Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 46
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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prevalent in the established African-American
weekly. Instead, local merchants purchased ads:
mortuaries,Weems Tavern, State Taxi, Cafe Drug
Store, a beauty shop, an insurance company, two
physicians, and the Powell Hotel. The Dallas
Express carried short fiction accompanied by
illustrations of whites; no graphics appear in the
BE, except for its masthead, which featured a
lamp inscribed 1929, flanked by a pair of eyes.
Content is not the only unique quality of
the Brotherhood Eyes; the writing style sets it apart
from the mainstream press and the established
African-American newspaper. It employs a selfstyled
vernacular that compares more closely to
Uncle Remus tales than the educated language
of a man who graduated from Tuskegee and
Drexel. September's "Mudbottom Wiggletails"
especially recalls Uncle Remus in the nickname
it gives to a former Shiloh B.C. pastor: "Big Boy
Tar Baby." However, the vernacular is only used
for criticisms, and "Still It's Not So Bad" proves
the relationship of content and language.
In this December news item, the editor discusses
how the Centennial Exposition, as a large
employer, directly and indirectly benefits the
African-American community, and how the
impending closing will take away those benefits.
The writing style of this item is formal, and uses
none of the colloquialisms of"brer" or "sis," nor
phonetic spellings, as in "pastuh," "git," "gal," or
"nuthin," that mark so many of the articles. The
December editorial on Thanksgiving charity is
similar in its formality, as is the editorial reviewing
the free Thanksgiving dinner at the Powell
Hotel, one of the regular advertisers.
However, BE's criticisms are outrageously
written. From the local high-school's "he-fessors"
to "frog bellied Hinton," "nine-fingered
Sutton," parson "Honey Dripper," and other
"slippery sky pilots," the colorful language must
have further antagonized the intended targets.
Deacon Willie Hill is described as "brer wide
mouth Hill, who walls his old white eyes around
like a dying calf when he is singing." Sometimes
humorous allegories are used to describe specif
ic incidents, as did a December item alluding to
infidelity among some church members:
This applies to old brerV.F, a Hebrew big
choir boy and Dublin school grad., digging
old brer FB.'s potatoes. Old brer FB.'s potato
patch's name is old sis I.V.B. She belongs
to old brer FB. and old brerV., Hebrew big
shot, has been digging them in the dark....
Old brer EB. told this Eye if he catches old
brerV.. digging his potatoes he is going to
make him bite the dust over stiff city's subway.
Old brerV.F should buy him a potato
patch of his own and stay our [sic] of other
men's potato patches. They only cost $3.00
plus $1.00 more for some old jackass
preacher to seal the contract.'
The outrageousness of the language and the
needling of the establishment contributed to its
popularity, and most of the African-American
community read it."It really was a scandal sheet,"
a reader later recalled.'4
However, is this vernacular Pittman's, or is it
verbatim from the contributing "Eyes?" A letter
from one of the Eyes in the Dallas Historical
Society collection reports on Mount Gilead
B.C. in Fort Worth in a similar ungrammatical
style. It begins "Is it true what they say about dis
church? Have a law Suit against it again for ever
thing in it benches Chairs light bulb oil can
broom mops slop Jar night Glass Knifes and wash
pan Now dis is what is what dis Eye heard..."
and continues without punctuation for the rest
of the page.'5 However, as ungrammatical as
some of Brotherhood Eyes articles may sound,
Pittman exercised his editorial authority over the
style to emphasize its effect.The paper was a personal
and serious endeavor for him, and the
exacting standards he demanded as an architect
likely carried over to his editorial profession. He
manipulated language, using vernacular in criticisms
to play the fool who wisely reveals the
truth, and humor to defeat the skepticism that a
more direct attack might provoke.
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004, periodical, 2004; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35092/m1/48/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.