Lincoln’s fellow Republicans Charles Sumner and Montgomery Blair played crucial roles in the shaping of their party. While both Sumner and Blair were opposed to slavery, their motivations reflected profoundly different approaches to the issue. Blair’s antislavery stance stemmed from a racist dedication to remove African Americans from the country altogether. Sumner, in contrast, opposed slavery as a crusader for racial equality and a passionate abolitionist. Lincoln maintained close personal relationships with both men as he wrestled with the slavery question. In addition to these antislavery voices, Escott also weaves into his narrative the other extreme, of which Lincoln was politically aware: the virulent racism and hierarchical values that motivated not only the Confederates but surprisingly many Northerners and which were embodied by the president’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
Sumner, Blair, and violent racists like Booth each represent forces with which Lincoln had to contend as he presided over a brutal civil war and faced the issues of slavery and equality lying at its root. Other books and films have provided glimpses of the atmosphere in which the president created his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s Dilemma evokes more fully and brings to life the men Lincoln worked with, and against, as he moved racial equality forward.
A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era
In this timely and thoughtful book, Paul D. Escott surveys the current state of Civil War studies and explores the latest developments in research and interpretation. He focuses on specific issues where promising work is yet to be done, highlighting subjects such as the deep roots of the war, the role of African Americans, and environmental history, among others. He also identifies digital tools which have only recently become available and which allow researchers to take advantage of information in ways that were never before possible. Rethinking the Civil War Era is poised to guide young historians in much the way that James M. McPherson and William J. Cooper Jr.'s Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand did for a previous generation. Escott eloquently charts new ways forward for scholars, offering ideas, questions, and challenges. His work will not only illuminate emerging research but will also provide inspiration for future research in a field that continues to adapt and change.
Escott gives especial critical attention to Abraham Lincoln. Since the civil rights movement, many popular books have treated Lincoln as an icon, a mythical leader with thoroughly modern views on all aspects of race. But, focusing on Lincoln’s policies rather than attempting to divine Lincoln’s intentions from his often ambiguous or cryptic statements, Escott reveals a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than on emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states’ rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly in freedom, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of the interests of blacks.Escott’s approach reveals the depth of slavery’s influence on society and the pervasiveness of assumptions of white supremacy. "What Shall We Do with the Negro?" serves as a corrective in offering a more realistic, more nuanced, and less celebratory approach to understanding this crucial period in American history.
Against the backdrop of the war's military drama and strategic dilemmas, The Confederacy brings into sharp focus the racial, class, gender, and political conflicts that helped destabilize the Confederacy from within. Along the way, Escott shows how time and time again, the South's political and economic elite made errors that further weakened a South already facing a Union army with greater numbers and firepower.
The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.
In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.
At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.
Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.
Ultimately the crisis of the Confederacy threatened both the constitutionalism that southern politicians long had cherished and a core principle of the tradition of civil control over the military. Key figures in the army also took the lead in urging the use of slaves as soldiers and promoting the idea of emancipation. With many portraits of high-ranking generals and civil officials and telling anecdotes that reveal the nature of their relationships, this book reveals the depth of the Confederacy's social, political, and military crisis and highlights what this crisis revealed about the foundations of Confederate society.
Contradicting much recent scholarship, Escott argues that the North’s Democratic Party was consciously and avowedly "the white man’s party," as an extensive examination of Democratic newspapers, as well as congressional debates and other speeches by Democratic leaders, proves. The Republican Party, meanwhile, defended emancipation as a war measure but did little to attack racism or fight for equal rights. Most Republicans propagated a message that emancipation would not disturb northern race relations or the interests of northern white voters: freed slaves, it was felt, would either leave the nation or remain in the South as subordinate laborers.
Escott’s book uncovers the substantial and destructive racism that lay beyond the South’s borders. Although emancipation represented enormous progress, racism flourished in the North, and assumptions of white supremacy remained powerful and nearly ubiquitous throughout America.
After her seventeenth birthday in 1973, Janis Hunter met Marvin Gaye—the soulful prince of Motown with the seductive liquid voice whose chart-topping, socially conscious album What’s Going On made him a superstar two years earlier. Despite a seventeen-year-age difference and Marvin’s marriage to the sister of Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder, the enchanted teenager and the emotionally volatile singer began a scorching relationship.
One moment Jan was a high school student; the next she was accompanying Marvin to parties, navigating the intriguing world of 1970s-‘80s celebrity; hanging with Don Cornelius on the set of Soul Train, and helping to discover new talent like Frankie Beverly. But the burdens of fame, the chaos of dysfunctional families, and the irresistible temptations of drugs complicated their love.
Primarily silent since Marvin’s tragic death in 1984, Jan at last opens up, sharing the moving, fervently charged story of one of music history’s most fabled marriages. Unsparing in its honesty and insight, illustrated with sixteen pages of black-and-white photos, After the Dance reveals what it’s like to be in love with a creative genius who transformed popular culture and whose artistry continues to be celebrated today.
Baratunde Thurston’s comedic memoir chronicles his coming-of-blackness and offers practical advice on everything from “How to Be the Black Friend” to “How to Be the (Next) Black President”.
