FACT-CHECKING #3: article in “Feminist Disability Studies” (2011).

Literary/historical errata lace another “academic” publication by Dr. James:

Jennifer C. James, “Gwendolyn Brooks, World War II, and the Politics of Rehabilitation,” in Kim Q. Hall, ed., Feminist Disability Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011): 136-158.

FINDINGS: 35+ factual errors in 22 pages.

ITEMS #9, 10, 11, 12: Fabrications (not just false but falsified)?

femini [click to enlarge]

OVERVIEW: This article purports to be an informed and insightful close-reading of poetry and prose by Gwendolyn Brooks–the first African-American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize (1950). Instead, the article turns out to be a wholesale distortion of Brooks’s writings–while also introducing numerous gross falsehoods about Brooks’s biography as well as American literature and history in general. Included in an anthology called “Feminist Disability Studies,” the article even has a few disability-studies blunders.



1. HISTORICAL ERROR, page 138. JAMES WRITES: [Historic French agency:] “National Office of the War Maimed.”

CORRECTION: “National Office of the War Maimed and Reformed” (“Office national des mutilés et réformés de la guerre”).


2. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 140. JAMES WRITES: [Gwendolyn Brooks passage:] “…undergoing the smoke and tire of a semi-revolution.”

CORRECTION: “…the smoke and fire of a semi-revolution.” http://books.google.com/books/about/Maud_Martha.html?id=Kk5aAAAAMAAJ

3. HISTORICAL ERROR, page 143. JAMES WRITES: “During a manpower crisis during the Revolutionary War, states such as New England and Maryland allowed…”

CORRECTION: As schoolchildren know, at that time there were no states–only colonies; and….

4. …New England is not a “state” but a region.

5. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 143. JAMES WRITES: “During the Revolution, the Continental Congress decided not to enlist ‘Negroes, Boys unable to bear Arms nor Old men unfit to endure the Fatigues of the Campaign.'”

CORRECTION: This is a huge historical error. As the cited source clearly explains, this decision was instead by the Continental Army in an emergency war-council meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 8, 1775. Alternately the term Continental Congress denotes the annual “founding-father” conventions held in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York to forge the government for a new nation. Big picture: The article leads us to believe a whites-only military policy was part of America’s federal foundations–instead of an independent ad hoc army decision that was soon (expediently) reversed.  http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/cgi-bin/amarch/getdoc.pl?/var/lib/philologic/databases/amarch/.8870

broadsides_homevalley-forge-3“Continental Congress” vs. “Continental Army

6. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 143. JAMES WRITES: “…before black men were officially allowed to join the Union Army, Frederick Douglass published [his] editorial [‘Men of Color, to Arms!’]…”

CORRECTION: More major–and inane–historical errors. Famously, Douglass wrote/published the editorial in March 1863–not “before” but two months after the U.S. Army began recruiting black men for the Civil War in January 1863. The very title–“Men of Color, to Arms!”–indicates the editorial was for recruiting purposes [!].


7. FABRICATION? page 143. JAMES WRITES: “[Douglass’s editorial] assert[ed] that the powerful bodies of black men were needed to win the war.”

CORRECTION: Embellishment serves a literary theory. Douglass never said black men’s bodies were intrinsically “powerful”; his point was simply that recruiting black soldiers would increase the size and collective power of the Union Army.

8. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 143. JAMES WRITES: “…undergirded by Western ‘scientific racialism’ in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries….”

CORRECTION: Nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The text credited with starting the “scientific racialism” movement was from the 1850s: the Count de Gobineau’s “Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races.” The movement continued strongly into the 20th century with major writings by Madison Grant, Adolph Hitler, et al.  

9. FABRICATION? page 143. JAMES WRITES: “White abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who commanded the first African American regiment officially raised for the Civil War, issued this progress report about his black subordinates: they ‘were growing more like white men–less grotesque.'”

CORRECTION: This is not a “progress report”; it is from Higginson’s 1869 memoir–published four years after the Civil War; and…

10. …this is a grossly unwarranted positing that (“dead white male”) Higginson–one of the foremost champions of anti-racism in U.S. history–was a bigot. A misquoting by eliminating words without inserting an ellipsis changes Higginson’s meaning. The accurate quotation is: “they are growing more like white men,—less naive and less grotesque.” Removing “less naïve” creates the impression Higginson is denigrating black physicality in classic racist fashion. The “literary historian” also overlooks how word-meanings can change over time; the context shows Higginson means “grotesque” in a common Victorian sense: “rustic/uncouth.” The black recruits under the colonel’s command were ex-slaves out of the notoriously brutal slavery of the Sea Islands, and after some military regimentation these men in manner became “more like white men.” Indeed the literary passage says the opposite of what the article claims; startlingly progressive for his era, Higginson is insisting any differences between blacks and whites are due to enculturation. The full text of “Army Life in a Black Regiment” can be easily seen/searched online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6764   higginson

11. FABRICATION? page 144. JAMES WRITES: “[The] military was…a space where boys were made men and men made more manly—and, as Higginson declares, blacks could be made men.”

