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Google
 

Google search results skew to very large corporate websites that are publishing less valuable,

usually more scandalous content. . . . Bing doesn’t do this currently. . . . if you were

to do a search for Terry McMillan on Google . . . the top five search

results a site containing two sentences . . My site, which has published original book

reviews, a video of Terry reading from a then-unpublished manuscript, a list of all

of her published novels and more, only appears on the second page.

 

 

Troy Johnson Assessing the Black Press

Interview by Kam Williams

 

Troy Johnson is the President of AALBC.com, LLC, whose main property is the website AALBC.com, for which Troy is the founder and webmaster.  AALBC.com (The African American Literature Book Club) was officially launched in March of 1998 and has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited site dedicated to books and film by or about people of African Descent.

In 1984 Troy earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University and spent the next seven years working for defense contractor like United Technologies in Florida and General Electric in Pennsylvania. During this period, he earned a master degree in engineering, while working full time. 

In 1991, Troy went back to school on a full scholarship from The Consortium, and received an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. And over the next 16 years he was employed in financial services and consulting by such Wall Street firms as Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

However, it was during his tenure on Wall Street that Troy discovered and began to pursue his passion for sharing the full breadth of black culture through the words and stories contained in books. As a regular contributor to AALBC, I’ve not only been lucky enough to work with him for years, but have also enjoyed just hanging out with him as well.  Married for over 21 years with two daughters currently in college, Troy divides his time between East Harlem, where he was raised, and Tampa, Florida. Here, he talks about both the challenges and rewards of running AALBC.com

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Kam Williams: Hi Troy, thanks for the interview.

Troy Johnson: No problem, Kam, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity. Thank you.

Kam Williams:  What interested you in starting AALBC.com?

Troy Johnson:  During the mid to late Nineties, I had a sideline business building websites for other businesses. I wanted to learn more about using websites to generate sales and earn money, so that I could better advise my clients. I actually offered to help someone else rebuild their book business’ website, for free, as a part of that effort. Amazingly, they declined the offer. So instead, I decided to create AALBC.com. I immediately discovered I would prefer building a website for myself, rather than for others, and I focused solely on AALBC.com. That was back in 1997.

Kam Williams:  How long had the website been in existence before you decided to quit your job on Wall Street to work on the site full-time?

Troy Johnson:  I had been running AALBC.com for about 11 years before I left Wall Street. That was three years ago.

Kam Williams:  Do you see the recent closing of Borders Bookstores as a sign of the demise of brick-and-mortar operations and hard copy books? How does this development affect your business?

Troy Johnson:  Those changes are really reflective of more profound and fundamental shifts that are greatly impacting the entire book industry. But I don’t think the closing of Borders or the rise of eBooks is sign that the days of brick-and-mortar stores, and physical books, are numbered. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the closing of Borders actually hurts my business, in much the same way that the closing of independent black bookstores did. Sure, on a superficial level, one can say there are less competitors in the marketplace and that will drive more people online to learn about new books and that that helps sites like AALBC.com. However, on a deeper level, Borders was actually a big seller of black books. They helped generate excitement and sales for our books across the nation. The better-run stores established relationships with the community and local businesses. They purchased advertising in our publications. This benefits the entire industry, publishers, authors, readers and even other booksellers. When these groups thrive, so does AALBC.com.

Kam Williams: How else has the business changed over the years? 

Troy Johnson:  Kam, keeping AALBC.com a viable business, in an environment where major technological changes are a constant, is my single biggest challenge. I’ve been active on the World Wide Web since it became available to the general public in the early Nineties. It really is remarkable how much and how quickly things have changed since then. When I first started, one had to code an entire page in HTML by hand. Everything was very labor intensive. If I wanted to create a page with a photo on it, I had to take a photo with my camera, take the film to a business that developed and printed photographs, wait a few days and hope that the photo came out OK. Then, I would need to scan the image, usually at work, because scanners were expensive, open up the photo in an image editing program, save the image in a compressed format so that it would not take too long to download over a 1200-baud modem, and FTP it to my web server. Finally I would create an HTML document and write a line of code that would position the photo on a webpage. Do you see where I’m going?

