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Miriam DeCosta-Willis Table

 

 

 Books by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic Writers (2003  / Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon (1999)

  The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995) / Erotique Noire/Black Erotica  (1992) / Homespun Images ( 1989)  / Notable Black Memphians

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Overview

Miriam DeCosta-Willis, author and college professor, was born 1 November 1934, in Florence, Alabama. She received her B.A. at Wellesley College in 1956; her M.A. Johns Hopkins in 1960; her Ph.D. Johns Hopkins in 1967 in Romance Languages. In 1967 she joined the faculty of Memphis State University as the first African American member, and while there agitated for more black staff members. When King was assassinated in 1968 she was in the march that erupted into violence and the police used mace on her.

DeCosta-Willis became a professor of Spanish and in 1970 chairperson of the Department of Romance Languages at Howard University. At Howard, she was exposed to Afro-Hispanic authors. In 1975 DeCosta-Willis left Howard and in 1979 returned to teaching at LeMoyne-Owen College. She remained there for ten years before taking a position at George Mason University. Leaving in 1991, DeCosta-Willis took a position with the University of Maryland, where she remained until her retirement in 1999.

DeCosta-Willis served for ten years as an associate editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. She is co-founder and a former chairperson of the Memphis Black Writers Workshop, and has served on the Memphis Arts Council advisory committee and a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities. DeCosta-Willis has four grown children. She divides her time between Washington, D.C., and Memphis.

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Honoring the role of blacks at Johns Hopkins

While Miriam DeCosta-Willis experienced the challenges of "being a black woman in a white man's world," her life story demonstrates her ability to transcend those challenges. The child of two college professors, she grew up in the South but moved north in 1950 and was part of the integration of Westover School in Connecticut. She describes her two years there as painful, yet she left the school with high honors.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, she became, in 1967, the second black woman to earn a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins.  After obtaining her degree, DeCosta-Willis was appointed the first black faculty member at Memphis State University.

Throughout her 40-year career in education, DeCosta-Willis, a Spanish language and African-American studies scholar, held administrative and faculty posts at Howard University, George Mason University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Now retired, she remains a lifelong civil rights activist and writer. In addition to serving as co-founder of the Memphis Black Writers' Workshop, she has published several books.

DeCosta-Willis' role in the university's history is highlighted in The Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins, an exhibit and website intended to recognize black students, faculty and staff who have contributed to the institution's rich history through their personal and professional achievements.

The exhibit, launched this month, consists of a free-standing traveling display and also window decals featuring photos of men and women whose stories offer glimpses of the intertwined history of blacks and Johns Hopkins. The display and window images are supported by a website that features brief narratives of 50 individuals, past and present, who contributed to the institution.

The project is co-sponsored by the President's Office, Johns Hopkins External Affairs and Development, and the Black Faculty and Staff Association. "This exhibit represents just one way to emphasize the wonderful, vibrant diversity of this community, now and throughout our history," President Ronald J. Daniels says. Debbie Savage, IT manager in the Office of Student Technology Services on the Homewood campus and a BFSA member, says that the exhibit and the website will significantly raise awareness of these pioneering people.

"My hope is that this exhibit will show the indispensable roles blacks have [had at] Johns Hopkins in every way and every form, from custodial staff to trustees, physicians and attorneys," Savage says. "All kinds of people make up Johns Hopkins, but sometimes looking in, people don't see others who look like them in roles they can aspire to."

The Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins exhibit debuted on May 1 at Mason Hall and will travel to buildings across the Homewood campus throughout the month. On June 15, the exhibit will be on display in the Glass Pavilion as part of the BFSA's annual Juneteenth celebration. Read more in The Gazettejhu.exhibit

The Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins / The Johns Hopkins Black Faculty and Staff Association

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Table

A Black By Any Other Name 

Black Memphis: Landmarks

Etheridge Knight's Love Songs to Women

The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Beautine Hubert DeCosta-Lee)

Homespun Images   

         An Anthology of Black Memphis Writers and Artists

Hopkins Graduate one of first African-Americans to Earn Ph.D 

Hurricane Devastation in Cuba and Haiti

The Life and Legacy of Beautine Hubert DeCosta-Lee   

Looking Toward Arbutus -- Frank DeCosta

The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells 

Miriam in Ghana

New Day A-Dawning  (Inauguration activities)

