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Abandoning the Black Hero
Sympathy and Privacy in the Postwar African American White-Life Novel
Charles, John C
Rutgers University Press, 2012

Abandoning the Black Hero is the first book to examine the postwar African American white-life novel—novels with white protagonists written by African Americans. These fascinating works have been understudied despite having been written by such defining figures in the tradition as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Chester Himes, as well as lesser known but formerly best-selling authors Willard Motley and Frank Yerby.

John C. Charles argues that these fictions have been overlooked because they deviate from two critical suppositions: that black literature is always about black life and that when it represents whiteness, it must attack white supremacy. The authors are, however, quite sympathetic in the treatment of their white protagonists, which Charles contends should be read not as a failure of racial pride but instead as a strategy for claiming creative freedom, expansive moral authority, and critical agency.

In an era when “Negro writers” were expected to protest, their sympathetic treatment of white suffering grants these authors a degree of racial privacy previously unavailable to them. White writers, after all, have the privilege of racial privacy because they are never pressured to write only about white life. Charles reveals that the freedom to abandon the “Negro problem” encouraged these authors to explore a range of new genres and themes, generating a strikingly diverse body of novels that significantly revise our understanding of mid-twentieth-century black writing.

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Aberrations In Black
Toward a Queer of Color Critique
Roderick A. Ferguson
University of Minnesota Press, 2003

A hard-hitting look at the regulation of sexual difference and its role in circumscribing African American culture

The sociology of race relations in America typically describes an intersection of poverty, race, and economic discrimination. But what is missing from the picture—sexual difference—can be as instructive as what is present. In this ambitious work, Roderick A. Ferguson reveals how the discourses of sexuality are used to articulate theories of racial difference in the field of sociology. He shows how canonical sociology—Gunnar Myrdal, Ernest Burgess, Robert Park, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William Julius Wilson—has measured African Americans’s unsuitability for a liberal capitalist order in terms of their adherence to the norms of a heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family model. In short, to the extent that African Americans’s culture and behavior deviated from those norms, they would not achieve economic and racial equality.

Aberrations in Black tells the story of canonical sociology’s regulation of sexual difference as part of its general regulation of African American culture. Ferguson places this story within other stories—the narrative of capital’s emergence and development, the histories of Marxism and revolutionary nationalism, and the novels that depict the gendered and sexual idiosyncrasies of African American culture—works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. In turn, this book tries to present another story—one in which people who presumably manifest the dysfunctions of capitalism are reconsidered as indictments of the norms of state, capital, and social science. Ferguson includes the first-ever discussion of a new archival discovery—a never-published chapter of Invisible Man that deals with a gay character in a way that complicates and illuminates Ellison’s project.

Unique in the way it situates critiques of race, gender, and sexuality within analyses of cultural, economic, and epistemological formations, Ferguson’s work introduces a new mode of discourse—which Ferguson calls queer of color analysis—that helps to lay bare the mutual distortions of racial, economic, and sexual portrayals within sociology.

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Abigail Field Mott's The Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano
A Scholarly Edition
Eric D. Lamore
West Virginia University Press, 2023

An adaptation of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative published for Black children in 1829, now given new life in a major scholarly edition.

In 1829, Samuel Wood and Sons, a New York publisher of children’s literature, printed and sold the Quaker Abigail Field Mott’s Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano. Mott adapted Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, a bestselling autobiography first published in London in 1789, for Black children studying at New York African Free Schools, one of the first educational systems to teach individuals of African descent in the United States.

By reissuing Mott’s neglected adaptation with contextualizing scholarly apparatus, Eric D. Lamore disrupts the editorial tradition of selecting a London edition of Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, and positions Equiano in the United States instead of Great Britain. Lamore’s volume contains Mott’s children’s book, which includes a series of illustrations, in a facsimile edition; instructive notes on Life and Adventures; a provocative essay on the adaptation; and selections from relevant texts on the New York African Free Schools and other related topics. With its focus on the intersections of early Black Atlantic and American studies, children’s literature, history of education, life writing, and book history, this edition offers a fresh take on Equiano and his autobiography for a variety of twenty-first-century audiences.

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The Absent Man
The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles Duncan
Ohio University Press, 1998

As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.

Following the highly autobiographical nonfiction produced by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and other slave narrative writers, Chesnutt’s complex, multi-layered short fiction transformed the relationship between African-American writers and their readers. But despite generous praise from W. D. Howells and other important critics of his day, and from such prominent readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a curiously ambiguous place in American literary history.

In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt’s uneasy position in the American literary tradition can be traced to his remarkable narrative subtlety. Profoundly aware of the delicacy of his situation as a black intellectual at the turn of the century, Chesnutt infused his work with an intricate, enigmatic artistic vision that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, especially with regard to issues of race and identity that preoccupied him throughout his career.

In this first book-length study of the innovative short fiction, Duncan devotes particular attention to elucidating these sophisticated narrative strategies as the grounding for Chesnutt’s inauguration of a tradition of African-American fiction.

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The Absent Man
The Narrative Craft of Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles Duncan
Ohio University Press, 1998
As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858—1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.

Following the highly autobiographical nonfiction produced by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and other slave narrative writers, Chesnutt's complex, multi-layered short fiction transformed the relationship between African-American writers and their readers. But despite generous praise from W. D. Howells and other important critics of his day, and from such prominent readers as William L. Andrews, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Eric Sundquist in ours, Chesnutt occupies a curiously ambiguous place in American literary history.

In The Absent Man, Charles Duncan demonstrates that Chesnutt's uneasy position in the American literary tradition can be traced to his remarkable narrative subtlety. Profoundly aware of the delicacy of his situation as a black intellectual at the turn of the century, Chesnutt infused his work with an intricate, enigmatic artistic vision that defies monolithic or unambiguously political interpretation, especially with regard to issues of race and identity that preoccupied him throughout his career.

In this first book-length study of the innovative short fiction, Duncan devotes particular attention to elucidating these sophisticated narrative strategies as the grounding for Chesnutt's inauguration of a tradition of African-American fiction.
[more]

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Act Like You Know
African-American Autobiography and White Identity
Crispin Sartwell
University of Chicago Press, 1998
Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X—their words speak firmly, eloquently, personally of the impact of white America on the lives of African-Americans. Black autobiographical discourses, from the earliest slave narratives to the most contemporary urban raps, have each in their own way gauged and confronted the character of white society. For Crispin Sartwell, as philosopher, cultural critic, and white male, these texts, through their exacting insights and external perspective, provide a rare opportunity, a means of glimpsing and gaining access to contents and core of white identity.

There is, Sartwell contends, a fundamental elusiveness to that identity. Whiteness defines itself as normative, as a neutral form of the human condition, marking all other forms of identity as "racial" or "ethnic" deviations. Invisible to itself, white identity seeks to define its essence over and against those other identities, in effect defining itself through opposition and oppression. By maintaining fictions of black licentiousness, violence, and corruption, white identity is able to cast itself as humane, benevolent, and pure; the stereotype fabricates not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Sartwell argues that African-American autobiography perceives white identity from a particular and unique vantage point; one that is knowledgeable and intimate, yet fundamentally removed from the white world and thus unencumbered by its obfuscating claims to normativity.

Throughout this provocative work, Sartwell steadfastly recognizes the many ways in which he too is implicated in the formulation and perpetuation of racial attitudes and discourse. In Act Like You Know, he challenges both himself and others to take a long, hard look in the mirror of African-American autobiography, and to find there, in the light of those narratives, the visible features of white identity.
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Acting Up and Getting Down
Plays by African American Texans
By Sandra M. Mayo and Elvin Holt
University of Texas Press, 2014

One of the few books of its kind, Acting Up and Getting Down brings together seven African American literary voices that all have a connection to the Lone Star state. Covering Texas themes and universal ones, this collection showcases often-overlooked literary talents to bring to life inspiring facets of black theatre history.

Capturing the intensity of racial violence in Texas, from the Battle of San Jacinto to a World War I–era riot at a Houston training ground, Celeste Bedford Walker’s Camp Logan and Ted Shine’s Ancestors provide fascinating narratives through the lens of history. Thomas Meloncon’s Johnny B. Goode and George Hawkins’s Br’er Rabbit explore the cultural legacies of blues music and folktales. Three unflinching dramas (Sterling Houston’s Driving Wheel, Eugene Lee’s Killingsworth, and Elizabeth Brown-Guillory’s When the Ancestors Call) examine homosexuality, a death in the family, and child abuse, bringing to light the private tensions of intersections between the individual and the community.

Supplemented by a chronology of black literary milestones as well as a playwrights’ canon, Acting Up and Getting Down puts the spotlight on creative achievements that have for too long been excluded from Texas letters. The resulting anthology not only provides new insight into a regional experience but also completes the American story as told onstage.

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Activist Sentiments
Reading Black Women in the Nineteenth Century
P. Gabrielle Foreman
University of Illinois Press, 2009

Activist Sentiments takes as its subject women who in fewer than fifty years moved from near literary invisibility to prolific productivity. Grounded in primary research and paying close attention to the historical archive, this book offers against-the-grain readings of the literary and activist work of Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Frances E. W. Harper, Victoria Earle Matthews and Amelia E. Johnson.

Part literary criticism and part cultural history, Activist Sentiments examines nineteenth-century social, political, and representational literacies and reading practices. P. Gabrielle Foreman reveals how Black women's complex and confrontational commentary–often expressed directly in their journalistic prose and organizational involvement--emerges in their sentimental, and simultaneously political, literary production.

