Black History Month 2009

New titles on African-American experiences offer remarkable depth and range.

Temptations will be everywhere this season if you have not enhanced your library of African-American history books in a while. University presses and commercial publishers are offering new releases on a rich mix of topics in time for Black History Month 2009. Here are some of our selections:

Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington, by Robert J. Norrell, $35, Belknap Press (January 2009), ISBN-10: 067403211X, ISBN-13: 978-0674032118, pp. 528.

As the first fulllength biography of a pivotal figure many have dismissed or vilified as an “Uncle Tom,” this book puts the famed educator and his significant accomplishments into a meaningful context. Set against the backdrop of White supremacist opposition in his time, his story emerges if not as that of a full-blown hero admired by all, then at least as that of a pragmatist with understandable and worthy motives.

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, by Henry Louis Gates Jr., $27.50, Crown (January 2009), ISBN-10: 0307382400, ISBN- 13: 978-0307382405, pp. 448.

The Harvard educator who took 19 prominent Americans on an extraordinary journey into the past to trace their ancestry for two PBS specials now captures the experience on paper, probing the genealogy and DNA of such figures as T.D. Jakes, Mae Jemison, Tom Joyner and Oprah Winfrey. The author does so out of a conviction that the more we know about the lives of the forgotten people who make up their family trees, the more we know about the making of America.

The Black Condition (Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience) by Howard Dodson and Colin Palmer (Editor), $24.95, Michigan State University Press (December 2008), ISBN- 10: 0870138383, ISBN-13: 978-08701383 86, pp. 272.

Offered as a teaching resource for Black studies, this is the fourth in a series of volumes. It has sections on economic inequality by William Darity Jr.; politics by Ronald Walters; education by Linda Perkins; the military by Chad Williams; and religious experience by Michael A. Gomez. The collection is edited by the chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and a Princeton University professor of history.

And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America, by Mary Frances Berry, $30, Knopf Publishing Group (January 2009), ISBN-10: 0307263207, ISBN- 13: 978-0307263209, pp. 448.

The author gives an insider’s view of how the U.S. Civil Rights C o m m i s s i o n evolved — starting from its creation under President Eisenhower in 1957 — from a free, independent and often powerful fact-finding body to a political tool and weaker shadow of itself in the hands of some later administrations. Berry, who was a member of the panel from 1980 to 2004 and its chair from 1993 to 2004, also outlines the case for reconstituting the commission and expanding its mission to the human rights arena.

— Angela P. Dodson is an online editor for Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.

 

Other new or forthcoming works on Black history:

Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities, by Ralph Bauer and Jose Antonio Mazzotti (Editors), $27.50, University of North Carolina Press (March 2009), ISBN-10: 0807859680, ISBN-13: 978-0807859681, pp. 544.

Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora (Blacks in the Diaspora), by Edda L. Fields-Black, $34.95, Indiana University Press (December 2008), ISBN-10: 0253352193, ISBN-13: 978-0253352194, pp. 277.

Letters from Black America, by Pamela Newkirk, $30, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 2009), ISBN-10: 0374101094, ISBN-13: 978-0374101091, pp. 400.

Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton (Editors), $19.95, University of North Carolina Press, (December 2009), ISBN-10: 0807859168, ISBN-13: 978-0807859162, pp. 288.

Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans, by Roland Laird and Taneshia Nash Laird, Charles Johnson (Foreword), Elihu “Adofo” Bey (Illustrator), $14.95, Sterling (February 2009), ISBN-10: 1402762267, ISBN-13: 978- 1402762260, pp. 240.

Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith, by Christine King Farris, $25, Atria (January 2009), ISBN-10: 1416548815, ISBN-13: 978- 1416548812, pp. 272.

To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells, by Mia Bay, $35, Hill and Wang (February 2009), ISBN-10: 0809095297, ISBN-13: 978-0809095292 , pp. 384.

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