An engaging story of a man who demonstrated faith in his city, his region, and its people
During the 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama, became a major battleground in the struggle for human rights in the American South. As one of the most segregated cities in the United States, the city of Birmingham became known for its violence against blacks and the callous suppression of black civil rights.
In October of 1979, the city that had once used dogs and fire hoses to crush protest demonstrations elected a black mayor, Richard Arrington Jr. A man of quiet demeanor, Arrington was born in the small rural town of Livingston, Alabama, and moved to Birmingham as a child. Although he did not play a direct part in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Arrington was destined to bring about some fundamental changes in a city that once defied racial progress.
Professor Franklin’s book is guided by the assumption that Americans everywhere can find satisfaction in understanding the dynamics of social and political change, and they can be buoyed by the individual triumph of a person who beat the odds. Ultimately, Back to Birmingham will, perhaps, enable the reader to measure the distance black southerners have traveled over the decades.
Known as 'the angriest black man in America', Malcolm X was one of the most famous activists to ever live. Going beyond biography, Black Minded examines Malcolm X's philosophical system, restoring his thinking to the pantheon of Black Radical Thought.
Michael Sawyer argues that the foundational concepts of Malcolm X's political philosophy - economic and social justice, strident opposition to white supremacy and Black internationalism - are often obscured by an emphasis on biography. The text demonstrates the way in which Malcolm X's philosophy lies at the intersection of the thought of W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon and is an integral part of the revolutionary politics formed to alleviate the plight of people of African descent globally.
Exploring themes of ontology, the body, geographic space and revolution, Black Minded provides a much-needed appraisal of Malcolm X's political philosophy.
From an unlikely beginning as an agency transcriptionist in her hometown of Washington, DC, Gloria Brown became the first African American woman to attain the rank of forest supervisor at the US Forest Service. As a young widow with three children, she transferred to Missoula, Montana, and embarked on a remarkable journey, ultimately leading the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon and later the Los Padres in California. The story of Brown’s career unfolds against the backdrop of a changing government agency and a changing society.
As scholars awaken to the racist history of public land management and the ways that people of color have been excluded from contemporary notions of nature and wilderness, Brown’s story provides valuable insight into the roles that African Americans have carved out in the outdoors generally and in the field of environmental policy and public lands management specifically. Drawing on her powerful communication and listening skills, her sense of humor, and her willingness to believe in the basic goodness of humanity, Brown conducted civil rights trainings and shattered glass ceilings, all while raising her children alone.
Written in an engaging and accessible style with historian Donna Sinclair, Brown’s story provides a fascinating case study for public administration and contributes to a deeper understanding of the environmental and civil rights movements of the twentieth century, particularly the role that racial discrimination has played in national forests, parks, and other wilderness spaces. It also highlights issues of representation in the federal government, women’s history, the history of the American West, and literature associated with African American experiences in predominately white societies.
Born to an African American father and Japanese mother, Frederick D. Kakinami Cloyd, the narrator of Dream of the Water Children, finds himself not only to be a marginalized person by virtue of his heritage, but often a cultural drifter, as well. Indeed, both his family and his society treat him as if he doesn’t entirely belong to any world. Tautly written in spare, clear poetic prose, this memoir explores the specific contours of Japanese and African American cultures, as well as the broader experience of biracial and multicultural identity. To tell his story, Cloyd incorporates photographs and Japanese writing, history, and memory to convey both rich personal experience and significant historical detail. Bringing together vivid memories with a perceptive cultural eye, Dream of the Water Children brings readers closer to a biracial experience, opening up our understanding of the cultural richness and social challenges people from diverse backgrounds face.
Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction
For the black community, Jerald Walker asserts in How to Make a Slave, “anger is often a prelude to a joke, as there is broad understanding that the triumph over this destructive emotion lay in finding its punchline.” It is on the knife’s edge between fury and farce that the essays in this exquisite collection balance. Whether confronting the medical profession’s racial biases, considering the complicated legacy of Michael Jackson, paying homage to his writing mentor James Alan McPherson, or attempting to break free of personal and societal stereotypes, Walker elegantly blends personal revelation and cultural critique. The result is a bracing and often humorous examination by one of America’s most acclaimed essayists of what it is to grow, parent, write, and exist as a black American male. Walker refuses to lull his readers; instead his missives urge them to do better as they consider, through his eyes, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good father, how to live, and how to love.
