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Black Historical Figures
American Human Rights Activist
Celebrating Black History
Every February we dedicate a month to remind ourselves to celebrate the achievements made by black Americans, as well as recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.
During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Black History Week became Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month, and encouraged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
From Harriet Tubman to Booker T. Washington to the Obamas, Black Americans have accomplished some truly amazing things. Madam CJ Walker was America’s first self-made female millionaire. George Washington Carver derived nearly 300 products from peanuts. Thrugood Marshall was the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and served from 1967 to 1991. Without Lewis Latimer, lightbulbs wouldn’t last nearly as long as they do, and Alexander Graham Bell might not have invented the telephone without Latimer’s help. Garret Morgan invented the early version of the gas mask, as well as the traffic signal. These are just a few of the countless amazing things Black Americans have done.
Take time to reflect on the contributions, achievements, and advances African Americans have made not only this month but every month. Happy Black History Month!
The Black Mind by The comprehensive account of the development of African literature from its beginnings in oral tradition to its contemporary expression in the writings of Africans in various African and European languages provides insight, both broad and deep, into the Black intellect. Professor Dathorne examines the literature of Africans as spoken or written in their local languages and in Latin, French, Portuguese, and English. This extensive survey and interpretation gives the reader a remarkable pathway to an understanding of the Black imagination and its relevance to thought and creativity throughout the world.
The author himself lived in Africa for ten years, and his view in not that of an outsider, since it is as a Black man that he speaks about Black people. Throughout the book, a major theme is the demonstration that, despite slavery and colonialism, Africans remained very close to their own cultures. Professor Dathorne shows that African writers may be, like some Afro-American writers, "marginal men," but that they are Black men and it is as Black men that they feel the nostalgia of their past and the corrosive influences of their present.
The chapters are divided into sections: Tradition; Heritage; The Presence of Europe; and Crosscurrents. In the final chapters the author extends the thread of continuity to the New World—Africa as present in the work of Black writers in the United States and in the Caribbean.
Publication Date: 1974-01-01
The Black Women Oral History Project by Oral memoirs of a cross section of American women of African descent, born within approximately 15 years before and after the turn of the century.
Publication Date: 2013-06-21
The Black Chicago Renaissance by Beginning in the 1930s, Black Chicago experienced a cultural renaissance that lasted into the 1950s and rivaled the cultural outpouring in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. The contributors to this volume analyze this prolific period of African American creativity in music, performance art, social science scholarship, and visual and literary artistic expression. Unlike Harlem, Chicago was an urban industrial center that gave a unique working class and internationalist perspective to the cultural work being done in Chicago. This collection's various essays discuss the forces that distinguished the Black Chicago Renaissance from the Harlem Renaissance and placed the development of black culture in a national and international context. Among the topics discussed in this volume are Chicago writers Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright, The Chicago Defender and Tivoli Theater, African American music and visual arts, and the American Negro Exposition of 1940. Contributors are Hilary Mac Austin, David T. Bailey, Murry N. DePillars, Samuel A. Floyd Jr., Erik S. Gellman, Jeffrey Helgeson, Darlene Clark Hine, John McCluskey Jr., Christopher Robert Reed, Elizabeth Schlabach, and Clovis E. Semmes.
Publication Date: 2012-06-25
Visionary Women Writers of Chicago's Black Arts Movement by A study of three Black Power narratives as instruments for radical social change Angela Davis, Assata Shakur (a.k.a. JoAnne Chesimard), and Elaine Brown are the only women activists of the Black Power movement who have published book-length autobiographies. In bearing witness to that era, these militant newsmakers wrote in part to educate and to mobilize their anticipated readers. In this way, Davis's Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Shakur's Assata (1987), and Brown's A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story (1992) can all be read as extensions of the writers' political activism during the 1960s. Margo V. Perkins's critical analysis of their books is less a history of the movement (or of women's involvement in it) than an exploration of the politics of storytelling for activists who choose to write their lives.
