gay rights activism, but I never knew he was a Quaker.

I was grateful to encounter new names and new stories. Freed slave Cyrus Bustill (1732-1806)  helped found Philadelphia’s Free African Society and was himself a conductor on the underground railroad. His family continued as prominent black Quaker leaders, one of whom — Gertrude Bustill Mossell — became one of the first black women journalists and journal editors in the United States. Another new name was Vera Mae Green (1928-1982). Green championed international human rights and Caribbean anthropology. She did a study, “Blacks and Quakerism” in 1972-73 for the Friend’s General Conference and participated in a significant way in a session in 1979 with Quaker sociologists on peace in the Middle East.

Though I don’t get to use all I learn in my writing, I love discovering these hidden histories which make the tapestry that is history in general so colorful. So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, what are some surprising historical facts you’ve come across.

One Breath Away by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. Never having been courted, cuddled or spooned, Mary now fears any kind of physical intimacy when arousal forces her to relive the asphyxiation of her hanging. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Wealthy freeborn-Black Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing a relationship with Mary was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first, he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.

Then just as Eban begins to win Mary’s trust, an enemy from the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

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Excerpt from One Breath Away

His smile turned up the heat in his gaze. Mary frowned, painfully aware the smell of her passion lingered in the air, despite the woolen barrier of her skirt.

He stepped forward so his hand-stitched boots stood toe-to-toe with Mary’s second-hand shoes. “Eban Thurman, at your service, Miss Hamilton. May I get you something to drink?”

At her service? The air congealed. Mary gasped, trying to suck in air too solid to inflate her lungs.

“No—no, thank you. I’m not thirsty.” Her stutter mimicked the tremor between her thighs. She clasped her hands and planted them hard against her lap.

“It’s a really hot night.” He turned his hand palm up in a silent plea. “Perhaps you’d find a waltz more cooling.” He eased his fingers into her clenched hands. “May I beg the honor of this dance?”


“Yes, Miss Hamilton.” He tilted his head, slanting his smile to the right. “Beg.”

“You don’t strike me as the begging type, Mr. Thurman.”

“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” He tongue-swiped his full lips as if he’d just tasted something he wanted to taste again. “I know when it’s time to beg.”

She pursed her lips into a frown, fought back the urge to grovel and won. Barely.

The fingers around hers, clean and huge and strangely slender, hadn’t moved, hadn’t trembled. Their stillness aroused her. His stillness aroused her. Her lips quivered. She inhaled deeply against the surrender summoned by that tiny tremor.

Resist the devil and he will flee.

Silently she called upon the truth in this scripture for rescue.
The devil waited. She stared at the hand on hers, helpless against the appeal, the allure of temptation.

She swallowed hard, opened her mouth to say no, but her tongue refused to cooperate. She huffed out a breath and shook her head. “I—I can’t. I don’t know how to waltz.”

“Well, you’re in luck.” His lips bowed in a smile, full, broad, and hypnotizing. “I’m an excellent teacher and I bet you’re a fast learner.” He gave her fingers a squeeze. “Shall we?”

He really wanted to dance with her. She blinked, speechless. A warning voice protested.


Her heart countered.


She firmed her lips, heaved a sigh then accepted his invitation.


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Michal Scott: The Pleasant Surprise of Florence Price (Contest & Excerpt)
Thursday, March 25th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Wilck!

Sometimes, outrage motivates you. Sometimes, pleasant surprise. My African-American women photo collection started because, out of thirty-six history cards of famous African-Americans, only six were women. My discovery of classical composer Florence Price was a pleasant surprise.

I was a classical music fan from a young age. My mother had a five-record collection of Strauss waltzes that I probably wore out on our old hi-fi. Then playing pieces like the Poet and Peasant’s Overture on clarinet in junior high school seeded a love for classical music deep in my heart. I learned all I could about European composers like Debussy and Stravinsky and Vaughn Williams. As I got older I developed a love for the classical works of American composers like Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein. Now, thanks to my year-long quest, first for quotes on democracy, then music and songs to keep hope alive through 2020 and now into 2021, my musical horizons have broadened yet again. Swimming in the pool of African-American classical music and jazz composers during Black History month, I discovered African-American female composers.