James Milton Turner, Missouri's most prominent nineteenth-century African American political figure, possessed a deep faith in America. The Civil War, he believed, had purged the land of its sins and allowed the country to realize what had always been its promise: the creation of a social and political environment in which merit, not race, mattered.
Born a slave, Turner gained freedom when he was a child and received his education in clandestine St. Louis schools, later briefly attending Oberlin College. A self-taught lawyer, Turner earned a statewide reputation and wielded power far out of proportion to Missouri's relatively small black population.
After working nearly a decade in Liberia, Turner never regained the prominence he had enjoyed during Reconstruction.
Marian Alexander Spencer was born in 1920 in the Ohio River town of Gallipolis, Ohio, one year after the “Red Summer” of 1919 that saw an upsurge in race riots and lynchings. Following the example of her grandfather, an ex-slave and community leader, Marian joined the NAACP at thirteen and grew up to achieve not only a number of civic leadership firsts in her adopted home city of Cincinnati, but a legacy of lasting civil rights victories.
Of these, the best known is the desegregation of Cincinnati’s Coney Island amusement park. She also fought to desegregate Cincinnati schools and to stop the introduction of observers in black voting precincts in Ohio. Her campaign to raise awareness of industrial toxic-waste practices in minority neighborhoods was later adapted into national Superfund legislation.
In 2012, Marian’s friend and colleague Dot Christenson sat down with her to record her memories. The resulting biography not only gives us the life story of remarkable leader but encapsulates many of the twentieth century’s greatest struggles and advances. Spencer’s story will prove inspirational and instructive to citizens and students alike.
“After saying our good-byes to friends and neighbors, we all got in the cars and headed up the hill and down the road toward a future in Ohio that we hoped would be brighter,” Otis Trotter writes in his affecting memoir, Keeping Heart: A Memoir of Family Struggle, Race, and Medicine.
Organized around the life histories, medical struggles, and recollections of Trotter and his thirteen siblings, the story begins in 1914 with his parents, Joe William Trotter Sr. and Thelma Odell Foster Trotter, in rural Alabama. By telling his story alongside the experiences of his parents as well as his siblings, Otis reveals cohesion and tensions in twentieth-century African American family and community life in Alabama, West Virginia, and Ohio.
This engaging chronicle illuminates the journeys not only of a black man born with heart disease in the southern Appalachian coalfields, but of his family and community. It fills an important gap in the literature on an underexamined aspect of American experience: the lives of blacks in rural Appalachia and in the nonurban endpoints of the Great Migration. Its emotional power is a testament to the importance of ordinary lives.
As a black Appalachian woman, Memphis Tennessee Garrison belonged to a demographic category triply ignored by historians.
The daughter of former slaves, she moved to McDowell County, West Virginia, at an early age and died at ninety-eight in Huntington. The coalfields of McDowell County were among the richest seams in the nation. As Garrison makes clear, the backbone of the early mining work force—those who laid the railroad tracks, manned the coke ovens, and dug the coal—were black miners. These miners and their families created communities that became the centers of the struggle for unions, better education, and expanded civil rights. Memphis Tennessee Garrison, an innovative teacher, administrative worker at U.S. Steel, and vice president of the National Board of the NAACP at the height of the civil rights struggle (1963-66), was involved with all of these struggles.
In many ways, this oral history, based on interview transcripts, is the untold and multidimensional story of African American life in West Virginia, as seen through the eyes of a remarkable woman. She portrays a courageous people who organize to improve their working conditions, send their children to school and then to college, own land, and support a wide range of cultural and political activities.
