‘William Wells Brown,’ by Ezra Greenspan

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-18 19:41Z by Steven

‘William Wells Brown,’ by Ezra Greenspan

The New York Times
Sunday Book Review
2014-11-14

Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita
Princeton University

Greenspan, Ezra, William Wells Brown: An African American Life (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014)

If the publishing industry reflects the American zeitgeist, things have changed when it comes to black American historical figures. As a graduate student at Harvard decades ago, I came across William Wells Brown, the fugitive slave, abolitionist, lecturer, travelogue writer, novelist and performer whose wide-ranging intelligence turned a gaze on white people (for a change). Back then he was to be found in only one full-length biography, William Edward Farrison’s “William Wells Brown: Author and Reformer” (1969). Published by the University of Chicago Press in the twilight of the “second Reconstruction” and at the dawning of African-American studies, it depicted Brown as a representative black American. In the absence of the biographical scholarship coming after 1969, Brown’s colleagues remained ill defined. Farrison’s biography was reviewed only in publishing trade papers and a couple of history journals. What was the problem?

It wasn’t Brown’s lack of an interesting life: more on that momentarily. The main problem was that 20th-century American culture accommodated only one 19th-­century black man, a spot already taken by the monumental, best-selling Frederick Douglass. Another problem was theoretical: Farrison published his biography before the flowering of two other fields crucial to a full appreciation of Brown’s public life — the history of the book and performance art…

…The child who would be William Wells Brown was born enslaved in Kentucky, in about 1814, the son of his owner’s cousin. In St. Louis, given the job of tending a young charge also called William, his name was changed to Sandford with the carelessness characteristic of slave naming. As Sandford he worked in his owner’s medical office and on the Mississippi River’s ships and docks. After several unsuccessful attempts at escape, one with his mother, he finally fled St. Louis at about age 19. He retook his own name William and added Wells Brown in honor of the Quaker who had rescued him from starving and freezing in Ohio

Read the entire review here.

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Legacy: A Story of Racism and Northern Ireland’s Troubles

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Monographs, Religion, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2014-11-09 18:16Z by Steven

Legacy: A Story of Racism and Northern Ireland’s Troubles

Maverick House
2013
240 pages
ISBN-10: 1291529349; ISBN-13: 978-1291529340

Jayne Olorunda

Legacy is the true story of the Olorunda family’s struggle against racism and poverty during the Northern Ireland Troubles. In January 1980, Max Olorunda was killed by the IRA in a bomb attack. He left behind a wife and three small children. Legacy is the poignant story of what became of his family after his death. Legacy is no ordinary book. Poignant and thought provoking, Jayne Olorunda’s words describe the brutal reality of racism in Northern Ireland set against a backdrop of the Troubles.

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Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-11-09 17:52Z by Steven

Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian

University of Illinois Press
May 2014
176 pages
6 x 9 in.
23 black & white photographs

Ethelene Whitmire, Associate Professor of Library & Information Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The life of a groundbreaking librarian and Harlem Renaissance figure

The first African American to head a branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL), Regina Andrews led an extraordinary life. Allied with W. E. B. Du Bois, Andrews fought for promotion and equal pay against entrenched sexism and racism and battled institutional restrictions confining African American librarians to only a few neighborhoods within New York City.

Andrews also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, supporting writers and intellectuals with dedicated workspace at her 135th Street Branch Library. After hours she cohosted a legendary salon that drew the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work as an actress and playwright helped establish the Harlem Experimental Theater, where she wrote plays about lynching, passing, and the Underground Railroad.

Ethelene Whitmire’s new biography offers the first full-length study of Andrews’ activism and pioneering work with the NYPL. Whitmire’s portrait of her sustained efforts to break down barriers reveals Andrews’s legacy and places her within the NYPL’s larger history.

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Jean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-11-09 17:48Z by Steven

Jean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution

University of Illinois Press
July 2014
336 pages
6.125 x 9.25 in.
10 black & white photographs, 1 chart
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03844-0

Barbara Foley, Professor of English
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark

Political and personal repression and its effect on the work of a Harlem Renaissance luminary

The 1923 publication of Cane established Jean Toomer as a modernist master and one of the key literary figures of the emerging Harlem Renaissance. Though critics and biographers alike have praised his artistic experimentation and unflinching eyewitness portraits of Jim Crow violence, few seem to recognize how much Toomer’s interest in class struggle, catalyzed by the Russian Revolution and the post–World War One radical upsurge, situate his masterwork in its immediate historical context.