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The Addison Gayle Jr. Reader
Edited by Nathaniel Norment Jr.
University of Illinois Press, 2008
This reader collects sixty of the personal essays, critical articles, and other seminal works of Addison Gayle Jr., one of the most influential figures in African American literary criticism and a key pioneer in the Black Arts/Black Aesthetic Movement. The volume contains selective essays that represent the range of Gayle's writing on such subjects as relationships between father and son, cultural nationalism, racism, black aesthetics, black criticism, and black literature. The collection, the first of its kind, includes definitive essays such as "Blueprint for Black Criticism," "The Harlem Renaissance: Toward a Black Aesthetic," and "Cultural Strangulation: Black Literature and the White Aesthetics." A key chapter from Gayle's autobiography is supplemented by his literary criticism, and a general introduction and editor's notes for each section discuss the articles' lasting significance and influence.
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Adrian Piper
Race, Gender, and Embodiment
John P. Bowles
Duke University Press, 2011
In 1972 the artist Adrian Piper began periodically dressing as a persona called the Mythic Being, striding the streets of New York in a mustache, Afro wig, and mirrored sunglasses with a cigar in the corner of her mouth. Her Mythic Being performances critically engaged with popular representations of race, gender, sexuality, and class; they challenged viewers to accept personal responsibility for xenophobia and discrimination and the conditions that allowed them to persist. Piper’s work confronts viewers and forces them to reconsider assumptions about the social construction of identity. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment is an in-depth analysis of this pioneering artist’s work, illustrated with more than ninety images, including twenty-one in color.

Over the course of a decade, John P. Bowles and Piper conversed about her art and its meaning, reception, and relation to her scholarship on Kant’s philosophy. Drawing on those conversations, Bowles locates Piper’s work at the nexus of Conceptual and feminist art of the late 1960s and 1970s. Piper was the only African American woman associated with the Conceptual artists of the 1960s and one of only a few African Americans to participate in exhibitions of the nascent feminist art movement in the early 1970s. Bowles contends that Piper’s work is ultimately about our responsibility for the world in which we live.

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Advertising Revolutionary
The Life and Work of Tom Burrell
Jason P. Chambers
University of Illinois Press, 2024
The ad exec who revolutionized the image of Black Americans in advertising

Over a forty-year career, Chicagoan Tom Burrell changed the face of advertising and revolutionized the industry’s approach to African Americans as human beings and consumers. Jason P. Chambers offers a biography of the groundbreaking creator and entrepreneur that explores Burrell’s role in building brands like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola within a deeply felt vision of folding positive images of Black people into mainstream American life. While detailing Burrell’s successes, Chambers tells a parallel story of what Burrell tried to do that sheds light on the motivations of advertising creators who viewed their work as being about more than just selling. Chambers also highlights how Burrell used his entrepreneurial gifts to build an agency that opened the door for Black artists, copywriters, directors, and other professionals to earn livings, build careers, and become leaders within the industry.

Compelling and multidimensional, Advertising Revolutionary combines archival research and interviews with Burrell and his colleagues to provide a long overdue portrait of an advertising industry legend and his times.

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The Aesthetic Astronaut
sonnets by Roger Armbrust
Roger Armbrust
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2009

One hundred twenty-two sonnets that touch on contemporary American popular culture, social trends, and personalities. Poet Roger Armbrust is described by some as a mystic, by others as a spiritualist, and by yet others as a guy who toys with really big thoughts, making them objects both of serious study and of humor.  His sonnets will push you to laughter and meditation: a satisfying literary ride. 

In The Aesthetic Astronaut, Roger Armbrust escorts readers on an insightful journey throughout Earth and beyond. We experience the loneliness and instpiration of "the Aesthetic Astronaut"; cold-blooded calculations of "The Armchair Assassin"; passion and sense of the romantic lover; reflective memories of a gentle heart growing older; ironic vision of an observer to history, and subtle--and sometimes not so subtle--humor of a fellow human involved in our day-to-day challenge of living a worthwhile life. The poet's imagery and attitude. . . may fascinate, thrill, sadden, anger, or push you to laughter or meditation. But you'll find the trip a fascinating literary ride.

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Affirmative Action and the Stalled Quest for Black Progress
W. Avon Drake and Robert D. Holsworth
University of Illinois Press, 1996
W. Avon Drake and Robert D. Holsworth focus on the landmark case of Richmond v. Croson. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled against the city of Richmond's set-aside program requiring that thirty percent of the money in municipal construction contracts go to minority-owned firms. The authors describe the politics that gave rise to the set-aside program, investigate its actual operation, explore its effects, and detail responses to it in both black and white communities. As they show, the program served important political purposes but produced limited economic benefits for the Black community. Drake and Holsworth conclude by examining the politics of development as an alternative to the set-aside framework.

Insightful and path-breaking, Affirmative Action and the Stalled Quest for Black Progress examines the accomplishments and limitations of the set-aside programs once at the center of political debates about affirmative action in the United States.

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Affrilachia
Poems
Frank X Walker
Ohio University Press, 2000
A milestone book of poetry at the intersection of Appalachian and African American literature. In this pathbreaking debut collection, poet Frank X Walker tells the story of growing up young, Black, artistic, and male in one of America’s most misunderstood geographical regions. As a proud Kentucky native, Walker created the word “Affrilachia” to render visible the unique intersectional experience of African Americans living in the rural and Appalachian South. Since its publication in 2000, Affrilachia has seen wide classroom use, and is recognized as one of the foundational works of the Affrilachian Poets, a community of writers offering new ways to think about diversity in the Appalachian region and beyond. Published in 2000 by Old Cove Press
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Affrilachian Tales
Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition
Lynette Ford
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2012

Folktales from the African American Appalachian tradition. Told by Lyn Ford, one of America’s busiest touring storytellers. The power of Lyn's storytelling comes straight out of her family heritage, which is the content of this, her first book. Here she tells how she learned stories from her father and grandfather—and she includes many of the stories they told her.

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African American Arts
Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity
weems, carrie mae
Bucknell University Press, 2020
Signaling such recent activist and aesthetic concepts in the work of Kara Walker, Childish Gambino, BLM, Janelle Monáe, and Kendrick Lamar, and marking the exit of the Obama Administration and the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this anthology explores the role of African American arts in shaping the future, and further informing new directions we might take in honoring and protecting the success of African Americans in the U.S. The essays in African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity engage readers in critical conversations by activists, scholars, and artists reflecting on national and transnational legacies of African American activism as an element of artistic practice, particularly as they concern artistic expression and race relations, and the intersections of creative processes with economic, sociological, and psychological inequalities. Scholars from the fields of communication, theater, queer studies, media studies, performance studies, dance, visual arts, and fashion design, to name a few, collectively ask: What are the connections between African American arts, the work of social justice, and creative processes? If we conceive the arts as critical to the legacy of Black activism in the United States, how can we use that construct to inform our understanding of the complicated intersections of African American activism and aesthetics? How might we as scholars and creative thinkers further employ the arts to envision and shape a verdant society?

Contributors: Carrie Mae Weems, Carmen Gillespie, Rikki Byrd, Amber Lauren Johnson, Doria E. Charlson, Florencia V. Cornet, Daniel McNeil, Lucy Caplan, Genevieve Hyacinthe, Sammantha McCalla, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Abby Dobson, J. Michael Kinsey, Shondrika Moss-Bouldin, Julie B. Johnson, Sharrell D. Luckett, Jasmine Eileen Coles, Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Rickerby Hinds.

Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press. 
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An African American in South Africa
The Travel Notes of Ralph J. Bunche 28 September 1937–1 January 1938
Ralph Bunche
Ohio University Press, 2001

Ralph Bunche, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, traveled to South Africa for three months in 1937. His notes, which have been skillfully compiled and annotated by historian Robert R. Edgar, provide unique insights on a segregated society.

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African American Satire
The Sacredly Profane Novel
Darryl Dickson-Carr
University of Missouri Press, 2001

Satire's real purpose as a literary genre is to criticize through humor, irony, caricature, and parody, and ultimately to defy the status quo. In African American Satire, Darryl Dickson-Carr provides the first book-length study of African American satire and the vital role it has played. In the process he investigates African American literature, American literature, and the history of satire.

Dickson-Carr argues that major works by such authors as Rudolph Fisher, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and George S. Schuyler should be read primarily as satires in order to avoid misinterpretation and to gain a greater understanding of their specific meanings and the eras in which they were written. He also examines the satirical rhetoric and ideological bases of complex works such as John Oliver Killens's The Cotillion and Cecil Brown's The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger—books that are currently out of print and that have received only scant critical attention since they were first published.

Beginning with the tradition of folk humor that originated in West Africa and was forcibly transplanted to the Americas through chattel slavery, Dickson-Carr focuses in each chapter on a particular period of the twentieth century in which the African American satirical novel flourished. He analyzes the historical contexts surrounding African American literature and culture within discrete crucial movements, starting with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ending in the present. He also demonstrates how the political, cultural, and literary ethos of each particular moment is manifested and contested in each text.

By examining these texts closely within their historical and ideological contexts, Dickson-Carr shows how African American satirical novels provide the reader of African American literature with a critique of popular ideologies seldom found in nonsatirical works. Providing a better understanding of what satire is and why it is so important for fulfilling many of the goals of African American literature, African American Satire will be an important addition to African American studies.

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African American Women and the Vote, 1837–1965
Ann Gordon
University of Massachusetts Press, 1997
Written by leading scholars of African American and women's history, the essays in this volume seek to reconceptualize the political history of black women in the United States by placing them "at the center of our thinking." The book explores how slavery, racial discrimination, and gender shaped the goals that African American women set for themselves, their families, and their race and looks at the political tools at their disposal. By identifying key turning points for black women, the essays create a new chronology and a new paradigm for historical analysis. The chronology begins in 1837 with the interracial meeting of antislavery women in New York City and concludes with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The contributors focus on specific examples of women pursuing a dual ambition: to gain full civil and political rights and to improve the social conditions of African Americans. Together, the essays challenge us to rethink common generalizations that govern much of our historical thinking about the experience of African American women.

Contributors include Bettina Aptheker, Elsa Barkley Brown, Willi Coleman, Gerald R. Gill, Ann D. Gordon, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, Martha Prescod Norman, Janice Sumler-Edmond, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, and Bettye Collier-Thomas.
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African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry
Joe William Trotter
West Virginia University Press, 2024

Essays by the foremost labor historian of the Black experience in the Appalachian coalfields.