CORRECTION: This time the article’s would-be maligning of Higginson is a logical fallacy. Higginson’s saying the black troops were “becoming more like white men” is hardly the same thing as saying the black troops were not already men to begin with.

12. FABRICATION? page 144. JAMES WRITES: “Documents of African American military service abound [sic] with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of black soldiers attesting to this radical reformation. Serving as observable evidence of a rigorous and disciplined body, these photographs suggest that…”

CORRECTION: This is egregiousnot only a major falsehood–but two false references for it. Propping up a literary theory, the article alleges the U.S. Military had a long and common practice of photographing black soldiers “before and after” enlistment to document the African-Americans’ “radical reformation.” As confirmed by a prominent black-military scholar and a prominent black-photography scholar consulted for this website, this is pure malarkey–there was no such practice. Now for the article’s spurious sourcing. Ever-so-broadly, the endnote for such a major/specific claim says only: “Marcus Wood (1991) and Maurice O. Wallace (2002) discuss these images.” But when the fact-checkers laboriously located/inspected the two cited scholarly books, it turned out neither says anything about the alleged “‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs”–which after all, not only do not “abound” but do not exist. In effect there is a double-roadblock between the reader and the truth.

woodswallace Neither of these cited “sources” even mentions the claimed topic.

13. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 144. JAMES WRITES: “In 1944, when [Gwendolyn] Brooks published her sonnets…”

CORRECTION: 1945 was the publication date of Brooks’s famous debut book, “A Street in Bronzeville.”

14. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 144. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks passage:] “Congenital inequities that cause…”

CORRECTION: “Congenital iniquities…” The mistranscription changes the poet’s meaning considerably: “iniquity” means wickedness and “inequity” means unfairness. http://www.nbu.bg/webs/amb/american/5/brooks/troops.htm

15. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 145. JAMES WRITES: “[Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller] the famous black sailor who, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, gunned down at least two Japanese war planes as his ship was sinking and rescued his wounded captain.”

CORRECTION: A “scholarly” article perpetuates a romantic myth. A modicum of research reveals the facts: The injured captain (Mervyn S. Bennion) of the “U.S.S. West Virginia” refused to be moved from the bridge (dying at his post); and…

miller3 [click to enlarge][click to enlarge]

16. …an investigation concluded the machine-gunning of Miller among others only superficially damaged the Japanese planes which likely crashed on their own. When decorated for going “above and beyond the call of duty,” messman Miller said “…I think I  got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.” http://books.google.com/books?id=5ufJEa6u3BcC&pg=PA440&lpg=PA440&dq=captain+bennion+refused+to+leave+bridge&source=bl&ots=Gn_ie7javy&sig=Ij9QC-Ok3eE27n3wOdt8u4Fkqbo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=idqoUvzhCKPwyQGwxoDIBQ&ved=0CFQQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=captain%20bennion%20refused%20to%20leave%20bridge&f=false

17. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 146. JAMES WRITES: “[Brooks’s] sonnet ‘still do I keep my look, my identity’ demonstrates how…”

CORRECTION: To suggest unfinished dialogue the title has interior quotation marks and an ellipsis:still do I keep my look, my identity…’

18. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 146. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks verses:] “Passions droll contortions…when grief has stabbed….”

CORRECTION: Passion’s [possessive] droll contortions…when a grief has stabbed.” Transcription mistakes obscure the poet’s meaning and throw off the sonnet’s strict meter. http://books.google.com/books?id=wbElip8Kat0C&pg=PA236&lpg=PA236&dq=%22lilyless+hasty+pall%22&source=bl&ots=kHfK7Clhk0&sig=SXFtHcQf5dlMldM9eJDi67WZgN0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uueeUrF2juKwBMGJgdAD&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22lilyless%20hasty%20pall%22&f=false

19. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 147. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks verses:] “Through good, nothing or ill….The lilyless pall….It showed in baseball.”

