The 10 Best Black Books of 2010

The 10 Best Black Books of 2010


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Now that the bloom has fallen off the rose of the Obama Administration, most black folks are beginning

to wake up to the fact that his election isn’t about to turn the country into a post-racial utopia any

 time soon. To the contrary, attorney Michelle Alexander argues that in recent decades America

has increasingly, and ever so subtly, adopted a color-coded caste system



The 10 Best Black Books of 2010 (Non-Fiction)

By Kam Williams





The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

By Michele Norris

Quite frankly, this heartbreaking memoir in which the author wistfully recounts her family’s quiet and dignified way of dealing with racism and discrimination, moved me to tears. NPR’s Michele Norris describes lives painfully limited by the color line, including a litany of humiliations endured by relatives well before she was born, such as the indignities suffered by her maternal grandmother while employed by Quaker Oats as a traveling Aunt Jemima.

Particularly poignant is the painstaking lengths Michele goes to resurrect the besmirched name of her late father. For following his honorable discharge from the military after serving in World War II, he’d returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, reasonably believing he’d earned the right to vote by fighting for his country.

So he and other black veterans began making treks to the courthouse downtown to attempt to register. However, in an incident which was subsequently covered-up by a falsified police report full of lies, her father was shot while wearing his Navy uniform by a police officer who charged him with attempted robbery and resisting arrest. The truth just unearthed by his intrepid daughter during a recent return to Birmingham belatedly clears his name, even though his innocence had been impossible to prove back in the Jim Crow South.

A very intimate, riveting and revealing cultural keepsake apt to resonate deeply with any African-American family inclined to reflect honestly on the oft-unspoken legacy of generation after generation of ancestors who had to cope in a world where bigoted whites could get away with anything.  Book Review by Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *


Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority

By Tom Burrell

Ever since the dawn of the nation when the Founding Fathers deliberately rationalized slavery by spreading the big lie that black people were inferior, African-Americans have suffered from serious self-esteem issues. But why has this phenomenon continued to persist so long past emancipation and the elimination of the Jim Crow system of segregation?

This is the nagging thought which inspired Tom Burrell to write Brainwashed. After all, as an advertising executive with 45 years in the business, he was well aware of the power of propaganda. So he knew that American society has done such a good job on the minds of blacks that they have not only internalized but have willingly participated in the perpetuation and further dissemination of nearly every negative stereotype propagated about them by the media.

Mr. Burrell explores his subject-matter at considerable length and depth with the hope of helping to eradicate self-destructive behaviors. He believes that people have to heal from the inside-out, so his solutions start with each individual’s recognition that you’ve been brainwashed, and that you can reprogram your mind because it is ultimately under your control.

A potentially-transformative, seminal treatise provided readers are receptive to contemplating commonly-accepted cultural practices like the use of the N-word, corporal punishment and hair relaxers as possibly the vestiges of a deep-seated self-hatred implanted in the brain by white supremacist notions.

*   *   *   *   *

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family

By Condoleezza Rice 

Given all that Condoleezza Rice went on to accomplish in life, it’s hard to believe that she was born in Birmingham, Alabama in the Fifties during the repressive reign of Jim Crow segregation. But somehow, despite spending her formative years in a city where state-sanctioned discrimination served to frustrate the aspirations of most other African-Americans, she miraculously managed to overachieve with the help of her doting parents.

The former Secretary of State pays tribute to their herculean effort in this remarkably-revealing memoir by a very private, public figure who has until now played her cards pretty close to the vest. But you had a sense something might be up when she was spotted playing piano behind Aretha at a concert in Philadelphia last summer.

And after reading this intimate autobiography it’s clear that underneath that seemingly-steely veneer beats the heart is an introspective sister yearning to recognize and return to her roots. An evocative opus fully humanizing a once-inscrutable Madam Secretary. I just have one question: May I call you Condi at the homecoming party? 

A Remarkably-Revealing, Evocative, Fully Humanizing Opus Kam Williams Interviews  Condi and Reviews

*   *   *   *   *

The Next Big Story

By Soledad O’Brien

with Rose Marie Arce

In this engaging autobiography, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien revisits her challenging formative years in order to illustrate how overcoming childhood adversity perhaps served to shape not only her personality but her compassionate approach to her career as an award-winning  television journalist.  

Whether it was being asked “Are you black?” by a portrait photographer at the age of 11, being teased “If you’re a [N-word] why don’t you have big lips?” by an 8th grader in the hallway at school, or having to hear “Why do I have to sit next to the black girl?” coming from the sister of a friend, Soledad suffered a host of indignities on the path to the peak of her profession.