Pilgrimage  to Ghana

Rising and Recovering from the Water-Logged Ashes A Review of The Katrina Papers

Song for a Poet Gone (Pinkie Gordon Lane)

Third Wave Feminism 

Three Decades of Afro-Hispanic Literary Studies

Through My Open Window   

Ties that bind ‘The Big Five’ get together for first time in 51 years

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Related files

The Forts and Castles of Ghana  

Ghana & US Blacks 

Haile Gerima in Ghana  

A Philip Randolph 

Poet Pinkie Gordon Lane Passes Over

Randolph Visits Ghana 

The State of Black Erotica 

Your Whiteness is Showing (Tim Wise)

Etheridge Knight

     A Conversation with Myself

     Etheridge Knight Speaks

     He Sees Through Stone      

     Once on a Night in the Delta   

 

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Black Memphis Landmarks

By Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

These sites, some of which are forever lost, must never be forgotten. Thankfully, with this book, Miriam DeCosta-Willis makes a major contribution in preserving the memory of many of these places and the pioneers associated with them.—Ronald A. Walter, Co-author of Nineteenth Century Memphis Families of Color, 1850-1900

Black Memphis Landmarks is a must read book for anyone interested in the numerous contributions that African Americans have made to the development of Memphis. Dr. DeCosta-Willis has documented many of the landmarks and achievements made by Black people in Memphis.—Frank J. Banks, co-founder Banks, Finley, Thomas & White, CPA

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Miriam at Westover

“Meanwhile Louise Dillingham was attempting to admit a group of four to eight African-American girls of different ages. It turned out to be more difficult than she thought, and in the autumn of 1950 only two girls of color arrived in Middlebury. One of them, Michele Baussan, a shy senior with a Russian father and a Haitian mother, had probably met the headmistress the previous summer, when Miss Dillingham had vacationed in Haiti.  Although Michele’s native language was French, she turned out to be “a very good student,” the headmistress thought.

“The other girl, a junior, was Miriam Decosta of South Carolina. She had been highly recommended by Elizabeth Avery, who had attended Westover in 191 and 1912. A native of Michigan, Elizabeth had moved to the South with her second husband, where she had scandalized Charleston society by divorcing him to marry Judge J. Waities Waring, after he also obtained a divorce. She held enlightened views  about race relations, and Judge Waring backed minority rights in his court. In January of 1950, after she gave a fiery antisegregation speech that attracted national attention, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the Warings lawn. Around that time, Elizabeth told a black friend about Westover’s new admission policy, and the friend suggested that Mrs. Waring meet Miriam. The girl’s father was the dean of the graduate school of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, and her mother, also a college graduate, with an advanced degree, was a college professor. The Warings invited Miriam and her parents to lunch at their home—another radical action at that time—before writing to Miss Dillingham about her.

“Westover was Miriam’s first experience of the white world. Miss Dillingham thought her poised and self-assured, and she admired the way she seemed to adapt quickly, easily, and naturally. Classmates remembered Miriam as self-contained and sometimes high-spirited, as well as a good athlete and a great student, but the fact is that she often wept at night. The girls were pleasant enough, she remembered, but there were problems with parents. On New Girl weekend, the only people who spoke to her parents were teachers and the Rev. Charles Ives, the minister of the Congregational Church across the Middlebury green, who had recently delivered a strongly antisegregation sermon. As a result of parents’ opposition to Miriam rooming with their daughters, she was the only girl in the school without a roommate during her two years at Westover.

“To make matters worse, she was also the only African-American in the entire school her senior years, except for members of the household staff, like Minnie Price, who had been the headmistress’s maid before working in the school’s post office. Anticipating difficulties at Glee Club dances, Miss Dillingham asked her and another girl to be the ones that played the records on the Victrola.  While the headmistress later recalled that Miriam used to dance all evening at such events, Miriam recalled them as “unpleasant.” She also disliked the headmistress’s awkward attempts at impartiality, what Miss Dillingham called as attempts not to discriminate “for or against” a Negro pupil. Well aware of her educational opportunity, Miriam studied diligently and found the teachers “wonderful,” especially Spanish teacher Celeste Fernandez. She never forgot Mr. Schumacher’s fascinating Ideas and Images elective about northern European and Spanish painting. When she graduated in 1952 it was with the highest grades in the senior class, and with the school prizes in art, French, and Spanish.”

