February 2012’s top-selling African American books in hardcover:
- The Family Business by Carl Weber
(Urban Books, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
By day, the Duncans are an upstanding family who run a thriving car dealership in Queens. By night, they live a dangerous secret life! Carl Weber and Eric Pete deliver a thrilling underworld drama in The Family Business.L.C. Duncan, patriarch of the family, is at the age when he’s starting to think about retirement in sunny Florida. But the recession is taking a bite out of the business and, worrying more, he has to decide which of his children should take over. When his workaholic son Orlando gets the nod, Orlando’s siblings—including the favorite son Vegas, conniving daughter London, glamorous party girl Paris and flamboyant nightclub owner Rio—are up in arms. But so are the Zunigas, a rival family whose fragile business alliance with the Duncans may explode at any moment.When Vegas suddenly breaks away from the family, London’s lawyer husband, Harris, makes a play for the company and all hell breaks loose. Selling cars, it turns out, is only a small part of the Duncans’ family business. Each member of the family has a secret expertise to reveal. And now, under siege from the Mafia, Mexican drug cartels and the Zunigas, the Duncans will have to stick together—or die separately!
- Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy by Maggie Anderson
(PublicAffairs, 2012-02-14, Hardcover)
Maggie and John Anderson were successful African American professionals raising two daughters in a tony suburb of Chicago. But they felt uneasy over their good fortune. Most African Americans live in economically starved neighborhoods. Black wealth is about one tenth of white wealth, and black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial groups in every measure of success. One problem is that black consumers–unlike consumers of other ethnicities– choose not to support black-owned businesses. At the same time, most of the businesses in their communities are owned by outsiders.On January 1, 2009 the Andersons embarked on a year-long public pledge to “buy black.” They thought that by taking a stand, the black community would be mobilized to exert its economic might. They thought that by exposing the issues, Americans of all races would see that economically empowering black neighborhoods benefits society as a whole. Instead, blacks refused to support their own, and others condemned their experiment. Drawing on economic research and social history as well as her personal story, Maggie Anderson shows why the black economy continues to suffer and issues a call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend.
- We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
(Peachtree Publishers, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
We ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alalama, between May 2 and May 11, 1963. Fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi s and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. s precept to fill the jails, they succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America. Focusing on four of the original participants who have participated in extensive interviews, We ve Got a Job recounts the astonishing events before, during, and after the Children s March.
- To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker by Sydney Nathans
(Harvard University Press, 2012-02-13, Hardcover)
What was it like for a mother to flee slavery, leaving her children behind? To Free a Family tells the remarkable story of Mary Walker, who in August 1848 fled her owner for refuge in the North and spent the next seventeen years trying to recover her family. Her freedom, like that of thousands who escaped from bondage, came at a great price—remorse at parting without a word, fear for her family’s fate.This story is anchored in two extraordinary collections of letters and diaries, that of her former North Carolina slaveholders and that of the northern family—Susan and Peter Lesley—who protected and employed her. Sydney Nathans’ sensitive and penetrating narrative reveals Mary Walker’s remarkable persistence as well as the sustained collaboration of black and white abolitionists who assisted her. Mary Walker and the Lesleys ventured half a dozen attempts at liberation, from ransom to ruse to rescue, until the end of the Civil War reunited Mary Walker with her son and daughter.Unlike her more famous counterparts—Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, and Sojourner Truth—who wrote their own narratives and whose public defiance made them heroines, Mary Walker’s efforts were protracted, wrenching, and private. Her odyssey was more representative of women refugees from bondage who labored secretly and behind the scenes to reclaim their families from the South. In recreating Mary Walker’s journey, To Free a Family gives voice to their hidden epic of emancipation and to an untold story of the Civil War era. (20111024)
- Quilts in the Attic: Uncovering the Hidden Stories of the Quilts We Love by Karen Musgrave
(Voyageur Press, 2012-02-15, Hardcover)
As both history and art, quilts help express the human experience and can lead quilters to discoveries about themselves, about the past, and about artistic creation as a whole. Quilts in the Attic features 30 heartwarming stories of great quilt discoveries—from bidding on a breathtaking quilt at an estate auction in Virginia to uncovering a little-known art form in France to finding and repairing a priceless heirloom quilt that had been used, neglected, and damaged, these stories from everyday stitchers and well-known quilters alike reveal the mystery and meaning of the quilts we love.
