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Your prophecies of serious race conflicts begin to come true.

I hope you let me see what you write about the Washington affair

    Mencken                                                                                                                                                                        Schuyler

 

 

Books by H. L. Mencken

On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe  /  The American Language  / In Defense of Women  / Prejudices: A Selection  / Smart Set Criticism

Happy Days: Autobiography, 1880-1892  / Thirty-Five Years of Newspaper Work: A Memoir  /  Heathen Days: 1890-1936   / Letters of H.L. Mencken

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The Sage in Harlem: H.L. Mencken and the Black Writers of the 1920s  (Charles Scruggs)

*   *   *   *   *

Letters of H. L. Mencken 

on (or) to George S. Schuyler, James Weldon Johnson

Walter White, NAACP, Countee Cullen, Eugene O'Neill 

 

To James Weldon Johnson

Baltimore, July 29, 1919

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Have you anywhere in your files an estimate of the total wealth of the Negroes of the United States—that is, on the same basis that national wealth is reckoned? I have seen something of the sort, but I don't know where. They probably own at least a billion of property. Here in Maryland they have got very rich.

Your prophecies of serious race conflicts begin to come true. I hope you let me see what you write about the Washington affair. I hear that the same sort of thing was very narrowly averted in Richmond. My guess is that Baltimore will be the last city to see anything of the sort. Despite a segregation ordinance, there is less race feeling here than anywhere else I know of. We have had but one race riot in years, and that was between Poles and Jews.

Sincerely yours

[H.L. Mencken]

[Notes: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938): author, secretary of the NAACP, and poet. — The Washington affair: a few days before, there had been race riots in Washington, D.C., in which white soldiers and sailors fought with Negroes. The casualties had run high, and a rumor had spread that martial law would be decreed.]

*   *   *   *   *

To Walter White

[Baltimore?]

March 13, 1922

Dear Mr. White:

This play looks to me to be hopeless. The long speeches in the first episode would drive an audience out of the theatre and the climax at the end of the last episode would make it laugh. The suggestion of the minstrel show show is far too insidious to be resisted. Moreover, I doubt that the fundamental idea is plausible. That is to say, no such thing has ever happened nor could it conceivably happen. In fiction, it is not sufficient merely to convince the reader that an episode is possible, it is also necessary to convince him that it is probable. He will believe a story on the front page of a newspaper that would make him laugh even in the Argosy Magazine.

Let me see the other pieces that you have in mind. After you have finished half a dozen of them, you may fin a way to go back to this one and save it.

Sincerely yours,

[H.L. Mencken

[Walter F. White (1893-1955): The Negro author and leader.]

*   *   *   *   *

To Alfred A. Knopf

H.L. Mencken

1524 Hollins Street

Baltimore

November 17th [1924] 

Dear Alfred:-

1. I forgot to tell you that James Weldon Johnson, the chief man in the Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is preparing to write his reminiscences. He has had a very remarkable career and writes very well. You will get the book automatically. I may be able to use parts of it in The American Mercury.

M

[H.L. Mencken]

[James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) wrote two volumes of reminiscences: The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, published in Boston by Sherman, French and Co. in 1912, then in New York by Alfred A. Knopf in 1927; and Along This Way (New York: The Viking Press; 1933). This probably refers to the second edition of the first book.]

*   *   *   *   *

To Carl Van Vechten

H.L. Mencken

1524 Hollins St.

Baltimore

October 10th [1925]

Dear Carl:-

The Widow Saltus' book is a horrible thing. Coming so soon after Mrs. Arnold Bennett's exposure of Bennett, it makes me thank God that I married an illiterate colored woman, who doesn't know what my trade is, and never wants to meet and scare my friends. I am reviewing it for the Tribune syndicate next Sunday. As you know, I put Saltus himself lower than you do. Lately I reread five or six of his books. All save "Imperial Purple" seemed amateurish to me. Did you ever know, by the way, that "Imperial Purple" inspired "Heliogabalus"? A curious bibliographical detail.

I'll believe in Johnson's article on jazz when I see it. He promised it to me in the Autumn of 1893.

