A Celebration of the Life of James Haskins

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A Celebration of the Life of James Haskins
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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida
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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida
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Gainesville, FL
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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the source institution.
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AA00000563:00001


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On behalf of Mrs. Kathleen Benson Haskins; his children, Michael, Elisa
Beth, and Margaret Emily; and friends of James Haskins, we welcome and
thank you for your presence at this memorial service in honor of the memory
of Professor Haskins, who was born on this September day in 1941.
-Memorial Service T'l!au.'ug Committee













James (Jim) Haskins did not think he would leave this world so soon.
The week before he passed away (July 6, 2005), he negotiated a
contract with Ernie Banks on a book about his life. He was a teacher, a
writer, a lover of fine wines and good music, especially jazz. His
contribution to the world of American letters is immeasurable. As the
author of more than 150 works of nonfiction, he was clearly one of the
most published American writers of both the 20th and 21st centuries.
Many interviews, and more recently the spate of obituaries, have made
reference to Jim as a children's book author: Herb Boyd noted in his
obituary in the The Black World Today (July 13, 2005) that Jim was "a
trusted guide" for many young readers to the Black Experience. But
Jim was much more than that. In truth, he was a trusted guide for all
of us.
No matter what subject he undertook-biographies of Babe Ruth
and Hank Aaron (1974), Shirley Chisholm (1975), Scott Joplin
(1978), Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (1978), Winnie
Mandela (1988), Toni Morrison (2002), Cecil Poole (2002), Richard
Pryor (1984), and Stevie Wonder (1976), to name a few; or in his
resurrection of our forgotten culture and history in books like The
Geography of Hope: Black Exodus from the South after Reconstruction
(1999), Voodoo & Hoodoo (1978), One Nation Under a Groove: Rap
Music and its Roots (2000), One Love, One Heart: A History ofReggae
(2002), African Heroes (2005), or The Cotton Club (1977), which served
as the inspiration for the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film of the same
name and which made him the first African American author to have
his work made into a major film-Jim treated his subjects like
treasures...to be analyzed, understood, and shared with the world.
As a biographer, Jim professed disdain for writers who went
looking for the "dirt" on their subjects; rather, he chose to illuminate
his subjects' dignity and highlight their accomplishments, especially
when they triumphed in the face of hostility and barriers. He was a
biographer of champions, especially the ones who never stopped trying,
even when they lost the fight.
Like an archaeologist, he enjoyed discovering the obscure details of
the past that many of us neither knew about nor cared about-he
made us care, and he provided us with insights that escaped the
standard writer. For example, his biography of Scott Joplin was
intentionally about what people didn't know about the brilliant














composer and musician, culled from fastidious research of archives
around the world, as opposed to replicating what was known. Jim was
a methodical and thorough scholar/writer, who delighted in revealing
the obscure.
But he was not a writer who rested on his laurels. Even when his
books were well received and won awards, he reflected on how he
might do better the next time around. According to K. Alycia Allen, in
a 1984 interview (Applause), his biography of Scott Joplin is a clear
example of"Haskins' persistence to solve unknowns and debunk
myths." Jim commented, "...all the things I wrote about Joplin are
things that I didn't know about him...I would like to think my book is
the definitive work on him, because I spent five years tracking down
little things that interest me.
This eye for detail and the obscure, and his commitment to
thoroughness are sensibilities he carried into his classroom where he
demanded only the best from his students. Joining the faculty of the
English Department of the University of Florida in 1977, he set the
same high standards for his students as he had set for himself. He
frequently commented that he had accomplished so much simply
because he had learned early on "to do my homework."
Many people have remarked that they wished they could have had
an opportunity to know James Haskins. He was an intensely private
person, and so even those of us who were friends and colleagues will
have to wonder if we ever truly knew him. Regardless, his loss is
immeasurable. True, his physical body has departed, but even truer, his
spirit remains to guard his dreams and guide those of us willing to
listen and willing to do our homework. His presence resides now at the
University of Florida in the African American Studies Program's James
Haskins Visiting Scholar Fellowship and in the George A. Smathers
Libraries' James Haskins Collection in African American Literature. A
strong legacy continues.
In miles, it is not that far between Demopolis, Alabama, and
Gainesville, Florida, but in reality, Jim's journey was a long one,
punctuated by stopovers in New York, Mexico, Paris, and other places
we have yet to learn about. We shall miss his presence, but his spirit
and his legacy survive for all of us to marvel upon and learn from.
-Irma McClaurin, 2005