Have you ever been called “too black” or “not black enough”?
Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person?
Have you ever heard of black people?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you. It is also for anyone who can read, possesses intelligence, loves to laugh, and has ever felt a distance between who they know themselves to be and what the world expects.
Raised by a pro-black, Pan-Afrikan single mother during the crack years of 1980s Washington, DC, and educated at Sidwell Friends School and Harvard University, Baratunde Thurston has more than over thirty years' experience being black. Now, through stories of his politically inspired Nigerian name, the heroics of his hippie mother, the murder of his drug-abusing father, and other revelatory black details, he shares with readers of all colors his wisdom and expertise in how to be black.
“As a black woman, this book helped me realize I’m actually a white man.”—Patton Oswalt
Before Barry Bonds, before Reggie Jackson, before Hank Aaron, baseball's stars had one undeniable trait in common: they were all white. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke that barrier, striking a crucial blow for racial equality and changing the world of sports forever. I Never Had It Made is Robinson's own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues.
I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson's early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school's first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the "Noble Experiment"—Robinson would step up to bat to integrate and revolutionize baseball.
More than a baseball story, I Never Had It Made also reveals the highs and lows of Robinson's life after baseball. He recounts his political aspirations and civil rights activism; his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Buckley, Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller; and his troubled relationship with his son, Jackie, Jr.
I Never Had It Made endures as an inspiring story of a man whose heroism extended well beyond the playing field.
The Grammy-winning founder of the legendary pop/R&B/soul/funk/disco group tells his story and charts the rise of his legendary band in this sincere memoir that captures the heart and soul of an artist whose groundbreaking sound continues to influence music today.
With its dynamic horns, contrasting vocals, and vivid stage shows, Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the most popular acts of the late twentieth century—the band “that changed the sound of black pop” (Rolling Stone)—and its music continues to inspire modern artists including Usher, Jay-Z, Cee-Lo Green, and Outkast. At last, the band’s founder, Maurice White, shares the story of his success.
Now in his seventies, White reflects on the great blessings music has brought to his life and the struggles he’s endured: his mother leaving him behind in Memphis when he was four; learning to play the drums with Booker T. Jones; moving to Chicago at eighteen and later Los Angeles after leaving the Ramsey Lewis Trio; forming EWF, only to have the original group fall apart; working with Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond; his diagnosis of Parkinson’s; and his final public performance with the group at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Through it all, White credits his faith for his amazing success and guidance in overcoming his many challenges.
Keep Your Head to the Sky is an intimate, moving, and beautiful memoir from a man whose creativity and determination carried him to great success, and whose faith enabled him to savor every moment.
Readers who were moved and horrified by Hotel Rwanda will respond even more intensely to Paul Rusesabagina’s unforgettable autobiography. As Rwanda was thrown into chaos during the 1994 genocide, Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, turned the luxurious Hotel Milles Collines into a refuge for more than 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees, while fending off their would-be killers with a combination of diplomacy and deception. In An Ordinary Man, he tells the story of his childhood, retraces his accidental path to heroism, revisits the 100 days in which he was the only thing standing between his “guests” and a hideous death, and recounts his subsequent life as a refugee and activist.
The Mann's have delighted and inspired audiences through music, a string of plays and movies, as well as several television series—Meet the Browns, The Mann's, and Mann & Wife. They’ll share about their often hilarious and sometimes controversial interactions with each other, their blended family of five grown children and eight grandchildren, and how these relationships enrich their lives. Given their recording careers, touring, filming, and managing an outrageous family, The Mann's will share with readers the day-to-day challenges, successes, and joys that happen behind the scenes.
First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston’s candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography—an imaginative and exuberant account of her childhood in the rural South and her rise to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.
As compelling as her acclaimed fiction, Hurston’s very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life—public and private—of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the Black experience in America. Full of the wit and wisdom of a proud, spirited woman who started off low and climbed high, Dust Tracks on a Road is a rare treasure from one of literature’s most cherished voices.
“Warm, witty, imaginative. . . . This is a rich and winning book.”—The New Yorker
Unruly is two stories that offer one complete picture of a man and his world: the angry, fatherless rapper, Ja Rule who was “raised by the streets”; and Jeffrey Atkins, the insightful, reflective father and loyal husband who learned the hard way how to be a good man.
Filled with never-before-revealed anecdotes and sixteen pages of black-and-white photos, Unruly shows the determination that it takes to become a man in today’s society. Ja Rule considers the lack of role models for many young black men today—a void that leads to bad choices and the wrong paths. Recalling his youth, he illuminates the seductive pull of the streets and the drug dealers who were his earliest role models.
Jeffrey Atkins offers practical wisdom—reflection, growth and hope learned first-hand as an inmate, father, husband, and community role model. He speaks fondly of men who inspired Unruly—the inmates he met in prison whose misguided ideas of masculinity landed them behind bars—and Louis Farrakhan who mediated the televised encounter with Ja Rule’s adversary, 50 Cent.
Unruly is a compelling, personal look at the duality and conflicts that arise in the African-American male psyche from a man who has enjoyed breathtaking fame and suffered heartbreaking misfortune.