This collection brings together nearly three decades of research on the African American experience, class, and race relations in the Appalachian coal industry. It shows how, with deep roots in the antebellum era of chattel slavery, West Virginia’s Black working class gradually picked up steam during the emancipation years following the Civil War and dramatically expanded during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

From there, African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry highlights the decline of the region’s Black industrial proletariat under the impact of rapid technological, social, and political changes following World War II. It underscores how all miners suffered unemployment and outmigration from the region as global transformations took their toll on the coal industry, but emphasizes the disproportionately painful impact of declining bituminous coal production on African American workers, their families, and their communities. Joe Trotter not only reiterates the contributions of proletarianization to our knowledge of US labor and working-class history but also draws attention to the gender limits of studies of Black life that focus on class formation, while calling for new transnational perspectives on the subject. Equally important, this volume illuminates the intellectual journey of a noted labor historian with deep family roots in the southern Appalachian coalfields.

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African American Writers and Classical Tradition
William W. Cook and James Tatum
University of Chicago Press, 2010

Constraints on freedom, education, and individual dignity have always been fundamental in determining who is able to write, when, and where. Considering the singular experience of the African American writer, William W. Cook and James Tatum here argue that African American literature did not develop apart from canonical Western literary traditions but instead grew out of those literatures, even as it adapted and transformed the cultural traditions and religions of Africa and the African diaspora along the way.
Tracing the interaction between African American writers and the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome, from the time of slavery and its aftermath to the civil rights era and on into the present, the authors offer a sustained and lively discussion of the life and work of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and Rita Dove, among other highly acclaimed poets, novelists, and scholars. Assembling this brilliant and diverse group of African American writers at a moment when our understanding of classical literature is ripe for change, the authors paint an unforgettable portrait of our own reception of “classic” writing, especially as it was inflected by American racial politics.
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African American Writing
A Literary Approach
Werner Sollors
Temple University Press, 2016

Werner Sollors’ African American Writing takes a fresh look at what used to be called “Negro literature.” The essays collected here, ranging in topic from Gustavus Vassa/Olaudah Equiano to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, and in time from the Enlightenment to the Obama presidency, take a literary approach to black writing and present writers as readers and as intellectuals who were or are open to the world. 

From W.E.B. Du Bois commenting on Richard Wagner and Elvis Presley, to Zora Neale Hurston attacking Brown v. Board of Ed. in a segregationist newspaper, to Charles Chesnutt’s effigy darkened for the black heritage postage stamp, Sollors alternates between close readings and broader cultural contextualizations to delineate the various aesthetic modes and intellectual exchanges that shaped a series of striking literary works.

Readers will make often-surprising discoveries in the authors’ writing and in their encounters and dialogues with others. The essays, accompanied by Winold Reiss’s pastels, Carl Van Vechten’s photographs, and other portraits, attempt to honor this important literature’s achievement, heterogeneity, and creativity.

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African Banjo Echoes In Appalachia
A Study of Folk Traditions
Cecelia Conway
University of Tennessee Press, 1995
Throughout the Upland South, the  banjo has become an emblem of white mountain folk, who are generally credited with creating the short-thumb-string banjo, developing its downstroking playing styles and repertory, and spreading its influence to the national consciousness. In this groundbreaking study, however, Cecelia Conway demonstrates that these European Americans borrowed the banjo from African Americans and adapted it to their own musical culture. Like many aspects of the African-American tradition, the influence of black banjo music has been largely unrecorded and nearly forgotten—until now.

Drawing in part on interviews with elderly African-American banjo players from the Piedmont—among the last American representatives of an African banjo-playing tradition that spans several centuries—Conway reaches beyond the written records to reveal the similarity of pre-blues black banjo lyric patterns, improvisational playing styles, and the accompanying singing and dance movements to traditional West African music performances. The author then shows how Africans had, by the mid-eighteenth century, transformed the lyrical music of the gourd banjo as they dealt with the experience of slavery in America.

By the mid-nineteenth century, white southern musicians were learning the banjo playing styles of their African-American mentors and had soon created or popularized a five-string, wooden-rim banjo. Some of these white banjo players remained in the mountain hollows, but others dispersed banjo music to distant musicians and the American public through popular minstrel shows.

By the turn of the century, traditional black and white musicians still shared banjo playing, and Conway shows that this exchange gave rise to a distinct and complex new genre—the banjo song. Soon, however, black banjo players put down their banjos, set their songs with increasingly assertive commentary to the guitar, and left the banjo and its story to white musicians. But the banjo still echoed at the crossroads between the West African griots, the traveling country guitar bluesmen, the banjo players of the old-time southern string bands, and eventually the bluegrass bands.

The Author: Cecelia Conway is associate professor of English at Appalachian State University. She is a folklorist who teaches twentieth-century literature, including cultural perspectives, southern literature, and film.
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Africans and Native Americans
The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
Jack D. Forbes
University of Illinois Press, 1993
Jack D. Forbes's monumental Africans and Native Americans has become a canonical text in the study of relations between the two groups. Forbes explores key issues relating to the evolution of racial terminology and European colonialists' perceptions of color, analyzing the development of color classification systems and the specific evolution of key terms such as black, mulatto, and mestizo--terms that no longer carry their original meanings. Forbes also presents strong evidence that Native American and African contacts began in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
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AFRICOBRA
Experimental Art toward a School of Thought
Wadsworth A. Jarrell
Duke University Press, 2020
Formed on the South Side of Chicago in 1968 at the height of the civil rights, Black power, and Black arts movements, the AFRICOBRA collective created a new artistic visual language rooted in the culture of Chicago's Black neighborhoods. The collective's aesthetics, especially the use of vibrant color, capture the rhythmic dynamism of Black culture and social life. In AFRICOBRA, painter, photographer, and collective cofounder Wadsworth A. Jarrell tells the definitive story of the group's creation, history, and artistic and political principles. From accounts of the painting of the groundbreaking Wall of Respect mural and conversations among group members to documentation of AFRICOBRA's exhibits in Chicago, New York, and Boston, Jarrell outlines how the collective challenged white conceptions of art by developing an artistic philosophy and approach wholly divested of Western practices. Featuring nearly one hundred color images of artworks, exhibition ephemera, and photographs, this book is at once a sourcebook history of AFRICOBRA and the story of visionary artists who rejected the white art establishment in order to create uplifting art for all Black people.
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Afro Orientalism
Bill V. Mullen
University of Minnesota Press, 2004

Reveals a century of political solidarity uniting Asians and African Americans

As early as 1914, in his pivotal essay “The World Problem of the Color Line,” W. E. B. Du Bois was charting a search for Afro-Asian solidarity and for an international anticolonialism. In Afro-Orientalism, Bill Mullen traces the tradition of revolutionary thought and writing developed by African American and Asian American artists and intellectuals in response to Du Bois’s challenge.

Afro-Orientalism unfolds here as a distinctive strand of cultural and political work that contests the longstanding, dominant discourse about race and nation first fully named in Edward Said’s Orientalism. Mullen tracks Afro-Asian engagement with U.S. imperialism—including writings by Richard Wright, Grace and James Boggs, Robert F. Williams, and Fred Ho—and companion struggles against racism and capitalism around the globe. To this end, he offers Afro-Orientalism as an antidote to essentialist, race-based, or narrow conceptions of ethnic studies and postcolonial studies, calling on scholars in these fields to re-imagine their critical enterprises as mutually constituting and politically interdependent.

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Afro-Atlantic Flight
Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic
Michelle D. Commander
Duke University Press, 2017
In Afro-Atlantic Flight Michelle D. Commander traces how post-civil rights Black American artists, intellectuals, and travelers envision literal and figurative flight back to Africa as a means by which to heal the dispossession caused by the slave trade. Through ethnographic, historical, literary, and filmic analyses, Commander shows the ways that cultural producers such as Octavia Butler, Thomas Allen Harris, and Saidiya Hartman engage with speculative thought about slavery, the spiritual realm, and Africa, thereby structuring the imaginary that propels future return flights.  She goes on to examine Black Americans’ cultural heritage tourism in and migration to Ghana; Bahia, Brazil; and various sites of slavery in the US South to interrogate the ways that a cadre of actors produces “Africa” and contests master narratives. Compellingly, these material flights do not always satisfy Black Americans’ individualistic desires for homecoming and liberation, leading Commander to focus on the revolutionary possibilities inherent in psychic speculative returns and to argue for the development of a Pan-Africanist stance that works to more effectively address the contemporary resonances of slavery that exist across the Afro-Atlantic.
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Afrofuturism Rising
The Literary Prehistory of a Movement
Isiah Lavender III
The Ohio State University Press, 2019
Growing out of the music scene, afrofuturism has emerged as an important aesthetic through films such as Black Panther and Get Out. While the significance of these sonic and visual avenues for afrofuturism cannot be underestimated, literature remains fundamental to understanding its full dimensions. Isiah Lavender’s Afrofuturism Rising explores afrofuturism as a narrative practice that enables users to articulate the interconnection between science, technology, and race across centuries.
 
By engaging with authors as diverse as Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Samuel R. Delany Jr., Pauline Hopkins, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright, Afrofuturism Rising extends existing scholarly conversations about who creates and what is created via science fiction. Through a trans-historical rereading of texts by these authors as science fiction, Lavender highlights the ways black experience in America has always been an experience of spatial and temporal dislocation akin to science fiction. Compelling and ambitious in scope, Afrofuturism Rising redefines both science fiction and literature as a whole.
 
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Afro-Nostalgia
Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture
Badia Ahad-Legardy
University of Illinois Press, 2021
As early as the eighteenth century, white Americans and Europeans believed that people of African descent could not experience nostalgia. As a result, black lives have been predominately narrated through historical scenes of slavery and oppression. This phenomenon created a missing archive of romantic historical memories.

