front cover of Ain't But a Few of Us
Ain't But a Few of Us
Black Music Writers Tell Their Story
Willard Jenkins, editor
Duke University Press, 2022
Despite the fact that most of jazz’s major innovators and performers have been African American, the overwhelming majority of jazz journalists, critics, and authors have been and continue to be white men. No major mainstream jazz publication has ever had a black editor or publisher. Ain’t But a Few of Us presents over two dozen candid dialogues with black jazz critics and journalists ranging from Greg Tate, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Robin D. G. Kelley to Tammy Kernodle, Ron Welburn, and John Murph. They discuss the obstacles to access for black jazz journalists, outline how they contend with the world of jazz writing dominated by white men, and point out that these racial disparities are not confined to jazz but hamper their efforts at writing about other music genres as well. Ain’t But a Few of Us also includes an anthology section, which reprints classic essays and articles from black writers and musicians such as LeRoi Jones, Archie Shepp, A. B. Spellman, and Herbie Nichols.

Eric Arnold, Bridget Arnwine, Angelika Beener, Playthell Benjamin, Herb Boyd, Bill Brower, Jo Ann Cheatham, Karen Chilton, Janine Coveney, Marc Crawford, Stanley Crouch, Anthony Dean-Harris, Jordannah Elizabeth, Lofton Emenari III, Bill Francis, Barbara Gardner, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Jim Harrison, Eugene Holley Jr., Haybert Houston, Robin James, Willard Jenkins, Martin Johnson, LeRoi Jones, Robin D. G. Kelley, Tammy Kernodle, Steve Monroe, Rahsaan Clark Morris, John Murph, Herbie Nichols, Don Palmer, Bill Quinn, Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr., Ron Scott, Gene Seymour, Archie Shepp, Wayne Shorter, A. B. Spellman, Rex Stewart, Greg Tate, Billy Taylor, Greg Thomas, Robin Washington, Ron Welburn, Hollie West, K. Leander Williams, Ron Wynn

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Byline, Richard Wright
Articles from the DAILY WORKER and NEW MASSES
Edited by Earle V. Bryant
University of Missouri Press, 2015

A writer perhaps best known for the revolutionary works Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright also worked as a journalist during one of the most explosive periods of the 20th century. From 1937 to 1938, Wright turned out more than two hundred articles for the Daily Worker, the newspaper that served as the voice of the American Communist Party. Byline, Richard Wright assembles more than one hundred of those articles plus two of Wright’s essays from New Masses, revealing to readers the early work of an American icon.

As both reporter and Harlem bureau chief, Wright covered most of the major and minor events, personalities, and issues percolating through the local, national, and global scenes in the late 1930s. Because the Daily Worker wasn’t a mainstream paper, editors gave Wright free rein to cover the stories he wanted, and he tackled issues that no one else covered. Although his peers criticized his journalistic writing, these articles offer revealing portraits of Depression-era America rendered in solid, vivid prose.

Featuring Earle V. Bryant’s informative, detailed introduction and commentary contextualizing the compiled articles, Byline, Richard Wright provides insight into the man before he achieved fame as a novelist, short story writer, and internationally recognized voice of social protest. This collection opens new territory in Wright studies, and fans of Wright’s novels will delight in discovering the lost material of this literary great.


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Colored Memories
A Biographer's Quest for the Elusive Lester A. Walton
Susan Curtis
University of Missouri Press, 2008

Lester A. Walton was a well-known public figure in his day. An African American journalist, cultural critic, diplomat, and political activist, he was an adviser to presidents and industrialists in a career that spanned the first six decades of the twentieth century. He was a steadfast champion of democracy and lived to see the passage of major civil rights legislation. But one word best describes Walton today: forgotten.

Exploring the contours of this extraordinary life, Susan Curtis seeks to discover why our collective memory of Walton has failed. In a unique narrative of historical research, she recounts a fifteen-year journey, from the streets of Harlem and “The Ville” in St. Louis to scattered archives and obscure public records, as she uncovers the mysterious circumstances surrounding Walton’s disappearance from national consciousness. And despite numerous roadblocks and dead ends in her quest, she tells how she came to know this emblematic citizen of the American Century in surprising ways.

