DiverseEducation.com commemorates Black History month with a three-part book review series. The titles are African-American-themed culture and history books that readers can appreciate for their reading pleasure, for courses or for special seminars and discussions. Consider these titles:
Black Fire: an Anthology of Afro American Writing, edited by Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, $21.21 (List Price $24.95), Black Classic Press, ISBN 9781574780390, pp. 680.
First published in 1968, this anthology of more than 180 selections is the touchstone of the Black Arts Movement, bringing together the works of such literary stars as Sonia Sanchez, Nathan Hare, Kama True (Steely Carmichael), John Henrico Clarke, Harold Cruse and Stanley Crouch. In this revised second edition, Amiri Baraka (formerly known as Leroi Jones) provided a new introduction, reflecting on the Movement nearly 40 years after the first publication. Baraka wrote: “These are the Founding Fathers and Mothers, of our nation … These descriptions will be carried for the next thousand years, of good, and of evil. These will be the standards Black men make reference to for the next thousand years.”
David Walker’s Appeal, by David Walker, $7.60 (List Price $8.95), Black Classic Press ISBN: 0933121385, pp. 108.
David Walker’s Appeal. In Four Articles, a pamphlet published in Boston, Mass., in 1829, was an argument against American slavery that was read widely among Whites and Blacks, North and South. It called on Blacks to resist slavery by violence if necessary. Walker himself was born a free Black in the South, traveled extensively throughout the region to observe slavery in practice and settled in Boston where he became a staunch advocate for abolition. This edition was published by Black Classic Press in 1997.
Early Negro Writing 1760-1837, $21.21, (List Price $24.95) edited by Dorothy Porter, Black Classic Press, ISBN 9780933121591, pp. 660.
This is a rare collection of significant writings by African-Americans, including narratives, poems and essays. It is compiled from books, documents of organizations, speeches and pamphlets dating to the American colonial period. The writings are by such familiar figures as Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, James Forten, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, David Ruggles and by some who may be more obscure to most readers.
Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia, by Douglas B. Chambers, $21.25, (List Price $25) University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781604732467, pp. 240.
When Ambrose Madison, grandfather of the Founding Father and future president James Madison, died in 1732 after a lingering illness at his plantation estate, Montpelier, poisoning was suspected as the cause and his servants were accused of having used traditional African medicines to kill him. His death came only a few months after his arrival on the plantation, where enslaved African Igbos had been clearing land and planting crops under White overseers for five years before Madison took up residence.
The book explores the supposed murder and its effects on relations between the owners and the enslaved labor. It gives a detailed history of the African descendents at Montpelier over five generations from the 1720s and beyond. Montpelier, a 2,650-acre estate in Orange County, Va., was the lifelong home of James Madison. The DuPont family later owned it. It is now the property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to visitors.
The Origin of Races and Color, $7.61 (List Price $8.95), by Martin R. Delany, Black Classic Press, ISBN: 9780933121508, pp. 95.
Martin R. Delany, 1812-1885, a free-born Black man from Charles Town, Va. (now in West Virginia), was an abolitionist, Civil War Army officer, doctor and prolific writer. He apparently wrote his history of the Black race in answer to popular theories of the time that used science to foster notions of White superiority. Delany emphasized the greatness of early Black civilizations.
Angela P. Dodson is a longtime contributor to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine and to DiverseEducation.com.