Publication Date: 2013-01-01
Risk, Courage, and Women by A collection of narratives, essays, and poems that includes an interview with Maya Angelou and pieces by Naomi Shihab Nye, Pat Mora, Rosemary Catacalos, and many others. Each work relates how women have demonstrated courage by taking a risk that has changed their lives.
Publication Date: 2007-08-15
From Every Mountainside by It has become popular to confine discussion of the American civil rights movement to the mid-twentieth-century South. From Every Mountainside contains essays that refuse to bracket the quest for civil rights in this manner, treating the subject as an enduring topic yet to be worked out in American politics and society. Individual essays point to the multiple directions the quest for civil rights has taken, into the North and West, and into policy areas left unresolved since the end of the 1960s, including immigrant and gay rights, health care for the uninsured, and the persistent denials of black voting rights and school equality. In exploring these issues, the volume's contributors shed light on distinctive regional dimensions of African American political and church life that bear in significant ways on both the mobilization of civil rights activism and the achievement of its goals.
Publication Date: 2013-06-27
Invisible Families by Mignon R. Moore brings to light the family life of a group that has been largely invisible--gay women of color--in a book that challenges long-standing ideas about racial identity, family formation, and motherhood. Drawing from interviews and surveys of one hundred black gay women in New York City, Invisible Families explores the ways that race and class have influenced how these women understand their sexual orientation, find partners, and form families. In particular, the study looks at the ways in which the past experiences of women who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s shape their thinking, and have structured their lives in communities that are not always accepting of their openly gay status.
Publication Date: 2011-10-17
Not Straight, Not White by This compelling book recounts the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s, tracing how the major movements of the times--from civil rights to black power to gay liberation to AIDS activism--helped shape the cultural stigmas that surrounded race and homosexuality. In locating the rise of black gay identities in historical context, Kevin Mumford explores how activists, performers, and writers rebutted negative stereotypes and refused sexual objectification. Examining the lives of both famous and little-known black gay activists--from James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam and Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald--Mumford analyzes the ways in which movements for social change both inspired and marginalized black gay men. Drawing on an extensive archive of newspapers, pornography, and film, as well as government documents, organizational records, and personal papers, Mumford sheds new light on four volatile decades in the protracted battle of black gay men for affirmation and empowerment in the face of pervasive racism and homophobia.
Publication Date: 2016-03-14
Music Is My Life by Music Is My Life is the first comprehensive analysis of Louis Armstrong's autobiographical writings (including his books, essays, and letters) and their relation to his musical and visual performances. Combining approaches from autobiography theory, literary criticism, intermedia studies, cultural history, and musicology, Daniel Stein reconstructs Armstrong's performances of his life story across various media and for different audiences, complicating the monolithic and hagiographic views of the musician. The book will appeal to academic readers with an interest in African American studies, jazz studies, musicology, and popular culture, as well as general readers interested in Armstrong's life and music, jazz, and twentieth-century entertainment. While not a biography, it provides a key to understanding Armstrong's oeuvre as well as his complicated place in American history and twentieth-century media culture.
Publication Date: 2012-05-03
African Americans in Sports by This two-volume set features 400 articles on African-Americans in sports, including biographical entries as well as entries on events, tournaments, leagues, clubs, films, and associations. The entries cover all professional, amateur, and college sports such as baseball, tennis, and golf.