Mother of Orphans is the compelling true story of Alice, an Irish-American woman who defied rigid social structures to form a family with a black man in Ohio in 1899. Alice and her husband had three children together, but after his death in 1912, Alice mysteriously surrendered her children to an orphanage. One hundred years later, her great-grand daughter, Dedria Humphries Barker, went in search of the reasons behind this mysterious abandonment, hoping in the process to resolve aspects of her own conflicts with American racial segregation and conflict.
This book is the fruit of Barker’s quest. In it, she turns to memoir, biography, historical research, and photographs to unearth the fascinating history of a multiracial community in the Ohio River Valley during the early twentieth century. Barker tells this story from multiple vantage points, frequently switching among points of view to construct a fragmented and comprehensive perspective of the past intercut with glimpses of the present. The result is a haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties. Part personal journey, part cultural biography, Mother of Orphans examines a little-known piece of this country’s past: interracial families that survived and prevailed despite Jim Crow laws, including those prohibiting mixed-race marriage. In lyrical, evocative prose, this extraordinary book ultimately leaves us hopeful about the world as our children might see it.
Clara Jean Mosley Hall has inhabited various cultural worlds in her life: Native American, African American, Deaf, and hearing. The hearing daughter of a Deaf Nanticoke Indian, who grew up in Dover, Delaware’s black community in the 1950s and 60s, Hall describes the intersections of these identities in Paris in America. By sharing her father’s experiences and relating her own struggles and successes, Hall honors her father’s legacy of hard work and perseverance and reveals the complexities of her own unique background.
Hall was abandoned by her Deaf African-American mother at a young age and forged a close bond with her father, James Paris Mosley, who communicated with her in American Sign Language. Although his family was American Indian, they—like many other Nanticoke Indians of that region—had assimilated over time into Dover’s black community. Hall vividly recounts the social and cultural elements that shaped her, from Jim Crow to the forced integration of public schools, to JFK and Motown. As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) in a time when no accessibility or interpreting services were available, she was her father’s sole means of communication with the hearing world, a heavy responsibility for a child. After her turbulent teenage years, and with the encouragement of her future husband, she attended college and discovered that her skills as a fluent ASL user were a valuable asset in the field of education.
Hall went on to become a college professor, mentor, philanthropist, and advocate for Deaf students from diverse backgrounds. Her memoir is a celebration of her family, her faith, her journey, and her heritage.
Pickin’ Cotton on the Way to Church highlights the life of Father Boniface Hardin, a Benedictine monk. James Dwight Randolph (Randy) Hardin was born on November 18, 1933, in Bardstown, Kentucky, educated in Catholic schools in Kentucky, and thirteen years old when he asked to become a priest. Excluded from the seminaries in Kentucky because of his race, he enrolled in Saint Meinrad Seminary in Spencer County, Indiana, which had just started accepting black students. After six years of study he took his vows as monk and was given the name Boniface. He was ordained a priest in 1959 and attained a graduate degree in 1963.
In 1965 Father Hardin accepted the position of associate pastor at Holy Angels Catholic Church, a predominately black parish in Indianapolis. Father Hardin was a social activist who spoke out against poverty, segregation, police brutality, and fought against the construction of an interstate highway that would adversely affect the black community. Such actions were considered inappropriate for a priest and the Archbishop of Indianapolis removed him from his position at Holy Angels.
Although reinstated due to public outcries, Father Hardin soon left Holy Angels, and, along with Sister Jane Shilling, opened the Martin Center, where they could advocate full time for the poor and disenfranchised through a series of programs and services. Realizing the correlation between education and career advancement, Father Boniface and Sister Jane founded Martin University, the only predominately African American institution of higher learning in Indiana. The university continues to play a unique role in the community, with a special focus on educational opportunities to those who have been too often discounted, discouraged, and disregarded by society.
Although Father Hardin was widely known in Indiana during his lifetime, accumulating many awards and honors, it is important to document his life and work for posterity. It is hoped that this volume will provide an overview of his story and lay the foundation for other scholarly efforts.