Yours,

Mencken

[The Widow Saltus's book: Edgar Saltus, the Man by Marie Saltus (Chicago: Pascal Covivi; 1925. — Johnson: James Weldon Johnson] 

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To Hamilton Owens

Baltimore, April 25, 1926

Dear Hamilton:

here is a chance for the Free State Association to function. The City Club swine invited Countée Cullen to their party, and then stood by without a protest when he was kicked out of the Emerson. I am informed that he did not come to eat with them, but simply to talk to them.

That the Emerson has a rule forbidding coons to talk in the hotel is outrageous. It would be hard to match it in Mississippi. Moreover, the City Club cads, knowing very well that Cullen was a coon, should have looked into the matter at length before inviting him. The net effect of their poltroonry was that their guest was insulted, and Maryland was made ridiculous. I hope to lambast them, and make a big case of it. I called up the Sun today and gave the city desk some information that I had. this morning's story was very feeble.

It was a great party last night. I have consumed two whole cans of bicarbonnate since breakfast, and feel like a yearling stallion. I am off to N.Y.

Yours,

M

[Hamilton Owens (born in 1888): the editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun. — The Baltimore City Club is now extinct. The Emerson is a Baltimore hotel. — Countée Cullen: the Negro poet.]

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To George S. Schuyler

The American Mercury

730 Fifth Avenue

New York

October 11, 1927

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

Thanks very much for your good offices in the matter of the "Tips" article. Naturally, I'd much prefer to have you go over it. The one thing I want to keep out is ranting against the tipping system. What I am interested in is not its evils, but its technique. Certainly, an old hand must know many dodges for squeezing money out of suckers. It seems to me that getting it in this way is quite as honest and decent as getting it say, by serving in Congress, or preaching the Word of God. If your candidate fails, I'll certainly turn to Mr. Lewis. My very best thanks again.

Unluckily I fear to do an article on the A.M.E. Church. During 1926 I devoted the magazine very largely to religious follies, and I have a feeling that I probably exhausted the interest of its readers in that subject. For that reason I have been avoiding it this year. maybe I'll go back to it later on.

Sincerely yours,

H.L. Mencken

*   *   *   *   *

To George S. Schuyler

The American Mercury

730 Fifth Avenue

New York

October 19th [1927]

Dear Mr. Schuyler:-

I am sorry indeed that you put in any work on this, for I fear it won't do as it stands. The introduction is rather too long and obvious, and there are too few illuminative anecdotes. It would be better, indeed, if it started with an anecdote. The reference to Terre Haute, again, might be developed into an amusing discussion of regional liberality. In brief, the thing shows some good material, but it jogs a bit, and so is not effective. I scarcely know whether to advise reworking it or scrapping it. And I am sorry that I put you to trouble about it.

I discover that the clipping bureaux do not clip the Negro papers. This seems astounding. But it offers a good chance to set up a Negro clipping bureau. If you know anyone who wants to make the venture tell him I'd like to be his first customer.

Sincerely yours,

H. L. Mencken

"Our White Folks" will lead the December number.

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To George S. Schuyler

Baltimore,

August 15th, 1928

It seems to me that this piece is full of holes. Furthermore, I believe that the fundamental scheme of it is wrong. Why start with the argument that there is no sexual antipathy between the races? The fact is known to everyone. It seems to me that the whole article should be based on a study of actual interracial couples and that you ought to go into the matter further than you have. That is to say, you ought to examine a number of such couples at length and find out precisely why they were married, what difficulties they encountered and how they are getting on now. As it is, you generalize without sufficient data and so the whole thing becomes a bit literary and dubious.

You also introduce a number of irrelevancies, including a reference to such men as Dumas. I don't think the subject has anything to do with your main theme.

Let us have a session the next time I am in New York. Just when that will be I don't know. Hay fever has begun to tease me and travel is painful. But I'll certainly be there again before the middle of September. I believe a detailed study of mixed couples would be really valuable. can't you do it by correspondence? Certainly it ought to be easy to get into contact with forty or fifty of them.

Have you any other ideas?

Sincerely yours,

H.L. Mencken

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To George S. Schuyler

 

The American Mercury

730 Fifth Avenue

New York

May 15 [1929]

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

I think your questionnaire would make an excellent article, and what you say about the future of the Negro would make an even better one. On the latter subject, an immense amount of bilge is being written. the plain fact is that neither the whites nor the black know where they are heading. I have read as much about the matter as most men and yet I can never formulate a plausible picture of the relation of the races say fifty years hence. if you care to deal with the subject realistically, I'll certainly be delighted to do the article.