Commencement............................................Wes Montgomery
"My One And Only Love
and "Bumpin' On Sunset"

Official Greeting........................................... Dr. John Cech
Professor of English
and Children' Literature

Special Live Music Performance ...............UF Jazz Ensemble

Official Remarks ............................................ Dr. Neil S. Sullivan
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. John Leavey
Chair, Department ofEnglish

Proclamation of
Professor James Haskins
Day in Alachua County ...................Dr. Cynthia M. Chestnut
Chair, Alachua County Commission

Recorded Musical Interlude .............................Duke Ellington
"Creole Blues"

Remembrance .........................................Dr. Irma McClaurin
Associate Professor of A .-' ,, :

Recorded Musical Interlude....................................Miles Davis
"Miles Ahead"

Special Remarks.............................................Bruce Chappell
Archivist, George E Smathers Libraries
Joel Buchanan
Special Projects Coordinator for
African American History,
George E Smathers Libraries














Announcements
The vision for the
James Haskins Endowment Fund .............Kathleen Benson Haskins

The James Haskins Visiting Scholar
Fellowship in African American
Studies at the University of Florida......Dr. Marilyn Thomas-Houston
Assistant Professor ofA .-'. i
and former Interim Director
for African American Studies
The James Haskins Collection
in African American Literature
at the University of Florida........................................Dr. John Ingram
Director of Collections and
Deputy Director,
George A. Smathers Libraries

Personal Remarks from Guests in Audience
Please use aisle microphones

Recorded Musical Interlude........................Art Blakely & the
Jazz Messengers
"Ill Wind"

Recognition of Distinguished Scholarship and Service
Awarding of the UF Presidential Medallion...........Dr. Neil S. Sullivan

Selected Readings from the works of
Professor James Haskins ...................................Dr. Harry Shaw
Associate Dean, Emeritus,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Recorded Musical Finale......................................Stevie Wonder
"For Once in my Life"

Reception .............................................The Friends of Music Room
Follo/'/. u'g the Memorial Service,
all are invited to a reception
in the Friends of Music Room













Delivering Justice: W. W Law and the Fight for Civil Rights
by Jim Haskins, Benny Andrews (Illustrator)
Lee & Low, 2005

Black Stars: African Heroes
by James Haskins
John Wiley & Sons, 2004

Cecil Poole: A Life in the Law
by James Haskins
Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Historical Society, 2002

Toni Morrison: Telling a Tale Untold
by James Haskins
Millbrook Press, 2002

One Love, One Heart: A History of Reggae
by James Haskins
Hyperion Books for Children, 2002

Champion: The Story ofMuhammadAli
by James Haskins, Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)
Walker & Company, 2002

Keeping the Faith: African-American Sermons ofLiberation
by James Haskins (Editor)
Welcome Rain, 2001

Building a New Land: African Americans in ColonialAmerica
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson
HarperCollins Publishers, 2001

Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson
Walker & Company, 2001

Following Freedom's Star: The Story of the Underground Railroad
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson
Marshall Cavendish 2001

One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and Its Roots
by James Haskins
Hyperion Books for Children, 2000













Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put "Black" in American History
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson, Melanie Reim (Illustrator)
Millbrook Press, 2000