Kam Williams: Yeah, it was much less user-friendly back then.

Troy Johnson:  All of this for one image on a single page. Imagine the difficulty in creating an entire website! I learned to build websites by looking at the underlying code of a page, copying it, and modifying it to suit my needs. Today, given how complex websites are, it is really not possible to learn how to build websites this way anymore. When I first started building web pages, most people did not have a PC at home, and almost no one had internet access. Today most homes have PCs, a smart phone or a cable box with internet access. A grade-school kid can create a terrific looking website with 100 photos in a fraction of the time, with virtually no technical skill.  Despite websites being infinitely easier to create, the challenge of launching a viable web-based business is even more difficult than ever before.

Kam Williams:  How are African-American-oriented websites faring nowadays?

Troy Johnson:  Kam, it is a challenging time for the vast majority of our websites. I think we should make a distinction between different types of African-American-oriented websites. First, there are the large corporate entities like AOL’s Huffington Post/Black Voices whose primary mandate is to maximize shareholder’s wealth. Then there are the mostly independent entities who also have a profit motive, but are driven by a more conscious mission. Sites like AALBC.com, The Network Journal, Black Star News and the other entities who regularly publish your content are part of this mix. As a result of these two different goals, the content produced by the large corporate entities focuses more on scandal, celebrity, and superficial pop-culture. That content is more popular and easier to produce and is therefore more profitable. The content produced by sites like AALBC.com is less sensational which makes keeping the associated sites profitable much more challenging. In fact, even Google favors the larger entities, making things even more difficult.

Kam Williams:  Can you elaborate more about Google’s impact?

Troy Johnson:  How much time do you have?  Seriously, I could write a very long book about this topic. Consider this: for most sites, the largest source of new traffic comes in through people who discover the site through search engines. The lion’s share of this traffic comes from Google.  As a result, Google is effectively a gatekeeper who controls access to your website through their ranking of your website in their search results.

Over the past year, I observed Google start to do some really strange things with their search results that have not only adversely impacted my website’s traffic, but the very nature of the web itself. Google search results skew to very large corporate websites that are publishing less valuable, usually more scandalous content. This was not always the case with Google. At least the search engine Bing doesn’t do this currently. Here are two examples: if you were to do a search for Terry McMillan on Google, you will find in the top five search results a site containing two sentences talking about Terry accusing Will and Jada Smith of pimping their kids, and another site discussing the details of Terry’s divorce. My site, which has published original book reviews, a video of Terry reading from a then-unpublished manuscript, a list of all of her published novels and more, only appears on the second page. I talk about her being a New York Times bestselling-author, not what she tweeted about the Smiths’ kids months ago. Which content do you think should rank higher?

Kam Williams:  Your content of substance, obviously.

Troy Johnson:  Here is the second example: I recently paid a writer for an article which I published on AALBC.com. Sometime later, the same article was published on the Huffington Post. The next day when I ran a Google search for that specific article, not only was the Huffington Post returned ahead of AALBC.com, but so were many other sites I call “autoblogs,” including a porn site. Yes, you heard me right, a pornography site that posted a very short excerpt of the original article and ended-up ranked ahead of the AALBC.com original publication. All of these “autoblog” sites are created automatically on the fly and contribute nothing new. Their only apparent purpose is to serve advertising, mostly Google ads. For now, AALBC.com is in the mix, but Google can literarily throw a switch tomorrow and AALBC.com can be, effectively, erased from the internet. Other black book sites have fared much worse. In fact we have fewer independent book sites focused on black authors than we did five years ago. And the ones that remain are even more difficult to find.

Kam Williams:  What can people do to support sites like AALBC.com?

Troy Johnson:   People simply need to visit the website, tell their friends about it, use social media to share the articles, reviews, and author profiles. Folks can participate on our discussion boards, instead of having a conversation on Facebook. As an aside, we should be using Facebook to send people to our sites. I also encourage people to send us feedback, to suggest books for review, and authors to cover. I know I sound like I’m beating up on the Huff Post, but many writers contribute to that site for free. I suggest those writers consider contributing to independent sites like AALBC.com once in awhile.  It really is in everyone’s best interest for independent voices to survive. We are not going to survive, over the long term, without the support of the people we try to serve.

