Tag Archives: American history

Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black

Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black by Chris Tomlinson
Thomas Dunne Books
July 22, 2014
Hardcover

Tomlinson Hill is the stunning story of two families — one white, one black — who trace their roots to a slave plantation that bears their name.

Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name.

LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders.

A masterpiece of authentic American history, Tomlinson Hill traces the true and very revealing story of these two families. From the beginning in 1854 — when the first Tomlinson, a white woman, arrived — to 2007, when the last Tomlinson, LaDainian’s father, left, the book unflinchingly explores the history of race and bigotry in Texas. Along the way it also manages to disclose a great many untruths that are latent in the unsettling and complex story of America.

Tomlinson Hill is also the basis for a film and an interactive web project. The award-winning film, which airs on PBS, concentrates on present-day Marlin, Texas and how the community struggles with poverty and the legacy of race today, and is accompanied by an interactive web site called Voice of Marlin, which stores the oral histories collected along the way.

Chris Tomlinson has used the reporting skills he honed as a highly respected reporter covering ethnic violence in Africa and the Middle East to fashion a perfect microcosm of America’s own ethnic strife. The economic inequality, political shenanigans, cruelty and racism — both subtle and overt — that informs the history of Tomlinson Hill also live on in many ways to this very day in our country as a whole. The author has used his impressive credentials and honest humanity to create a classic work of American history that will take its place alongside the timeless work of our finest historians

The Root’s Summer Reading List

The Root’s book selections for the Summer of 2014, featuring “Book of Hours” by Kevin Young, “Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson” by Barbara Ransby, “Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II” by Farah Jasmine Griffin:

Book of Hours: Poems by Kevin Young

A decade after the sudden and tragic loss of his father, we witness the unfolding of grief. “In the night I brush / my teeth with a razor,” he tells us, in one of the collection’s piercing two-line poems. Capturing the strange silence of bereavement (“Not the storm / but the calm / that slays me”), Kevin Young acknowledges, even celebrates, life’s passages, his loss transformed and tempered in a sequence about the birth of his son: in “Crowning,” he delivers what is surely one of the most powerful birth poems written by a man, describing “her face / full of fire, then groaning your face / out like a flower, blood-bloom,/ crocused into air.” Ending this book of both birth and grief, the gorgeous title sequence brings acceptance, asking “What good/are wishes if they aren’t / used up?” while understanding “How to listen / to what’s gone.” Young’s frank music speaks directly to the reader in these elemental poems, reminding us that the right words can both comfort us and enlarge our understanding of life’s mysteries.

Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson by Barbara Ransby

Eslanda “Essie” Cardozo Goode Robeson lived a colorful and amazing life. Her career and commitments took her many places: colonial Africa in 1936, the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, the founding meeting of the United Nations, Nazi-occupied Berlin, Stalin’s Russia, and China two months after Mao’s revolution. She was a woman of unusual accomplishment — an anthropologist, a prolific journalist, a tireless advocate of women’s rights, an outspoken anti-colonial and antiracist activist, and an internationally sought-after speaker. Yet historians for the most part have confined Essie to the role of Mrs. Paul Robeson, a wife hidden in the large shadow cast by her famous husband. In this masterful book, biographer Barbara Ransby refocuses attention on Essie, one of the most important and fascinating black women of the twentieth century.

Chronicling Essie’s eventful life, the book explores her influence on her husband’s early career and how she later achieved her own unique political voice. Essie’s friendships with a host of literary icons and world leaders, her renown as a fierce defender of justice, her defiant testimony before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s infamous anti-communist committee, and her unconventional open marriage that endured for over 40 years—all are brought to light in the pages of this inspiring biography. Essie’s indomitable personality shines through, as do her contributions to United States and twentieth-century world history.

Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II
by Farah Jasmine Griffin

As World War II raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy, the neighborhood’s diverse array of artists and activists took advantage of a brief period of progressivism during the war years to launch a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Ardent believers in America’s promise, these men and women helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement before Cold War politics and anti-Communist fervor temporarily froze their dreams at the dawn of the postwar era.

In Harlem Nocturne, esteemed scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose creative and political efforts fueled this historic movement for change: choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, and novelist Ann Petry. Like many African Americans in the city at the time, these women weren’t native New Yorkers, but the metropolis and its vibrant cultural scene gave them the space to flourish and the freedom to express their political concerns. Pearl Primus performed nightly at the legendary Cafe Society, the first racially integrated club in New York, where she debuted dances of social protest that drew on long-buried African traditions and the dances of former slaves in the South. Williams, meanwhile, was a major figure in the emergence of bebop, collaborating with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell and premiering her groundbreaking Zodiac Suite at the legendary performance space Town Hall. And Ann Petry conveyed the struggles of working-class black women to a national audience with her acclaimed novel The Street, which sold over a million copies — a first for a female African American author.