Badia Ahad-Legardy mines literature, visual culture, performance, and culinary arts to form an archive of black historical joy for use by the African-descended. Her analysis reveals how contemporary black artists find more than trauma and subjugation within the historical past. Drawing on contemporary African American culture and recent psychological studies, she reveals nostalgia’s capacity to produce positive emotions. Afro-nostalgia emerges as an expression of black romantic recollection that creates and inspires good feelings even within our darkest moments.

Original and provocative, Afro-Nostalgia offers black historical pleasure as a remedy to contend with the disillusionment of the present and the traumas of the past.

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"After Mecca"
Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement
Clarke, Cheryl
Rutgers University Press, 2004
The politics and music of the sixties and early seventies have been the subject of scholarship for many years, but it is only very recently that attention has turned to the cultural production of African American poets. 

In "After Mecca," Cheryl Clarke explores the relationship between the Black Arts Movement and black women writers of the period. Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, and others chart the emergence of a new and distinct black poetry and its relationship to the black community's struggle for rights and liberation. Clarke also traces the contributions of these poets to the development of feminism and lesbian-feminism, and the legacy they left for others to build on. 

She argues that whether black women poets of the time were writing from within the movement or writing against it, virtually all were responding to it. Using the trope of "Mecca," she explores the ways in which these writers were turning away from white, western society to create a new literacy of blackness.
 
Provocatively written, this book is an important contribution to the fields of African American literary studies and feminist theory. 
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Against a Sharp White Background
Infrastructures of African American Print
Edited by Brigitte Fielder and Jonathan Senchyne
University of Wisconsin Press, 2019
The work of black writers, editors, publishers, and librarians is deeply embedded in the history of American print culture, from slave narratives to digital databases. While the printed word can seem democratizing, it remains that the infrastructures of print and digital culture can be as limiting as they are enabling. Contributors to this volume explore the relationship between expression and such frameworks, analyzing how different mediums, library catalogs, and search engines shape the production and reception of written and visual culture. Topics include antebellum literature, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement; “post-Black” art, the role of black librarians, and how present-day technologies aid or hinder the discoverability of work by African Americans. Against a Sharp White Background covers elements of production, circulation, and reception of African American writing across a range of genres and contexts. This collection challenges mainstream book history and print culture to understand that race and racialization are inseparable from the study of texts and their technologies.
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Against Marginalization
Convergences in Black and Latinx Literatures
Jose O. Fernandez
The Ohio State University Press, 2022
In Against Marginalization, Jose O. Fernandez examines thematic, aesthetic, historical, and cultural commonalities among post-1960s Black and Latinx writers, showing how such similarities have propelled their fight against social, cultural, and literary marginalization by engaging, adopting, and subverting elements from the larger American literary tradition. Drawing on the work of scholars in both literary traditions–including those who engage with the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s–Fernandez finds intriguing points of convergence. His cross-cultural and comparative analysis puts Black and Latinx authors and literary works into the same frame as he considers the plays of Amiri Baraka and Luis Valdez, the fiction of James Baldwin and Rudolfo Anaya, the essays of Ralph Ellison and Richard Rodriguez, novels by Alice Walker and Helena María Viramontes, and the short fiction of Edward P. Jones and Junot Díaz. Against Marginalization thus uncovers points of correspondence and convergence among Black and Latinx literary and cultural legacies, interrogating how both traditions have moved from a position of literary marginalization to a moment of visibility and critical recognition.
[more]

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Against Racism
Unpublished Essays, Papers, Addresses, 1887–1961
W.E.B. Du Bois
University of Massachusetts Press, 1988
"This masterfully edited collection of some of the essays, papers, and addresses of the leading social and political thinker of the African diaspora during the first half of the twentieth century is worth every exhilarating moment that one spends perusing it."—Journal of American History
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Against the Closet
Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race
Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman
Duke University Press, 2012
In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.

Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.

[more]

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Ain't I an Anthropologist
Zora Neale Hurston Beyond the Literary Icon
Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall
University of Illinois Press, 2023
Iconic as a novelist and popular cultural figure, Zora Neale Hurston remains underappreciated as an anthropologist. Is it inevitable that Hurston’s literary authority should eclipse her anthropological authority? If not, what socio-cultural and institutional values and processes shape the different ways we read her work? Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall considers the polar receptions to Hurston’s two areas of achievement by examining the critical response to her work across both fields. Drawing on a wide range of readings, Freeman Marshall explores Hurston’s popular appeal as iconography, her elevation into the literary canon, her concurrent marginalization in anthropology despite her significant contributions, and her place within constructions of Black feminist literary traditions.

Perceptive and original, Ain’t I an Anthropologist is an overdue reassessment of Zora Neale Hurston’s place in American cultural and intellectual life.

[more]

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Alabama's Civil Rights Trail
An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom
Frye Gaillard
University of Alabama Press, 2009
Alabama’s great civil rights events in a compact and accessible narrative, paired with a practical guide to Alabama’s preserved civil rights sites and monuments
 
No other state has embraced and preserved its civil rights history more thoroughly than Alabama. Nor is there a place where that history is richer. Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail tells of Alabama’s great civil rights events, as well as its lesser-known moments, in a compact and accessible narrative, paired with a practical guide to Alabama’s preserved civil rights sites and monuments.
 
In this history of Alabama’s civil rights movement, Cradle of Freedom (University of Alabama Press, 2004), Frye Gaillard contends that Alabama played the lead role in a historic movement that made all citizens of the nation, black and white, more free. This book, geared toward the casual traveler and the serious student alike, showcases in a vividly illustrated and compelling manner, valuable and rich details. It provides a user-friendly, graphic tool for the growing number of travelers, students, and civil rights pilgrims who visit the state annually.
 
The story of the civil rights movement in Alabama is told city by city, region by region, and town by town, with entries on Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee, and Mobile, as well as chapters on the Black Belt and the Alabama hill country. Smaller but important locales such as Greensboro, Monroeville, and Scottsboro are included, as are more obscure sites like Hale County’s Safe House Black History Museum and the birthplace of the Black Panther Party in Lowndes County
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Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation
Edited by Barbara A. Baker
University of Alabama Press, 2010
The first book-length study of the writings, work, and life of Renaissance man and Alabama native Albert Murray

This collection consists of essays written by prominent African American literature, jazz, and Albert Murray scholars, reminiscences from Murray protégés and associates, and interviews with Murray himself. It illustrates Murray’s place as a central figure in African American arts and letters and as an American cultural pioneer.
 
Born in Nokomis, Alabama, and raised in Mobile, Albert Murray graduated from Tuskegee University, where he later taught, but he has long resided in New York City. He is the author of many critically acclaimed novels, memoirs, and essay collections, among them The Omni-Americans, South to a Very Old Place, Train Whistle Guitar, The Spyglass Tree, and The Seven League Boots. He is also a critic and visual artist, as well as a lifelong friend of and collaborator with artistic luminaries such as Ralph Ellison, Duke Ellington, and Romare Bearden. As such, his life and work are testaments to the centrality of southern and African American aesthetics in American art. Murray is widely viewed as a figure who, through his art and criticism, transforms the “fakelore” of white culture into a new folklore that illustrates the centrality of the blues and jazz idioms and reveals the black vernacular as what is most distinct about American art.
 
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All about Skin
Short Fiction by Women of Color
Edited by Jina Ortiz and Rochelle Spencer, Foreword by Helena María Viramontes
University of Wisconsin Press, 2014
All about Skin features twenty-seven stories by women writers of color whose short fiction has earned them a range of honors, including John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Flannery O'Connor Award, and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. The prose in this multicultural anthology addresses such themes as racial prejudice, media portrayal of beauty, and family relationships and spans genres from the comic and the surreal to startling realism. It demonstrates the power and range of some of the most exciting women writing short fiction today.
            The stories are by American writers Aracelis González Asendorf, Jacqueline Bishop, Glendaliz Camacho, Learkana Chong, Jennine Capó Crucet, Ramola D., Patricia Engel, Amina Gautier, Manjula Menon, ZZ Packer, Princess Joy L. Perry, Toni Margarita Plummer, Emily Raboteau, Ivelisse Rodriguez, Metta Sáma, Joshunda Sanders, Renee Simms, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Hope Wabuke, and Ashley Young; Nigerian writers Unoma Azuah and Chinelo Okparanta; and Chinese writer Xu Xi.

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Reviewers  
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All Blue So Late
Poems
Laura Swearingen-Steadwell
Northwestern University Press, 2018
All Blue So Late presents the panorama of a young woman’s life as she struggles to come to terms with her place in the world. These poems look to race, gender, and American identity, plumbing the individual’s attendant grief, rage, and discomfort with these constructs.

The skeleton of this fine collection is a series of direct addresses to the author’s fourteen-year-old self, caught at the moment between girlhood and womanhood, when her perspective on everything suddenly changes. Swearingen-Steadwell’s poetic adventures through worlds within and without reveal the restlessness of the seeker. They offer unabashed tenderness to anyone who reckons with solitude, and chases joy.
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Alley Life in Washington
Family, Community, Religion, and Folklife in the City, 1850-1970
James Borchert
University of Illinois Press, 1980
Forgotten today, established Black communities once existed in the alleyways of Washington, D.C., even in neighborhoods as familiar as Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom. James Borchert's study delves into the lives and folkways of the largely alley dwellers and how their communities changed from before the Civil War, to the late 1890s era when almost 20,000 people lived in alley houses, to the effects of reform and gentrification in the mid-twentieth century.
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American Dream Deferred
Black Federal Workers in Washington, D.C., 1941-1981
Frederick W. Gooding, Jr.
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018
As the largest employer of one of the world’s leading economic and geo-political superpowers, the history of the federal government’s workforce is a rich and essential tool for understanding how the “Great Experiment” truly works. The literal face of federal policy, federal employees enjoy a history as rich as the country itself, while reflecting the country’s evolution towards true democracy within a public space.  Nowhere is this progression towards democracy more apparent than with its internal race relations. While World War II was a boon to black workers, little is known about the nuanced, ongoing struggles for dignity and respect that black workers endured while working these “good, government jobs.” American Dream Deferredchallenges postwar narratives of government largess for African Americans by illuminating the neglected stories of these unknown black workers.
 