In Jean Toomer: Race, Repression, and Revolution, Barbara Foley explores Toomer’s political and intellectual connections with socialism, the New Negro movement, and the project of Young America. Examining his rarely scrutinized early creative and journalistic writings, as well as unpublished versions of his autobiography, she recreates the complex and contradictory consciousness that produced Cane.

Foley’s discussion of political repression runs parallel with a portrait of repression on a personal level. Examining family secrets heretofore unexplored in Toomer scholarship, she traces their sporadic surfacing in Cane. Toomer’s text, she argues, exhibits a political unconscious that is at once public and private.

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Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-07 03:00Z by Steven

Matthew McConaughey & Gary Ross Mount Civil War Saga; Bob Simonds’ STX In Talks To Finance

Deadline Hollywood
2014-11-05

Mike Fleming Jr., Film Editor

Anita Busch, Film Editor

EXCLUSIVE: Matthew McConaughey and writer-director Gary Ross are the catalysts for a project called Free State Of Jones, which is getting some serious attention from STX Entertainment, the new mini-studio founded by investors TPG Growth, Gigi Pritzker, Hony and Robert Simonds. We hear that company reps, financial partner IM Global (who is handling foreign), and the filmmakers are heading to AFM this afternoon to discuss pre-sales. This is one of many projects STX is considering pushing through as part of its first slate. They are looking to go before the cameras in the first quarter of 2015.

Free State Of Jones is based on the untold and extraordinary story of Newton Knight, the leader of one of the greatest rebellions in Civil War history, and we hear that STX may finance (up to $20M) for the $65M-budgeted story of one of the most controversial men from the that era. McConaughey is in talks to play the Mississippian, who defected from the Confederate Army, banded together with a group of like-minded soldiers, and set out to form their own State known as the Free State Of Jones.

Knight would later have a common-law marriage to a former slave, one of the first outwardly mixed racial unions in the South — unheard of at the time. The rebellious Knight actually fought against the Confederates from within the state and after the war freed children still enslaved after a daring raid…

Note from Steven F. Riley: For more about the Knight family, please read Victoria E. Bynum’s superb monograph, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War.

Read the entire article here.

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Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, United States on 2014-11-02 02:00Z by Steven

Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem

HarperCollins
2015-04-14
288 pages
Trimsize: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x 1.004 in (d)
Hardcover ISBN: 9780062331632; ISBN 10: 0062331639
eBook ISBN: 9780062331656; ISBN 10: 0062331655

Paula Williams Madison

Spanning four generations and moving between New York, Jamaica, and China, a powerful memoir that is a universal story of one woman’s search for her maternal grandfather and the key to her self-identity.

Thanks to her spiteful, jealous Jamaican mother, Nell Vera Lowe was cut off from her Chinese father, Samuel, when she was just a baby, after he announced he was taking a Chinese bride. By the time Nell was old enough to travel to her father’s shop in St. Anne’s Bay, he’d taken his family back to China, never learning what became of his eldest daughter. Bereft, Nell left Jamaica for New York to start a new life. But her Asian features set her apart from her Harlem neighbors and even her own children—a difference that contributed to her feeling of loneliness and loss which she instilled in her only daughter, Paula.

Years later, with a successful corporate career behind her and the arrival of her only grandchild raising questions about family and legacy, Paula decided to search for Samuel Lowe’s descendants in China. With the support of her brothers and the help of encouraging strangers, Paula eventually pieced together the full story of her grandfather’s life, following his story from China to Jamaica and back, and connecting with 300 surprised relatives who were overjoyed to meet her.

Finding Samuel Lowe is a remarkable journey about one woman’s path to self-discovery. It is a story about love and devotion that transcends time and race, and a beautiful reflection of the power of family and the interconnectedness of our world.

Finding Samuel Lowe includes a 16-page black-and-white photo insert and photos in the text.