I’ve been swept up away by the classical works of Margaret Bonds, Zenobia Powell Perry, and Undine Smith Moore. I learned of modern works by present-day women like Valerie Coleman, Valerie Capers, Pamela Z, and Hannah Kendall. I’ve been floating along in the wonder of expanded knowledge about women musicians with whom I was already familiar, women like Hazel Scott and Eva Jessye.

Learning about the life and work of Florence Price has been one of the pleasant surprises of 2021. On my favorite classical radio station alone I’ve been introduced to no fewer than seventeen of this amazing woman’s work. Her titles range from the predictable, Sonata in E Minor, Symphony No. 1 in E Minor to the poetic, Memory Mist, Moon Bridge, On Quiet Lake to the whimsical, Goblin and the Mosquito. I’d always known about the seminal event of Eleanor Roosevelt enabling Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the Revolution wouldn’t let her sing at Constitution Hall. But I only learned this year that Anderson closed her recital with Price’s My Soul’s Been Anchored in de Lord.

Born in 1887, Florence came from a family of firsts. Her father was Little Rock, Arkansas’s first black dentist. She had her first piano recital at the age of four and at age eleven wrote her first musical composition. At fourteen she went to study at the New England Conservatory for three years. By 1927 she had divorced an abusive husband and moved to Chicago where her work found support from the music director of the Chicago Symphony. In 1932 she won first prize in the Wannamaker music contest. She became the first African American woman to have her work performed by a major American symphony when on June 15th, 1933 the Chicago Symphony performed her Symphony No. 1 in E minor. As a kid when I was learning about Stravinsky and Copland and Bernstein, I should also have been learning about Florence Price. But better late than never.

I’m always moved when I learn of women who achieved as Florence did, even though they didn’t receive all the accolades they deserved in their lifetime. So for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments the name of an unsung woman you feel the world should know more about.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.

Excerpt from Better to Marry than to Burn…

Caesar looked at Queen. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. She swallowed hard, unnerved by the sight. Her lips trembled.

Reverend Warren smiled. “Caesar, you may kiss your bride.”

Kiss? Queen flinched. There’d be no kissing in this marriage. She’d promised to be his wife for two years with sex provided at agreed upon intervals. At the end of two years that requirement would end, and she’d be free to live as she chose. She could go anywhere she pleased, especially with the respectability of missus before her name and Caesar’s promised severance. No. This coupling made them business partners. Business partners did not kiss.

She extended her hand to seal their arrangement. He returned the handshake, but instead of releasing her, his too rough fingers imprisoned hers and pulled her to him. With his other hand, he captured the back of her head and secured her mouth to his.

A squeal of surprise parted her lips. His thick tongue swept into the shelter of her mouth. The assault ambushed her with pleasure and vanquished her resistance.

Her hands rose, as if of their own volition, and pressed against his chest. The firm muscle beneath his shirt coaxed her hands to linger, to explore— however discreetly—the muscle beneath her palms and fingertips.

Caesar broke off the kiss.

The embrace didn’t last more than a few seconds, but Queen swayed, robbed of reason and resentment.


Michal Scott: African-American Opera: My Latest Rabbit Hole (Contest)
Thursday, February 25th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!

Going down the rabbit hole is what we authors call picking up a thread of research that takes us away from our intended purpose. My latest is African-American opera. What got me started was my quest to track down a modern adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. I learned of an African-American version where James Brown’s first gold record is the gold stolen in the opera. Looking for information on that performance has taken me down many paths in my latest rabbit hole. Before my quest, I’d have had to admit my knowledge of opera depicting aspects of African-American life was limited to the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Scott Joplin’s Tremonisha. I soon became lost in the wonderful facts I discovered about old and new works. And truth be told, I loved being lost.

My rabbit hole was really a gold mine. I struck a rich vein every time I began a new internet search. I’ve learned about modern works like Tulani and Anthony Davis’ X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X that premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in 1985. Last year, the Seattle Opera performed Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette A. Wimberly’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, a daring piece that incorporated jazz and opera.

This month I learned about 1949’s Troubled Island by composer William Grant Still. You can learn more about the piece here…

In 1936, Still began the opera set in Haiti’s slave rebellion. He asked poet Langston Hughes to write the libretto. Hughes had collaborated with African American composer James P. Johnson to write a blues opera called De Organizer. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union sponsored performances of the work in 1940. In 1937, Hughes moved to Spain to correspond on the Spanish Civil War. Still’s wife, Verna Arvey, a librettist in her own right, finished Troubled Island‘s libretto. Completed in 1939, it took ten more years before the work was performed by the New York City Opera. This made Troubled Island the first African-American grand opera to be produced by a major opera company.