In this unconventional book—a postmodern ghost story, an unprecedented experiment in life-writing—Curtis shares her discoveries as a researcher. Relating her frustrating search through long-overlooked documents to discover this forgotten man, she offers insight into how America’s obsession with race has made Walton’s story unwelcome. She explores the treachery, duplicity, and archival accidents that transformed a man dedicated to the fulfillment of American democracy into a shadowy figure.

Combining anecdotal memories with the investigative instincts of the historian, Curtis embraces the subjectivity of her research to show that what a society forgets or suppresses is just as important as what it includes in its history.  Colored Memories is a highly original work that not only introduces readers to a once-influential figure but also invites us to reconsider how we view, understand, and preserve the past.


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A Cry for Justice
Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism, and Activism, 1854-1933
Gary B. Agee
University of Arkansas Press, 2017
Daniel A. Rudd, born a slave in Bardstown, Kentucky, grew up to achieve much in the years following the Civil War. His Catholic faith, passion for activism, and talent for writing led him to increasingly influential positions in many places. One of his important early accomplishments was the publication of the American Catholic Tribune, which Rudd referred to as "the only Catholic journal owned and published by colored men." At its zenith, the Tribune, run out of Detroit and Cincinnati, where Rudd lived, had ten thousand subscribers, making it one of the most successful black newspapers in the country. Rudd was also active in the leadership of the Afro-American Press Association, and he was a founding member of the Catholic Press Association. By 1889, Rudd was one of the nation's best-known black Catholics. His work was endorsed by a number of high-ranking church officials in Europe as well as in the United States, and he was one of the founders of the Lay Catholic Congress movement. Later, his travels took him to Bolivar County, Mississippi, and eventually on to Forrest City, Arkansas, where he worked for the well-known black farmer and businessperson, Scott Bond, and eventually co-wrote Bond's biography.

front cover of Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.
Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.
Popular Black History in Postwar America
E. James West
University of Illinois Press, 2020
From its launch in 1945, Ebony magazine was politically and socially influential. However, the magazine also played an important role in educating millions of African Americans about their past. Guided by the pen of Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine’s senior editor and in-house historian, Ebony became a key voice in the popular black history revival that flourished after World War II. Its content helped push representations of the African American past from the margins to the center of the nation’s cultural and political imagination.

E. James West's fresh and fascinating exploration of Ebony’s political, social, and historical content illuminates the intellectual role of the iconic magazine and its contribution to African American scholarship. He also uncovers a paradox. Though Ebony provided Bennett with space to promote a militant reading of black history and protest, the magazine’s status as a consumer publication helped to mediate its representation of African American identity in both past and present.

Mixing biography, cultural history, and popular memory, West restores Ebony and Bennett to their rightful place in African American intellectual, commercial, and political history.


front cover of The Life and Times of Louis Lomax
The Life and Times of Louis Lomax
The Art of Deliberate Disunity
Thomas Aiello
Duke University Press, 2021
Syndicated television and radio host. Serial liar. Pioneering journalist. Convicted criminal. Close ally of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Publicity-seeking provocateur. Louis Lomax's life was a study in contradiction. In this biography, Thomas Aiello traces the complicated and fascinating arc of Lomax's life and career, showing how the contradictions, tumult, and inconsistencies that marked his life reflected those of 1960s America. Aiello takes readers from Lomax's childhood in the Deep South to his early confidence schemes to his emergence as one of the loudest and most influential voices of the civil rights movement. Regardless of what political position he happened to take at any given moment, Lomax preached “the art of deliberate disunity,” in which the path to democracy could only be achieved through a diversity of opinions. Engaging and broad in scope, The Life and Times of Louis Lomax is the definitive study of one of the civil rights era's most complicated, important, and overlooked figures.

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Livin' the Blues
Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet
Frank Marshall Davis
University of Wisconsin Press, 1993

Frank Marshall Davis was a prominent poet, journalist, jazz critic, and civil rights activist on the Chicago and Atlanta scene from the 1920s through 1940s. He was an intimate of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright and an influential editor at the Chicago Evening Bulletin, the Chicago Whip, the Chicago Star, and the Atlanta World. He renounced his writing career in 1948 and moved to Hawaii, forgotten until the Black Arts Movement rediscovered him in the 1960s.

