Black History Month Book Special, Part I

As Black History Month draws to a close, DiverseEducation.com commemorates it with a three-part book review series. The titles are African-American-themed culture and history books that readers can appreciate for their own reading pleasure, for courses or for special seminars and discussions. Consider these titles:

Affect and Power: Essays on Sex, Slavery, Race, and Religion, by David J. Libby $42.50, (list price $50), University of Mississippi Press, ISBN 9781934110331, pp. 240.

This is an anthology of essays by former students of Winthrop D. Jordan, a historian and author of White Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812, to honor his legacy of writing and teaching. He taught about the complexities of sex, slavery, race and religion in American culture in his 40-year career at the University of California and the University of Mississippi.

African American Writers: Portraits and Visions, by Lynda Koolish, $38.25, (list price $45) University of Mississippi Press, ISBN 1578062586, pp. 132.

The author spent 30 years photographing African-American authors representing a vast spectrum of literature and genres. The volume gathers 60 of her black-and-white portraits of authors. Her subjects include playwrights, poets, novelists, critics, scholars, short story writers, oral storytellers and memoirists. A brief biography of each author accompanies the portraits, making it an invaluable reference tool. According to the publisher, this is the first book devoted exclusively to photographic portraits of African-American writers since the writer and patron Carl Van Vechten’s work photographing Harlem Renaissance writers in the 1920s and 1930s. Koolish’s book was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the top 35 books from university presses in 2001.

Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to Emancipation, by Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. $18.70 (List price $22), ISBN 9781578063604, University of Mississippi Press, pp. 296.

This is a new edition from the University of Mississippi Press of a book documenting the interrelationship of two racial cultures in the antebellum of Florida and Oklahoma. Seminoles held slaves, but their system was unlike that of other slaveholders, and the Seminoles often clashed with bounty hunters over ownership claims and even over who was free and who was not. Tensions mounted during the Second Seminole War, when many Blacks united with Seminoles fighting against the United States. Blacks and Seminoles were later transported to Oklahoma together as part of the federal government’s “removal” project. The fortunes of the two groups remained intertwined, but their relationships were conflicted as others sought to re-enslave or control free Blacks. After the Civil War, many Blacks were adopted into the Seminole nation. In a preface to this edition, the author explains the controversy over their role, which continues today.

American Musicians II: Seventy-one Portraits in Jazz by Whitney Balliett, $25.50, (List price $30), University of Mississippi Press, ISBN: 9781578068340, pp. 528.

A collection of the author’s jazz essays for The New Yorker, spanning nearly 25 years, including earlier ones on such artists as Earl Hines and Mary Lou Williams and later examples on such towering figures as Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. Together, these writings offer a history of America’s unique contribution to music culture. Bailliett wrote for the magazine from 1954 to 2001 and died in 2007. He was considered one of the finest jazz writers ever.

Before Brown, Beyond Boundaries: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, $16.96 (List price $19.95), Association for the Study of African American Life and History (Africa World Press), ISBN 1592212050, pp. 224.

May 17, 2004, was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision. This book can be helpful as a curriculum guide to one of the most important legal cases in African-American history. Brown v. Board of Education combined five cases from four states and the District of Columbia:  Kansas (Brown et. al v. Board of Education of Topeka), South Carolina (Briggs v. Elliott), Delaware (Belton v. Gebhart), Virginia (Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia), and the District of Columbia (Bolling v. Sharpe). They were pulled together by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for a challenge to segregation in schools that resulted in the Supreme Court decision that “the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ had no place” in public education.

Angela P. Dodson is a longtime contributor to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine and to DiverseEducation.com.