Kam Williams: What do you think is in the future?

Troy Johnson:  Of course, if I knew that I’d be a rich man. I fear the trends I see online are escalating offline as well. There are fewer independent, bookstores, magazines, newspapers and radio stations. Journalism is dying, sources for critical book and film reviews of black work are drying up, author advances are shrinking and writers are finding it more difficult to make a living. Content generation across all platforms are coalescing into the hands of a few very large multinational corporations that don’t have our interests in mind. At best, the content they spew does not truly represent what we, as black people, feel, care, or think about. At worse, it is destroying us by perpetuating negative stereotypes and images for the sake of making money.

Kam Williams:  Is it already too late in your estimation, or can something still be done?

Troy Johnson:  Fortunately, we can absolutely do something about thiswe must continuously support independent entities as best we can. With the continued support of my community, there is no reason an AALBC.com should not thrive. Ideally, the Google search result should be an unimportant detail. Indeed, maybe we should create our own Google.    

Kam Williams: :Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

Troy Johnson:  Yes, but I won’t pose it in this interview. [LOL]

Kam Williams: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

Troy Johnson:  Yes, but being afraid and overcoming those fears is what makes life exciting.

Kam Williams: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

Troy Johnson:  Yes.

Kam Williams:  The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

Troy Johnson:  All the time.  My wife and I were sharing a glass of wine.  Out of nowhere she says, “I really do love you.” Touched, I replied, “Is that you or the wine talking?” She looked at me and said, “That’s me talking, baby . . . to the wine.” That is an old joke I told this past weekend and is always good for a laugh.  

Kam Williams:  What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Troy Johnson:  I like to play poker. 

Kam Williams:  Now, you get to answer your own question, the bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

Troy Johnson:  The last one I read was The Only One by Cynique.   It is currently being published in a serialized format through a website called “A Chapter a Month.”  I plan to publish this novel as a book next year.

Kam Williams: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod? 

Troy Johnson: A buddy turned me on to an album by the Buena Vista Social Club.  A cut called “Chan Chan” is so enchanting. I also tune into Breath of Life at  every Monday for a lesson in music.

Kam Williams: What is your favorite dish to cook?

Troy Johnson:  I’m a half-way decent cook. I like my buffalo wings. They always taste good, and are easy to prepare.  

Kam Williams: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

Troy Johnson:  I love visiting new places. I’ve been to every state in the Union and to a bunch of foreign countries. I would even leave the planet if I could.

Kam Williams: Dante Lee, author of Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?

Troy Johnson:  Well certainly starting AALBC.com would rank up there as one of the best.  As far the worst . . . you don’t have enough time.

Kam Williams:  When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Troy Johnson:  A work in progress.

Kam Williams:  If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

Troy Johnson:  Omnipotence.

Kam Williams:  The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

Troy Johnson:  My mother bringing my younger sister home from the hospital, a couple of months before my 3rd birthday.

Kam Williams: The Melissa Harris-Perry question How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

Troy Johnson:  It forces me to try to be more empathetic to the feelings of others. My biggest life regrets have to do with others I may have hurt.

Kam Williams: The Judyth Piazza questions: How do you define success? And, what key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

Troy Johnson:   Striving for freedom is success. I believe all successful people know what they love to do and are actually doing it or working toward it.

Kam Williams: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Troy Johnson:  Don’t. Everyone needs to find their own path to happiness and success, because they will all be different. Again, determining what motivates you and makes you happy is the key to that.

Kam Williams:  The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

Troy Johnson:  As a gentleman who tried to make a positive impact on family, friend, and anyone he may have touched.

Kam Williams: Thanks again for the time, Troy, and best of luck with the website.

Troy Johnson: Thanks Kam, It has been a pleasure to work with you over the years as you have been an integral part of that success.