A rich biography of three artists and the city that inspired them, Harlem Nocturne captures a period of unprecedented vitality and progress for African Americans and women, revealing a cultural movement and a historical moment whose influence endures today.


The Cutting Season: A Novel by Attica Locke

Attica Locke‘s breathtaking debut novel, Black Water Rising, won resounding acclaim from major publications coast-to-coast and from respected crime fiction masters like James Ellroy and George Pelecanos, earning this exciting new author comparisons to Dennis Lehane, Scott Turow, and Walter Mosley. Locke returns with The Cutting Season, a second novel easily as gripping and powerful as her first — a heart-pounding thriller that interweaves two murder mysteries, one on Belle Vie, a historic landmark in the middle of Lousiana’s Sugar Cane country, and one involving a slave gone missing more than one hundred years earlier. Black Water Rising was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the U.K. The Cutting Season has been selected by bestselling author Dennis Lehane as the first pick for his new line of books at HarperCollins.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.” — Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life — to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth — and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Ward’s memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

The Harlem Hellfighters
by Max Brooks (Author), Caanan White (Illustrator)

Broadway Books, April 1, 2014, Paperback

From bestselling author Max Brooks, the riveting story of the highly decorated, barrier-breaking, historic black regiment — the Harlem Hellfighters

In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on — and off — the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.

In THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS, bestselling author Max Brooks and acclaimed illustrator Caanan White bring this history to life. From the enlistment lines in Harlem to the training camp at Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the trenches in France, they tell the heroic story of the 369th in an action-packed and powerful tale of honor and heart.

The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865 – 1939

A History of the First Black Auto Manufacturers

The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company conducted business in Greenfield, Ohio, from 1865-1939. Founded by slave-born Charles Richard (C.R.) Patterson, this company passed through three generations of the Patterson family. Throughout its history the company transitioned from building carriages, automobiles, trucks, and then buses, all in order to keep up with the rapidly changing demands and technology of the transportation industry during that period. When C. R.’s son, Frederick, began producing automobiles in 1915, he became the first and only black ever known to have built an automobile. This company led many pioneering efforts in providing proper vehicles for both horse-drawn and motorized school transportation and was also an industry leader in winter buggy design. The Pattersons always tried to find their niche within the transportation industry where they could remain competitive and achieve continued success. Their influence reached well beyond the transportation industry as they broke several color barriers in education, sports, and politics. The family was highly involved in many areas including Freemasonry, politics, and aiding Booker T. Washington in the founding of the National Negro Business League.

This company and family have a unique history, and a thoroughly detailed account has never been told that fully documents their story of overcoming adversity and surviving for 74 years in the white dominated business world. This book provides as many details as possible about the Patterson family from their arrival in Greenfield during the early 1840s until 1939 when a series of multiple factors, including the Great Depression, caused the family to finally lock the factory doors and close their unique chapter in history.

This 214 page book includes 37 photographs and other illustrations of the Patterson family, factory, and their products. This non-fiction history of the Pattersons is an adaptation of a Master’s thesis and has been peer reviewed for content and accuracy. Initially written for an academic audience, the text is still readily understood by those of high school age and above. This book provides a never before seen glimpse into the lives of the Pattersons through conducting exhaustive research to discover those obscure gems of information that have remained hidden until now, yet adds so much to the overall story of this family and company.

About the author: Christopher Nelson has a background in Archaeology and History. Mr. Nelson holds three degrees in Archaeology and is a Registered Professional Archaeologist. He has a special interest in the history of transportation, particularly during the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s and has worked on multiple projects within this topic during his career.

By Christopher Nelson 2010.

Available on Amazon.com or by contacting publisher at hurricanecreekpublishing@yahoo.com

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

From a master historian, the story of Lincoln’s — and the nation’s — transformation through the crucible of slavery and emancipation. In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln’s youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Although “naturally anti-slavery” for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states. But the political landscape is transformed in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes the expansion of slavery a national issue.

A man of considered words and deliberate actions, Lincoln navigates the dynamic politics deftly, taking measured steps, often along a path forged by abolitionists and radicals in his party. Lincoln rises to leadership in the new Republican Party by calibrating his politics to the broadest possible antislavery coalition. As president of a divided nation and commander in chief at war, displaying a similar compound of pragmatism and principle, Lincoln finally embraces what he calls the Civil War’s “fundamental and astounding” result: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery and recognition of blacks as American citizens.

Foner’s Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation’s greatest president and the issue that mattered most. 16 pages black-and-white illustrations and 3 maps

W. W. Norton & Company
Available October 4, 2010 in Hardcover

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns:
The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Random House
Available September 7, 2010 in Hardcover

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides

Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
by Hampton Sides

Doubleday
Available 04/27/10 in Hardcover

From the acclaimed bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder, a taut, intense narrative about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history.

