ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Bobo bragged about his white girl. He showed
the boys a picture of a white girl in his wallet
Books on Emmett Till Murder
Film on Emmett Till Murder
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The Shocking Story
of Approved Killing in MississippiBy William Bradford Huie
Editors Note: In the long history of mans humanity to man, racial conflict has produced some of the most horrible examples of brutality, the recent slaying of Emmett Till in Mississippi is a case in point. The editors of look are convinced that they are presenting here, for the first time, the real story of that killing the story no jury heard and no newspaper reader saw.
Disclosed here is the true account of the slaying in Mississippi of a Negro youth named Emmett Till.
Last September in Sumner, Miss., a petit jury found the youth’s admitted abductors not guilty of murder. In November, in Greenwood, a grand jury declined to indict them for kidnapping.
Of the murder trial, the Memphis Commercial Appeal said: “Evidence necessary for convicting on a murder charge was lacking.” But with truth absent, hypocrisy and myth have flourished. Now, hypocrisy can be exposed; myth dispelled. Here are the facts.
Carolyn Holloway Bryant is 21, five feet tall, weighs 103 pounds. An Irish girl, with black hair and black eyes, she is a small farmer’s daughter who, at 17, quit high school at Indianola, Miss., to marry a soldier, Roy Bryant, then 20, now 24. The couple have two boys, three and two; and they operate a store at a dusty crossroads called Money: post office, filling station and three stores clustered around a school and a gin, and set in the vast, lonely cotton patch that is the Mississippi Delta.
Carolyn and Roy Bryant are poor: no car, no TV. They live in the back of the store which Roy’s brothers helped set up when he got out of the 82nd Airborne in 1953. They sell “snuff-and-fatback” to Negro field hands on credit: and they earn little because, for one reason, the government has been giving the Negroes food they formerly bought.
Carolyn and Roy Bryant’s social life is visits to their families, to the Baptist church, and, whenever they can borrow a car, to a drive-in, with the kids sleeping in the back seat. They call Shane the best picture they ever saw.
For extra money, Carolyn tends store when Roy works outside — like truck driving for a brother. And he has many brothers. His mother had two husbands, 11 children. The first five — all boys — were “Milam children”; the next six — three boys, three girls — were “Bryant children.”
This is a lusty and devoted clan. They work, fight, vote and play as a family. The “half” in their fraternity is forgotten. For years, they have operated a chain of cottonfield stores, as well as trucks and mechanical cotton pickers. In relation to the Negroes, they are somewhat like white traders in portions of Africa today; and they are determined to resist the revolt of colored men against white rule.
On Wednesday evening, August 24, 1955, Roy was in Texas, on a brother’s truck. He had carted shrimp from New Orleans to San Antonio, proceeded to Brownsville. Carolyn was alone in the store. But back in the living quarters was her sister-in-law Juanita Milam, 27, with her two small sons and Carolyn’s two. The store was kept open till 9 on week nights, 11 on Saturday.
When her husband was away, Carolyn Bryant never slept in the store, never stayed there alone after dark. Moreover, in the Delta, no white woman ever travels country roads after dark unattended by a man.
This meant that during Roy’s absences — particularly since he had no car — there was family inconvenience. Each afternoon, a sister-in-law arrived to stay with Carolyn until closing time. Then, the two women, with their children, waited for a brother-in-law to convoy them to his home. Next morning, the sister-in-law drove Carolyn back.Juanita Milam had driven from her home in Glendora. She had parked in front of the store to the left; and under the front seat of this car was Roy Bryant’s pistol, a .38 Colt automatic. Carolyn knew it was there. After 9, Juanita’s husband, J. W. Milam, would arrive in his pickup to shepherd them to his home for the night.
About 7:30 pm, eight young Negroes — seven boys and a girl — in a ’46 Ford had stopped outside. They included sons, grandsons and a nephew of Moses (Preacher) Wright, 64, a ‘cropper. They were between 13 and 19 years old. Four were natives of the Delta and others, including the nephew, Emmett (Bobo) Till, were visiting from the Chicago area.
Bobo Till was 14 years old: born on July 25, 1941. He was stocky, muscular, weighing about 160, five feet four or five. Preacher later testified: “He looked like a man.”
Bobo’s party joined a dozen other young Negroes, including two other girls, in front of the store. Bryant had built checkerboards there. Some were playing checkers, others were wrestling and “kiddin’ about girls.”
Bobo bragged about his white girl. He showed the boys a picture of a white girl in his wallet; and to their jeers of disbelief, he boasted of success with her.