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Google Worsens Web Experience by Retuning Poor Search Results—by Troy Johnson—August 8, 2011—I fully realize I could be making things worse for myself by making these accusations against Google in a public forum.  I have first hand experience with Google shooting first and asking questions later (yet another topic for a future rant).  However, this is a very important issue that needs additional scrutiny and awareness.  We are already losing on-line sources for quality news and information because of a lack of platforms for good journalists and writers.   Now the potential for these platforms are hampered even more by having their content devalued relative to sites that promote more scandalous or otherwise less valuable and relevant information.

As large corporate entities produce, broker, promote and manufacture more scandal, and companies like Google make this information more accessible by elevating it in its search results; we are witnessing the Internet becoming less free while corporate interests contort the world wide web in to a entity where profit is the only motive.—aalbc 

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Troy Johnson founded in 1998 the African American Literature Book Club (AALBC)

Hey Rudy.

I’m working on customized search engine (just a modified version of the Google search) which allows people to query just Black sites that are independently owned.  No huffpost, Blackplanet, etc, etc. The URL is: http://thebestblackbooksearch.com/ or http://bit.ly/tbbbse for short.   The goal is to eliminate all the nonsense from the search results when people are looking for our authors.  It is a work in progress, but take a look and let me know what you think so far.

Query kalamu ya salaam for example. Oh and thanks for the great edit of Kam’s interview of me!  You know I can appreciate the effort to bring in the supporting content.   

Peace

Troy Johnson
President, AALBC.com, LLC

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Black Book Websites: An Appeal for Mutual Support

 

2 November 2011

 

Hello Everyone,

It has been a couple of years since I last reached out to you, in a mass email, with an appeal to figure out ways we can work together.  To be honest the lack of response to previous appeals was a little discouraging so I gave up trying for a while.  There was, however, as some measure of success.

A couple of years ago Mosaicbooks.com, Cushcity.com and AALBC.com teamed up for a partnership for online advertising called the Power Campaign.  This has worked well for the small partnership—each member was able to utilize the other platforms to provide a better service to their clients while generating revenue for all the members.

I’m reaching out now because I’ve observed trends on the WWW which I’m sure have not escaped your scrutiny.  Most notably Google’s search algorithm devaluating our sites.  I blogged about this recently.

In conjunction with Google’s search results is the fact the Black content is increasingly being delivered by large corporate entities. The impact of this should be obvious.  I elaborated about the adverse impact this trend has had, on independent voices, in a recent interview.

I’m reaching out again because I see too many Black book sites disappearing and those that remain are even more difficult to find.  This problem is accelerating.  Of course this situation is reflective of a much broader problem that is affecting physical books stores, newspapers, radio stations, journalism, etc. 

I have some ideas of things that we can do.  If you are interested in participating in a conversation.  Please reply with your email address, name, the website you represent.  Feel free to share this email with any other independent Black owned book sellers, with a website, you think would be interested.

In the meantime, I’ve created a search engine which is limited to, what I believe are, independent Black owned websites.  I ultimately plan to migrate this to its own domain and include every independent bookstore that has a website.  Right now the search engine is located here.  

I hope this will be a way to elevate all of our entities.  Run a few queries and let me know what you think.  When this search engine is on its own domain, I think it will be a way for us to promote each other raising all of our profiles.

I’ve also maintained this page, which lists some of the most popular independent Black owned book websites. Let me know if you would like to change something on your entry.  Let me know if there are others I should add.

Peace,
Troy Johnson
President, AALBC.com, LLC

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The Best Black Book Search Engine   / Troy Johnson founded in 1998  AALBC

Huria Search—Discover the Global Black CommunityHuria Search improves the internet experience for people looking for content created by the GBC and to help support the efforts of those websites. Websites thrive when they can be found.  Higher visibility allows websites to earn more revenue, attract better writers, garner more visitors who interact with the website and provide valuable promotion. . . .  Huria Search is financed by donors and developed by volunteers.  This site is completely driven our collective mission to support the global Black community. 

Troy Johnson Assessing the Black Press  / Troy Johnson founded in 1998 the African American Literature Book Club (AALBC)

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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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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections.

He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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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 / 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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posted 31 October 2011

 

 

 

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