DiverseEducation.com celebrates Black History Month today with the third installment of a three-part book review series. The titles are African-American-themed historical and cultural books. Consider the following:
Sitting in Darkness: New South Fiction, Education, and the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920, $42.50 (List price $50), by Peter Schmidt, University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781934110393. pp. 304.
The author’s work explores how fictional works that depict the Reconstruction era and the building of the New South play into public debates over schools, discrimination and civic life, as well as domestic and foreign policy. According to the publisher, “The book’s readings seek to synthesize developments in literary and cultural studies, ranging through New Criticism, New Historicism, postcolonial studies, Black studies, and “Whiteness” studies.”
Stroud’s Slave Laws, by George M. Stroud, $16.11 (List price $18.95), Black Classic Press, ISBN 9781580730075, pp. 313.
First published in 1827 and 1856 as A Sketch of the Laws Relating to Slavery in the Several States of the United States of America, Stroud’s work heavily influenced attitudes toward slavery in the nation in the years leading up to the Civil War. Stroud analyzed the slave codes and statutes of 12 slaveholding states, exposing the often absurd and oppressive nature of the laws governing this institution and the people held in bondage. He wrote: “Slaves … had no head in the state, no name, title or register: nor could they take by purchase or descent; they had no heirs, and therefore could make no will:… whatever they acquired was their master’s: they could not plead nor be pleaded for, but were excluded from all civil concerns whatsoever:…they were not entitled to the rights and considerations of matrimony, and, therefore, had no relief in the case of adultery:…they could be sold, transferred, or pawned as goods of personal estate …”
The Second Crucifixion of Nat Turner $8.45 (List price $9.95), edited by John Henrik Clarke, Black Classic Press, ISBN 9780933121959, pp. 117.
A collection of essays, originally published as William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, (Beacon 1968), addresses what the writers consider as misrepresentations of the insurrectionist Turner. In this volume, such writers as historian Lerone Bennett Jr., John O. Killens, Alvin Poussaint and John A. Williams attempt to set the record straight. In Southampton, Va., in 1831, Turner led the bloodiest revolt against U.S. slavery on record and was executed for it, as were 56 others accused of taking part. Styron was the author of the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, written as a first-person narrative in the voice of Turner. It is based on an account of the real Nat Turner’s confessions to his lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, at the time. Gray’s account and the fictionalized version, despite its acclaim, have often been criticized as biased and distorted, in particular for perpetuating the mythology of rampant sexual assaults on White women by Black men.
Survey Graphic (March 1925), Harlem Mecca of the New Negro, $12.71 (List Price $14.95), Black Classic Press, ISBN: 978-0933121058, pp. 92.
This is a reproduction of one issue of a magazine published in 1925. It includes Alain Locke’s essay “Enter the New Negro,” Countee Cullen’s poem “Heritage,” a W.E.B. Du Bois short story, and Arturo Schomburg’s historical essay, “The Negro Digs Up His Past.” Survey Graphic was a monthly, illustrated magazine affiliated with Survey, a journal of social work. In 1924, the journal’s editor asked Locke, a Howard University professor, to edit a special issue devoted to the Harlem Renaissance, then in full steam but invisible to many Whites. Soon after, Locke also expanded the contents and published the result as the more-familiar anthology The New Negro.
William Cooper Nell: Selected Writings 1832-1874 $38.25 (List price $45), edited by Dorothy Porter Wesley and Constance Porter Uzelac, Black Classic Press, ISBN 9781574780192, pp. 725.
This is the first time a biography of William Cooper Nell (1816 – 1874) and a collection of his articles have appeared in one volume. A Boston-born African-American abolitionist and historian, Nell wrote for such publications as “The Liberator,” “The National Anti-Slavery Standard” and “The North Star.” The book includes correspondence with many noted abolitionists, including Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Amy Kirby Post and Charles Sumner.
Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, by Drusilla Dunjee Houston, $12.71, (List Price $14.95), Black Classic Press, ISBN 9780933121010, pp. 280.
In this book, first published in 1926 and republished by Black Classic Press in 1985, Houston describes the origin of civilization and establishes links among the ancient Black populations of Arabia, Persia, Babylonia, and India, concluding that the ancient Blacks who inhabited these areas were culturally related. Houston was born in Harper’s Ferry, West Va., and moved with her family to Oklahoma, where she became a teacher and founder of schools to improve the education of Black girls. She is credited as the first African-American woman to write a multi-volume study of ancient Africa. It took 25 years to complete. She also wrote editorials for her brother Roscoe Dunjee’s newspaper, the Black Dispatch, and later for the Arizona Journal and Guide. She became a syndicated writer for the Associated Negro Press.