“You talkin’ mighty big, Bo,” one youth said. “There’s a pretty little white woman in the store. Since you know how to handle white girls, let’s see you go in and get a date with her?”
“You ain’t chicken, are yuh, Bo?” another youth taunted him.
Bobo had to fire or fall back. He entered the store, alone, stopped at the candy case. Carolyn was behind the counter; Bobo in front. He asked for two cents’ worth of bubble gum. She handed it to him. He squeezed her hand and said: “How about a date, baby?”
She jerked away and started for Juanita Milam. At the break between counters, Bobo jumped in front of her, perhaps caught her at the waist, and said: “You needn’t be afraid o’ me, Baby. I been with white girls before.”
At this point, a cousin ran in, grabbed Bobo and began pulling him out of the store. Carolyn now ran, not for Juanita, but out the front, and got the pistol from the Milam car.
Outside, with Bobo being ushered off by his cousins, and with Carolyn getting the gun, Bobo executed the “wolf whistle” which gave the case its name:
THE WOLF-WHISTLE MURDER: A NEGRO “CHILD” OR “BOY” WHISTLED AT HER AND THEY KILLED HIM.
That was the sum of the facts on which most newspaper readers based an opinion.
The Negroes drove away; and Carolyn, shaken, told Juanita. The two women determined to keep the incident from their “Men-folks.”
They didn’t tell J. W. Milam when he came to escort them home.
By Thursday afternoon, Carolyn Bryant could see the story was getting around. She spent Thursday night at the Milams, where at 4 a.m. (Friday) Roy got back from Texas. Since he had slept little for five nights, he went to bed at the Milams’ while Carolyn returned to the store.
During Friday afternoon, Roy reached the store, and shortly thereafter a Negro told him what “the talk” was, and told him that the “Chicago boy” was “visitin’ Preacher.” Carolyn then told Roy what had happened.
Once Roy Bryant knew, in his environment, in the opinion of most white people around him, for him to have done nothing would have marked him for a coward and a fool.
On Friday night, he couldn’t do anything. He and Carolyn were alone, and he had no car. Saturday was collection day, their busy day in the store. About 10:30 Saturday night, J. W. Milam drove by. Roy took him aside.
“I want you to come over early in the morning,” he said. “I need a little transportation.”
J.W. protested: “Sunday’s the only morning I can sleep. Can’t we make it around noon?”
Roy then told him.
“I’ll be there,” he said. “Early.”
J. W. drove to another brother’s store at Minter City, where he was working. He closed that store about 12:30 a.m., drove home to Glendora. Juanita was away, visiting her folks at Greenville. J. W. had been thinking. He decided not to go to bed. He pumped the pickup — a half-ton ’55 Chevrolet — full of gas and headed for Money.
J. W. “Big Milam” is 36: six feet two, 235 pounds; an extrovert. Short boots accentuate his height; khaki trousers; red sports shirt; sun helmet. Dark-visaged; his lower lip curls when he chuckles; and though bald, his remaining hair is jet-black.
He is slavery’s plantation overseer. Today, he rents Negro-driven mechanical cotton pickers to plantation owners. Those who know him say that he can handle Negroes better than anybody in the country.
Big Milam soldiered in the Patton manner. With a ninth-grade education, he was commissioned in battle by the 75th Division. He was an expert platoon leader, expert street fighter, expert in night patrol, expert with the “grease gun,” with every device for close range killing. A German bullet tore clear through his chest; his body bears “multiple shrapnel wounds.” Of his medals, he cherishes one: combat infantryman’s badge.
Big Milam, like many soldiers, brought home his favorite gun: the .45 Colt automatic pistol.
“Best weapon the Army’s got,” he says. “Either for shootin’ or sluggin’.”
Two hours after Big Milam got the word — the instant minute he could close the store — he was looking for the Chicago Negro.
Big Milam reached Money a few minutes shy of 2 a.m., Sunday, August 28. The Bryants were asleep; the store was dark but for the all-night light. He rapped at the back door, and when Roy came, he said: “Let’s go. Let’s make that trip now.”
Roy dressed, brought a gun: this one was a .45 Colt. Both men were and remained — cold sober. Big Milam had drunk a beer at Minter City around 9; Roy had had nothing.
There was no moon as they drove to Preacher’s house: 2.8 miles east of Money.
Preacher’s house stands 50 feet right of the gravel road, with cedar and persimmon trees in the yard. Big Milam drove the pickup in under the trees. He was bareheaded, carrying a five-cell flashlight in his left hand, the .45 in the right.
Roy Bryant pounded on the door.
Preacher: “Who’s that?”