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An American in the Making
The Life Story of an Immigrant
Kellman, Steven G
Rutgers University Press, 2009
At the turn of the twentieth century, M. E. Ravage set off in steerage for America, one of almost two million Jews who, like millions of others from eastern and southern Europe, were lured by tales of worldly success. Seventeen years after arriving on Ellis Island, Ravage had mastered a new language, found success in college, and engagingly penned in English this vivid account of the ordeals and pleasures of departure and assimilation.

Steven G. Kellman brings Ravage's story to life again in this new edition, providing a brief biography and introduction that place the memoir within historical and literary contexts. An American in the Making contributes to a broader understanding of the global notion of "America" and remains timely, especially in an era when massive immigration, now from Latin America and Asia, challenges ideas of national identity.

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The American Negro Theatre and the Long Civil RIghts Era
Jonathan Shandell
University of Iowa Press, 2018

Jonathan Shandell provides the first in-depth study of the historic American Negro Theatre (ANT) and its lasting influence on American popular culture. Founded in 1940 in Harlem, the ANT successfully balanced expressions of African American consciousness with efforts to gain white support for the burgeoning civil rights movement. The theatre company featured innovative productions with emerging artists—Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and many others—who would become giants of stage, film, and television. In 1944, the ANT made theatrical history by creating the smash hit Anna Lucasta, the most popular play with an African American cast ever to perform on Broadway. Starting from a shoestring budget, the ANT grew into one of the most important companies in the history of African American theatre. Though the group folded in 1949, it continued to shape American popular culture through the creative work of its many talented artists. 

Examining oral histories, playbills, scripts, production stills, and journalistic accounts, Shandell gives us the most complete picture to date of the theatre company by analyzing well-known productions alongside groundbreaking and now-forgotten efforts. Shedding light on this often-overlooked chapter of African American history, which fell between the New Negro Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Shandell reveals how the ANT became a valued community institution for Harlem—an important platform for African American artists to speak to racial issues—and a trailblazer in promoting integration and interracial artistic collaboration in the U.S. In doing so, Shandell also demonstrates how a small amateur ensemble of the 1940s succeeded in challenging, expanding, and transforming how African Americans were portrayed in the ensuing decades. The result is a fascinating and entertaining examination that will be of interest to scholars and students of African American and American studies and theatre history, as well as popular culture enthusiasts. 

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An American Phoenix
A History of Storer College from Slavery to Desegregation 1865-1955, Commemorative Edition
Dawne Raines Burke
West Virginia University Press, 2015

In the first book-length study of Storer College, Dawne Raines Burke tells the story of the historically black institution from its Reconstruction origins to its demise in 1955. Established by Northern Baptists in the abolitionist flashpoint of Harpers Ferry, Storer was the first college open to African Americans in West Virginia, and it played a central role in regional and national history. In addition to educating generations of students of all races, genders, and creeds, Storer served as the second meeting place (and the first on U.S. soil) for the Niagara Movement, a precursor to the NAACP.

An American Phoenix provides a comprehensive and extensively illustrated history of this historically black college, bringing to life not just the institution but many of the individuals who taught or were educated there. It fills a significant gap in our knowledge of African American history and the struggle for rights in West Virginia and the wider world.

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American Poetry in Performance
From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop
Tyler Hoffman
University of Michigan Press, 2013

"Tyler Hoffman brings a fresh perspective to the subject of performance poetry, and this comes at an excellent time, when there is such a vast interest across the country and around the world in the performance of poetry. He makes important connections, explaining things in a manner that remains provocative, interesting, and accessible."
---Jay Parini, Middlebury College

American Poetry in Performance: From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop is the first book to trace a comprehensive history of performance poetry in America, covering 150 years of literary history from Walt Whitman through the rap-meets-poetry scene. It reveals how the performance of poetry is bound up with the performance of identity and nationality in the modern period and carries its own shifting cultural politics. This book stands at the crossroads of the humanities and the social sciences; it is a book of literary and cultural criticism that deals squarely with issues of "performance," a concept that has attained great importance in the disciplines of anthropology and sociology and has generated its own distinct field of performance studies. American Poetry in Performance will be a meaningful contribution both to the field of American poetry studies and to the fields of cultural and performance studies, as it focuses on poetry that refuses the status of fixed aesthetic object and, in its variability, performs versions of race, class, gender, and sexuality both on and off the page.

Relating the performance of poetry to shifting political and cultural ideologies in the United States, Hoffman argues that the vocal aspect of public poetry possesses (or has been imagined to possess) the ability to help construct both national and subaltern communities.  American Poetry in Performance explores public poets' confrontations with emergent sound recording and communications technologies as those confrontations shape their mythologies of the spoken word and their corresponding notions about America and Americanness.

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American Sex Tape
Jameka Williams
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Moving beyond a biting indictment of American popular culture, Jameka Williams captures the reader’s gaze and stares right back: “I’m sorry, America, but I’m rich in baby oil & paperback novels only these days. So finish paying for me with what is mint. No conditions.” In this stunning debut collection, Williams offers a deeply personal investigation into how Americans (herself included) have been duped, buying into classism, sexism, and racist beauty ideals, while sacrificing the freedom of self-love and self-determination. With whip-fast profanity and fiery humor, she charts a tender, exalting, and vibrant path to freedom from mirrors, stages, and screens.

Fiercely feminist, Black, American, and powerful, Williams speaks for a generation of obsessive social media influencers and consumers, revealing the complex ways in which we are all actors, witnesses, and victims in our public and private performances. Though we may be permanent residents of this soulless cultural landscape, this stunning collection refuses to let it define us.
 
I am not the same machine which came rambling
off the conveyor belt, hugging the bolts & wires
spilling from her vivisection. I’m last year’s model
with a sleeker, softer system of cool disdain for
my Internet addictions.  
—Excerpt from "I Intend to Outlast"
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American Socialist Triptych
The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois
Mark W. Van Wienen
University of Michigan Press, 2014

"A meticulously researched, highly informed, carefully argued, and very accessible account of American socialism, socialists, and socialistic thinking, from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s . . . challenges the intellectual and political legacy of Werner Sombart's Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?, whose spirit still hovers over animated discussions about the 'failures' of socialism in the United States."
---James A. Miller, George Washington University

"A valuable rethinking and reframing of the traditions of leftist literary scholarship in the U.S."
---Sylvia Cook, University of Missouri, St. Louis

American Socialist Triptych: The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois explores the contributions of three writers to the development of American socialism over a fifty--year period and asserts the vitality of socialism in modern American literature and culture.

Drawing upon a wide range of texts including archival sources, Mark W. Van Wienen demonstrates the influence of reform-oriented, democratic socialism both in the careers of these writers and in U.S. politics between 1890 and 1940. While offering unprecedented in-depth analysis of modern American socialist literature, this book charts the path by which the supposedly impossible, dangerous ideals of a cooperative commonwealth were realized, in part, by the New Deal.

American Socialist Triptych provides in-depth, innovative readings of the featured writers and their engagement with socialist thought and action. Upton Sinclair represents the movement's most visible manifestation, the Socialist Party of America, founded in 1901; Charlotte Perkins Gilman reflects the socialist elements in both feminism and 1890s reform movements, and W. E. B. Du Bois illuminates social democratic aspirations within the NAACP. Van Wienen's book seeks to re-energize studies of Sinclair by treating him as a serious cultural figure whose career peaked not in the early success of The Jungle but in his nearly successful 1934 run for the California governorship. It also demonstrates as never before the centrality of socialism throughout Gilman's and Du Bois's literary and political careers.

More broadly, American Socialist Triptych challenges previous scholarship on American radical literature, which has focused almost exclusively on the 1930s and Communist writers. Van Wienen argues that radical democracy was not the phenomenon of a decade or of a single group but a sustained tradition dispersed within the culture, providing a useful genealogical explanation for how socialist ideas were actually implemented through the New Deal.

American Socialist Triptych also revises modern American literary history, arguing for the endurance of realist and utopian literary modes at the height of modernist literary experimentation and showing the importance of socialism not only to the three featured writers but also to their peers, including Edward Bellamy, Hamlin Garland, Jack London, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Claude McKay. Further, by demonstrating the importance of social democratic thought to feminist and African American campaigns for equality, the book dialogues with recent theories of radical egalitarianism. Readers interested in American literature, U.S. history, political theory, and race, gender, and class studies will all find in American Socialist Triptych a valuable and provocative resource.

[more]

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The American War in Viet Nam
Cultural Memories at the Turn of the Century
Susan Lyn Eastman
University of Tennessee Press, 2017

After more than four decades, the Viet Nam War continues to haunt our national memory, culture, politics, and military actions. In this probing interdisciplinary study, Susan Lyn Eastman examines a range of cultural productions—from memorials and poetry to cinematic and fictional narratives—that have tried to grapple with the psychic afterlife of traumatic violence resulting from the ill-fated conflict in Southeast Asia.

Underpinning the book is the notion of “prosthetic memory,” which involves memories acquired by those with no direct experience of the war, such as readers and filmgoers. Prosthetic memories, Eastman argues, refuse to relegate the war to the forgotten past and challenge the authenticity of experience, thus ensuring its continued relevance to debates over America’s self-conception, specifically her coinage of the “New Vietnam Syndrome,” and the country’s role in world affairs when it comes to contemporary military interventions.

With the notable exception of the Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, Eastman’s focus is on works produced from the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) through the post-9/11 “War on Terror.” She looks not only at American representations of the war—from movies like Randall Wallace’s We Were Soldiers to poems by W. D. Ehrhart, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others—but also at novels by Vietnamese authors Bao Ninh and Huong Thu Duong. The experiences of women figure prominently in the book: Eastman devotes a chapter to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and another to Sandie Frazier’s novel I Married Vietnam and Oliver Stone’s film Heaven and Earth, based on memoirs by Le Ly Hayslip. And by examining Jessica Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle, a novel inspired by the filming of Apocalypse Now, she considers how the war’s repercussions were felt in other countries, in this case the Philippines. Her investigation of Vietnamese American authors Lan Cao, Andrew Lam, and GB Tran adds a transnational dimension to the study.

