The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici

Posted in Biography, Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2016-09-01 00:54Z by Steven

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici

Oxford University Press
336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9780190612726

Catherine Fletcher, Historian, Author, AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2015

  • The first-ever biography of Alessandro de’ Medici, arguably the first black head of state
  • Draws on extensive archival research of first-hand sources
  • An accessible and dramatic retelling of Renaissance politics and rivalry

Ruler of Florence for seven bloody years, 1531 to 1537, Alessandro de’ Medici was arguably the first person of color to serve as a head of state in the Western world. Born out of wedlock to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo de’ Medici, he was the last legitimate heir to the line of Lorenzo the Magnificent. When Alessandro’s noble father died of syphilis, the family looked to him. Groomed for power, he carved a path through the backstabbing world of Italian politics in a time when cardinals, popes, and princes vied for wealth and advantage. By the age of nineteen, he was prince of Florence, inheritor of the legacy of the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance.

Alessandro faced down family rivalry and enormous resistance from Florence’s oligarchs, who called him a womanizer-which he undoubtedly was—and a tyrant. Yet this real-life counterpart to Machiavelli’s Prince kept his grip on power until he was assassinated at the age of 26 during a late-night tryst arranged by his scheming cousins. After his death, his brief but colorful reign was criticized by those who had murdered him in a failed attempt to restore the Florentine republic. For the first time, the true story is told in The Black Prince of Florence.

Catherine Fletcher tells the riveting tale of Alessandro’s unexpected rise and spectacular fall, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities of the Medicis, Borgias, and others as they waged sordid campaigns to rise to the top. Drawing on new research and first-hand sources, this biography of a most intriguing Renaissance figure combines archival scholarship with discussions of race and class that are still relevant today.

Table of Contents

  • Family tree
  • Glossary of names
  • Timeline
  • Maps
  • A note on money
  • Prologue
  • Book One: The Bastard Son
  • Book Two: The Obedient Nephew
  • Book Three: The Prince Alone
  • Afterword: Alessandro’s Ethnicity
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
  • Index
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Meet American Olympian Anthony Ervin: The Oldest-Ever Individual Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2016-08-28 02:25Z by Steven

Meet American Olympian Anthony Ervin: The Oldest-Ever Individual Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist

Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer

While Michael Phelps dominated the Olympic headlines over the weekend by scoring a historic 23rd gold medal, another American male swimmer has also made history in Rio. Thirty-five-year-old Anthony Ervin became the oldest-ever individual Olympic swimming gold medalist when he won two gold medals for the men’s 50-meter freestyle and the men’s four-by-100-meter freestyle relay. For more, we go to Rio to speak with Ervin, who is also the author of the recent book titled “Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re in Rio de Janeiro—at least that’s where our guests are. We’re joined by Jesse Washington of The Undefeated, as well as Anthony Ervin, U.S. swimming champion and four-time Olympic medalist. At 35 years old, he’s the oldest-ever individual Olympic swimming gold medalist. Just wrote the book Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian.

Anthony, welcome to Democracy Now! Congratulations on your remarkable victory. Talk about how you feel right now and what it means to you.

ANTHONY ERVIN: Thank you for having me. I feel good. Got some lights burning right into me, and I’m staring into a vacuum to talk back to you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about how you felt when you realized—when did you realize you had won, with all those toddlers in the pool, you at 35?…

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony, you write in your beautiful book, Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, about what it was like after you won in 2000—you won that gold medal—about being promoted as an African-American trailblazer, when you felt, at that point, as a teen, you hadn’t really grown up with that black identity. Can you talk about your life in that way, who your parents are?

ANTHONY ERVIN: Sure. You know, my mom, she came from New York City. She’s a city gal. You know, she even keeps her own—her personal history is a mystery, even to me and the rest of us kids. And my dad came from West Virginia. You know, his father was a coal miner. And, you know, he was—I mean, the question of blackness, you know, is a question of authenticity. And to be viewed in that way—and swimming is—it’s a very visual sport. It’s a body. You know, literally, you’re a body in the water, wearing close to nothing, so that body is on display. And if we’re talking about blackness, blackness is a color. You know, it’s—in the eyes of many, it’s a skin tone. You know, but then, if you dig into the history of it, there’s the idea of hypodescent. You know, one drop of blood makes you black. So, it’s all very complicated, and I didn’t know about any of this. I wasn’t educated on the history of this. Or if I was, I was snoozing through it in classrooms. So, I didn’t know how to necessarily answer to it. And I had trouble tackling, trying to argue that, you know, I authentically am this, if others say I’m not, or people trying to posit some kind of identity on me which I did not drape on myself. I mean, it’s a question of being able to pursue my personal freedom and needing to shuck all forms of identity in order to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Your father is African-American, Native American?…

Read the transcript here.

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Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-08-23 19:52Z by Steven

Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil

Vanity Fair
September 2016

Charles Bolden, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Katherine Johnson, photographed at Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia.
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

NASA chief Charles Bolden recalls the historic trajectory of the “human computer” who played a key role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as a female African-American in the 1960s, shattered stereotypes in the process.