Fortunately, once in a position to make a difference while covering disasters like the Great Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina or the Haitian Earthquake, this intrepid reporter has kept the pedal to the metal in an indefatigable quest to shed light on the plight of the least of her brethren. As for her private life, we learn that the freckle-faced, dedicated mother of four was an ugly duckling who never dated in high school before blossoming in Boston where she met her husband, Brad.

A moving memoir which does justice to the effervescent spirit and unbridled intellectual curiosity of a truly empathetic soul my faithful readers already know just might be the brightest person I’ve had the privilege of interviewing.

*   *   *   *   *

Black Faces in White Places

10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

By Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson

As a journalist privileged to have access to many celebrities, a question I often like to ask in interviews with African-American captains of industry is how they managed to flourish in a predominantly white environment where so many other talented blacks have simultaneously failed to do so. Now, we finally have a satisfactory answer to that query thanks to Dr. Randal Pinkett, winner of Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice.  

For, in conjunction with his longtime business partner, Dr. Jeffrey “J.R.” Robinson, Randal has written a viable blueprint for blacks trying to make it in corporate America. Here, he and J.R. serve up sage advice culled from a combination of their own experiences and those of dozens of equally-accomplished black contemporaries they interviewed for the project. In a nutshell, their sacred 10 Commandments range from a stress on excellence to seeking out the wisdom of mentors to maximizing synergy and scale.

A helpful handbook designed for the average African-American armed with credentials yet in a quandary about how to flourish in the midst of a corporate culture tainted by intolerance in terms of skin color.          

*   *   *   *   *

 The New Jim Crow

 Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

By Michelle Alexander

Now that the bloom has fallen off the rose of the Obama Administration, most black folks are beginning to wake up to the fact that his election isn’t about to turn the country into a post-racial utopia any time soon. To the contrary, attorney Michelle Alexander argues that in recent decades America has increasingly, and ever so subtly, adopted a color-coded caste system where minorities are targeted, stigmatized and marginalized by the criminal justice system.

Alexander, a Professor of Law at Ohio State University, makes her very persuasive case in this scathing indictment of the widespread practice of selective enforcement of draconian drug laws. Ostensibly, the aim of the U.S. government has been not only to warehouse masses of African-American males behind bars, but to relegate them permanently to a subordinate stratum of society even after they’re paroled.

If the author holds out any hope for our future, it rests in raising the country’s collective consciousness about the role the Apartheid-like legal system plays in perpetuating oppression along the color line. Her goal, as delineated in this sterling text, is to work towards that end by generating some frank dialogue leading to a social movement on behalf of the vast underclass of unfairly-criminalized social pariahs.Truthout  / Michelle_Alexander Part II Democracy Now (Video) / Obama’s America and the New Jim Crow

*   *   *   *   *

Black Business Secrets

500 Tips, Strategies, and Resources for the African-American Entrepreneur

By Dante Lee

Foreword by Randal Pinkett

During these dire economic times when the overall unemployment rate in the U.S. has dipped to 9.8%, you can be sure that that figure is at least double in the African-American community. And after the Democrats took what even President Obama referred to as a “shellacking” on Election Day, they’ve already capitulated to the Republican demand that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy be extended.

Therefore, if you’re presently out of work, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the supposedly-stimulative effect of that windfall for the rich to trickle-down to you in the form of a job. Instead, may I suggest perusing this invaluable how-to tome designed with ambitious self-starters in mind.

The book was written by Dante Lee, the CEO of Diversity City Media and a bona fide success story in his own right. He shares a cornucopia of practical advice based on his experiences about what’s involved in getting a profitable money-making operation off the ground.

A plausible primer for financial success aimed at any aspiring entrepreneur equipped with a viable business plan and the requisite amalgam of guts, determination and common sense to make their dream a reality.

*   *   *   *   *

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

By Edwidge Danticat

This inspirational opus is a collection of essays based on a series of lectures tackling a variety of universal themes apt to resonate with any immigrant reflecting on the oppression they left behind in coming to the United States in search of fundamental freedoms, particularly Freedom of Speech. A 2009 winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, author Edwidge Danticat’s focus is explained by the fact that she was born in Haiti and had to spend her formative years under the thumb of the ruthlessly repressive Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier regimes.

The book opens with a gripping description of a public execution in the Sixties of a couple of Haitian political dissidents in a crowded Port-au-Prince town square aired live on TV, on a specially-declared national holiday when schools and businesses were closed in order to enable everyone to observe the grisly deaths by firing squad.