Out of the Darkness: The Story ofBlacks Moving North, 1890-1940
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson
Marshall Cavendish, 1999

The Geography ofHope: Black Exodus fom the South After Reconstruction
by James Haskins
Millbrook Press, 1999

Bricktop
By Bricktop, James Haskins
(Paperback) Welcome Rain, 1999

Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson
by James Haskins, N.R. Mitgang
(Paperback) Welcome Rain, 1999

Distinguished African American Political and Governmental Leaders
by James Haskins
Oryx Press, 1999

Bound for America: The Forced Migration ofAfJicans to the New World
by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)
HarperCollins Publishers, 1999

Black Stars: African American Military Heroes
by James Haskins
John Wiley & Sons, 1998

Black Stars: African American Entrepreneurs
by James Haskins
John Wiley & Sons, 1998

Black, Blue & Gray: African Americans in the Civil War
by James Haskins
Simon & Schuster 1998













Memorial Service Planning Committee
LeKay Banks
Joel Buchanan
Cynthia M. Chestnut
Bruce Chappell
Mildred Hill-Lubin
Carolyn James
John Leavey
Maxine Margolis
Irma McClaurin
Terry Mills
Harry Shaw
Marilyn Thomas-Houston

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Neil S. Sullivan, Dean
Allyson Beutke, News & Publications Coordinator
Jane Dominguez, Graphic Design & Phl'oog :~pl ofJames Haskins

Classic Fare Dining Services

University Auditorium Staff
Tom McMorrow, Manager of Public Functions
Meredith Beaupre

UF Bands Director
Dr. David Waybright

UF Jazz Ensemble
Under the direction of Professor Gary Langley


Spinal Tech Audio-Visual Services
















Contributions to support
the James Haskins Visiting Scholar Fellowship
and the James Haskins Collection in African
American Literature may be mailed to:

The James Haskins Endowment
University of Florida Foundation, Inc.
PO Box 14425
Gainesville, FL 32605

Keep the spirit and legacy of James Haskins
alive at the University of Florida.













Full Text

PAGE 1

A C ELEBRATIONOFTHE L IFEOF J AMES H ASKINS

PAGE 3

A Celebration of the Life of James Haskins September 19, 2005 3:00 p.m. University Auditorium University of Florida Gainesville, Florida

PAGE 5

O n behalf of Mrs. Kathleen B enson H askins; his childr en, M ichael, Elisa B eth, and M argar et E mily; and friends of J ames H askins, w e welcome and thank you for your presence at this memorial service in honor of the memory of P r ofessor H askins, who was born on this September day in 1941. emorial S er vice P lanning Committee James Haskins 1941

PAGE 6

James (Jim) Haskins did not think he would leave this world so soon. The week before he passed away (July 6, 2005), he negotiated a contract with Ernie Banks on a book about his life. He was a teacher, a writer, a lover of fine wines and good music, especially jazz. His contribution to the world of American letters is immeasurable. As the author of more than 150 works of nonfiction, he was clearly one of the most published American writers of both the 20th and 21st centuries.M any interviews, and more recently the spate of obituaries, have made reference to Jim as a childrens book author: Herb Boyd noted in his obituary in the The Black World Today (July 13, 2005) that Jim was a trusted guide for many young readers to the Black Experience. ButJ im was much more than that. In truth, he was a trusted guide for all of us. No matter what subject he undertookbiographies of Babe Ruth and H ank Aaron (1974hirley Chisholm (1975oplin (1978w Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (1978Winnie Mandela (1988Toni Morrison (2002oole (2002rd Pryor (1984tevie Wonder (1976w; or in hisr esurr ection of our forgotten cultur e and histor y in books like The Geography of Hope: Black Exodus from the South after Reconstruction (1999 Voodoo & Hoodoo (1978 One Nation Under a Groove: Rap M usic and its R oots (2000 O ne Lo ve, One Heart: A History of Reggae (2002 African Heroes (2005 or The Cotton Club (1977ved as the inspiration for the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film of the same name and which made him the first African American author to have his wor k made into a major filmJ im tr eated his subjects like treasuresto be analyzed, understood, and shared with the world. As a biographer J im pr ofessed disdain for writers who w ent looking for the dir t on their subjects; rather, he chose to illuminate his subjects dignity and highlight their accomplishments, especially when they triumphed in the face of hostility and barriers. H e was a biographer of champions, especially the ones who never stopped trying, even when they lost the fight. Like an archaeologist, he enjoyed discovering the obscure details of the past that many of us neither kne w about nor car ed abouthe made us care, and he provided us with insights that escaped the standard writer. For example, his biography of Scott Joplin was intentionally about what people didnt know about the brilliant Monumentum