I was drawn to learn more about William Grant Still, the music of Langston Hughes, Verna Arvey, James P. Johnson, famous sponsors of work by African-American artists. Can you see why research is an underground rabbit warren from which I might have never returned to the story that initiated the search in the first place? I plugged up my ears against the siren call of all these facts and made my way back to the surface. I’ve tucked the information away for another time and other stories.

I’ve yet to find the James-Brown-gold-record version of Das Rheingold but I haven’t given up. If you come across it or any information about it, please let me know. But beware lest you fall into a rabbit hole research trap of your own.

For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments if you have a favorite opera or if opera is something you avoid at all costs.

One Breath Away

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman is his mate foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.

Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

Excerpt from One Breath Away

“Caesar King?”

He removed his hat and extended his hand in greeting. “At your service, Queen.”

She donned her hat and examined him with that regal air.

“Miss Payne, if you please. You may call me Queen after the nuptials.” She finished tying her hat’s long ribbons beneath her chin. “Although, even then, I’d prefer Mrs. King.”

“You don’t say?” He chuckled, taking her measure from head to foot. “Well, Miss Payne it is…for now.”

She filled her face with a frown. “I don’t appreciate being examined like some newly purchased cow, Mr. King.”

He pulled back. Amusement wrestled with annoyance. “I’m making sure you measure up, Miss Payne.”

“Pray to what criteria? I doubt there’s a standard for marriages of convenience.” She shoved her valise against his chest then crossed her arms, causing her lovely bosom to swell.

He inhaled against the pull of desire throbbing in his privates. “The same criteria as you I suspect: my own self-worth and what I deserve.” He dropped the bag at her feet. “So, by that token, I don’t appreciate being treated like some fetch-and-carry boy.”

She lowered her gaze. But for the set of her jaw he’d have taken the gesture for apology.

He leaned forward and whispered, “If you ask me nicely, I’d gladly carry your bag.”

“A gentleman wouldn’t need to be asked.” Her tone dripped with disdain. “A gentleman would simply take it.”

“I do many things, Miss Payne.” He pushed up the brim of his hat and grinned, fired up by the hazel flame sparking in her eyes. “Pretending to be a gentleman doesn’t number among them.”

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Michal Scott/Anna M. Taylor: Confronted and Encouraged by Norman Rockwell
Monday, June 22nd, 2020

The illustrator Norman Rockwell has been lauded and lambasted for projecting an image of America that was too mom and apple pie and White. If that’s your image of Rockwell, I’d like to give you a different one. One that confronted and encouraged through his works The Golden Rule (1961), The Problem We All Live With (1964), Murder in Mississippi (1965) and New Kids in the Neighborhood (1967). These works were created by a conscience rooted in the aspiration that “all men are created equal.”

Though never fully realized by the founding fathers, Rockwell imbued their aspirations in his Saturday Evening Post covers, especially in his illustrations of FDR’s Four Freedoms. I can’t look at that series and not hear the words to songs of equality like “The House I Live In” or “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.” Innocent as those covers seem, Rockwell was saying here’s how the world should be for everybody. Ironically, the Post’s policy wouldn’t extend that equality and respect to black people. Blacks on their covers had to be depicted in subservient positions. Rockwell left the Post in 1963 and accepted commissions from Look magazine where he could portray the flipside of the Post’s America. But sometimes Look found his work too controversial to publish, too. Fortunately, that didn’t happen often.

Criticized for his choice of subject and called a hypocrite and a lying propagandist, Rockwell painted the truth being shown nightly on TV news and revealed daily in newspaper stories about the Civil Rights struggle. I was a kid in the 60’s watching Americans of all races and creeds and religions marching in the streets, being doused by fire hoses and having police dogs turned on them because they believed all people are created equal and deserved to be treated that way.

The Norman Rockwell Museum has a virtual exhibit of Rockwell’s 1960’s works. Check it out here: where you can also hear from Ruby Bridges, the little girl in The Problem We All Live With.