- The Healing: A Novel by Jonathan Odell
(Nan A. Talese, 2012-02-21, Hardcover)
The pre-Civil War South comes brilliantly to life in this masterfully written novel about a mysterious and charismatic healer readers won’t soon forget Mississippi plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield loses her daughter to cholera after her husband refuses to treat her for what he considers to be a “slave disease.” Insane with grief, Amanda takes a newborn slave child as her own and names her Granada, much to the outrage of her husband and the amusement of their white neighbors. Troubled by his wife’s disturbing mental state and concerned about a mysterious plague sweeping through his slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave reputed to be a healer. But Polly’s sharp tongue and troubling predictions cause unrest across the plantation. Complicating matters further, Polly recognizes “the gift” in Granada, the mistress’s pet, and a domestic battle of wills ensues. Seventy-five years later, Granada, now known as Gran Gran, is still living on the plantation and must revive the buried memories of her past in order to heal a young girl abandoned to her care. Together they learn the power of story to heal the body, the spirit and the soul. Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is the kind of novel readers can’t put down—and can’t wait to recommend once they’ve finished.
- No Crystal Stair (Carolrhoda YA) by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
(Carolrhoda Books, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
A documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller’You can’t walk straight on a crooked line. You do you’ll break your leg. How can you walk straight in a crooked system?’Lewis Michaux was born to do things his own way. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because Negroes don’t read,’ Lewis took five books and one-hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It soon became the intellectual center of Harlem, a refuge for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X. In No Crystal Stair, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson combines meticulous research with a storyteller’s flair to document the life and times of her great uncle Lewis Michaux, an extraordinary literacy pioneer of the Civil Rights era. ‘My life was no crystal stair, far from it. But I’m taking my leave with some pride. It tickles me to know that those folks who said I could never sell books to black people are eating crow. I’d say my seeds grew pretty damn well. And not just the book business. It’s the more important business of moving our people forward that has real meaning.’
- DJ Rising by Love Maia
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012-02-06, Hardcover)
The first thing I hear is music. The first thing I’ve always heard is music.Meet Marley, an unassuming high school junior who breathes in music like oxygen. In between caring for his heroin-addicted mother, and keeping his scholarship at a fancy prep school, he dreams of becoming a professional DJ.When chance lands Marley his first real DJ job, his career as “DJ Ice” suddenly skyrockets. But when heart-rending disaster at home brings Marley crashing back down to earth, he is torn between obligation and following his dreams.
- Deceit and Devotion by RM Johnson
(Simon & Schuster, 2012-02-21, Hardcover)
Delving into the depths of treachery and affection, RM Johnson returns with another thrilling drama.Johnson will pull you in from the outset. When Nate Kenny convinces Daphanie Coleman to sign over custody of her newborn baby to the father, his ex-wife, Monica, vows to help the young woman. But Monica is still recovering from a gunshot to the head that put her in a coma. Daphanie hires Austin Harris to help win her baby back, but divorced and lonely, Austin falls for Monica and tries to pull her into a relationship—one she is reluctant to start.Meanwhile, Caleb Harris, Austin’s brother, must pay back a loan shark to save his family from home eviction. But debt isn’t his only problem—his son has fallen deeper and deeper into crime. And as Daphanie struggles to win back her child, she must decide whether or not she will live by the rules of a man she despises in order to stay in her child’s life.This electrifying novel features the unforgettable Harris brothers, the major players of Johnson’s Million Dollar series, in a gripping new drama of passion and revenge. Deceit and Devotion—a rich tapestry of family, love, and loyalty—is not to be missed.
- Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph
(Algonquin Books, 2012-02-07, Hardcover)
In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring.Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter.He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division—the very school he exhorted students to burn down during one of his most famous speeches as a Panther.In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement. He recounts a harrowing, sometimes deadly imprisonment as he charts his path to manhood in a book filled with equal parts rage, despair, and hope.
- Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist by Thomas Peele
(Crown, 2012-02-07, Hardcover)
When a nineteen-year-old member of a Black Muslim cult assassinated Oakland newspaper editor Chauncey Bailey in 2007—the most shocking killing of a journalist in the United States in thirty years—the question was, Why? “I just wanted to be a good soldier, a strong soldier,” the killer told police. A strong soldier for whom? Killing the Messenger is a searing work of narrative nonfiction that explores one of the most blatant attacks on the First Amendment and free speech in American history and the small Black Muslim cult that carried it out. Award-winning investigative reporter Thomas Peele examines the Black Muslim movement from its founding in the early twentieth century by a con man who claimed to be God, to the height of power of the movement’s leading figure, Elijah Muhammad, to how the great-grandson of Texas slaves reinvented himself as a Muslim leader in Oakland and built the violent cult that the young gunman eventually joined. Peele delves into how charlatans exploited poor African Americans with tales from a religion they falsely claimed was Islam and the years of bloodshed that followed, from a human sacrifice in Detroit to police shootings of unarmed Muslims to the horrible backlash of racism known as the “zebra murders,” and finally to the brazen killing of Chauncey Bailey to stop him from publishing a newspaper story. Peele establishes direct lines between the violent Black Muslim organization run by Yusuf Bey in Oakland and the evangelicalism of the early prophets and messengers of the Nation of Islam. Exposing the roots of the faith, Peele examines its forerunner, the Moorish Science Temple of America, which in the 1920s and ’30s preached to migrants from the South living in Chicago and Detroit ghettos that blacks were the world’s master race, tricked into slavery by white devils. In spite of the fantastical claims and hatred at its core, the Nation of Islam was able to build a following by appealing to the lack of identity common in slave descendants. In Oakland, Yusuf Bey built a cult through a business called Your Black Muslim Bakery, beating and raping dozens of women he claimed were his wives and fathering more than forty children. Yet, Bey remained a prominent fixture in the community, and police looked the other way as his violent soldiers ruled the streets. An enthralling narrative that combines a rich historical account with gritty urban reporting, Killing the Messenger is a mesmerizing story of how swindlers and con men abused the tragedy of racism and created a radical religion of bloodshed and fear that culminated in a journalist’s murder.THOMAS PEELE is a digital investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. His many honors include the Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner Award for his reporting on organized crime, and the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage. He lives in Northern California.
- Born along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement by Eben Miller
(Oxford University Press, USA, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
In August, 1933, dozens of people gathered amid seven large, canvas tents in a field near Amenia, in upstate New York. Joel Spingarn, president of the board of the NAACP, had called a conference to revitalize the flagging civil rights organization. In Amenia, such old lions as the 65 year-old W.E.B. DuBois would mingle with “the coming leaders of Negro thought.” It was a fascinating encounter that would transform the civil rights movement. With elegant writing and piercing insight, historian Eben Miller narrates how this little-known conference brought together a remarkable young group of African American activists, capturing through the lives of five extraordinary participants–youth activist Juanita Jackson, diplomat Ralph Bunche, economist Abram Harris, lawyer Louis Redding, and Harlem organizer Moran Weston–how this generation shaped the ongoing movement for civil rights during the Depression, World War II, and beyond. Miller describes how Jackson, Bunche, Harris, and the others felt that, amidst the global crisis of the 1930s, it was urgent to move beyond the NAACP’s legal and political focus to build an economic movement that reached across the racial divide to challenge the capitalist system that had collapsed so devastatingly. They advocated alliances with labor groups, agitated for equal education, and campaigned for anti-lynching legislation and open access to the ballot and employment–spreading their influential ideas through their writings and by mass organizing in African American communities across the country, North and South. In their arguments and individual awakenings, they formed a key bridge between the turn-of-the-century Talented Tenth and the postwar civil rights generation, broadening and advancing the fight for racial equality through the darkest economic times the country has ever faced.In Born along the Color Line, Miller vividly captures the emergence of a forgotten generation of African American leaders, a generation that made Brown v. Board of Education and all that followed from it possible. It is an illuminating portrait of the “long civil rights movement,” not the movement that began in the 1950s, but the one that took on new life at Amenia in 1933
- Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation by Rebecca J. Scott
(Harvard University Press, 2012-02-27, Hardcover)
This saga opens with the enslavement of a woman from Senegambia, and then traces her family’s quest, across five generations, for lives of dignity and equality. The story of Rosalie and her descendants unfolds against the background of three great antiracist struggles: the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution of 1848, and the U.S. Civil War. (20111204)
- From Slave to State Legislator: John W. E. Thomas, Illinois’ First African American Lawmaker by David A Joens
(Southern Illinois University Press, 2012-02-29, Hardcover)