CORRECTION: Three more transcription mistakes in the same sonnet (see #18) which reads: “Through good, nothing, [comma] or ill….The lilyless hasty pall….It showed at baseball.”  http://books.google.com/books?id=wbElip8Kat0C&pg=PA236&lpg=PA236&dq=%22lilyless+hasty+pall% 22&source=bl&ots=kHfK7Clhk0&sig=SXFtHcQf5dlMldM9eJDi67WZgN0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uueeUrF2juKwBMGJgdAD&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22lilyless%20hasty%20pall%22&f=false

20. LITERARY ERROR, page 148. JAMES WRITES: [David Gerber passage:] “…[the media’s] policy against publishing images of severely wounded combat forces.”

CORRECTION: “…American combat forces.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/books/review/Elkins.t.html?_r=0

21. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 149. JAMES WRITES: “…one of the most prominent African American newspapers, ‘Pittsburg Courier’…”

CORRECTION: Of course the spelling is Pittsburgh.

22. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 149. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks title:] “my dreams, my works must wait till after hell.”

CORRECTION: The poem’s accurate title is “my dreams, my works, [comma] must wait till after hell,” and missing punctuation changes Brooks’s meaning.  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-dreams-my-works-must-wait-till-after-hell/

23. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 149. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks verses:] “On such legs are left me…My taste will not turned insensitive.”

CORRECTION: “On such legs as are left me…My taste will not have turned insensitive.” http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-dreams-my-works-must-wait-till-after-hell/

24. LITERARY ERROR, page 150. JAMES WRITES: “…the vocalization of a radically opposing idea: the is body made ‘wild’ by warfare, a being not ‘iron’ at all, but who devolves into a state of utter savagery.”

CORRECTION: This is gibberish–what does “the is body” mean, etc.?

25. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 151. JAMES WRITES: “…three [Brooks] poems, grouped under the title ‘loose leaves from a loose-leaf war diary’…”

CORRECTION: The ending poems of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Annie Allen” are titled “leaves [no ‘loose’] from a loose-leaf war diary.”  http://www.poets.org/m/dsp_poem.php?prmMID=15914

26. LITERARY ERROR, page 154. JAMES WRITES: [Jacques Lacan passage:] “…what in France we call a ‘trotte-bebe’…”

CORRECTION: The French word for infant has two accent marks: bébé.

27. DISABILITY-STUDIES ERROR, page 154. JAMES WRITES: “…the unlikely appeal of the [armless ancient statue] Venus de Milo. As a representation of an amputated figure…”

CORRECTION: This is a startling word-misusage in a disability-studies reader. The sentence should say amputee figure. “Amputated” means severed/cut off; thus bodies are not amputated–their appendages are.

28. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 155. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks passage:] “…the men with two arms off and two legs off, then men with the parts of faces.”

CORRECTION: “…two legs off, the men with the parts of faces.” Brooks means one group of men but the article makes it two. http://books.google.com/books/about/Maud_Martha.html?id=Kk5aAAAAMAAJ

29. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 156. JAMES WRITES: [Brooks passage:] “…’in a hush, infallible and sincere.'”

CORRECTION: Even the famous Brooks line chosen to be the article’s prominent last sentence is botched. It is: “…in that hush [no comma] infallible and sincere.”  http://books.google.com/books/about/Maud_Martha.html?id=Kk5aAAAAMAAJ

30. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 157. JAMES WRITES: “Brooks’s [1953] novel ‘Maud Martha’ was originally published in New York by Harper and Row.”

CORRECTION: The publisher of three of Brooks’s books was “Harper and Brothers.”

31. LITERARY ERROR, page 157. JAMES WRITES: “[Brooks in 1945 published] ‘Five Poems’ [in] ‘Harper’s Weekly.'”

CORRECTION: “Harper’s Magazine.” The famous 19th-century publication “Harper’s Weekly” was long-defunct.

harpers-tom-thumb   harp

32. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 157. JAMES WRITES: “… the ‘Venus Hottentot,’ the name given to Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman whose genitals and buttocks were allegedly oversized.”

CORRECTION: “Hottentot Venus”; and….

33. Sarah [or Sara] “Saartjie” [nickname] Baartman.  sara   Baartman2 [click to enlarge]

34. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 157. JAMES WRITES: “Baartman was exhibited in American freak shows during the second decade of the nineteenth century.”

CORRECTION: This is an atrocious claim in a book titled “Feminist Disability Studies.” The legendary “Hottentot Venus” toured Europe but never stepped foot in America. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/books/review/Elkins.t.html?_r=0

35. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 157. JAMES WRITES: [Citation:] “[William Wells Brown’s] ‘Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter’ (1852).”

CORRECTION: A milestone in black literary history, the publication date of the first African-American novel was, rather, 1853.



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