Publication Date: 2003-11-30
The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes was one of the most important American writers of his generation, and one of the most versatile, producing poetry, fiction, drama, and autobiography. In this innovative study, R. Baxter Miller explores Hughes's life and art to enlarge our appreciation of his contribution to American letters. Arguing that readers often miss the complexity of Hughes's work because of its seeming accessibility, Miller begins with a discussion of the writer's auto-biography, an important yet hitherto neglected key to his imagination. Moving on to consider the subtle resonances of his life in the varied genres over which his imagination "wandered," Miller finds a constant symbiotic bond between the historical and the lyrical. The range of Hughes's artistic vision is revealed in his depiction of Black women, his political stance, his lyric and tragi-comic modes. This is one of the first studies to apply recent methods of literary analysis, including formalist, structuralist, and semiotic criticism, to the work of a Black American writer. Miller not only affirms in Hughes's work the peculiar qualities of Black American culture but provides a unifying conception of his art and identifies the primary metaphors lying at its heart. Here is a fresh and coherent reading of the work of one of the twentieth century's greatest voices, a reinterpretation that renews our appreciation not only of Black American text and heritage but of the literary imagination itself.
Publication Date: 2014-10-17
Dancing Revelations by Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) is arguably the most important black American choreographer in the short history of modern dance. This study presents an examination of Ailey's range of choreography, considers its cultural sources, theories of African American Performance, and the ways in which Ailey shaped African American participation in modern dance.
Publication Date: 2004-01-01
Icons of African American Literature by Icons of African American Literature: The Black Literary World examines 24 of the most popular and culturally significant topics within African American literature's long and immensely fascinating history. Each piece provide substantial, in-depth information--much more than a typical encyclopedia entry--while remaining accessible and appealing to general and younger readers. Arranged alphabetically, the entries cover such writers as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and August Wilson; major works, such as Invisible Man, Native Son, and Their Eyes Were Watching God; and a range of cultural topics, including the black arts movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and the jazz aesthetic. Written by expert contributors, the essays discuss the enduring significance of these topics in American history and popular culture. Each entry also provides sidebars that highlight interesting information and suggestions for further reading.
Publication Date: 2011-10-17
Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white. In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker's long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century.
Publication Date: 2003-11-20
Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women's Political Activism by Mary McLeod Bethune was a significant figure in American political history. She devoted her life to advancing equal social, economic, and political rights for blacks. She distinguished herself by creating lasting institutions that trained black women for visible and expanding public leadership roles. Few have been as effective in the development of women's leadership for group advancement. Despite her accomplishments, the means, techniques, and actions Bethune employed in fighting for equality have been widely misinterpreted. Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women's Political Activism seeks to remedy the misconceptions surrounding this important political figure. Joyce A. Hanson shows that the choices Bethune made often appear contradictory, unless one understands that she was a transitional figure with one foot in the nineteenth century and the other in the twentieth. Bethune, who lived from 1875 to 1955, struggled to reconcile her nineteenth-century notions of women's moral superiority with the changing political realities of the twentieth century. She used two conceptually distinct levels of activism--one nonconfrontational and designed to slowly undermine systemic racism, the other openly confrontational and designed to challenge the most overt discrimination--in her efforts to achieve equality. Hanson uses a wide range of never- or little-used primary sources and adds a significant dimension to the historical discussion of black women's organizations by such scholars as Elsa Barkley Brown, Sharon Harley, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. The book extends the current debate about black women's political activism in recent work by Stephanie Shaw, Evelyn Brooks-Higginbotham, and Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore. Examining the historical evolution of African American women's activism in the critical period between 1920 and 1950, a time previously characterized as "doldrums" for both feminist and civil rights activity, Mary McLeod Bethune and Black Women's Political Activism is important for understanding the centrality of black women to the political fight for social, economic, and racial justice.
Publication Date: 2003-03-14
Black Folk Then and Now (the Oxford W. E. B. du Bois) by W. E. B. Du Bois was a public intellectual, sociologist, and activist on behalf of the African American community. He profoundly shaped black political culture in the United States through his founding role in the NAACP, as well as internationally through the Pan-African movement. Du Bois's sociological and historical research on African-American communities and culture broke ground in many areas, including the history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Du Bois was also a prolific author of novels, autobiographical accounts, innumerable editorials and journalistic pieces, and several works of history. In Black Folk Then and Now, W. E. B. Du Bois embarks on a mission to correct the omissions, misinterpretations, and deliberate lies he detected in previous depictions of black history. An exemplary revisionist exploration of history and sociology, this essay reflects Du Bois's lifelong mission to bring to light the truths of Black history and expose the African peoples' noble heritage. W. E. B. Du Bois writes extensively about the color line, which he believed at the time of publication to be the defining problem of the twentieth century. In 1946, following the Holocaust, Du Bois revised his arguments, reshaping them into the narrative we find in The World and Africa. With a series introduction by editor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an introduction by Wilson Moses, this edition is essential for anyone interested in African American history.