Source: “The Desire for Justice: Admitting Negro Students” (pp. 123-124). In Westover: Giving Girls a Place of Their Own. By Laurie Lisle.  (2009).

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Westover: Giving Girls a Place of Their Own

By Laurie Lisle

Westover, a girls' school in Middlebury, Connecticut, was founded in 1909 by emancipated "New Women," educator Mary Hillard and architect Theodate Pope Riddle. Landscape designer Beatrix Farrand did the plantings. It has evolved from a finishing school for the Protestant elite, including F. Scott Fitzgerald's first love, to a meritocracy for pupils of many religions and races from all over the world. The fascinating account of the ups and downs of this female community is the subject of Laurie Lisle's lively and well-researched book. The author describes the innovations of the idealistic minister's daughter who founded the school in 1909, her intellectual successor who turned it into a college preparatory school in the 1930s, the quiet headmaster who managed to keep it open during the turbulent 1970s, and the prize-winning mathematics teacher, wife, and mother who leads the high school today. This beautifully illustrated book tells an important story about female education during decades of dramatic change in America.— Publisher, Wesleyan

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Response

Rudy, where on earth do you find these things? It came from a 100-year history of Westover that the author sent me last year after interviews with me that she'd done. I haven't even read the book, because I don't have warm, fuzzy memories of my two years at that New England prep school. They had the nerve to delegate me as their most significant grad of the 1950s and to ask me to come back and speak at the 100th reunion. My memories are too painful. Such passages, though, indicate that I need to get started on my memoir to set the record straight.—Miriam, 1 May 2010

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Published Works

Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic Writers (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publisher, 2003)

Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays (1977)

Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon (1999)

The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (Beacon Press, 1995) 

Erotique Noire/Black Erotica (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1992)

Homespun Images (Memphis, TN: Wimmer Brothers, 1989)

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Notable Black Memphians (Miriam DeCosta-Willis)This biographical and historical study by Miriam DeCosta-Willis (PhD, Johns Hopkins University and the first African American faculty member of Memphis State University) traces the evolution of a major Southern city through the lives of men and women who overcame social and economic barriers to create artistic works, found institutions, and obtain leadership positions that enabled them to shape their community.

Documenting the accomplishments of Memphians who were born between 1795 and 1972, it contains photographs and biographical sketches of 223 individuals (as well as brief notes on 122 others), such as musicians Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin, activists Ida B. Wells and Benjamin L. Hooks, politicians Harold Ford Sr. and Jr., writers Sutton Griggs and Jerome Eric Dickey, and Bishop Charles Mason and Archbishop James Lyke—all of whom were born in Memphis or lived in the city for over a decade. . .  .

Also included are short biographies of barbers, sanitation workers, and postal employees such as Alma Morris, T. O. Jones, and Tom Lee—ordinary citizens who made extraordinary contributions to their community. The result of ten years of painstaking research in archives and libraries, this study draws upon interviews, private papers, newspaper articles, and photographic collections to illuminate Black achievements in Memphis, Tennessee.

Located in a bend of the Mississippi River, in the heart of the Bible Belt, and in the center of a tri-state region that includes Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, Memphis is the site of a rich African American culture that finds expression in blues and jazz, in poetry and fiction, and in painting and sculpture. Less well known, perhaps, are Black cultural expressions in business, athletics, and medicine: for example, the founding of hospitals and a medical school; the building of a public park/auditorium and the first Black-owned baseball stadium in the country; and the creation of the South's first integrated law firm and first Black savings and loan association.

Sons and daughters of the city include city and county mayors, an Olympic medalist, an Oscar-winning actor, and former member of the Federal Communications Commission, CEO of the Regional Medical Center, president of Colorado State University, and professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.

The lives of these outstanding Black Memphians provide a context for understanding and interpreting the social, political, and cultural history of a city in the Deep South. Notable Black Memphians is a vital addition to all collections in African American studies and American history.