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Anagnorisis
Poems
Kyle Dargan
Northwestern University Press, 2018
Winner of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

In Anagnorisis: Poems, the award-winning poet Kyle Dargan ignites a reckoning. From the depths of his rapidly changing home of Washington, D.C., the poet is both enthralled and provoked, having witnessed-on a digital loop running in the background of Barack Obama's unlikely presidency—the rampant state-sanctioned murder of fellow African Americans. He is pushed toward the same recognition articulated by James Baldwin decades earlier: that an African American may never be considered an equal in citizenship or humanity.

This recognition—the moment at which a tragic hero realizes the true nature of his own character, condition, or relationship with an antagonistic entity—is what Aristotle called anagnorisis. Not concerned with placatory gratitude nor with coddling the sensibilities of the country's racial majority, Dargan challenges America: "You, friends- / you peckish for a peek / at my cloistered, incandescent / revelry-were you as earnest / about my frostbite, my burns, / I would have opened / these hands, sated you all."

At a time when U.S. politics are heavily invested in the purported vulnerability of working-class and rural white Americans, these poems allow readers to examine themselves and the nation through the eyes of those who have been burned for centuries.
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And Bid Him Sing
A Biography of Countée Cullen
Charles Molesworth
University of Chicago Press, 2012
While competing with Langston Hughes for the title of “Poet Laureate of Harlem,” Countée Cullen (1903–46) crafted poems that became touchstones for American readers, both black and white. Inspired by classic themes and working within traditional forms, Cullen shaped his poetry to address universal questions like love, death, longing, and loss while also dealing with the issues of race and idealism that permeated the national conversation. Drawing on the poet’s unpublished correspondence with contemporaries and friends like Hughes, Claude McKay, Carl Van Vechten, Dorothy West, Charles S. Johnson and Alain Locke, and presenting a unique interpretation of his poetic gifts, And Bid Him Sing is the first full-length critical biography of this famous American writer.
 
Despite his untimely death at the age of forty-two, Cullen left behind an extensive body of work. In addition to five books of poetry, he authored two much-loved children’s books and translated Euripides’ Medea, the first translation by an African American of a Greek tragedy. In these pages, Charles Molesworth explores the many ways that race, religion, and Cullen’s sexuality informed the work of one of the unquestioned stars of the Harlem Renaissance.
 
An authoritative work of biography that brings to life one of the chief voices of his generation, And Bid Him Sing returns to us one of America’s finest lyric poets in all of his complexity and musicality.
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Andrew Johnson And The Negro
David Warren Bowen
University of Tennessee Press, 1989

“Bowen has probed the working of Andrew Johnson’s mind. His analysis illuminates the character of East Tennessee’s tailor president and the contradictions—as well as the consistency—of his policies toward slavery and toward blacks.”— LaWanda Cox, author of Lincoln and Black Freedom: A Study in Presidential Leadership

Andrew Johnson, who was thrust into the office of presidency by Lincoln’s assassination, described himself as a “friend of the colored man.” Twentieth century historians have assessed Johnson’s racial attitudes differently.

In his revisionist study, David Bowen explores Johnson’s racist bias more deeply than other historians to date, and maintains that racism was, in fact, a prime motivator of his policies as a public official. A slave owner who defended the institution until the Civil War, Jonson accepted emancipation. Once Johnson became president, however, his racial prejudice reasserted itself as a significant influence on his Reconstruction policies.

Bowen’s study deftly analyzes the difficult personality of the seventeenth president and the political influences that molded him. This portrait of a man who, despite his many egalitarian notions, practiced racism, will intrigue historians and readers interested in Civil War and Reconstruction history alike.

The Author: David Warren Bowen, formerly on the staff of The Papers of Andrew Johnson, teaches history at Livingston University

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The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named
Poems
Nicole Sealey
Northwestern University Press, 2016

The Poetry and Poetics Colloquium, in conjunction with Northwestern University Press, is delighted to announce that Nicole Sealey is the winner of the fourth annual Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named will be published by Northwestern University Press with a planned launch party at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago in January 2016.

At turns humorous and heartbreaking, The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named explores in both formal and free verse what it means to die, which is to say, also, what it means to live. In this collection, Sealey displays an exquisite sense of the lyric, as well as an acute political awareness. Never heavy-handed or dogmatic, the poems included in this slim volume excavate the shadows of both personal and collective memory and are, at all points, relentless. To quote the poet herself, here is a debut as luminous and unforgiving "as the unsparing light at tunnel’s end."
 


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The Animal Indoors
Carly Inghram
Autumn House Press, 2021
Poems following a Black queer woman as she seeks refuge from an unsafe world.
 
Carly Inghram’s poems explore the day-to-day experiences of a Black queer woman who is ceaselessly bombarded with images of mass-consumerism, white supremacy, and sexism, and who is forced, often reluctantly, back indoors and away from this outside chaos. The poems in The Animal Indoors seek to understand and define the boundaries between our inside and outside lives, critiquing the homogenization and increasing insincerity of American culture and considering what safe spaces exist for Black women. The speaker in these poems seeks refuge, working to keep the interior safe until we can reckon with the world outside, until the speaker is able to “unleash the indoor news onto the unclean water elsewhere.”
 
The Animal Indoors won the 2020 CAAPP Book Prize, selected by Terrance Hayes.
 
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The Animal Indoors
Carly Inghram
Autumn House Press, 2021
Poems following a Black queer woman as she seeks refuge from an unsafe world.
 
Carly Inghram’s poems explore the day-to-day experiences of a Black queer woman who is ceaselessly bombarded with images of mass-consumerism, white supremacy, and sexism, and who is forced, often reluctantly, back indoors and away from this outside chaos. The poems in The Animal Indoors seek to understand and define the boundaries between our inside and outside lives, critiquing the homogenization and increasing insincerity of American culture and considering what safe spaces exist for Black women. The speaker in these poems seeks refuge, working to keep the interior safe until we can reckon with the world outside, until the speaker is able to “unleash the indoor news onto the unclean water elsewhere.”
 
The Animal Indoors won the 2020 CAAPP Book Prize, selected by Terrance Hayes.
 
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Annotations
On the Early Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois
Nahum Dimitri Chandler
Duke University Press, 2022
In Annotations Nahum Dimitri Chandler offers a philosophical interpretation of W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1897 American Negro Academy address, “The Conservation of Races.” Chandler approaches Du Bois as a generative and original philosophical thinker-writer on the status and historical implication of matters of human difference, both the fact of and the very idea thereof. Chandler proposes both a close reading of Du Bois’s engagement of the concept of so-called race and a deep meditation on Du Bois’s conceptualization of historicity in general. He elaborates on the way Du Bois’s thought in this address can give an account of the organization of the historicity that yields the emergence of something like the African American, at once with its own internal dimensions and yet also as an originary articulation of forces and possibilities that have world historical implications. Chandler refigures Du Bois’s thought as a vital theoretical resource for rethinking our concepts of differences among humans and, so too, our understanding of modern historicity itself.
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Another Land of My Body
Rodney Terich Leonard
Four Way Books, 2024
Ephemeral yet tangible, bridging the delicate border between understanding and awe, Rodney Terich Leonard’s poems live in the world even as they leave it, clinging like “a ribbon in the sand / Captivated by your ankle,” that “Bojangles next to your chair.” Leonard’s sophomore collection, Another Land of My Body, collects singular poems, each a distinct marvel, even as together they witness aging, champion the resilience of desire, articulate Black Southern identity, memorialize the unequal burdens of the pandemic across racial and socioeconomic strata, and preserve the time capsule of one’s particular memories that will depart with them when they go. When “COVID pumped up on” Ms. Clematine and Ms. Bessie Will, who “paid taxes in an American town with six ICU beds,” “the heirloom chitlins / & pound cake recipes / & summer-white buckets of Budweiser / To B.B. King went hush.” Leonard’s impeccable ear subverts legacy, using the musicality of lyric and the sonic patterning of form to remember neighbors alongside martyrs of the police state: “Heels cold cold-heeled history heels claimed cold: / Ahmaud Arbery—George Floyd—Rayshard Brooks.” In these pages, every figure is totemic, reiterating the invaluable outside the ceaseless binds of global capitalism. Leonard writes, “She wears her own hair & Fashion Fair. / Stutter ignores her penchant / For fried whiting & hushpuppies. / No one I know calls her baby.” “Here is a woman as monument,” he says. “My mother’s allure wasn’t from a magazine; / Jet came later.” In his own style, Leonard, too, is truly original, always encountering new terrain as he brings the past along. His poems are oft dispatches from “an abrupt ravine,” where “[he] learned another land of [his] body.” They are also lifelines, brief housecalls, promises of reunion amid temporary goodbyes. “I’m at my retrospective,” he answers the phone. “Let me call you back.” 
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Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants
Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s
Jon Woodson
The Ohio State University Press, 2011
In the 1930s African Americans faced three distinct historical crises that impacted the lives of African Americans directly—the Great Depression, the existential-identity crisis, and the Italo-Ethiopian War, with its threat of a race war. A sizeable body of black poetry was produced in this decade, which captured the new modes of autonomy through which black Americans resisted these social calamities. Much of it, however, including the most influential protest poems, was dismissed as “romantic” by major, leftist critics and anthologists.
 
Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants: Recovering the African American Poetry of the 1930s, by Jon Woodson, uses social philology to unveil social discourse, self fashioning, and debates in poems gathered from anthologies, magazines, newspapers, and individual collections. The first chapter examines three long poems, finding overarching jeremiadic discourse that inaugurated a militant, politically aware agent. Chapter two examines self-fashioning in the numerous sonnets that responded to the new media of radio, newsreels, movies, and photo-magazines. The third chapter shows how new subjectivities were generated by poetry addressed to the threat of race war in which the white race was exterminated.
 
