Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield


Todd Mayfield - 2016
    But perhaps more important is his role as a social critic, and the vital influence his music had on the civil rights movement. "People Get Ready" is the black anthem of the 1960s, and on his soundtrack to the 1972 movie Super Fly, rather than glorifying the blaxploitation imagery of the film, Mayfield wrote and sang one of the most incisive audio portraits of black America on record. In Traveling Soul, Todd Mayfield tells his famously private father’s story in riveting detail. Born into dire poverty, raised in the slums of Chicago, Curtis became a musical prodigy, not only singing like a dream but also growing into a brilliant songwriter. In the 1960s he became a pioneer, opening his own label and production company and working with many other top artists, including the Staple Singers. Curtis’s life was famously cut short by an accident that left him paralyzed, but in his declining health he received the long-awaited recognition of the music industry. Passionate, illuminating, vivid, and absorbing, Traveling Soul will doubtlessly take its place among the classics of music biography.

Dorothy Dandridge


Donald Bogle - 1997
    . . . Bogle has fashioned a resonant history of a bygone era in Hollywood and passionately documented the contribution of one of its most dazzling and complex performers."—New York Times Book ReviewIn the segregated world of 1950s America, few celebrities were as talented, beautiful, glamorous, and ultimately influential as Dorothy Dandridge. Universally admired, she was Hollywood's first full-fledged Black movie star. Film historian Donald Bogle offers a panoramic portrait of Dorothy Dandridge’s extraordinary and ultimately tragic life and career, from her early years as a child performer in Cleveland, to her rise as a nightclub headliner and movie star, to her heartbreaking death at 42. Bogle reveals how this exceptionally talented and intensely ambitious entertainer broke down racial barriers by integrating some of America's hottest nightclubs and broke through Tinseltown’s glass ceiling. Along with her smash appearances at venues such as Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, Dorothy starred in numerous films, making history with her role in Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, playing opposite Harry Belafonte. Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress—the first Oscar nod for a woman of color.But Dorothy’s wealth, fame, and success masked a reality fraught with contradiction and illusion. Struggling to find good roles professionally, uncomfortable with her image as a sex goddess, coping with the aftermath of two unhappy marriages and a string of unfulfilling affairs, and overwhelmed with guilt for her disabled daughter, Dorothy found herself emotionally and financially bankrupt—despair that ended in her untimely death.Woven from extensive research and unique interviews, as magnetic as the woman at its heart, Dorothy Dandridge captures this dazzling entertainer in all her complexity: her strength and vulnerability, her joy and her pain, her trials and her triumphs.

I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway


Greg Kot - 2014
    One of the most enduring artists of popular music, Mavis and her talented family fused gospel, soul, folk, and rock to transcend racism and oppression through song. Honing her prodigious talent on the Southern gospel circuit of the 1950s, Mavis and the Staple Singers went on to sell more than 30 million records, with message-oriented soul music that became a soundtrack to the civil rights movement—inspiring Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.Critically acclaimed biographer and Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot cuts to the heart of Mavis Staples’s music, revealing the intimate stories of her sixty-year career. From her love affair with Bob Dylan, to her creative collaborations with Prince, to her recent revival alongside Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, this definitive account shows Mavis as you’ve never seen her before. I’ll Take You There was written with the complete cooperation of Mavis and her family. Readers will also hear from Prince, Bonnie Raitt, David Byrne, and many others whose lives have been influenced by Mavis’s talent.Filled with never-before-told stories, this fascinating biography illuminates a legendary singer and group during a historic period of change in America. “Ultimately, Kot depicts the endurance of Mavis Staples and her family’s music as an inspiration, a saga that takes us, like the song that inspired this book’s name, to a place where ain’t nobody crying” (The Washington Post).“A biography that will send readers back to the music of Mavis and the Staple Singers with deepened appreciation and a renewed spirit of discovery” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)—from the acclaimed music journalist and author featured prominently in the new HBO documentary Mavis!

Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink


David Margolick - 2002
    Acclaimed journalist David Margolick takes us into the careers of both men — a black American and a Nazi German hero — and depicts the extraordinary buildup to their legendary 1938 rematch. Vividly capturing the outpouring of emotion that the two fighters brought forth, Margolick brilliantly illuminates the cultural and social divisions that they came to represent.

Michelle Obama: An American Story


David Colbert - 2008
    This look at Michelle Obama's life and the turning points that shaped her shows how a girl from a working class background could rise to become one of the most influential women of her day.    But this is more than a straight chronological retelling. This book looks at Michelle Obama's life story within the context of the larger movements in African American history: slavery, freedom, the Reconstruction era, the Civil Rights movement, and finally, her own era.     History is what has shaped Michelle and challenged her. And ultimately, not only has she overcome any obstacles put before her, she has carved out her own place in history as well.    Includes 16 pages of color photos.

The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White


Daniel J. Sharfstein - 2011
    The stories we tell about our past have calcified into the fiction that we are neatly divided into black or white. It is only with the widespread availability of DNA testing and the boom in genealogical research that the frequency with which individuals and entire families crossed the color line has become clear. In this sweeping history, Daniel J. Sharfstein unravels the stories of three families who represent the complexity of race in America and force us to rethink our basic assumptions about who we are. The Gibsons were wealthy landowners in the South Carolina backcountry who became white in the 1760s, ascending to the heights of the Southern elite and ultimately to the U.S. Senate. The Spencers were hardscrabble farmers in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, joining an isolated Appalachian community in the 1840s and for the better part of a century hovering on the line between white and black. The Walls were fixtures of the rising black middle class in post-Civil War Washington, D.C., only to give up everything they had fought for to become white at the dawn of the twentieth century. Together, their interwoven and intersecting stories uncover a forgotten America in which the rules of race were something to be believed but not necessarily obeyed.

Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson


Kenneth R. Timmerman - 2002
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Or, Africa for the Africans


Marcus Garvey - 1940
    The Garveyites' Bible!

We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest and Possibility


Marc Lamont Hill - 2020
    The brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and countless other injustices large and small, were the match that lit the spark of the largest protest movement in US history, a historic uprising against racism and the politics of disposability that the Covid-19 pandemic lays bare.In this urgent and incisive collection of new interviews bookended by two new essays, Marc Lamont Hill critically examines the “pre-existing conditions” that have led us to this moment of crisis and upheaval, guiding us through both the perils and possibilities, and helping us imagine an abolitionist future.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy


Annette Gordon-Reed - 1997
    Among all aspects of Jefferson's renowned life, it was perhaps the most hotly contested topic. The publication of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings intensified this debate by identifying glaring inconsistencies in many noted scholars' evaluations of the existing evidence. In this study, Gordon-Reed assembles a fascinating and convincing argument: not that the alleged thirty-eight-year liaison necessarily took place but rather that the evidence for its taking place has been denied a fair hearing.Friends of Jefferson sought to debunk the Hemings story as early as 1800, and most subsequent historians and biographers followed suit, finding the affair unthinkable based upon their view of Jefferson's life, character, and beliefs. Gordon-Reed responds to these critics by pointing out numerous errors and prejudices in their writings, ranging from inaccurate citations, to impossible time lines, to virtual exclusions of evidence--especially evidence concerning the Hemings family. She demonstrates how these scholars may have been misguided by their own biases and may even have tailored evidence to serve and preserve their opinions of Jefferson. This updated edition of the book also includes an afterword in which the author comments on the DNA study that provided further evidence of a Jefferson and Hemings liaison.Possessing both a layperson's unfettered curiosity and a lawyer's logical mind, Annette Gordon-Reed writes with a style and compassion that are irresistible. Each chapter revolves around a key figure in the Hemings drama, and the resulting portraits are engrossing and very personal. Gordon-Reed also brings a keen intuitive sense of the psychological complexities of human relationships--relationships that, in the real world, often develop regardless of status or race. The most compelling element of all, however, is her extensive and careful research, which often allows the evidence to speak for itself. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy is the definitive look at a centuries-old question that should fascinate general readers and historians alike.

Michelle Obama: A Photographic Journey


Sterling Publishing - 2017
     With 140 photographs, inspiring quotes, and excerpts from five historic speeches, this gorgeous volume pays tribute to Michelle Obama. Although it primarily focuses on 2007 to 2016, the book covers the pre-White House years, as well: her childhood, her time in college and law school, her work as a young professional, her marriage to Barack, and her experiences during his first campaign. It also explores her family life; celebrates her First Lady Firsts; looks at her TV appearances and official trips; details her main health, social, and education projects; and presents her as the glamorous, fashionable First Hostess at State Dinners and other events. Fans of Michelle will treasure this keepsake of a trendsetting, socially conscious, and powerful First Lady."

Autobiography of Malcom X


Ray Shepard - 1973
    From petty criminal to defiant race rights fighter to leader of the Black Muslim movement, his life story is provocative and engrossing.

On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 2007
    The unapologetic writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, the fervent fiction and poetry of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, the groundbreaking art of Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson, and the triumphant music of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong gave voice and expression to the thoughts and emotions that Jim Crow segregation laws had long sought to stifle. In "On the Shoulders of Giants, " indomitable basketball star and bestselling author and historian Kareem Abdul-Jabbar invites the reader on an extraordinarily personal journey back to his birthplace, through one of the greatest political, cultural, literary, and artistic movements in our history, revealing the tremendous impact the Harlem Renaissance had on both American culture and his own life. Beginning with the rise of the Harlem Rens as pioneers of professional basketball, Kareem traces the many streams of historical influence that converged to create the man he is today -- the NBA's all-time leading scorer and a veritable African-American icon.Travel deep into the soul of the Renaissance -- to the night clubs, restaurants, basketball games, and fabulous parties that have made footprints in Harlem's history. Meet the athletes, jazz musicians, comedians, actors, politicians, entrepreneurs, and writers who not only inspired Kareem's rise to greatness but an entire nation's.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born in the midst of a cultural reawakening, carried on the shoulders of athletes trying to prove there was a lot more at stake than a ball game, men and women who made music that could break your heart, and writers and intellectuals who gave voice to not just the ideals of a movement but the raw emotions. Kareem tells what it took to get these revolutionaries to Harlem and how they changed the world. A world that is still riding on the shoulders of giants.

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation


Clarence B. Jones - 2011
    brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.

Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality


Jonathan Aitken - 2013
    Drawing from an abundance of new, previously unpublished material from the Thatcher Archive at Churchill College, Cambridge, Jonathan Aitken's fresh and original biography is a lively and perceptive exploration of the personality that dominated conservative British politics for more than 10 years and her profound and worldwide impact on the historical tapestry of her time. At once positive and critical in its assessment of her governance, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality is crafted from the author's longtime personal relationship with his subject, his eyewitness account of public and private episodes in her life, and more than 100 interviews with the former Prime Minister's political colleagues and close personal friends. Penetrating and insightful, it chronicles one of the most remarkable political lives of our time.