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The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword by Dorothy Sterling

DeCosta-Willis makes it possible to look back in a new way into the character of wells, and, more than that, into the daily life of African-Americans a century ago.— Chicago Tribune

 

Wells and DeCosta-Willis join together across time in a scholarly collaborative dance of sisterhood to produce a work that not only holds an insightful mirror to the past, but could be used as a guidepost for African-American and other women today in living totally self-defined lives.—Tri-State Defender

 

A unique look at the life o an independent, unmarried African-American woman coping with financial hardships, romantic entanglements, sexism, and racism . . . A substantial contribution to African-American Studies. —Publisher Weekly

 

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Erotique Noire/Black Erotica, edited by Miriam Decosta-Willis, Reginald Martin (Editor), Roseann P. Bell

A glorious, groundbreaking celebration of Black sensuality—short stories, poems, essays, folk tales, and letters--ranging from the lyrical to the lascivious, from the prurient to the provocative. It is, as well, a serious and intellectually grounded anthology of black literature, including such authors as Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Barbara Chase-Riboud, among many others. (Anchor)

A collective work of art whose time has come. Of lasting value for all lovers of literature and the erotic, this is a glorious, groundbreaking celebration of black sensuality, including works by Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, and many more.

The editors are to be congratulated for amassing a collection of erotica worthy in its own right because of the writers showcased, among them Alice Walker, Chester Himes, Gloria Naylor, Jewelle Gomez, Charles Blockson, Audre Lorde, and Essex Hemphill. Coverage is not limited to African American writers but includes African, Caribbean American, and Latin American writers, whether straight or gay, of prose, poetry, or fiction. For some authors, this anthology features their first piece of erotic writing. Readers will be familiar with other selections, for example, Lorde's "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power." As a whole, this book successfully challenges stereotypical notions about black erotica and serves up delightful sexual tidbits for just about everyone's taste.—Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

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Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic WritersThis book brings together the creative writings of some 20 Hispanophone women of African descent as well as the interpretive writings of some 15 literary critics. Several genres are combined including poetry, short stories, essays, excerpts from novels and personal narratives to create a unique anthology. Featured writes include: Virginia Brindis de Salas, Carmen Colón Pellot, Julia de Burgos, Aida Cartagena Portalatín, Marta Rojas, Eulalia Bernard, Georgina Herrera, Lourdes Casal, Argentina Chiriboga, Nancy Morejón, Excilia Saldaña, Beatriz Santos, Maria Nsue Angüe, Sherezada (Chiqui) Vicioso, Soleida Ríos, Edelma Zapata Pérez, Yvonne-América Truque, Cristina Cabral, Shirley Campbell, Mayra Santos-Febres. Hardcover: 544 pages Ian Randle Publishers Inc. (January 30, 2003

Miriam DeCosta Willis is Professor Emeritus of African Studies University of Maryland.

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Telling the Story

Library’s Memphis Room grows with Decosta-Willis donation

By Bill Dries

As Miriam DeCosta-Willis spoke in the Memphis Room of the Memphis Public Library and Information Center, a set of 19 gray file boxes was neatly lined up near the podium. The files, containing manuscripts, notes, photographs and other items, are “parts of our history that never would be known” without DeCosta-Willis donating them to a growing archive in The Memphis Room, said library director Keenon McCloy. The papers of the Memphis civil rights veteran, teacher, writer and historian join a collection of 250 individuals and families who have donated their papers to The Memphis Room, the library’s long-established archive on the city and county’s history.

Wayne Dowdy, library history department senior manager, calls it “the story of Memphis—the whole story.” And DeCosta-Willis is a prominent part of that story, even if she protests that she isn’t famous. The papers and photographs are a mix of her research into Memphis history and her own life. She participated in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 during visits to that city. She attended Medgar Evers’ funeral.

She told a group of more than 100 in The Memphis Room that for a time she didn’t consider herself a participant but an observer. She was among the black men and women denied admission to the University of Memphis in the 1950s.