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Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2014-10-28 21:08Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
2015
300 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Dream of the Water Children, at once a haunting collective memory and a genre-bending critical account of dominance and survival, interweaves intimate multi-family details with global politics spanning generations and continents. Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut work defies categorization as histories and families are intimately connected through sociological ghosts alive in the present. It is a one-of-a-kind ‘non-fiction’ inter-disciplinary evocation that will appeal to not only those interested in Black and Asian relations and mixed-race Amerasian histories, but also a wide general audience including those interested in Asian, Asian-American, Nikkei, African-American, and mixed-race identities as well as multicultural literature, history and post-colonial memoir. Those focused on academic studies such as women and gender studies, ethnic and critical mixed-race studies, social justice curriculum, political histories, memory, feminism, and militarization, etc. will appreciate the profound questions for thought that rise up from the pages. Cloyd’s book not only challenges readers to explore technologies of violence, identity, difference, and our responsibilities to the world, it will also move readers through emotional depths.

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William Wells Brown: An African American Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-24 20:15Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: An African American Life

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
October 2014
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-24090-0

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

A groundbreaking biography of the most pioneering and accomplished African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Born into slavery in Kentucky, raised on the Western frontier on the farm adjacent to Daniel Boone’s, “rented” out in adolescence to a succession of steamboat captains on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the young man known as “Sandy” reinvented himself as “William Wells” Brown after escaping to freedom. He lifted himself out of illiteracy and soon became an innovative, widely admired, and hugely popular speaker on antislavery circuits (both American and British) and went on to write the earliest African American works in a plethora of genres: travelogue, novel (the now canonized Clotel), printed play, and history. He also practiced medicine, ran for office, and campaigned for black uplift, temperance, and civil rights.

Ezra Greenspan’s masterful work, elegantly written and rigorously researched, sets Brown’s life in the richly rendered context of his times, creating a fascinating portrait of an inventive writer who dared to challenge the racial orthodoxies and explore the racial complexities of nineteenth-century America.

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Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

Posted in Articles, Biography, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-23 19:55Z by Steven

Revisiting Middlebury’s Racial History

The Middlebury Campus
Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vermont
2014-03-19

Conor Grant, Managing Editor


Alexander Twilight Hall, a building named in honor of Alexander Twilight of the class of 1823, is just one part of the complicated legacy of America’s first black college graduate. (Courtesy/Middlebury)

Alexander Twilight Hall — the austere brick building separating the town from Middlebury College — is named for Alexander Twilight, the 1823 Middlebury College graduate who is known today as the first American black college graduate.

Today, Twilight is widely touted as an example of Middlebury’s rich legacy of inclusivity and racial diversity.

But who exactly was Alexander Twilight? Was he really the first black man at Middlebury?

The answer to that question is more complicated than it might first appear…

Read the entire article here.

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Olive Senior

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2014-10-21 21:33Z by Steven

Olive Senior

Olive Senior’s Gardening in the Tropics
2012

Hyacinth M. Simpson, Associate Professor of English
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Olive Marjorie Senior was born in the parish of Trelawny on the Caribbean island of Jamaica on 23 December 1941. The seventh of ten children, she grew up in the shadow of the Cockpit Mountains and spent her formative years criss-crossing the adjoining western parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, and St. James. As Velma Pollard points out, “[t]his environment—the topography and the people—is continually reflected in Senior’s poetry and prose” (479). Moreover, as the daughter of a small farmer and a stay-at-home mother, Senior grew up close to the land. Her vast knowledge of local plants, their history, their medicinal and culinary uses, and the rich folklore associated with them— which is evident in a number of poems in Gardening in the Tropics including “Guinep,” “Pineapple,’ “Starapple,” and “Mountain Pride”—is rooted in this early experience. So too are the intimate portraits she paints, in this collection and her other works, of the people whose survival depends on how well they navigate both the physical and social landscape.

In Senior’s immediate family, money was scarce. While not auto-biographical, the poem “My Father’s Blue Plantation” provides insight into the lives of small rural farming families like the one Senior was born in and the hard graft that defines such existence. Even though Senior, who is of mixed race heritage, was born with what Jamaicans term “light skin” and “good hair,” those usual markers of privilege did not set her, or her family, apart from their predominantly African-heritage neighbours in the village of Troy. Class, rather than race, as Senior explains in an interview with Anna Rutherford, was then and still is the main marker of difference in the complex web of Jamaica’s social hierarchy. Because they were poor like their neighbours, the Seniors “lived as a part of the village” (12-13).Troy was, like many other rural villages of the time, close knit. Everyone knew everyone else, and the Senior family was well integrated into their community. Village life was Senior’s first school. A world away from the “refinements” of the city and with no television or cinema and very little radio for distraction, members of the community found instruction and entertainment in the only likely/available source: the oral culture…

Read the entire article here.

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