Rockwell’s 1960s work asked Americans, “Which side are you on?” in the same way Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley and Gil Noble did in their network broadcasts. Sixty years later, these works are asking us the same question. Sixty years later, I hear us answering it in peaceful demonstrations being held all over the world, in paintings on the plywood of boarded-up Manhattan storefronts, in legislation passed to combat police brutality, in court decisions upholding LGBTQ rights. People are answering, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you must become the law of the land.” Despite authorities and administrations trying to divide us, people are answering and choosing to be on the right side of history because “the time is always right to do what is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the 1960s, Rockwell used his work to confront and encourage. May we use our resources to do the same today.

Haunted Serenade

All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies”: women still longing for but deserted by the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, Anora fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing her ties with her mother Angela and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.

Six years later, she comes back to Harlem to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?

Get your copy here!

Excerpt from Haunted Serenade…

“Internalized oppression?”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Why not? Self-hate has bedeviled people of color all over the world for hundreds of years. Being looked down upon because you’re not White, accepting you’re incapable of self-determination because you’re dark and not light is being confronted everywhere. The independence movements in Africa. The Civil Rights movement here. Why wouldn’t it be challenged in your mother’s house?”

I’d listened to sermons about the devil, sung hymns and praise songs to put him in his place. But I’d intellectualized all that. Those were metaphors for the evil humans did. But what if that metaphor represented real energy, energy that had agency, agency that needed to be combatted?

“Come on.” Winston picked up a tray. “Let’s put the pumpkins in the windows. I need some physical activity to balance all this intellectual speculating.”

I took the other tray and followed him into the parlor. We placed a pumpkin on each sill of the bay window then lit the candle inside.

Cammie was right. They weren’t at all scary. Their grins glowed with welcome.

We ascended to the second floor and repeated our pumpkin placement and lighting ritual in each window.

“Winston, if Diana’s spirit is trying to help us, why did she attack you, Elizabeth and my mother?”

“When were they attacked?”

I shared with him my mother’s lame excuses for her broken wrist and the bandage on Elizabeth’s forehead.

He pursed his lips then firmed them. “I don’t think Diana’s spirit attacked them or me.”

“But you said the cold—”

“Is Diana shielding us from another presence, a presence that made the shutters close in her bedroom, that made the cabinet door hit me.” He tucked his empty tray beneath his arm. “What if the cold is Diana’s love, but the energy that attacks has its source in someone else?”

Facebook: @annamtaylorAuthor

Michal Scott: Coincidence or Miracle?
Friday, March 20th, 2020

You’d think, being a minister, I’d wake on Sunday morning wondering what miracle lay in store for me that day. Unfortunately, more often than not I’d have the Saturday night why-did-I say-I’d-preach-on-Sunday blues. My colleagues and I lead our parishioners in choruses like “Victory is Mine” or classic hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, but many of us leave the ministry suffering from compassion fatigue or badly burned by well-intentioned dragons. I could have been one of those casualties but for a faith-reviving miracle.

From 2013-2015, I served as interim pastor to the United Presbyterian Church in Paterson, NJ, where I met an enthusiastic member named Diane Anderson. She wanted to hold an evangelistic service outdoors so members of the community could hear the message. For the benediction, we’d write prayers on index cards, tie them to helium balloons then release them. The Sunday of the service was warm and wonderful. We worshipped in the church parking lot and, at the end of the service, released our balloons as planned. They dotted a blue and cloudless sky.

The following Tuesday on our answering machine was a message from a woman who lived in Massachusetts just outside of Boston. She shared how one of our balloon blessings reached her backyard and was an answer to a prayer.

I called her back and had a wonderful conversation. It seems her father had recently died after a long bout with cancer. She’d gone that Sunday to his graveside and just talked to him, letting him know how much she missed him and didn’t know how she was going to go on without him. On Monday, as she was washing her dishes she glanced out her kitchen window and saw something stuck to a shed in her backyard. She went to retrieve it. It was a balloon with the following message attached: “Jesus, I am asking and believing in your name to continue to bless all those free of cancer and to those suffering that you will comfort them during this time.” She told me she wasn’t a religious person, but she felt sure our balloon was a sign from her dad that all was well with him and all would be well with her. Because our address was on the card she was able to track us down and thank us. She mailed the card back so I could share her thank you with the congregation the following Sunday.