G. Wayne Dowdy, senior manager of the Memphis & Shelby County Room, handles papers and photographs from the Miriam Decosta-Willis collection at the Memphis Public Library. Willis’ collection includes photographs from the civil rights movement, correspondence and her scholarship studying African-American literature and Memphis history. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

Although she had a degree from Wellesley College, she and Maxine Smith were denied admission in a decision by the university that changed local history. “That started her on her journey and that started me on my journey in terms of civil rights,” she said. “Because we were observing history in the making, we did not realize we were also participants in that history.”

She would later become the university’s first black faculty member.“But that’s not as important as my involvement in civil rights on campus as faculty adviser to the Black Student Association and organizer of faculty forums.”

DeCosta-Willis dedicates her latest book, Black Memphis: Landmarks, to her late husband, A.W. Willis, whom she credits for encouraging her pursuit of the city’s history. Willis was one of the city’s black attorneys who became the cornerstone of the dismantling of racial segregation in Memphis. He was also a state representative and business leader.

As he worked on bringing back Beale Street in the early 1970s, he encouraged his wife to research the street’s history. “I learned things about Memphis that I had never heard of before,” she said. The research and other work over the years led to Notable Black Memphians. This reference book offers biographical sketches and notes on 345 Memphians born between 1795 and 1972.

“I worked all my life trying to preserve our history. But these are just biographical sketches,” she said. “These are just descriptions of organizations, schools and churches and nightclubs and things that go way back to antebellum times and come up to where we are today. I know much is left out. But at some point you just have to stop your research or the books will never get out.”

DeCosta-Willis herself has used The Memphis Room as well as the Library of Congress in her research into the city’s history. Her 1995 editing of The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells brought to life not only the keen mind of Wells, but also placed the indomitable, strong-willed crusader in the context of the city whose violence made her a national and international figure.

Like most historians, DeCosta-Willis has had heartbreaking moments in her pursuit of material not yet in any books. She recalled funeral home owner and matriarch Frances Hayes telling her she had in her attic programs from every funeral at the business since the turn of the 20th century. DeCosta-Willis said she later pursued the lead only to be told the programs had all been thrown out in a spring cleaning. “That is what has happened to our history,” she said.

11 March 2011

Source: MemphisDailyNews

posted 29 January 2009

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Capitalism and the Ideal State: Marcus Garvey  /  Crisis of Capitalism (Du Bois)  / Economic Emancipation of Africa

Liberty and Empire  /  Money is Speech   /  On Capitalism: Noam Chomsky

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#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 River of No Return

The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC

By Cleveland Sellers with Robert Terrell

Among histories of the civil rights movement of the 1960s there are few personal narratives better than this one. Besides being an insider's account of the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it is an eyewitness report of the strategies and the conflicts in the crucial battle zones as the fight for racial justice raged across the South.  This memoir by Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC volunteer, traces his zealous commitment to activism from the time of the sit-ins, demonstrations, and freedom rides in the early '60s. In a narrative encompassing the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964), the historic march in Selma, the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and the murders of civil rights activists in Mississippi, he recounts the turbulent history of SNCC and tells the powerful story of his own no-return dedication to the cause of civil rights and social change.

The River of No Return is acclaimed as a book that is destined to become a standard text for those wishing to perceive the civil rights struggle from within the ranks of one of its key organizations and to note the divisive history of the movement as groups striving for common goals were embroiled in conflict and controversy.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? 

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls

By Dorothy Sterling

Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.

All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.—Barbara Dodds

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Civil rights since 1787 : a reader on the Black struggle

Edited by Jonathan Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor

Contrary to simple textbook tales, the civil rights movement did not arise spontaneously in 1954 with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black struggle for civil rights can be traced back to the arrival of the first Africans, and to their work in the plantations, manufacturies, and homes of the Americas. Civil rights was thus born as labor history.

Civil Rights Since 1787 tells the story of that struggle in its full context, dividing the struggle into six major periods, from slavery to Reconstruction, from segregation to the Second Reconstruction, and from the current backlash to the future prospects for a Third Reconstruction. The "prize" that the movement has sought has often been reduced to a quest for the vote in the South. But all involved in the struggle have always known that the prize is much more than the vote, that the goal is economic as well as political. Further, in distinction from other work, Civil Rights Since 1787 establishes the links between racial repression and the repression of labor and the left, and emphasizes the North as a region of civil rights struggle.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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 / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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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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