My best thanks for your help in the matter of the Northwestern questionnaire. if you can find it, I'll be delighted to have it.

Sincerely yours,

H.L. Mencken

[The questionnaire was sent out by George Schuyler to get data for a piece he was writing on Racial Intermarriage in the U.S. G. Schuyler wrote "A Negro Looks Ahead" for the February 1930 Mercury.]

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To George S. Schuyler

 

H.L. Mencken

704 Cathedral St.

Baltimore

June 15, 1931

 

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

 

Needless to say, that story is a lie out of the whole cloth. I was never in Norwich, Connecticut, in my life, and I haven't delivered a lecture for at least twenty years. Such fictions are constantly in circulations. I suspect that the report that I have turned Ku Kluxer emanates from a certain gentleman in Baltimore. I don't think he is important enough to get any notice.

Last week Floyd Calvin telegraphed to me asking for an expression of my opinion on the crusade against Amos and Andy. I told him what I have been preaching for years past—that all such crusades seem to me to be ill-advised and dangerous. I can imagine nothing more tedious than the Amos and Andy dialogues, but I certainly see nothing libelous in them. Such Negroes as they depict are in common as flies. I think the Negro people should feel secure enough by now to face a reasonable ridicule without terror. I am unalterably opposed to all efforts to put down free speech, whatever the excuse.

The Jews have been greatly damaged in America by professional agitators, and I am afraid that if Amos and Andy crusade goes on the Negroes will suffer in the same way.. Worse, they will in vain, for I believe it will be completely impossible to stop the Amos and Andy show. In brief, the net result promises to be that the race will be made ten times as ridiculous by its own efforts as it is now made by Amos and Andy.

What are you up to? I read in the Pittsburgh Courier that you were ill. I surely hope that you are completely recovered, and that some good ideas are entailing you.

Sincerely yours,

H.L. Mencken

[Charges of racism have been made against H.L. Mencken at various times, a debate on the question was held in the columns of the New Republic and the London Times Literary Supplement in 1957 and 1958.]

*   *   *   *   *

To George S. Schuyler

 

The American Mercury

730 Fifth Avenue

New York

October 5, 1932

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

Here again, it seems to me you spoil a good story by showing too much indignation. The missionaries are depicted with such hostility that in most cases they become mere caricatures. Thus the general effect of the article is considerably diminished, and I find myself hesitating to take it. In such writing, it seems to me that the really effective weapons is irony. the moment you begin to show indignation you weaken your whole case.

Sincerely yours,

H. L. Mencken

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To George S. Schuyler

 

H.L. Mencken

704 Cathedral St.

Baltimore

May 7, 1935

As usual, you blow the quacks 10,000 feet into the air. However, I am not too sure that you have butchered them. The scheme to set up a separate State is so magnificently idiotic that it is bound to win customers. My belief is that the Negro wizards of the past, like the whites, have always made the mistake of underestimating the imbecility of their customers. The great masses of the plain people are much dumber than even politicians have ever suspected.

I have been reading with great interest and pleasure your articles in the Courier on your Southern tour. In particular, I have been cheered by your reports from Mississippi. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that it will take 200 earthquakes, 50 foreign invasions and the second coming of the Twelve Apostles to lift up that sorry state to the level even of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Sincerely yours,

H. L. Mencken

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To Blanche Knopf

H.L. Mencken

1524 Hollins St.

Baltimore

July 7, 1937

Dear Blanche:

God knows I wish I could drop in on you at Pocasset, but I fear it will be impossible before August 6th. Some time ago I rashly undertook to do a series of articles on the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the Sun. The job looked easy, but now that I am in it I find that it is full of grief. The amount of stuff I am writing is not large, but getting the material for it involves making a great many visits to the hospital to consult the various chiropractors. When I finish the job I'll know more about the place than anybody in it.