The black intellectuals who dominated the interpretative discourses of the 1930s fostered exteriority, while black culture as a whole plunged into interiority. Anthems, Sonnets, and Chants delineates the struggle between these inner and outer worlds, a study made difficult by a contemporary intellectual culture which recoils from a belief in a consistent, integrated self.
 
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Anti-Blackness and Human Monstrosity in Black American Horror Fiction
Jerry Rafiki Jenkins
The Ohio State University Press, 2024
In Anti-Blackness and Human Monstrosity in Black American Horror Fiction, Jerry Rafiki Jenkins examines four types of human monsters that frequently appear in Black American horror fiction—the monsters of White rage, respectability, not-ness, and serial killing. Arguing that such monsters represent specific ideologies of American anti-Blackness, Jenkins shows that despite their various motivations for harming and killing Black people, these monsters embody the horrors that emerge when Black American is disassociated from American. Although these monsters of anti-Blackness are dangerous because they can terrorize Black people with virtual impunity, their “anti-Black sadism,” as Jenkins calls it, is what makes them repulsive. Jenkins examines a variety of these monstrous forms in Tananarive Due’s The Between, Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, and many other works. While these monsters and the texts that they populate ask us to think about the role that anti-Blackness plays in being or becoming American, they also offer intellectual resources that Black and non-Black people might use to combat the everyday versions of human monstrosity.
[more]

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Aphrodite's Daughters
Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance
Honey, Maureen
Rutgers University Press, 2016
The Harlem Renaissance was a watershed moment for racial uplift, poetic innovation, sexual liberation, and female empowerment. Aphrodite’s Daughters introduces us to three amazing women who were at the forefront of all these developments, poetic iconoclasts who pioneered new and candidly erotic forms of female self-expression.  
 
Maureen Honey paints a vivid portrait of three African American women—Angelina Weld Grimké, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, and Mae V. Cowdery—who came from very different backgrounds but converged in late 1920s Harlem to leave a major mark on the literary landscape. She examines the varied ways these poets articulated female sexual desire, ranging from Grimké’s invocation of a Sapphic goddess figure to Cowdery’s frank depiction of bisexual erotics to Bennett’s risky exploration of the borders between sexual pleasure and pain. Yet Honey also considers how they were united in their commitment to the female body as a primary source of meaning, strength, and transcendence.
 
The product of extensive archival research, Aphrodite’s Daughters draws from Grimké, Bennett, and Cowdery’s published and unpublished poetry, along with rare periodicals and biographical materials, to immerse us in the lives of these remarkable women and the world in which they lived. It thus not only shows us how their artistic contributions and cultural interventions were vital to their own era, but also demonstrates how the poetic heart of their work keeps on beating.  
 
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Apocalypse South
Judgment, Cataclysm, and Resistance in the Regional Imaginary
Anthony Dyer Hoefer
The Ohio State University Press, 2012
While John Winthrop might have famously uttered the phrase “city upon a hill” on the way to Massachusetts, the strands of millennialism and exceptionalism that remain so central to U.S. political discourse are now dominated by eschatological visions that have emerged from the particular historical experiences of the U.S. South. Despite the strategic exploitation of this reality by political communicators, scholars in the humanities have paid little attention to the eschatological visions offered by southern religious culture.
 
Fortunately, writers and artists have not ignored such matters; compared to their academic counterparts, southern novelists have been far better attuned to a southern apocalyptic imaginary—a field of reference, drawn from the cosmology of southern evangelical Protestantism, that maps the apocalyptic possibilities of cataclysm, judgment, deliverance, and even revolution onto the landscape of the region. Apocalypse South rectifies the omissions in existing scholarship by interrogating the role of apocalyptic discourse in selected works of fiction by four southern writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Randall Kenan, and Dorothy Allison. In doing so, it reinvigorates discussions of religion in southern literary scholarship and introduces a new element in the ongoing investigation into how regional identities function in notions of national mission and American exceptionalism. Engaging concerns of religion, race, sexuality, and community in fiction from the 1930s to the present, Apocalypse South offers a new conceptual framework for considering what has long been considered “southern Gothic literature”—a framework less concerned with the conventions of a particular literary genre than with the ways in which literature exposes and even tries to make sense of the contradictions within cultures. 
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An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans
Revised and Updated Edition
Lydia Maria Child, Edited with an introduction by Carolyn L. Karcher
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

Published in Boston in 1833, Lydia Maria Child’s An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans provided the abolitionist movement with its first full-scale analysis of race and enslavement. Controversial in its own time, the Appeal surveyed the institution of slavery from historical, political, economic, legal, racial, and moral perspectives and advocated for the immediate emancipation of the enslaved without compensation to their enslavers. By placing American slavery in historical context and demonstrating how slavery impacted—and implicated—Americans of all regions and races, the Appeal became a central text for the abolitionist movement that continues to resonate in the present day.

This revised and updated edition is enhanced by Carolyn L. Karcher’s illuminating introduction, a chronology of Child’s life, and a list of books for further reading.

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Appointed
An American Novel
William H. Anderson
West Virginia University Press, 2019

Appointed is a recently recovered novel written by William Anderson and Walter Stowers, two of the editors of the Detroit Plaindealer, a long-running and well-regarded African American newspaper of the late nineteenth century. Drawing heavily on nineteenth-century print culture, the authors tell the story of John Saunders, a college-educated black man living and working in Detroit. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Saunders befriends his white employer’s son, Seth Stanley, and the two men form a lasting, cross-racial bond that leads them to travel together to the American South. On their journey, John shows Seth the harsh realities of American racism and instructs him in how he might take responsibility for alleviating the effects of racism in his own home and in the white world broadly. 

As a coauthored novel of frustrated ambition, cross-racial friendship, and the tragedy of lynching, Appointed represents a unique contribution to African American literary history. This is the first scholarly edition of Appointed, and it includes a collection of writings from the Plaindealer, the authors’ short story “A Strange Freak of Fate,” and an introduction that locates Appointed and its authors within the journalistic and literary currents of the United States in the late nineteenth century.

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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention
The Old Negro in New Negro Art
Phoebe Wolfskill
University of Illinois Press, 2017
An essential African American artist of his era, Archibald Motley Jr. created paintings of black Chicago that aligned him with the revisionist aims of the New Negro Renaissance. Yet Motley's approach to constructing a New Negro--a dignified figure both accomplished and worthy of respect--reflected the challenges faced by African American artists working on the project of racial reinvention and uplift.

Phoebe Wolfskill demonstrates how Motley's art embodied the tenuous nature of the Black Renaissance and the wide range of ideas that structured it. Focusing on key works in Motley's oeuvre, Wolfskill reveals the artist's complexity and the variety of influences that informed his work. Motley’s paintings suggest that the racist, problematic image of the Old Negro was not a relic of the past but an influence that pervaded the Black Renaissance. Exploring Motley in relation to works by notable black and non-black contemporaries, Wolfskill reinterprets Motley's oeuvre as part of a broad effort to define American cultural identity through race, class, gender, religion, and regional affiliation.

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Archive of Style
New and Selected Poems
Cheryl Clarke
Northwestern University Press, 2024
A new retrospective of a titan of LGBTQ literature, activism, and Black feminism

Award-winning poet and essayist Cheryl Clarke’s illustrious career has spanned more than four decades and culminates in Archive of Style: New and Selected Poems, a long-awaited retrospective of the indelible work of a Black feminist, community and LGBTQ activist, and educator. This collection features carefully curated poems from Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women (1982), Living as a Lesbian (1986), The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry 1980-2005 (2006), By My Precise Haircut (2016), and Targets (2019). Together these works show a brilliant thinker who has profoundly impacted generations of writers and activists.

Clarke’s poetry and essays, centered around the Black, lesbian, feminist experience, have attracted an audience around the world. Her essays, “Lesbianism: an Act of Resistance” and “The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community” revolutionized the thinking about lesbians of color and the struggle against homophobia. Her poetry and non-fiction have been reprinted in numerous anthologies and assigned in women and sexuality courses globally. Having published since 1977, Clarke and her work have become a foundational part of LGBTQ literature and activism. Archive of Style is a celebration and homage to one of American literature’s Black Women literary warriors.
 
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Aristocrats of Color
The Black Elite, 1880–1920
Willard B. Gatewood
University of Arkansas Press, 2000

Every American city had a small, self-aware, and active black elite, who felt it was their duty to set the standard for the less fortunate members of their race and to lead their communities by example. Rank within this black upper class rested on such issues as the status of one’s forebears as either house servants or field hands, the darkness of one’s skin, and the level of one’s manners and education.

Professor Gatewood’s study examines this class of African Americans by looking at the genealogies and occupations of specific families and individuals throughout the United States and their roles in their various communities. The resulting narrative is a full and illuminating account of a most influential segment of the African-American population. It explores fully the distinctive background, prestige, attitudes, behavior, power, and culture of this class. The Black Community Studies series from the University of Arkansas Press, edited by Professor Gatewood, continues to examine many of the same themes first explored in this important study.

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ARRIVAL
Poems
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
Northwestern University Press, 2017
Finalist, 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize 

ARRIVAL is a poetic love story between mother and daughter. The poems are road maps, intertwining generations with a narrative beginning in 1950 with a woman who is pregnant with twins. In her seventh month she delivers a stillborn boy and a baby girl weighing less than two pounds. From there, the evocation of a series of catastrophic family events brings forth Cheryl Boyce-Taylor’s power to strip her readers down to their most vulnerable. Boyce-Taylor is steeped in the narratives of Trinidad and New York City, colored with metaphorical stew-pot images. She revels in her lyrical range as she weaves these poetic retellings of family, place, and identity.
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Art for People's Sake
Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965-1975
Rebecca Zorach
Duke University Press, 2019
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Chicago witnessed a remarkable flourishing of visual arts associated with the Black Arts Movement. From the painting of murals as a way to reclaim public space and the establishment of independent community art centers to the work of the AFRICOBRA collective and Black filmmakers, artists on Chicago's South and West Sides built a vision of art as service to the people. In Art for People's Sake Rebecca Zorach traces the little-told story of the visual arts of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how artistic innovations responded to decades of racist urban planning that left Black neighborhoods sites of economic depression, infrastructural decay, and violence. Working with community leaders, children, activists, gang members, and everyday people, artists developed a way of using art to help empower and represent themselves. Showcasing the depth and sophistication of the visual arts in Chicago at this time, Zorach demonstrates the crucial role of aesthetics and artistic practice in the mobilization of Black radical politics during the Black Power era.
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Art of Jazz
Form/Performance/Notes
David Bindman
Harvard University Press

This catalogue documents the exhibition Art of Jazz, a collaborative installation at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art with one section (“Form”) installed at the Harvard Art Museum. The book explores the intersection of the visual arts and jazz music, and presents a visual feast of full color plates of artworks, preceded by a series of essays.