I told Diane first. She had always wanted to do a service like this and thanked me for encouraging her to do it, despite the grumbling from the we’ve-never-done-it-that-way-before naysayers of the congregation. Diane now leads a ministry called Faithworks that feeds 500 people a month.

That balloon traveled 220 miles from our parking lot in Paterson to this woman’s Boston neighborhood. Ever since that call, I greet each morning with this prayer: “Thank you, God, for another day to be used by you for good.”

Coincidence or miracle? I believe the latter. What do you say?

One Breath Away

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex. Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

Excerpt from One Breath Away

She circled around him as if he were an open bear trap. “What if touching you in those ways doesn’t give me pleasure?”

Her words sliced across his throat. He pressed a fist against his heart then sucked air through his mouth to recapture his breath. “Then I’m wrong…but I honestly don’t believe I am.”

She frowned. “I told you I’ve no experience when it comes to relations between men and women.”

“You’re a fast learner, remember?”

She looked down. Interest burned in the gaze that traveled to his crotch. His cock twitched under her scrutiny. She returned her attention to his face, stared into his eyes, searched a minute.

Eban held his breath.

Come on stars. Be right.

She tilted her head. “You’ll show me what you want? Guide me? Instruct me?”

“If you’re willing.”

She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Fine. Show me.”

He unbuttoned his fly, let his pants slip slowly down his legs, and blew out a breath as her gaze followed his movements. He discarded his underwear, swallowed hard as he exposed his member to her. Her eyes widened.

“Your first impression?”

Still clutching her shoe, she approached him, reached for his cock, let her hand hover indecisively.

“Touch it anyway you like.”

She knelt on the mattress, laid her shoe aside and took his genitalia in her hands. He closed his eyes, melted in the immediate warmth of her fingers cupping his balls. A drop of semen pearled from the head’s slit.

“What is this?”

He opened his eyes, observed then relaxed at the curiosity in her gaze.


She thumbed the substance onto her fingers, examined it, sniffed it.

“Planted in your womb it becomes a baby.”

She spread the precious seed along his cock slit. He stifled a moan as a delicious thrill tripped up his shaft. She stopped. He looked down into eyes filled with concern.

“Have I done something wrong?”

He shuddered, shook his head. “No. You’ve done something very right. Please, continue.”

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Twitter: @mscottauthor1

Michal Scott: A Black History Thank You to Rogers and Hammerstein (Excerpt)
Friday, February 21st, 2020

I love Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II musicals. I grew up watching them as movies on television. While not all their storylines have held up over time, I’m still moved by songs like “Something Wonderful”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. I am grateful to this prolific team for their heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music, but my deepest thanks goes to R&H for introducing me to Juanita Hall.

Growing up in the sixties, I hungered for images of Black women on the silver screen whom I could name and admire. R&H let me see a Black actress strut her stuff in some of the earliest examples of casting without regard to race.

Hall had been performing on Broadway since 1930. She even took a turn at directing in 1936. By the time R&H cast her in 1949’s South Pacific, she’d performed in no less than eight Broadway plays including Green Pastures and St. Louis Woman. R&H decided they needed someone with the voice and acting chops to bring the character of the Pacific Islander Bloody Mary to life. Juanita Hall filled the bill. She reprised the role in the 1958 film, although I have to listen to the original Broadway cast album to hear her sing “Bali H’ai”. In 1958, R&H used her in a second instance of casting despite race. She created the role of Madame Liang in Flower Drum Song. Hall recreated her role for the movie in 1961.

For a Black kid growing up in the East New York section of Brooklyn, knowing this Black woman wouldn’t be pigeonholed because of her race was inspirational. I like to think there’s a bit of Hall in One Breath Away‘s Mary Hamilton, a woman hemmed in by society’s expectations, but with the potential to break through them if given the chance. Besides her stage and film career, Hall cut albums, performed in nightclubs and directed choruses and choirs. You can learn more about her here:

Nowadays those movies are critiqued for not hiring someone of Pacific Islander or Chinese background to play these roles, and rightly so. It hurts to see someone not of your race or ethnicity representing you. Boys and girls of all races need role models in whom they can see themselves and be proud of the way I was able to see myself in and be proud of Juanita Hall. I can’t ignore or minimize the wounding caused by casting a Black woman to portray someone of another race. The pros and cons of this “colorblind” approach are passionately debated. What I can do is celebrate that in 1949, by casting Hall in a musical whose plot revolves around race prejudice, R&H helped make Black History. Juanita Hall not only won the 1950 Tony for her role but, by doing so, became the first African American ever to win a Tony award.