Remembering Emmett Till
Dave Tell University of Chicago Press, 2019 Library of Congress E185.93.M6T45 2019 | Dewey Decimal 364.134
Take a drive through the Mississippi Delta today and you’ll find a landscape dotted with memorials to major figures and events from the civil rights movement. Perhaps the most chilling are those devoted to the murder of Emmett Till, a tragedy of hate and injustice that became a beacon in the fight for racial equality. The ways this event is remembered have been fraught from the beginning, revealing currents of controversy, patronage, and racism lurking just behind the placid facades of historical markers.
In Remembering Emmett Till, Dave Tell gives us five accounts of the commemoration of this infamous crime. In a development no one could have foreseen, Till’s murder—one of the darkest moments in the region’s history—has become an economic driver for the Delta. Historical tourism has transformed seemingly innocuous places like bridges, boat landings, gas stations, and riverbeds into sites of racial politics, reminders of the still-unsettled question of how best to remember the victim of this heinous crime. Tell builds an insightful and persuasive case for how these memorials have altered the Delta’s physical and cultural landscape, drawing potent connections between the dawn of the civil rights era and our own moment of renewed fire for racial justice.
Remembering the Power of Words recounts the personal and professional journey of Avel Gordly, the first African-American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate.
The book is a brave and honest telling of Gordly’s life. She shares the challenges and struggles she faced growing up black in Portland in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as her determination to attend college, the dedication to activism that took her from Portland to Africa, and her eventual decision to run for a seat in the state legislature.
That words have power is a constant undercurrent in Gordly’s account and a truth she learned early in life. “Growing up, finding my own voice,” she writes, “was tied up with denying my voice or having it forcefully rejected and in all of that the memory of my father is very strong. To this day—and I am today a very experienced public speaker—preparation to speak takes a great deal of energy.” That this memoir has its origins as an oral history is fitting since Gordly has used her voice, out loud, to teach and inspire others for so many years.
Important as a biographical account of one significant Oregonian’s story, the book also contributes “broader narratives touching on Black history (and Oregon’s place within it), and most particularly the politics associated with being an African American woman,” according to series editor Melody Rose.
During the 1950s, when less than 20 percent of American high school graduates attended college, a group of ambitious young African Americans enrolled at Ohio University, a predominantly white school in Athens, Ohio. Because they were a tiny, barely tolerated minority, they banded together, supported each other, and formed lasting bonds. Years later, at a series of “Soulful Reunions,” they recalled the joys and challenges of living on a white campus before the civil rights era, and eighteen of them decided to share their stories.
The authors of the eighteen autobiographical sketches in Soulful Bobcats were a diverse group. They were athletes, rhetoricians, musicians, and actresses; they aspired to professions in the military, business, education, government, architecture, and the arts. Some grew up in poor families, while others enjoyed the comforts of the middle class. But they had several things in common. They all came from families that believed education was important. They had been taught to avoid trouble, to persist despite setbacks, and to expect to encounter prejudice and even discrimination.
The authors vividly describe instances in which they were humiliated—by other students, by professors, or by townspeople—as well as the few occasions when violence seemed inevitable. In addition, they describe their “first,” including becoming the first African American students at Ohio University to be awarded scholarships for their prowess in football, basketball, track, and tennis; the first to compete for titles such as “Mr. Fraternity” or “Queen of the Military Ball”; the first to appear in theatrical performances alongside their white schoolmates. They also tell of their success in providing a social life for themselves by organizing two Greek letter fraternities and one sorority, holding their own off-campus dances, and joining the few campus organizations that were open to them. Above all, their stories speak to a resilience that allowed these “Soulful Bobcats” to learn from their experiences at Ohio University, to engage in meaningful careers, and to lead rich, fulfilling lives.
Originally published in 1999, Sounds Like Home adds an important dimension to the canon of deaf literature by presenting the perspective of an African American deaf woman who attended a segregated deaf school. Mary Herring Wright documents her life from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s, offering a rich account of her home life in rural North Carolina and her education at the North Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, which had a separate campus for African American students. This 20th anniversary edition of Wright’s story includes a new introduction by scholars Joseph Hill and Carolyn McCaskill, who note that the historical documents and photographs of segregated Black deaf schools have mostly been lost. Sounds Like Home serves “as a permanent witness to the lives of Black Deaf people.”
