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Black America, Then and Now

Living Black History: How Re-Imagining
the African-American Past Can Remake
America’s Racial Future

By Manning Marable
Basic Civitas Books, 2006
288 pp., $26.00 cloth, ISBN: 0465043895 

Are the stars of the civil rights movement yesterday’s news? In Living Black History, scholar and activist Manning Marable offers a resounding “No!” with a fresh and personal look at the enduring legacy of such well-known figures as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and W.E.B. Du Bois. Marable creates a “living history” that brings the past alive for a generation he sees as having historical amnesia. His activist passion and scholarly memory bring immediacy to the tribulations and triumphs of yesterday and reveal that history is something that happens everyday. Living Black History dismisses the detachment of the codified version of American history that we all grew up with. Marable’s holistic understanding of history counts the story of the slave as much as that of the master; he highlights the flesh-and-blood courage of those figures who have been robbed of their visceral humanity as members of the historical canon.

As people comprehend this dynamic portrayal of history they will begin to understand that each day we, the average citizens, are “makers” of our own American history. Living Black History will empower readers with knowledge of their collective past and a greater understanding of their part in forming our future.

Dr. Manning Marable is professor of history, political science and public policy at Columbia University, where he is also the founding director of the Institute for Research in African-American studies. He is the author of 18 books including Black Leadership, Speaking Truth to Power, and Beyond Black and White.

Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering
the History of American Abolitionism

Edited by Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer
The New Press, 2006
416 pp., $22.95 paper, ISBN: 1-56584-880-1

The campaign to abolish slavery in the United States was the most powerful and effective social movement of the 19th century and has served as a recurring source of inspiration for every subsequent struggle against injustice. But the abolitionist story has traditionally focused on the evangelical impulses of White, male, middle-class reformers, obscuring the contributions of many African-Americans, women and others.

Prophets of Protest, the first collection of writings on abolitionism in more than a generation, draws on an immense new body of research in Black studies, literature, art history, film, law, women’s studies and other disciplines. The book incorporates new thinking on such topics as the role of early Black newspapers, antislavery poetry and abolitionists in film and provides new perspectives on familiar figures such as Sojourner Truth, Louisa May Alcott, Frederick Douglass and John Brown.

With contributions from the leading scholars in the field, Prophets
of Protest
is a long overdue update of one of the central reform movements in America’s history.

Dr. Timothy Patrick McCarthy is lecturer on history and literature and on studies of women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University. Dr. John Stauffer teaches English and American civilization, also at Harvard. His first book, The Black Hearts of Men, won the 2002 Frederick Douglass Prize for the Best Book on Slavery.

On Michael Jackson
By Margo Jefferson
Pantheon Books, 2006
160 pp., $20.00 cloth, ISBN: 0-375-42326-5

Michael Jackson was once universally acclaimed as a song-and-dance man of genius; “Wacko Jacko” is now, more often than not, dismissed for his bizarre race and gender transformations and confounding antics, even as he is commonly reviled for the child molestation charges twice brought against him. Where did the weirdness and alleged criminality come from? How to account for Michael Jackson’s rise and fall? In On Michael Jackson, Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for The New York Times, Margo Jefferson, unravels the complexities of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time.

Who is Michael Jackson? What do P. T. Barnum, Peter Pan and Edgar Allan Poe have to do with our fascination with Jackson? How did his curious Victorian upbringing and his tenure as a child prodigy on the “chitlin’ circuit” inform his character and multiplicity of selves? How is Michael Jackson’s celebrity related to the outrageous popularity of 19th-century minstrelsy? What is the perverse appeal of child stars for grown-ups and what is the price of such stardom for these children and for us? What provoked Michael Jackson to become arguably the oddest superstar of all time? What do we find so unnerving about Michael Jackson’s presumed monstrosity? In short, how are all of us implicated?

Margo Jefferson gives us the incontrovertible lowdown on the outlandish and outrageous Michael Jackson. She offers a powerful reckoning with a quintessential, richly allusive signifier of American society and popular culture.

Margo Jefferson has written for The New York Times since 1993 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. Her reviews and essays have appeared in The Nation, Vogue, and The Village Voice.

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