One Breath Away

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.

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Excerpt from One Breath Away

“Why not you, Mary?”

“Because someone like you only looks at someone like me out of pity.”

Of course. His aunt put him up to this. Anger warmed Mary’s ears.

“Let me go.” She made to pull away. “I want to sit.”

“Please. Not before the music stops.” He timed his plea to the rhythm of the waltz. “I’ve waited all week for this moment.”

Mary gritted her teeth. Heart hurt joined her injured pride. She needed no one’s charity.

“That was cruel of you, sir. No one counts the days until they can ask me for a dance.” Tears pooled behind her closed eyelids. “Anyone in town could tell you that.”

The grip on her hand tightened, forcing her eyes open. The light in his gaze darkened. “Anyone who’d lie to me like that would be taking their life in their hands.” He leaned in so his mouth nuzzled her ear again. “And if you use that I’m-not-worthy tone of voice again, I’ll be forced to prove you wrong with a kiss.”

Alarm shuddered up Mary’s back. “Is—is that a threat?”

“A certainty.”

A chilly thrill replaced the alarm. She blew out a breath to steady herself. Threat or certainty, both treated her to a delicious revelation—she wanted that kiss. She eyed his lips, imagined their soft yet demanding press against hers. Once more the voice of caution repeated its warning.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Oh, to be forced to flee from such a devil as he. She sighed. What a wonderful problem to have.

Twitter: @mscottauthor1


Michal Scott: Birth of a New Nation
Monday, January 20th, 2020

What a phenomenal man Martin Luther King Jr. was. Each time I read his essays and sermons and speeches written fifty to sixty years ago, I marvel at his prescience, his forethought, his ability to inspire as well as be inspired. Asked to find a reading for my church’s 2020 MLK Jr. service, Dr. King’s sermon, “Birth of A New Nation”, called to me.

By the end of 1956 Dr. King had gained national attention because of the success of the Montgomery Bus boycott. In 1957 he, his wife Coretta Scott King and a number of prominent African Americans were invited to witness the independence ceremony of Ghana from Great Britain in March 1957. Moved to tears and joy by the experience, Dr. King went back to his congregation — the Dexter Avenue Baptist church — and in a sermon entitled “Birth of a New Nation”, told the history of Ghana’s struggle for independence and the personal history of its first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah. Dr. King shared how Ghana’s non-violent ousting of the British intersected with their own fight against segregation. He told his congregation, “Ghana reminds us that freedom never comes on a silver platter.” He warned them to be ready to be spoken about badly, to possibly have their homes and their churches bombed because “freedom never comes easy. It comes through hard labor and it comes through toil” while also reminding them that the aftermath of nonviolence is the beloved community and redemption and reconciliation.

Reading as well as listening to this sermon provided a critique to my mind of many MLK Jr. services I’ve attended over the past thirty-seven years. So many gloss over the hardships Dr. King and those in the civil rights struggle endured but chose to face, so the world could be a better and more just place. Very few acknowledge, as Dr. King did, the connection shared by all struggles against oppression and the importance of making alliances, of fighting not only for your rights but the rights of others. Too often these services focus on the dream portion of his 1963 speech, but not on the bounced check that motivates the fight to make the dream come true.

I hope the portion of this sermon that I chose to share will inspire those attending our MLK Jr. service as the examples of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah shared by Dr. King inspired the members of the Dexter Avenue congregation. I hope after hearing his words and the songs we sing and the reflections shared, we’ll leave this year’s service with “We Shall Overcome” ringing in our ears, not as a wistful prayer but as a declaration to fight against the injustice anywhere that is a threat to justice everywhere.

May you all have an inspiring MLK Jr. Day, too.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.


She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.

“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”

He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.

“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”

He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”

“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”

All thoughts of dinner vanished.

“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.

“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him. She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly. “Tonight it’s the Greek way or no way.”

He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions. He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.

He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.

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Twitter: @mscottauthor1