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Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students

Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students
By Theresa Perry, Claude Steele and Asa Hilliard III
Beacon Press, March 2003, 183 pp., $25.00 hardcover,
ISBN 0-8070-3154-2

The education achievement gap between Black and White students continues to be a hot-button issue, with some scholars arguing that Black students lag behind other students for fear of “acting White,” while others claim Black students lack resources and support at home. This book reframes the nature of the debate by stressing the complex social identity issues that African American children face in school and with regard to testing.

In three separate essays, the authors explore how African American students experience school in a society that has historically devalued their intellectual abilities. They call for a new understanding of the unique obstacles Black students face in American schools and point to a variety of education practices that can mitigate those challenges and promote academic excellence.

Dr. Theresa Perry is an associate professor of education at Wheelock College. Dr. Claude Steele is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Asa Hilliard III is the Fuller E. Callaway professor of urban education at Georgia State University.

Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation
By Michael D. Harris
The University of North Carolina Press, April 2003, 296 pp., $34.95 cloth, ISBN 0-8078-2760-6

Artist and art historian Michael Harris traces Black artists’ responses to racist imagery across two centuries, from early works by Henry O. Tanner and Archibald J. Motley Jr., in which African Americans are depicted with dignity, to contemporary works by Kara Walker and Michael Ray Charles, in which derogatory images are recycled to controversial effect.

Harris shows how, during the 19th and 20th centuries, racial stereotypes became the dominant mode through which African Americans were represented. These characterizations of Blacks formed a substantial part of the foundation of White identity and social power. They also, Harris argues, seeped into African Americans’ self-images and undermined their self-esteem.

Harris’ analysis offers compelling insight into the profound psychological impact of visual stereotypes on the African American community.

Michael D. Harris is an associate professor of African and African American art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jubilee: The Emergence of African American Culture
By Howard Dodson
National Geographic Books, February 2003, 224 pp., $35.00,
ISBN 0-7922-6982-9 

The development and growth of a truly unique African American culture out of the bonds of slavery is celebrated in a new release from National Geographic Books, in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library system.

More than 200 illustrations, photographs and documents chronicle the history of Africans in the Americas, spanning the nearly 400 years between their arrival in chains and their emancipation. The book presents a new perspective on slavery, focusing on the cultural, social, political and economic activities that Africans took part in the midst of slavery to redefine themselves and reshape their destinies.

The book brings together some of the most important voices in African American culture: Henry Louis Gates Jr., Gail Buckley, John Hope Franklin, Amiri Baraka, Annette Gorden-Reed and Gayraud Wilmore contribute essays on topics such as African American military services, the religion of the slave, emancipation, and the phenomenon of soul in African American music. Renowned jazz artist and composer Wynton Marsalis wrote the foreword to the book.

Howard Dodson is director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library.

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