Where did Aretha Franklin’s unforgettable vocal power come from?
I glimpsed a big part of the answer one summer night in 1968.
It was Friday, June 21, in Washington DC: Leaders of the Poor Peoples Campaign, trying to fulfill Dr. King’s last dream, had built a shantytown, called Resurrection City, on the national mall. But the camp, and the campaign, were mired in various difficulties. Yet on that Friday evening, some participants got a welcome, memorable spell of relief. I was there with a tape recorder, and this is the heart of what I saw and heard:
From Uncertain Resurrection, the Poor Peoples Washington Campaign;
Friday night a Campaign mass meeting was held at St. Stephen’s Baptist Church, where the church was full and the crowd unusually boisterous. The featured preacher of the evening was Rev. C. L. Franklin of Detroit. Rev. Franklin is the father of Miss Aretha Franklin, a very successful soul singer, and he was an old friend of Dr. King.
I didn’t plan to do a followup to the previous post on the Bible and defending slavery.
But there’s been something tragicomic in the scramble by some reporters to get churchy rebuttals to the use, by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, echoed by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, of the Bible to defend their latest, cruelest border policy of splitting up families and penning up children. This scramble also brings up some similar issues & dilemmas.
“The Bible does not justify cruel, dangerous and inhumane border enforcement practices,” said Diane Randall, Executive Secretary for FCNL. “It teaches us to love our neighbors, not to break up families. We are critical of the use of Biblical teachings to justify an immoral political decision of this Administration.”
Double Irony Time:
The Southern Baptist Convention just adopted a resolution condemning the view that the Bible supports slavery, which was the main premise on which the SBC was founded back in 1845. To back up this new view, it cites Bible verses used by 18th Century abolitionists to condemn slavery, which the early SBC long & steadfastly denounced as heretical, subversive, etc. That’s Irony #1.
Wisdom, One: Spring Friends Meeting, North Carolina — 05-06-2018
In the early 1830s, a young man from Boston went to sea, hoping to make his fortune. A Presbyterian by birth, he read his Bible each night in his shipboardhammock, and he was haunted by a verse in the fourth chapter of the Book of Proverbs:
“Wisdom is the principal thing: Therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get wisdom”Wealth, the youth piously decided, was nothing without this seasoning of wisdom. But where was such a combination to be found?
Presently his ship sailed into the harbor of Nantucket Island. Nantucket was then a wealthy and vibrant community, built and largely populated by Quakers.
Recently I read the amazing account of the Great Black Migration from the South, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.
It’s a fine, fine book, and its relevance here is that, paradoxically, until it was well underway, there was no such thing as “The Great Migration”; that is, no one named or organized it, no one “joined” it.
Rather, there were individuals & families fleeing for their own survival: seeking escape from the personal costs of official southern racism, grinding poverty and unrestrained violence. Only after such private decisions were acted on by hundreds of thousands, over decades, did scholars & writers come along to christen, study and begin to chronicle it.
Yet while “spontaneous” and unorganized, the Great Migration was indeed real and momentous, with national impact that’s still being felt.
North Carolina’s odious “Bathroom Bill,” HB2 has been pushed out of the spotlight for the moment, while the crazy 2016 election plays itself out.
I can understand that. But HB2 will be back, and it’s still on my mind. In particular, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s at the root of the support for it. I have some idea of the politics, and the major personalities; but what’s the nub, the “bottom line”?
A lengthy thread on the ‘Quakers” Facebook group went one more round on the Bible, kicked off by a liberal California Friend’s insistence that reading/teaching Bible stories to kids in First Day School was awful and shouldn’t happen. The reasons were the usual, about fundamentalist literalism, oppressive notions, and so forth. Nothing new really.
But I couldn’t let the subject alone. After all, the bible, for better & worse, is woven into western history, culture & law, through & through. One can hate it, with reason; parts of it are dangerous. But one can’t escape it, only pretend to. And Quakerism emerged from a particular piece of this context, which was largely dominated by struggles over the bible, its meaning & role.
The origins of the Hebrew Wisdom books, like most of the Jewish scriptures, are obscure, and there are various theories.
Some scholars think materials such as the sayings in Proverbs are all conscious, intentional acts of creativity–that is, somebody sat down and wrote them, as a form of aphoristic poetry, a kind of Hebrew haiku. Many such scholars believe they were produced in large part for use in teaching apprentice scribes. They’re primers of a sort, both for learning to write, and as part of a scribe’s preparation for his role as adviser to the powerful.