Publication Date: 2007-03-15
Quincy Jones by Quincy Jones (b. 1933) is one of the most prolific composers, arrangers, bandleaders, producers, and humanitarians in American music history and the recording and film industries. Among pop music fans he is perhaps most famous for producing Michael Jackson's album, Thriller. Clarence Bernard Henry focuses on the life, music, career, and legacy of Jones within the social, cultural, historical, and artistic context of American, African American, popular, and world music traditions. Jones's career has spanned over sixty years, generating a substantial body of work with over five hundred compositions and arrangements. The author focuses on this material as well as many of Jones's accomplishments: performing as a young trumpeter in the bands of Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, becoming the first African American to hold an executive position in the competitive white-owned recording industry, breaking racial barriers as a composer in the Hollywood film and television industries, producing the best-selling album of all time, and receiving numerous Grammy Awards. The author also discusses many of Jones's compositions, arrangements, and recordings and his compositional study in France with legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger. In addition, details are provided about Jones's distinct ability as one of the most innovative composers and arrangers who incorporates many different styles of music, techniques, and creative ideas in his compositions, arrangements, and film scores. He collaborated with an array of musicians and groups such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Clifford Brown, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, USA for Africa, and many others. Clarence Bernard Henry shows how Jones has, throughout his career, wholeheartedly embraced philosophies of globalization and cultural diversity in his body of work, collaborations, humanitarian projects, and musical creativity.
Publication Date: 2013-10-07
Thurgood Marshall by Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991. He was the first African American to hold that position, and was one of the most influential legal actors of his time. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson, Marshall was a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Federal Judge (1961-1965), and Solicitor General of the United States (1965-1966). Marshall won twenty-nine of thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court - most notably the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which held segregated public schools unconstitutional. Marshall spent his career fighting racial segregation and legal inequality, and his time on the court establishing a record for supporting the "voiceless American." He left a legacy of change that still affects American society today. Through this concise biography, accompanied by primary sources that present Marshall in his own words, students will learn what Marshall did (and did not do) during his life, why those actions were important, and what effects his efforts had on the larger course of American history.
Publication Date: 2013-07-18
Toni Morrison by Toni Morrison: Memory and Meaning boasts essays by well-known international scholars focusing on the author's literary production and including her very latest works--the theatrical production Desdemona and her tenth and latest novel, Home. These original contributions are among the first scholarly analyses of these latest additions to her oeuvre and make the volume a valuable addition to potential readers and teachers eager to understand the position of Desdemona and Home within the wider scope of Morrison's career. Indeed, in Home, we find a reworking of many of the tropes and themes that run throughout Morrison's fiction, prompting the editors to organize the essays as they relate to themes prevalent in Home. In many ways, Morrison has actually initiated paradigm shifts that permeate the essays. They consistently reflect, in approach and interpretation, the revolutionary change in the study of American literature represented by Morrison's focus on the interior lives of enslaved Africans. This collection assumes black subjectivity, rather than argues for it, in order to reread and revise the horror of slavery and its consequences into our time. The analyses presented in this volume also attest to the broad range of interdisciplinary specializations and interests in novels that have now become classics in world literature. The essays are divided into five sections, each entitled with a direct quotation from Home, and framed by two poems: Rita Dove's "The Buckeye" and Sonia Sanchez's "Aaayeee Babo, Aaayeee Babo, Aaayeee Babo."
Publication Date: 2014-08-12