But Edwidge points out that the true purpose of Duvalier’s turning the event into such a spectacle was to discourage the populace from ever voicing their discontent with the status quo. Obviously, in the case of Ms. Danticat, such attempts at intimidation ultimately backfired, for the inveterate firebrand grew up to stake her career on exposing injustice and challenging authority. The magical musings and flowery phrasings of a gifted wordsmith who, it must be noted, writes not in her native French but in the English of her adopted homeland. Review and Interview by Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *

A Game of Character: A Family Journey

from Chicago’s Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond

By Craig Robinson

This heartfelt homage by Craig Robinson credits his parents, Marian and the late Fraser Robinson, III, with making countless selfless sacrifices on behalf of him and his little sister Michelle while instilling them both with “fundamental values like love, discipline and respect.” What makes the book so compelling to this critic is that after having read so many mediocre unauthorized biographies about the Obamas, we finally have a legit opus by a person you tend to believe when he says he grew up sharing the same bedroom with his little sis who is now the First Lady. Sorry, nobody can question the cred of anyone that close to her.

And when you factor in that Chicago witnessed 40 gang-related shootings on the Southside over a recent weekend, the deteriorating state of affairs in the Windy City makes this uplifting success story about how a couple of kids miraculously made it out of that very same ‘hood all the more remarkable, refreshing and eminently worthwhile.  

Book Review by Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *

The Presumption of Guilt

The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America 

by Charles Ogletree

Everybody remembers how President Obama invited both Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates and the police sergeant who arrested him for breaking into his own home down to the White House to bury the hatchet over drinks in the Rose Garden. That photo-op was dubbed Beer-Gate, but the nagging question left unanswered was whether what had transpired back in Cambridge was really an isolated incident unlikely to reoccur or merely a reflection of a longstanding, police pattern of profiling African-American males all across the country. 

Shedding considerable light on the issue is Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree in this dissection of the matter from a predominantly legal perspective. Granted, as Dr. Gates’ attorney of record, Ogletree definitely had a horse in the race, so one might question his impartiality when he makes mincemeat here of Sgt. Crowley’s rationale for jailing his client.

However, what’s of far more interest and ultimately dispositive are the anecdotal accounts offered in the book by over a hundred well-educated, highly-accomplished brothers about their own run-ins with the law. It seems that everyone has a nightmare to share, from civil rights pioneer Julian Bond to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to actor Blair Underwood to Bay State Banner Editor Howard Manly to Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan to former Clinton aide Keith Boykin.

Proof-positive that, yes, Obama may be in the White House, but a post-racial utopia remains yet to be realized.

Interview with Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *

Honorable Mention



The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

*   *   *   *   *


Losing My Cool

How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture

By Thomas Chatterton Williams

*   *   *   *   *

The Other Wes Moore

One Name, Two Fates

By Wes Moore

*   *   *   *   *


The History of White People

By Nell Irvin Painter


Book Review by Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *


Children of Fire

A History of African-Americans

By Thomas C. Holt

Holt (Black over White), professor of American and African-American history at the University of Chicago, constructs an interlocking historical chain of the lives of Olaudah Equiano (1745–1797), Richard Allen (1761–1831), Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), and W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), whose trajectories reveal a more complex history of African-Americans than the one that simply moves in a linear fashion from slavery to the civil rights movement. Holt connects these men through their corresponding but still unique lives; for example, Equiano, Allen, and Douglass had been slaves, but in different times and places, and in different global contexts. Though moored by these extraordinary figures, Holt’s history, replete with vignettes of the lesser known, is inspired by a sense “that ordinary people don’t live history as it is taught by historians.” A work of historiography as well as history, this book provides a fluid synthesis of the growing body of research in African-American history and letters as well as a thoughtful reconsideration of the work of previous historians. Provocative and bound to spur debate, Holt’s study is readable, passionate, and partisan at moments, but balanced, resting upon rigorous scholarship.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *



Damn Near White

An African-American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success

By Carolyn Marie Wilkins



*   *   *   *   *



Real Stories of Pain, Truth and Triumph

Edited by Marilynn Griffith


Marilynn Griffith is the author of eight novels including the Shades of Style series and the Sassy Sistahood series. Her novels have been featured in Charisma Magazine, Black Expressions Book Club, and Black Issues Book Review. Other credits include Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul, Cup of Comfort Devotionals and Momsense Magazine. She also serves as president of the recently formed SistahFaith Communications, LLC.

Raped at the age of thirteen and a first-time mother at age fourteen, Marilynn was all too familiar with secrecy and shame. But after becoming a Christian and marrying a good man, she now encourages women to lay aside the shame of secrecy and shares a message of hope and healing.

*   *   *   *   *



By Jay-Z

Shawn Corey Carter, aka Jay-Z, wasn’t always a cultural icon married to  Beyonce’ who had parlayed his success as a rap artist into a multi-millionaire empire with a host of diverse holdings ranging from a record label to a music publishing company to a clothing line to a nightclub chain to an NBA team. No, he spent his formative years in the Marcy Housing Projects in Bed-Stuy, before moving to Trenton where he dropped out of school to sell crack on the streets while pursuing a hip-hop career.