PAGE 7

composer and musician, culled from fastidious research of archives around the world, as opposed to replicating what was known. Jim was a methodical and thorough scholar/writer, who delighted in revealing the obscure. But he was not a writer who rested on his laurels. Even when his books were well received and won awards, he reflected on how he might do better the next time around. According to K. Alycia Allen, in a 1984 inter view ( A pplause ), his biography of Scott J oplin is a clear example of Haskins persistence to solve unknowns and debunk myths. Jim commented, all the things I wrote about Joplin are things that I didnt know about himI would like to think my book is the definitive work on him, because I spent five years tracking down little things that inter est me. This eye for detail and the obscure, and his commitment to thor oughness are sensibilities he carried into his classroom where he demanded only the best from his students. Joining the faculty of the English Department of the University of Florida in 1977, he set the same high standards for his students as he had set for himself. He fr equently commented that he had accomplished so much simply because he had learned early on to do my homework. Many people have remarked that they wished they could have had an oppor tunity to kno w James Haskins. He was an intensely private person, and so even those of us who were friends and colleagues will have to wonder if we ever truly knew him. Regardless, his loss is immeasurable. True, his physical body has departed, but even truer, his spirit r emains to guar d his dr eams and guide those of us willing to listen and willing to do our homework. His presence resides now at the University of Florida in the African American Studies Programs James H askins V isiting Scholar Fellowship and in the George A. Smathers Libraries James Haskins Collection in African American Literature. A str ong legacy continues. In miles, it is not that far between Demopolis, Alabama, and Gainesville, Florida, but in reality, Jims journey was a long one, punctuated b y stopo vers in New York, Mexico, Paris, and other places we have yet to learn about. We shall miss his presence, but his spirit and his legacy sur vive for all of us to marvel upon and learn from. rma McClaurin, 2005

PAGE 8

Commencement ................................................. Wes Montgomery y One And Only Love and Bumpin On Sunset Official Greeting ..................................................... Dr. John Cech Professor of English and Childrens Literature Special Live Music Performance ................. UF Jazz Ensemble Official Remarks ............................................ Dr. Neil S. Sullivan Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dr. John Leavey Chair, Department of English Proclamation of Professor James Haskins Day in Alachua County ..................... Dr. Cynthia M. Chestnut Chair, Alachua County Commission R ecor ded Musical Interlude ............................. D uke E llington reole Blues R emembrance ................................................ D r I r ma McClaurin Associate Professor of Anthropology Recorded Musical Interlude .................................... Miles Davis iles Ahead Special Remarks .................................................... Bruce Chappell A rchivist, George E. Smathers Libraries Joel Buchanan S pecial Projects Coordinator for African A merican H istory, George E. Smathers Libraries Memorial Service