On July 10, 1971, during birthday celebrations for King Hassan II of Morocco, attendant officers and cadets opened fire on visiting dignitaries. A young officer, Aziz BineBine, arrived late and witnessed the ensuing massacre without firing a single shot, yet he would spend the next two decades in a political prison hidden in the Atlas Mountains—Tazmamart. Conditions in this now-infamous prison were nightmarish. The dark, underground cells, too small for standing up in, exposed prisoners to extreme weather, overflowing sewage, and disease-ridden rats. Forgetting life outside his cell—his past, his family, his friends—and clinging to God, BineBine resolved to survive. Tazmamart: 18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison is a memorial to BineBine and his fellow inmates’ sacrifice. This searing tale of endurance offers an unfiltered depiction of the agonizing life of a political prisoner.
The past four hundred years have seen unprecedented growth in virtually every conceivable realm of life, from medicine to the arts, technology to finance. Far too often, however, when we think of the movers, shakers, and innovators behind these transformations, we picture a host of men—and white men, at that.
With Trailblazers, Gabrielle David remedies that. The first anthology of black female innovators published in more than fifteen years, Trailblazers introduces us to more than one hundred and fifty American black women who have been instrumental in creating our contemporary life. We learn about activists and politicians like Fannie Lou Hamer, who in 1964 changed the Democratic National Convention forever by protesting efforts to disenfranchise black voters in her native Mississippi, and Lelia Foley, a black woman who overcame racism and poverty to become the first female African American mayor in the United States in 1973. David also introduces us to entertainers, athletes, and businesswomen—though not always in predictable ways. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter makes an appearance, for example, not for her musical career, but as a businesswoman, reminding us of her multifaceted triumphs.
David brings this volume together with a clarion call for recognition of the transformative work black women have done and continue to do. She reminds us of the debt we owe to these unsung heroes—and the place black women deserve at the table.
The Westside Slugger is the powerful story of civil rights in Las Vegas and Nevada through the eyes and experience of Joe Neal, a history-making state lawmaker in Nevada. Neal rose from humble beginnings in Mound, Louisiana, during the Great Depression to become the first African American to serve in the Nevada State Senate.
Filled with an intense desire for education, he joined the United States Air Force and later graduated from Southern University—studying political science and the law at a time of great upheaval in the racial status quo. As part of a group of courageous men, Neal joined a Department of Justice effort to register the first black voters in Madison Parish.
When Neal moved to southern Nevada in 1963 he found the Silver State to be every bit as discriminatory as his former Louisiana home. As Neal climbed through the political ranks, he used his position in the state senate to speak on behalf of the powerless for more than thirty years. He took on an array of powerful opponents ranging from the Clark County sheriff to the governor of the state, as well as Nevada’s political kingmakers and casino titans. He didn’t always succeed—he lost two runs for governor—but he never stopped fighting. His successes included improved rights for convicted felons and greater services for public education, mental health, and the state’s libraries. He also played an integral role in improving hotel fire safety in the wake of the deadly MGM Grand fire and preserving the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, which brought him national attention.
Neal lived a life that personified what is right, just, and fair. Pushing through racial and civil rights hurdles and becoming a lifelong advocate for social justice, his dedication and determination are powerful reminders to always fight the good fight and never stop swinging.
Kendra Allen’s first collection of essays—at its core—is a bunch of mad stories about things she never learned to let go of. Unifying personal narrative and cultural commentary, this collection grapples with the lessons that have been stored between parent and daughter. These parental relationships expose the conditioning that subconsciously informed her ideas on social issues such as colorism, feminism, war-induced PTSD, homophobia, marriage, and “the n-word,” among other things.
These dynamics strive for some semblance of accountability, and the essays within this collection are used as displays of deep unlearning and restoring—balancing trauma and humor, poetics and reality, forgiveness and resentment.
When You Learn the Alphabet allots space for large moments of tenderness and empathy for all black bodies—but especially all black woman bodies—space for the underrepresented humanity and uncared for pain of black girls, and space to have the opportunity to be listened to in order to evolve past it.