When I was growing up, in segregated South Carolina, African-American role models in national life were few and far between. Later, when my fellow flight students and I, in training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, clustered around a small television watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, little did I know that one of the key figures responsible for its success was an unassuming black woman from West Virginia: Katherine Johnson. Hidden Figures is both an upcoming book and an upcoming movie about her incredible life, and, as the title suggests, Katherine worked behind the scenes but with incredible impact…

..“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.

With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth…

Read the entire article here.

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Half-Caste Actresses in Colonial Brazilian Opera Houses

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Women on 2016-08-16 18:38Z by Steven

Half-Caste Actresses in Colonial Brazilian Opera Houses

Latin American Theatre Review
Volume 45, Number 2, Spring 2012
pages 57-71
DOI: 10.1353/ltr.2012.0016

Rosana Marreco Brescia
Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Operatic and theatrical historians in both Brazil and Portugal frequently mention that around the last quarter of the 18th century, Queen Maria I forbade women to perform on public stages in Portugal. However, it seems that the impresarios and owners of opera houses in colonial Brazil were unaware of this prohibition, since I have found several references to actresses performing in many of the permanent theatres at the end of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century. The great majority of these actresses were half-caste women. The most remarkable example is the case of soprano Joaquina Lapinha, prima donna of the Opera Nova in Rio de Janeiro, and probably the only native Luso-American singer to perform in a European theatre in the 18th century. This article considers the employment of actresses in the opera houses of São Paulo, Vila Rica, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre, showing how the impresarios of these public theatres managed to provide their companies with the necessary human resources.

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The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-08-16 16:58Z by Steven

The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty

512 pages
5.313 in (w) x 8 in (h) x 0.821 in (d)
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0060184124
Paperback ISBN: 9780060985134
eBook ISBN: 9780061873911

Lawrence Otis Graham

Blanche Kelso Bruce was born a slave in 1841, yet, remarkably, amassed a real-estate fortune and became the first black man to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. He married Josephine Willson—the daughter of a wealthy black Philadelphia doctor—and together they broke down racial barriers in 1880s Washington, D.C., numbering President Ulysses S. Grant among their influential friends. The Bruce family achieved a level of wealth and power unheard of for people of color in nineteenth-century America. Yet later generations would stray from the proud Bruce legacy, stumbling into scandal and tragedy.

Drawing on Senate records, historical documents, and personal letters, author Lawrence Otis Graham weaves a riveting social history that offers a fascinating look at race, politics, and class in America.

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A Biography Of E. Azalia Smith Hackley (1867-1922), African-american Singer And Social Activist

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2016-08-06 00:29Z by Steven

A Biography Of E. Azalia Smith Hackley (1867-1922), African-american Singer And Social Activist

Edwin Mellen Press
436 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7734-7575-5

Lisa Pertillar Brevard, Core Faculty and Academic Coordinator of Humanities
Walden University

Madame E. Azalia Hackley was an African American classical singer, social worker, writer, philanthropist, and activist who championed the use of African-American spirituals among the African-American people as a tool for social change. Her efforts laid the groundwork for the use of spirituals as freedom songs during the Civil Rights Movement. This work used newspaper accounts and archive studies documenting Madame Hackley’s tours cross-country and abroad to raise funds for African-American classical musicians. It show Hackley’s intense devotion to her African-American roots, as she easily could have passed for white. Nevertheless, she traveled throughout the South in ‘Jim Crow’ railway cars by choice. This work also recovers several of her influential published works, including A Guide to Voice Culture (1909); The Colored Girl Beautiful (1916), an etiquette book for African-American women desiring professional jobs; and “Hints to Young Colored Artists”, a series of articles designed to help young African-American classical musicians succeed. Includes illustrations.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Richard A. Long
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Madame Emma Azalia Smith Hackley: The Lady and Her Legacy
    • 1. Azalia’s Early Years (1867-1894)
    • 2. Denver (1894-1900)
    • 3. Philadelphia and The Washington Conservatory of Music (1900-1915)
    • 4. Jim Crow Cars and Beyond – Paris, London, Tokyo (1916-1920)
    • 5. Madame Hackley’s Last Days (1920-1922)
  • Part II: The Soul and Grit of a Colored Prima Donna: Madame E. Azalia Hackley as Journalist
    • “Hints to Young Colored Artists” (1914-15) by E. Azalia Hackley
  • Part III: Lessons Before Dying: Madame Hackley’s The Colored Girl Beautiful
  • Part IV: A Scrapbook of Madame E. Azalia Hackley
    • Photographs
    • “Report on Scholarship for 1908” by E. Azalia Hackley
    • Correspondence Between E. Azalia Hackley and James Weldon Johnson
    • Advertisements
    • The New York Age Salutes Madame Hackley (Obituary by Lucien H. White, 1922)
  • Chronology
  • Appendix: A Guide in Voice Culture (1909) by E. Azalia Hackley
  • Sheet Music: “Carola, A Serenade” (1918) by E. Azalia Hackley
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Photograph by Julius Taylor

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Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-07-30 20:17Z by Steven

Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

NASA History
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sarah Loff, Editor

Image Credit: NASA

NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson is photographed at her desk at Langley Research Center in 1966. Johnson began her career in 1953 at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, one of a number of African-American women hired to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department, just as the NACA was beginning its work on space. Johnson became known for her training in geometry, her leadership, and her inquisitive nature; she was the only woman at the time to be pulled from the computing pool to work with engineers on other programs.

Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986, making critical technical contributions which included calculating the trajectory of the 1961 flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space…

Read the entire article here.

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Obama Returns to His Biography

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-29 01:09Z by Steven

Obama Returns to His Biography

The Atlantic

Yoni Appelbaum, Senior Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters

Twelve years after introducing himself to the American public as the son of an immigrant, the president recast himself as a bearer of Scotch-Irish values.

Twelve years ago, Barack Obama introduced himself to America as just a skinny kid with a funny name. He made his story into the American story—a tale of immigrant hopes, of opportunities, of success that could only come true in the United States. That speech launched him to the presidency.

In Philadelphia on Wednesday night, as he tried to anoint his successor and secure his legacy, he returned to his biography to close his appeal. But this time, he pulled out a different strand of the story. He spoke not just of his grandparents in Kansas, whose stories he has told many times before, but of their kin and communities, of their vision and values. They were, he said:

Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil-rig workers. Hardy, small-town folk. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them, maybe even most of them, were Republicans—Party of Lincoln. My grandparents explained that the folks in these parts, they didn’t like show-offs. They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies. They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, what they valued were traits like honesty and hard work. Kindness; courtesy; humility; responsibility; helping each other out. That’s what they believed in. True things. Things that last. The things we try to teach our kids.

It’s a different kind of American story. Not the son of a Kenyan goatherd rising directly to the highest office in the land, but working families toiling for generation after generation with quiet pride, relying on each other…

Read the entire article here.

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Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2016-07-23 23:58Z by Steven

Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

The Telegraph

Nisha Lilia Diu

Amma Asante’s award-winning film Belle arrives on Netflix today. In this feature, first published in June 2014, Nisha Lilia Diu reveals the true story that inspired it

The amazing thing about Dido Elizabeth Belle is not that she was mixed-race. Who knows how many white men’s children were born to black slave women in the 18th century? It’s not even that her father was a wealthy English aristocrat – there were plenty of titled captains tearing around the Caribbean at that time, capturing French and Dutch schooners during the Seven Years’ War and making off with their sugar, coffee and other (often human) cargo. The extraordinary thing about Dido Belle is that her father, a 24-year-old Navy officer called John Lindsay, took her home to England and asked his extended family to raise her. And they did. They did it in some style, too.

Belle grew up in Kenwood House in north London. It was the palatial weekend retreat of Lindsay’s uncle, the first Earl of Mansfield, set in landscaped gardens with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral six miles away. Mansfield was Lord Chief Justice, and he made a number of landmark rulings on slavery that were among Britain’s first steps towards abolition. Did Belle’s presence in his home have anything to do with it? Plenty of his contemporaries thought so, and they didn’t admire him for it.

“Dido was very, very privileged,” says William Murray, a descendant of the earl and the son of the heir apparent. “She was in the top 5 per cent, perhaps the top 1 per cent, in terms of how she lived, her allowance, her dress, her education.” But Belle’s position was far from clear-cut…

Read the entire article here.

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I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-23 17:55Z by Steven

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

The New York Times

Susan Fales-Hill

An oil painting of Susan Fales-Hill’s great-great-great-grandfather hangs in her apartment in Manhattan. He turned out to be not as upstanding as she once thought. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

FOR nearly 20 years, my great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait has watched over me from my red dining room wall. With his high collar, ruffled cravat and black waistcoat, Samuel Fales, 1775-1848, is the very image of the upstanding 19th-century New England gentleman. An eminent merchant and alderman of Boston, he was the founder of the family’s shipping business. I’ve known his face and taken comfort in his smile since I was a child attending Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s in the 1960s.

Samuel Fales seemed utterly unperturbed by the changes the 20th century had wrought, among them his great-great-grandson’s unorthodox choice of bride: my mother, a black Haitian-American actress, and my brother and me, his mixed-race descendants. His portrait has stood as an emblem of our family’s pride in its history. “You have relatives on both sides of your family who fought in the American Revolution,” my mother would frequently remind me.

To honor my forebears, my husband and I named our only child Bristol, after the town in Rhode Island where some of the Faleses first settled in the 17th century. A year ago, I learned through new historical research that Bristol had in fact served as a main hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This gave me great pause. Had I done my daughter a dreadful disservice? Upon reflection, I decided that naming a multicultural African-American after a slave port was in fact redemptive, the ultimate act of reclamation.

It never occurred to me that my family might have participated in the port’s inhumane commerce…

Read the entire article here.

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