There is an excellent book in George S. Schuyler, the colored author who used to write in the American Mercury. Schuyler is the best writer the Negroes have ever produced, and moreover, he is a highly intelligent man. If you could induce him to do a frank book on the present situation of his people in this country it would probably make a sensation. He loves to tell the truth, and the truth in this case is full of surprises. He is the bitter enemy of all the uplifters who presume to uplift the darker races. Some time when I am in New York we must get hold of him and talk the thing out with him. I really believe that he could give you something extraordinary.

Yours,

H.L.M.

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To George S. Schuyler

H.L. Mencken

1524 Hollins St.

Baltimore

May 10, 1939

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

The Pulitzer prize editorials are always preposterous—in fact, I am toying with a scheme to print a collection of them as a comic book. You will recall the one called "Who is Coolidge?" I am still half convinced that the author wrote it with his tongue in his cheek. I hope you lay on with proper ferocity. I am convinced, as you are, that we are headed for a dictatorship in this great Republic. Roosevelt is hot to horn into the European the Europeans mess, and his wizards believe that if he can scare the country sufficiently, it will be possible to reëlect him next year. I am inclined to agree that this is sound political dope.

I have just read your violent assault on Conrad Bilbo. Admittedly, he is a master ass; nevertheless, I suspect that there may be some sense in his scheme. After all, the future of the Negro in this country doesn't look any too hopeful. It might not be a bad idea to try a return to Africa. it could not be attempted, of course, on the heroic scale imagined by Comrade Bilbo, but nevertheless it might be attempted. Once 10,000 smart American gentlemen of color had got to Africa, the Liberian oligarchy would begin to wither and fade away. I may do a piece on this subject a bit later on. let us not underestimate Comrade Bilbo because he is a notorious jackass. So was Martin Luther.

Another matter: has anyone tried to interest Aframericans in dyes and bleaches to change the color of their hair? They seem to spend an enormous amount of money on hair-straighteners, but all such great inventions leave their locks coal-black, with a patent leather finish. the other day, I saw a colored girl in Baltimore whose hair was definitely brown. Her complexion was much darker,  and the combination was really very striking. I suspect that if some smart fellow began vending a dye to produce yellow, red, and even green and purple, hair, he would earn an honest fortune.

My brother and I are still hoping to see you in Baltimore.

Sincerely yours,

H.L. Mencken

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To Walter White

H.L. Mencken

1524 Hollins St.

Baltimore

December 6, 1943

Dear Walter:

I have read the manifesto of your committee in an humble and prayerful spirit, but can only report that it seems to me to be buncombe. If you wrote it, then you will have a bad quarter of an hour when you face the port-mortem F.B.I. I can see no evidence whatever that the English, if victorious in the present war at American expense, will make any effort to carry out the programme outlined in your Item 7, nor do I believe that the pledges you ask for from candidates for office, if you get them, will be worth anything. You already have virtually all of them from Roosevelt, but how many are being carried out?

All the frauds will promise you everything you ask for, and all the honest men, if any, will be daunted by the visible impossibility of doing anything effectual. Race relations never improve in war time; they always worsen. And it is when the boys come home that that Ku Klux Klans are organized. I believe with George Schuyler that the only really feasible way to improve the general situation of the American Negro is to convince more and more whites that he is, as men go in this world, a decent fellow, and that amicable living with him is not only possible but desirable.

Every threat of mass political pressure, every appeal to political mountebanks, only alarms the white brother, and so postpones the day of reasonable justice. The immediate problem is not to get more and more gaudy jobs for professional Negroes—including, for example, that of admiral in the Navy—, nor is it to force the doors of hotels, clubs and stores that only the rich could patronize; it is not even to get useless (and probably venal) votes for a horde of poor black ignoramuses in the South.

It is to protect the Negro, if it can be done, against the inevitable attempt of white competitors on the lower levels to dispose of him by outrage and murder. Here in my own town of Baltimore, where race relations have been peaceful for generations and no Negro has been denied his vote in my time, every thoughtful person, black or white, is made uneasy by the possibilities ahead.

The war industries have brought in huge gangs of barbaric white crackers from the South and on their heels have come other gangs of black refugees from Southern White Christianity. It is not hard to figure out what will happen when the flood of government money runs out, and these two gangs begin fighting for the marginal jobs. . . .

