Center for Book and Paper Arts

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Artist: Seripop and Sonnenzimmer (Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum with Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanish)
Title: Simultaneous, 2015
Medium: Offset, Saddle Stitched with 2-color screen printed cover
Size: 7" x 9"
Pages: 32
Edition: 250
Publisher: Sonnenzimmer
Printer: Interior by Lowitz & Sons, Cover by Sonnenzimmer
Printed In: Chicago, IL
Published in conjunction with Simultaneous at Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts February 12th through April 11th, 2015

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From Negroes as Cymbals to Blues People

Part of what is uniquely accessible by way of manuscripts and archives is early versions of work, and a window into the editorial process that led to the final product that is (more) widely available in the world beyond the processing table. In processing the papers of Amiri Baraka (1934-2014) –  renowned and prolific poet, playwright, professor and leader of the Black Arts movement and the Black Nationalist Marxist-Leninist Movement – at the Moorland-Springarn Research Center, I was very interested to find holograph and marked-up early typescript papers of the manuscript that eventually became Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963) as it is known today. In the manuscript’s early stages, Jones/Baraka (he still went by his given name of Leroi Jones in the 1960s) had proposed to title the work “Negroes as Cymbals.” In this first image, we see editorial notes from “JG”, who is not a fan of Jones’ materialist approach of “examining the ‘underside of the cymbal’” (Image 1). In the second image, a later draft, we see Jones/Baraka had crossed out “Negroes as Cymbals” and replaced it with “Blues, Black and White America” (Image 2). In this third image from a draft of the final chapter of the book “The Modern Scene,” we see an edit where Jones/Baraka changed “poor Negroes” to “Blues People,” in a sentence that reads “Swing held no meaning for Blues people, nor was it expressive of the emotional life of most young Negroes after the war” (Image 3). Finally, inside a small notebook, there are notes where Jones/Baraka is thinking through the Blues, which may clue the curious into the thought progression from one title to the other (Images 4-6).