Jay-Z went on to maximize his potential by keeping it real via raw rhymes which reflected his rough roots in the ‘hood. Now, the gifted wordsmith has decided it’s time to expound upon the deeper meaning of those evocative lyrics which have so resonated over the years with his legions of fans from the Hip-Hop Generation. 

The upshot of that yeoman’s effort is Decoded, a mixed-media memoir delineating the derivation of 36 of Jay-Z’s greatest hits. An entertaining collage of personal reflections, political philosophy, photographs, drawings, slam poetry-style stream of consciousness, the illuminating opus reads like a serious lecture on pop culture being delivered by a sagacious historian off the present who as done time in the trenches.

For example, there’s an incendiary line, “F*ck government, n*ggers politic themselves” from the song, “Where I’m From” which Jay-Z analyzes with “A lot of our heroes, almost by default, were people who tried to dismantle or overthrow the government—Malcolm X or the Black Panthers—or people who tried t make it completely irrelevant, like Marcus Garvey, who wanted black people to sail back to Africa. The government was everywhere we looked, and we hated it.”

Relatively-sophisticated musings making sense of rants about a “Hard Knock Life” coming from an insightful 40 year-old ostensibly no longer full of the angst which had helped skyrocket him to the heights of super-stardom.—Kam Williams

*   *   *   *   *

The First

President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House

By Roland S. Martin

*   *   *   *   *

Do I Have to Be a Starving Artist in the 21st Century?

By Hisani Dubose

Review by Kam Williams 

*   *   *   *   *

The Brand Within

The Power of Branding from Birth to the Boardroom        

By Daymond John

*   *   *   *   *


Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

By Barack Obama / Illustrated by Loren Long



In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keefe to the courage of Jackie Robinson, from the strength of Helen Keller to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children. . . .This beautiful book is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to the generations to come.—Excerpted from the inside cover

Of Thee I Sing is basically a baker’s dozen, brief biographies of important figures in American history, from Father of the Country George Washington up to Maya Lin, the artist/architect who, while still an undergraduate at Yale, designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located on the National Mall.

Each subject’s entry is accompanied by an evocative airbrush portrait by Loren Long, an award-winning illustrator who has previously collaborated with the likes of Madonna and Walt Whitman. For example, the drawing of Jackie Robinson’s captures the late baseball great at bat in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, while that of artist Georgia O’Keefe shows her in the midst of painting one of her trademark flowers in full bloom.

My only quibble with President Obama’s picks here is with his predecessor Washington, a wealthy plantation owner who never emancipated his 300+ slaves at Mount Vernon, not even upon his death. This opus conveniently makes no mention of that glaring moral failing, opting to focus instead on the first President’s “principles” and on his patently hypocritical belief “in liberty and justice for all.”  

Although I’m willing to give the author a Mulligan since he presently has many more pressing issues on his plate, I was nonetheless pleased by the inclusion of the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sitting Bull, and Albert Einstein. There was a method to Obama’s madness, here, as each choice is hailed for a prevailing trait, ranging from creativity to intelligence to bravery and beyond. The literary equivalent of a “Yes We Can!” rally led by our charismatic Commander-in-Chief for the benefit of the Sesame Street set.—Kam Williams  

*   *   *   *   *

Before Truth Set Me Free

By Vanessa “Fluffy” Murray-Yisrael

*   *   *   *   *


America I AM: A Journal

Edited by Clarence Reynolds  

Designed as much to be written in as to be perused by each reader, America I AM is essentially a 200+ page diary whose pages are graced with famous quotations from leading figures in African-American history. The idea is to celebrate the struggles, sacrifices and survival against the odds of a people who simultaneously miraculously managed to enrich the world despite a host of woes.

Among the more memorable passages recounted here is Harriet Tubman’s telling reflection abut the source of her inspiration to rescue the least of her brethren via the Underground Railroad. “I have heard their groans and sighs, and seen their tears, and I would give every drop of blood in my veins to free them,” she asserted defiantly.

Then there’s the following excerpt from John Brown’s testimony when put on trial for his life for leading a slave revolt. “I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of coloured people, oppressed by the slave system, just as much as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful. That is the idea that has moved me, and that alone.” A treasure trove of powerful citations with plenty of space allotted for the musings of potential black leaders of the future.—Kam Williams          

*   *   *   *   *


Why Do I Have to Think Like a Man?

By Shanae Hall

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America.

Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *








posted 25 December 2010 




Home  Kam Williams

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.