[Incomplete]

[H.L. Mencken]

*   *   *   *   *

Lagniappe

To Blanche Knopf

H.L. Mencken

704 Cathedral St.

Baltimore

October 21st [1931]

Dear Blanche:-

I'll leave Monday evening open, and shall count on you for lunch on Tuesday. Tuesday night I'll be stuck, and on Wednesday I want to start home if possible, for my book is much delayed, and I am hard at it.

My prices on O'Neill:

For going to the performance: $10,000

For seeing one act: $1750

For listening to the plot: $3,500

For reading the reviews: $200

Yours,

M.

[Mourning Becomes Electra, by Eugene O'Neill, was then beginning its career in New York.]

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Letter from Dreiser to Mencken (excerpt)

March 27, 1943

As for Doctor, Professor Mencken—to me, of course, he is sui generis. Never has there been in this or any other country before, in so far as I know, one like him! And, sadly, I fear, there will not soon be another. He seems to me to lack faith in anything and everything save the futility of everything—which is a Voltairean approach to all that is, and that amuses me. But for all the bull-headed faults and ironic conclusions of said Heinrich—I love and always will love him—be the final estimate of said Dreiser or said Mencken what it may.

Darling—don't forget that I remember how, almost fatalistically you arrived in my life when, from a literary point of view, I was down and out, and you proceeded to fight for me. Night and day apparently. Swack! Smack! Crack! Until finally you succeeded in chasing an entire nation of literary flies to cover. It was lovely!. It was classic. And whether you choose to slam me right or left, as is your wont, in the future, Darling Professor, Doctor, I will love you until the hour of my death. And don't pull any Edgar Allan Poe stuff in connection with my forgotten grave either. Do you hear me? or, I'll come back and fix you. And how!

Love and kisses from

[Dreiser]

Sources: Letters of H.L. Mencken. Selected and Annotated by Guy J. Forgue, with a personal note by Hamilton Owens. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961.

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George S. Schuyler, Writer. George Schuyler, whose career has often inspired bitter controversy, was born in providence, Rhode Island, in 1895. He is a distinguished journalist whose work has appeared in The Messenger, The Pittsburgh Courier, The Crisis, The American Mercury, The World Tomorrow, New Masses, Modern Quarterly, Opportunity, and The Nation.

He is author of Black No More (1931), the first science fiction novel written by an Afro-American, and whose plot has been widely imitated. He is also the author of Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia (1931), and Black and Conservative (1966), his autobiography. Mr. Schuyler is presently the book reviewer for the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

"Mr. Schuyler discussed his stormy career and other matters with Steve Cannon and me in October 1972 at his handsomely furnished apartment on Convent Avenue in Manhattan, full of sculpture, paintings, photos of his friends: authors, artists, and Presidents, and memorabilia concerning his hauntingly beautiful daughter, the late Philippa D. Schuyler. During the course of the interview Mr. once required him to keep a gun next to his typewriter when threatened by some political opponents. When I asked Mr. Schuyler about the 1930s incident in which he was picketed for his comments on Angelo Herndon, a black Communist, he looked puzzled, trying to recall the case, saying "I don't know. It's hard to remember. I've been picketed by so many people."

Source: Ishmael Reed, Shrovetide in Old New Orleans. NY: Avon Books, 1979.

*   *   *   *   *

 

Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956), was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a scholar of American English. Mencken, known as the "Sage of Baltimore", is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century. Many of his books are still in print. Mencken is known for writing The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he named the "Monkey" trial. In addition to his literary accomplishments, Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. During the World Wars, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda.". A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.

Mencken wrote many articles about the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, temperance and uplifters. He was particularly critical of pomposity, populism, Comstockery, Puritanism, and osteopathic and chiropractic medicine. He was a keen cheer-leader of scientific progress but very skeptical of economic theories.—Wikipedia

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H. L. Mencken Collection   /   H L  Mencken on Negro Authors

Black and Conservative: The Autobiography of George S. Schuyler  / Robert A. Hill, ed. Ethiopian Stories. Northeastern University Press, 1996

Jeffrey B. Leak ed. Rac(E)Ing to the Right: Selected Essays of George S. Schuyler. University of Tennessee Press, 2001

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Ratification

The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

By John Lewis

The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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H. L. Mencken Collection