Because of his early self-exile from the literary limelight, Davis's life and work have been shrouded in mystery. Livin' the Blues offers us a chance to rediscover this talented poet and writer and stands as an important example of black autobiography, similar in form, style, and message to those of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.

"Both a social commentary and intellectual exploration into African American life in the twentieth century."—Charles Vincent, Atlanta History


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Race News
Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the Twentieth Century
Fred Carroll
University of Illinois Press, 2017
Once distinct, the commercial and alternative black press began to crossover with one another in the 1920s. The porous press culture that emerged shifted the political and economic motivations shaping African American journalism. It also sparked disputes over radical politics that altered news coverage of some of the most momentous events in African American history. Starting in the 1920s, Fred Carroll traces how mainstream journalists incorporated coverage of the alternative press's supposedly marginal politics of anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, and black separatism into their publications. He follows the narrative into the 1950s, when an alternative press re-emerged as commercial publishers curbed progressive journalism in the face of Cold War repression. Yet, as Carroll shows, journalists achieved significant editorial independence, and continued to do so as national newspapers modernized into the 1960s. Alternative writers' politics seeped into commercial papers via journalists who wrote for both presses and through professional friendships that ignored political boundaries. Compelling and incisive, Race News reports the dramatic history of how black press culture evolved in the twentieth century.

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A Voice of Thunder
Edited by Donald Yacovone
University of Illinois Press, 1997
      George E. Stephens, the most
        important African-American war correspondent of his era, served in the
        famed black Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment, subject of the film Glory.
        His letters from the front, published in the New York Weekly Anglo-African,
        brilliantly detail two wars: one against the Confederacy and one against
        the brutal, debilitating racism within his own Union Army. Together with
        Donald Yacovone's biographical introduction detailing Stephens's life
        and times, they provide a singular perspective on the greatest crisis
        in the history of the United States.
      Stephens chronicled the African-American
        quest for freedom in reports from southern Maryland and eastern Virginia
        in 1861 and 1862 that detailed, among other issues of the day, the Army
        of the Potomac's initial encounter with slavery, the heroism of fugitive
        slaves, and the brutality both Southerners and Union troops inflicted
        on them.
      From the inception of the
        Fifty-fourth early in 1863 Stephens was the unit's voice, telling of its
        struggle against slavery and its quest to win the pay it had been promised.
        His description of the July 18, 1863, assault on Battery Wagner near Charleston,
        South Carolina, and his writings on the unit's eighteen-month campaign
        to be paid as much as white troops are gripping accounts of continued
        heroism in the face of persistent insult.
      The Weekly Anglo-African
        was the preeminent African-American newspaper of its time. Stephens's
        correspondence, intimate and authoritative, takes in an expansive array
        of issues and anticipates nearly all modern assessments of the black role
        in the Civil War. His commentary on the Lincoln administration's wartime
        policy and his conviction that the issues of race and slavery were central
        to nineteenth-century American life mark him as a major American social

front cover of Word Warrior
Word Warrior
Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom
Sonja D. Williams
University of Illinois Press, 2015
Posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007, Richard Durham creatively chronicled and brought to life the significant events of his times. Durham's trademark narrative style engaged listeners with fascinating characters, compelling details, and sharp images of pivotal moments in American and African American history and culture.

In Word Warrior, award-winning radio producer Sonja D. Williams draws on archives and hard-to-access family records, as well as interviews with family and colleagues like Studs Terkel and Toni Morrison, to illuminate Durham's astounding career. Durham paved the way for black journalists as a dramatist and a star investigative reporter and editor for the pioneering black newspapers the Chicago Defender and Muhammed Speaks. Talented and versatile, he also created the acclaimed radio series Destination Freedom and Here Comes Tomorrow and wrote for popular radio fare like The Lone Ranger. Incredibly, his energies extended still further--to community and labor organizing, advising Chicago mayoral hopeful Harold Washington, and mentoring generations of activists.

Incisive and in-depth, Word Warrior tells the story of a tireless champion of African American freedom, equality, and justice during an epoch that forever changed a nation.


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