As the first African American elected to the Illinois general assembly, John W. E. Thomas was the recognized leader of the state’s African American community for nearly twenty years and laid the groundwork for the success of future black leaders in Chicago politics. Despite his key role in the passage of Illinois’ first civil rights act and his commitment to improving his community against steep personal and political barriers, Thomas’s life and career have been long forgotten by historians and the public alike. This fascinating full-length biography—the first to address the full influence of Thomas or any black politician from Illinois during the Reconstruction Era—is also a pioneering effort to explain the dynamics of African American politics and divisions within the black community in post–Civil War Chicago. In From Slave to State Legislator, David A. Joens traces Thomas’s trajectory from a slave owned by a doctor’s family in Alabama to a prominent attorney believed to be the wealthiest African American man in Chicago at the time of his death in 1899. Providing one of the few comprehensive looks at African Americans in Chicago during this period, Joens reveals how Thomas’s career represents both the opportunities available to African Americans in the postwar period and the limits still placed on them. When Thomas moved to Chicago in 1869, he started a grocery store, invested in real estate, and founded the first private school for African Americans before becoming involved in politics. From Slave to State Legislator provides detailed coverage of Thomas’s three terms in the legislature during the 1870s and 1880s, his multiple failures to be nominated for reelection, and his loyalty to the Republican Party at great political cost, calling attention to the political differences within a black community often considered small and homogenous. Even after achieving his legislative legacy—the passage of the first state civil rights law—Thomas was plagued by patronage issues and an increasingly bitter split with the African American community frustrated with slow progress toward true equality. Drawing on newspapers and an array of government documents, Joens provides the most thorough review to date of the first civil rights legislation and the two controversial “colored conventions” chaired by Thomas. Joens cements Thomas’s legacy as a committed and conscientious lawmaker amid political and personal struggles. In revealing the complicated rivalries and competing ambitions that shaped black northern politics during the Reconstruction Era, Joens shows the long-term impact of Thomas’s friendship with other burgeoning African American political stars and his work to get more black representatives elected. The volume is enhanced by short biographies of other key Chicago African American politicians of the era.
- Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) by Gellman Erik S.
(The University of North Carolina Press, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
During the Great Depression, black intellectuals, labor organizers, and artists formed the National Negro Congress (NNC) to demand a “second emancipation” in America. Over the next decade, the NNC and its offshoot, the Southern Negro Youth Congress, sought to coordinate and catalyze local antiracist activism into a national movement to undermine the Jim Crow system of racial and economic exploitation. In this pioneering study, Erik S. Gellman shows how the NNC agitated for the first-class citizenship of African Americans and all members of the working class, establishing civil rights as necessary for reinvigorating American democracy. Much more than just a precursor to the 1960s civil rights movement, this activism created the most militant interracial freedom movement since Reconstruction, one that sought to empower the American labor movement to make demands on industrialists, white supremacists, and the state as never before. By focusing on the complex alliances between unions, civic groups, and the Communist Party in five geographic regions, Gellman explains how the NNC and its allies developed and implemented creative grassroots strategies to weaken Jim Crow, if not deal it the “death blow” they sought.
- Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation by Gerald Horne
(NYU Press, 2012-02-01, Hardcover)
While it is well known that more Africans fought on behalf of the British than with the successful patriots of the American Revolution, Gerald Horne reveals in his latest work of historical recovery that after 1776, Africans and African-Americans continued to collaborate with Great Britain against the United States in battles big and small until the Civil War. Many African Americans viewed Britain, an early advocate of abolitionism and emancipator of its own slaves, as a powerful ally in their resistance to slavery in the Americas. This allegiance was far-reaching, from the Caribbean to outposts in North America to Canada. In turn, the British welcomed and actively recruited both fugitive and free African Americans, arming them and employing them in military engagements throughout the Atlantic World, as the British sought to maintain a foothold in the Americas following the Revolution. In this path-breaking book, Horne rewrites the history of slave resistance by placing it for the first time in the context of military and diplomatic wrangling between Britain and the United States. Painstakingly researched and full of revelations, Negro Comrades of the Crown is among the first book-length studies to highlight the Atlantic origins of the Civil War, and the active role played by African Americans within these external factors that led to it.
- Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage, India, Sri Lanka by Gayatri Sinha
(Rhona Hoffman Gallery, 2012-02-29, Hardcover)
Kehinde Wiley’s acclaimed World Stageseries inserts into the language of old master portraiture the very ethnicities and ethnic iconography that western art has most excluded from it, or that western art has portrayed solely in colonial, Orientalist terms. Among the countries he has previously depicted in this ambitious traveling epic are Brazil, Africa and China. The rhetoric of Wiley’s paintings is powerful in its candor, color and its playfulness with constructions of visual meaning, and as Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) also notes, “Wiley’s canvas surfaces are a mirror reflection of America’s unceasing search for new meanings from the ruins of the Old World of Europe and Africa.” This volume includes a selection of new World Stageportraits, focusing on India (specifically the cities of New Delhi and Mumbai) and Sri Lanka. Text in English and Hindi.
- Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black and White by Emily Bernard
(Yale University Press, 2012-02-28, Hardcover)
Carl Van Vechten was a white man with a passion for blackness who played a crucial role in helping the Harlem Renaissance, a black movement, come to understand itself. Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance is grounded in the dramas occasioned by the Harlem Renaissance, as it is called today, or New Negro Renaissance, as it was called in the 1920s, when it first came into being. Emily Bernard focuses on writing—the black and white of things—the articles, fiction, essays, and letters that Carl Van Vechten wrote to black people and about black culture, and the writing of the black people who wrote to and about him. Above all, she is interested in the interpersonal exchanges that inspired the writing, which are ultimately far more significant than the public records would suggest.This book is a partial biography of a once controversial figure. It is not a comprehensive history of an entire life, but rather a chronicle of one of his lives, his black life, which began in his boyhood and thrived until his death. The narrative at the core of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance is not an attempt to answer the question of whether Van Vechten was good or bad for black people, or whether or not he hurt or helped black creative expression during the Harlem Renaissance. As Bernard writes, the book instead “enlarges that question into something much richer and more nuanced: a tale about the messy realities of race, and the complicated tangle of black and white.”
- King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels
(Doubleday, 2012-02-21, Hardcover)
The charming real-life fairy tale of an American secretary who discovers she has been chosen king of an impoverished fishing village on the west coast of Africa. King Peggy has the sweetness and quirkiness of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and the hopeful sense of possibility of Half the Sky. King Peggy chronicles the astonishing journey of an American secretary who suddenly finds herself king to a town of 7,000 souls on Ghana’s central coast, half a world away. Upon arriving for her crowning ceremony in beautiful Otuam, she discovers the dire reality: there’s no running water, no doctor, and no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town’s funds. To make matters worse, her uncle (the late king) sits in a morgue awaiting a proper funeral in the royal palace, which is in ruins. The longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors. Peggy’s first two years as king of Otuam unfold in a way that is stranger than fiction. In the end, a deeply traditional African town has been uplifted by the ambitions of its headstrong, decidedly modern female king. And in changing Otuam, Peggy is herself transformed, from an ordinary secretary to the heart and hope of her community.
- The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture: Volume Six: US Popular Print Culture 1860-1920 by Christine Bold
(Oxford University Press, USA, 2012-02-20, Hardcover)
What did most people read? Where did they get it? Where did it come from? What were its uses in its readers’ lives? How was it produced and distributed? What were its relations to the wider world of print culture? How did it develop over time? These questions are central toThe Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, an ambitious nine-volume series devoted to the exploration of popular print culture in English from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present.Volume six explores a cornucopia of US popular print materials from 1860 to 1920, the period when mass culture exploded into the everyday lives of large swathes of the population. Thirty specially written essays by scholars from a wide range of disciplines – history of the book; literary, cultural, media, and film studies; social history, journalism, and American Studies – probe the material conditions, proliferating genres, and cultural work of newly affordable and accessible forms. A dozen short entries address additional topics, genres, and approaches. A chronology of the relevant legal, technological, and organizational developments of the period and a list of online and physical archives provide further support for study in this burgeoning field. Cumulatively, the volume revisions the power of ‘the popular’ in its many meanings – widely circulated, commercialised, vernacular, working-class, cheap, accessible; it recovers and analyses neglected cultural webs and networks, as well as individual authors, famous and forgotten; and it interrogates conventional cultural hierarchies and high/low binaries. The volume pursues some key issues in rich archival and analytical detail. How did new technologies of production and distribution shape a plethora of print forms, including advertising leaflets, postcards, tracts, pamphlets, dime novels, story papers, newspapers, magazines, and cheap books? How did upheavals in the publishing industry and new regulatory mechanisms affect circulation and consumption? How did various genres mediate social and political transformations of the period? How did popular print forms consolidate transnational and borderlands networks? How were particular cultural communities, including Native American, African American, Asian American, and Mexican / America alternately served and oppressed by popular print? How was it seized in support of labour and woman suffrage, and how was it wielded by governmental and educational institutions? How did print interact with other media?