On April 23, 1967, Prisoner #416J, an inmate at the notorious Missouri State Penitentiary, escaped in a breadbox. Fashioning himself Eric Galt, this nondescript thief and con man — whose real name was James Earl Ray — drifted through the South, into Mexico, and then Los Angeles, where he was galvanized by George Wallace’s racist presidential campaign.

On February 1, 1968, two Memphis garbage men were crushed to death in their hydraulic truck, provoking the exclusively African American workforce to go on strike. Hoping to resuscitate his faltering crusade, King joined the sanitation workers’ cause, but their march down Beale Street, the historic avenue of the blues, turned violent. Humiliated, King fatefully vowed to return to Memphis in April.

With relentless storytelling drive, Sides follows Galt and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the crushing moment at the Lorraine Motel when the drifter catches up with his prey. Against the backdrop of the resulting nationwide riots and the pathos of King’s funeral, Sides gives us a riveting cross-cut narrative of the assassin’s flight and the sixty-five-day search that led investigators to Canada, Portugal, and England — a massive manhunt ironically led by Hoover’s FBI. Magnificent in scope, drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material, this nonfiction thriller illuminates one of the darkest hours in American life — an example of how history is so often a matter of the petty bringing down the great.

Lynching and Spectacle by Amy Louise Wood

Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940
(New Directions in Southern Studies)
by Amy Louise Wood

The University of North Carolina Press
Available 05/01/09 in Hardcover

Lynch mobs in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America often exacted horrifying public torture and mutilation on their victims. In Lynching and Spectacle, Amy Wood explains what it meant for white Americans to perform and witness these sadistic spectacles and what they derived from them.

Lynching, Wood argues, overlapped with a wide range of cultural practices and performances, both traditional and modern, including public executions, religious rituals, photography, and cinema. The connections between lynching and these practices encouraged the horrific violence committed and gave it social acceptability. Wood expounds on the critical role lynching spectacles played in establishing and affirming white supremacy at the turn of the century, particularly in towns and cities experiencing great social instability and change. She also shows how the national dissemination of lynching images fueled the momentum of the antilynching movement and ultimately led to the decline of lynching. By examining lynching spectacles alongside both traditional and modern practices and within both local and national contexts, Wood reconfigures our understanding of lynching’s relationship to modern life.

Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Carolrhoda Books
Available 11/01/09

Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. As a U.S. Marshal – and former slave who escaped to freedom in the Indian Territories – Bass was cunning and fearless. When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. He achieved all this in spite of whites who didn’t like the notion of a black lawman. For three decades, Bass was the most feared and respected lawman in the territories. He made more than 3,000 arrests, and though he was a crack shot and a quick draw, he only killed fourteen men in the line of duty. Bad News for Outlaws reveals the story of a remarkable African American hero of the Old West.

Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans

Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans
by by Roland Laird (Author), Taneshia Nash Laird (Author), Charles Johnson (Foreword), Elihu “Adofo” Bey (Illustrator)

Available 02/03/09

Still I Rise is a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America, told in an accessible graphic-novel form. Updated from its original version – which ended with the Million Man March – it now extends from the early days of colonial slavery right through to Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. Compared by many to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Still I Rise is a breathtaking achievement that celebrates the collective African-American memory, imagination, and spirit.

The Ties That Bind: A Memoir of Race, Memory and Redemption

The Ties That Bind: A Memoir of Race, Memory and Redemption
by Bertice Berry

Available 02/03/09

When novelist Bertice Berry set out to write a history of her family, she initially believed she would uncover a story of slavery and black pain, but the deeper she dug, the more surprises she found. There was heartache, yes, but also something unexpected: hope. Peeling away the layers, Berry came to learn that the history of slavery cannot be quantified in simple, black-and-white terms of “good” and “evil” but is rather a complex tapestry of roles and relations, of choices and individual responsibility.

In this poignant, reflective memoir, Berry skillfully relays the evolution of relations between the races, from slavery to Reconstruction, from the struggles of the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power 1970s, and on to the present day. In doing so, she sheds light on a picture of the past that not only liberates but also unites and evokes the need to forgive and be forgiven.

Race Course Against White Supremacy

Race Course Against White Supremacy
by William C. Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn

Available June 2009

White supremacy and its troubling endurance in American life is debated in these personal essays by two veteran political activists. Arguing that white supremacy has been the dominant political system in the United States since its earliest days — and that it is still very much with us — the discussion points to unexamined bigotry in the criminal justice system, election processes, war policy, and education. The book draws upon the authors’ own confrontations with authorities during the Vietnam era, reasserts their belief that racism and war are interwoven issues, and offers personal stories about their lives today as parents, teachers, and reformers.