“Form,” curated by Suzanne Preston Blier and David Bindman in the teaching gallery of the Harvard Art Museum, ushers in a dialogue between visual representation and jazz music, showcasing artists’ responses to jazz. “Performance,” also curated by Blier and Bindman, guides us through a rich collection of books, album covers, photographs, and other ephemera installed at the Cooper Gallery. “Notes,” curated by Cooper Gallery director Vera Ingrid Grant, fills five of the gallery’s curatorial spaces with contemporary art that illustrates how late twentieth- and early twenty-first century artists hear, view, and engage with jazz.

Visual artists represented in “Form” include Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Romare Bearden, and Stuart Davis. “Performance” includes art by Hugh Bell, Carl Van Vechten, and Romare Bearden; additional album cover art by Joseph Albers, Ben Shahn, Andy Warhol, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers; and posters and photographs of Josephine Baker and Lena Horne. “Notes” includes art by Cullen Washington, Norman Lewis, Walter Davis, Lina Viktor, Petite Noir, Ming Smith, Richard Yarde, Christopher Myers, Whitfield Lovell, and Jason Moran.

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The Art of Remembering
Essays on African American Art and History
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Duke University Press, 2024
In The Art of Remembering art historian and curator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw explores African American art and representation from the height of the British colonial period to the present. She engages in the process of "rememory"—the recovery of facts and narratives of African American creativity and self-representation that have been purposefully set aside, actively ignored, and disremembered. In analyses of the work of artists ranging from Scipio Moorhead, Moses Williams, and Aaron Douglas to Barbara Chase-Riboud, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, and Deana Lawson, Shaw demonstrates that African American art and history may be remembered and understood anew through a process of intensive close looking, cultural and historical contextualization, and biographic recuperation or consideration. Shaw shows how embracing rememory expands the possibilities of history by acknowledging the existence of multiple forms of knowledge and ways of understanding an event or interpreting an object. In so doing, Shaw thinks beyond canonical interpretations of art and material and visual culture to imagine “what if,” asking what else did we once know that has been lost.
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At Home in Diaspora
Black International Writing
Wendy Walters
University of Minnesota Press, 2005
Although he never lived in Harlem, Chester Himes commented that he experienced “a sort of pure homesickness” while creating the Harlem-set detective novels from his self-imposed exile in Paris. Through writing, Himes constructed an imaginary home informed both by nostalgia for a community he never knew and a critique of the racism he left behind in the United States. Half a century later, Michelle Cliff wrote about her native Jamaica from the United States, articulating a positive Caribbean feminism that at the same time acknowledged Jamaica’s homophobia and color prejudice. 

In At Home in Diaspora, Wendy Walters investigates the work of Himes, Cliff, and three other twentieth-century black international writers—Caryl Phillips, Simon Njami, and Richard Wright—who have lived in and written from countries they do not call home. Unlike other authors in exile, those of the African diaspora are doubly displaced, first by the discrimination they faced at home and again by their life abroad. Throughout, Walters suggests that in the absence of a recoverable land of origin, the idea of diaspora comes to represent a home that is not singular or exclusionary. In this way, writing in exile is much more than a literary performance; it is a profound political act. 

Wendy W. Walters is assistant professor of literature at Emerson College.
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At the Table of Power
Food and Cuisine in the African American Struggle for Freedom, Justice, and Equality
Diane Spivey
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022

At the Table of Power is both a cookbook and a culinary history that intertwines social issues, personal stories, and political commentary. Renowned culinary historian Diane M. Spivey offers a unique insight into the historical experience and cultural values of African America and America in general by way of the kitchen. From the rural country kitchen and steamboat floating palaces to marketplace street vendors and restaurants in urban hubs of business and finance, Africans in America cooked their way to positions of distinct superiority, and thereby indispensability. Despite their many culinary accomplishments, most Black culinary artists have been made invisible—until now. Within these pages, Spivey tells a powerful story beckoning and daring the reader to witness this culinary, cultural, and political journey taken hand in hand with the fight of Africans in America during the foundation years, from colonial slavery through the Reconstruction era. These narratives, together with the recipes from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, expose the politics of the day and offer insight on the politics of today. African American culinary artists, Spivey concludes, have more than earned a rightful place at the table of culinary contribution and power.

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Athens of the New South
College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville
Mary Ellen Pethel
University of Tennessee Press, 2017

In 2013, the New York Times identified Nashville as America’s “it” city—a leading hub of music, culture, technology, food, and business. But long before, the Tennessee capital was known as the “Athens of the South,” as a reflection of the city’s reputation for and investment in its institutions of higher education, which especially blossomed after the end of the Civil War and through the New South Era from 1865 to 1930.

This wide-ranging book chronicles the founding and growth of Nashville’s institutions of higher education and their impressive impact on the city, region, and nation at large. Local colleges and universities also heavily influenced Nashville’s brand of modernity as evidenced by the construction of a Parthenon replica, the centerpiece of the 1897 Centennial Exposition. By the turn of the twentieth century, Vanderbilt University had become one of the country’s premier private schools, while nearby Peabody College was a leading teacher-training institution. Nashville also became known as a center for the education of African Americans. Fisk University joined the ranks of the nation’s most prestigious black liberal-arts universities, while Meharry Medical College emerged as one of the country’s few training centers for African American medical professionals. Following the agricultural-industrial model, Tennessee A&I became the state’s first black public college. Meanwhile, various other schools— Ward-Belmont, a junior college for women; David Lipscomb College, the instructional arm of the Church of Christ; and Roger Williams University, which trained black men and women as teachers and preachers—made important contributions to the higher educational landscape. In sum, Nashville was distinguished not only by the quantity of its schools but by their quality.

Linking these institutions to the progressive and educational reforms of the era, Mary Ellen Pethel also explores their impact in shaping Nashville’s expansion, on changing gender roles, and on leisure activity in the city, which included the rise and popularity of collegiate sports. In her conclusion, she shows that Nashville’s present-day reputation as a dynamic place to live, learn, and work is due in no small part to the role that higher education continues to play in the city’s growth and development.

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Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies
Stella Bolaki
University of Massachusetts Press, 2015
Among the most influential and insightful thinkers of her generation, Audre Lorde (1934–1992) inspired readers and activists through her poetry, autobiography, essays, and her political action. Most scholars have situated her work within the context of the women’s, gay and lesbian, and black civil rights movements within the United States. However, Lorde forged coalitions with women in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and twenty years after her passing, these alliances remain largely undocumented and unexplored. Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies is the first book to systematically document and thoroughly investigate Lorde’s influence beyond the United States. Arranged in three thematically interrelated sections—Archives, Connections, and Work—the volume brings together scholarly essays, interviews, Lorde’s unpublished speech about Europe, and personal reflections and testimonials from key figures throughout the world. Using a range of interdisciplinary approaches, contributors assess the reception, translation, and circulation of Lorde’s writing and activism within different communities, audiences, and circles. They also shed new light on the work Lorde inspired across disciplinary borders. In addition the volume editors, contributors include Sarah Cefai, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dueck, Paul M. Farber, Tiffany N. Florvil, Katharina Gerund, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Gloria Joseph, Jackie Kay, Marion Kraft, Christiana Lambrinidis, Zeedah Meierhofer-Mangeli, Rina Nissim, Chantal Oakes, Lester C. Olson, Pratibha Parmar, Peggy Piesche, Dagmar Schultz, Tamara Lea Spira, and Gloria Wekker.
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Authentic Blackness
The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance
J. Martin Favor
Duke University Press, 1999
What constitutes “blackness” in American culture? And who gets to define whether or not someone is truly African American? Is a struggling hip-hop artist more “authentic” than a conservative Supreme Court justice? In Authentic Blackness J. Martin Favor looks to the New Negro Movement—also known as the Harlem Renaissance—to explore early challenges to the idea that race is a static category.
Authentic Blackness looks at the place of the “folk”—those African Americans “furthest down,” in the words of Alain Locke—and how the representation of the folk and the black middle class both spurred the New Negro Movement and became one of its most serious points of contention. Drawing on vernacular theories of African American literature from such figures as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Houston Baker as well as theorists Judith Butler and Stuart Hall, Favor looks closely at the work of four Harlem Renaissance fiction writers: James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, and Jean Toomer. Arguing that each of these writers had, at best, an ambiguous relationship to African American folk culture, Favor demonstrates how they each sought to redress the notion of a fixed black identity. Authentic Blackness illustrates how “race” has functioned as a type of performative discourse, a subjectivity that simultaneously builds and conceals its connections with such factors as class, gender, sexuality, and geography.


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Autogeography
Poems
Reginald Harris
Northwestern University Press, 2013
Winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

In his second collection of poetry, Reginald Harris traverses real and imagined landscapes, searching for answers to the question “What are you?” From Baltimore to Havana, Atlantic City to Alabama—and from the broad memories of childhood to the very specific moment of Marvin Gaye singing at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game shortly before his death—this is a travel diary of internal and external jour­neys exploring issues of race and sexuality. The poet trav­eler falls into and out of love and lust, sometimes coupled, sometimes alone. Autogeography tracks how who you are changes depending on where you are; how where you are and where you’ve been determine who you are and where you might be headed. 

 

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