PAGE 9

Announcements The vision for the James Haskins Endowment Fund............... Kathleen Benson Haskins The James Haskins Visiting Scholar Fellowship in African American Studies at the University of Florida...... Dr. Marilyn Thomas-Houston Assistant Professor of Anthropology and former Interim Director for African A merican Studies The James Haskins Collection in African American Literature at the University of Florida........................................ Dr. John Ingram Director of Collections and Deputy Director, George A. Smathers Libraries Personal Remarks from Guests in Audience P lease use aisle micr ophones Recorded Musical Interlude .......................... Art Blakely & the J azz M essengers ll Wind Recognition of Distinguished Scholarship and Service Awarding of the UF Presidential Medallion........... Dr. Neil S. Sullivan S elected R eadings from the works of P r ofessor J ames Haskins ................................... D r H arry Shaw Associate Dean, Emeritus, College of L iber al A r ts and Sciences Recorded Musical Finale ...................................... Stevie Wonder or Once in my Life Reception ............................................ The Friends of Music Room Following the Memorial Service, all are invited to a reception in the Friends of Music Room

PAGE 10

Delivering Justice: W. W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by Jim Haskins, Benny Andrews (Illustrator) Lee & Low, 2005 Black Stars: African Heroes by James Haskins John Wiley & Sons, 2004 Cecil Poole: A Life in the Law b y James Haskins Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Historical Society, 2002 Toni Morrison: Telling a Tale Untold b y James Haskins Millbrook Press, 2002 One Love, One Heart: A History of Reggae b y James Haskins H yperion Books for Childr en, 2002 Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali b y J ames H askins, E ric Velasquez (Illustrator) Walker & Company, 2002 Keeping the Faith: African-American Sermons of Liberation by James Haskins (Editor) Welcome Rain, 2001 B uilding a N ew Land: African A mericans in C olonial A merica b y James Haskins, Kathleen Benson HarperCollins Publishers, 2001 Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson Walker & Company, 2001 Following Freedoms Star: The Story of the Underground Railroad by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson Marshall Cavendish 2001 One Nation Under a Groove: Rap Music and Its Roots by James Haskins Hyperion Books for Children, 2000 Selected Recent Books

PAGE 11

Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put Black in American History by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson, Melanie Reim (Illustrator) Millbrook Press, 2000 Out of the Darkness: The Story of Blacks Moving North, 1890-1940 by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson Marshall Cavendish, 1999 The Geography of Hope: Black Exodus from the South After Reconstruction b y James Haskins Millbrook Press, 1999 Bricktop B y Bricktop, James Haskins (Paperback) Welcome Rain, 1999 Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson b y James Haskins, N.R. Mitgang (P aperback) W elcome Rain, 1999 Distinguished African American Political and Governmental Leaders b y J ames H askins Oryx Press, 1999 Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World by James Haskins, Kathleen Benson, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator) HarperCollins Publishers, 1999 B lack S tars: African A merican M ilitar y H er oes b y James Haskins John Wiley & Sons, 1998 Black Stars: African American Entrepreneurs by James Haskins John Wiley & Sons, 1998 Black, Blue & Gray: African Americans in the Civil War by James Haskins Simon & Schuster 1998

PAGE 12

Memorial Service Planning Committee LeKay Banks Joel Buchanan Cynthia M. Chestnut Bruce Chappell Mildred Hill-Lubin Carolyn James John Leavey Maxine Margolis Irma McClaurin Terry Mills Harry Shaw Marilyn Thomas-Houston College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Neil S. Sullivan, Dean Allyson Beutke, News & Publications Coordinator Jane Dominguez, Graphic Design &Photograph of James Haskins Classic Fare Dining Services University Auditorium Staff T om M cM orr ow, M anager of P ublic F unctions Meredith Beaupre UF Bands Director Dr. David Waybright UF J azz E nsemble U nder the direction of P rofessor Gary Langley S pinal Tech Audio-Visual Services In Appreciation

PAGE 13

Contributions to support the James Haskins Visiting Scholar Fellowship and the James Haskins Collection in African American Literature may be mailed to:The James Haskins Endowment University of Florida Foundation, Inc. PO Box 14425 Gainesville, FL 32605 Keep the spirit and legacy of James Haskins alive at the University of Florida.