Bryant: “Mr. Bryant from Money, Preacher.”
Preacher: “All right, sir. Just a minute.”
Preacher came out of the screened-in porch.
Bryant: “Preacher, you got a boy from Chicago here?”
Bryant: “I want to talk to him.”
Preacher: “Yessir. I’ll get him.”
Preacher led them to a back bedroom where four youths were sleeping in two beds. In one was Bobo Till and Simeon Wright, Preacher’s youngest son. Bryant had told Preacher to turn on the lights; Preacher had said they were out of order. So only the flashlight was used.
The visit was not a complete surprise. Preacher testified that he had heard of the “trouble,” that he “sho’ had” talked to his nephew about it. Bobo himself had been afraid; he had wanted to go home the day after the incident. The Negro girl in the party urged that he leave. “They’ll kill him,” she had warned. But Preacher’s wife, Elizabeth Wright, had decided that the danger was being magnified; she had urged Bobo to “finish yo’ visit.”
“I thought they might say something to him, but I didn’t think they’d kill a boy,” Preacher said.
Big Milam shined the light in Bobo’s face, said: “You the nigger who did the talking?”
“Yeah,” Bobo replied.
Milam: “Don’t say, ‘Yeah’ to me: I’ll blow your head off. Get your clothes on.”
Bobo had been sleeping in his shorts. He pulled on a shirt and trousers, then reached for his socks.
“Just the shoes,” Milam hurried him.
“I don’t wear shoes without socks,” Bobo said: and he kept the gun-bearers waiting while he put on his socks, then a pair of canvas shoes with thick crepe soles.
Preacher and his wife tried two arguments in the boy’s behalf.
“He ain’t got good sense,” Preacher begged. “He didn’t know what he was doing. Don’t take him.”
“I’ll pay you gentlemen for the damages,” Elizabeth Wright said.
“You niggers go back to sleep,” Milam replied.
They marched him into the yard, told him to get in the back of the pickup and lie down. He obeyed. They drove toward Money.
Elizabeth Wright rushed to the home of a white neighbor, who got up, looked around, but decided he could do nothing. Then, she and Preacher drove to the home of her brother, Crosby Smith, at Sumner; and Crosby Smith, on Sunday morning, went to the sheriff’s office at Greenwood.
The other young Negroes stayed at Preacher’s house until daylight, when Wheeler Parker telephoned his mother in Chicago, who in turn notified Bobo’s mother, Mamie Bradley, 33, 6427 S. St. Lawrence.
Had there been any doubt as to the identity of the “Chicago boy who done the talking,” Milam and Bryant would have stopped at the store for Carolyn to identify him. But there had been no denial. So they didn’t stop at the store. At Money, they crossed the Tallahatchie River and drove west.
Their intention was to “just whip him… and scare some sense into him.” And for this chore, Big Milam knew “the scariest place in the Delta.” He had come upon it last year hunting wild geese. Over close to Rosedale, the Big River bends around under a bluff. “Brother, she’s a 100-foot sheer drop, and she’s a 100 feet deep after you hit.”
Big Milam’s idea was to stand him up there on that bluff, “whip” him with the .45, and then shine the light on down there toward that water and make him think you’re gonna knock him in.
“Brother, if that won’t scare the Chicago ——-, hell won’t.”
Searching for this bluff, they drove close to 75 miles. Through Shellmound, Schlater, Doddsville, Ruleville, Cleveland to the intersection south of Rosedale. There they turned south on Mississippi No. 1, toward the entrance to Beulah Lake. They tried several dirt and gravel roads, drove along the levee. Finally, they gave up: in the darkness, Big Milam couldn’t find his bluff.
They drove back to Milam’s house at Glendora, and by now it was 5 a.m.. They had been driving nearly three hours, with Milam and Bryant in the cab and Bobo lying in the back.
At some point when the truck slowed down, why hadn’t Bobo jumped and run? He wasn’t tied; nobody was holding him. A partial answer is that those Chevrolet pickups have a wraparound rear window the size of a windshield. Bryant could watch him. But the real answer is the remarkable part of the story.
Bobo wasn’t afraid of them! He was tough as they were. He didn’t think they had the guts to kill him.
Milam: “We were never able to scare him. They had just filled him so full of that poison that he was hopeless.”
Back of Milam’s home is a tool house, with two rooms each about 12 feet square. They took him in there and began “whipping” him, first Milam then Bryant smashing him across the head with those .45’s. Pistol-whipping: a court-martial offense in the Army… but MP’s have been known to do it…. And Milam got information out of German prisoners this way.
But under these blows Bobo never holleredand he kept making the perfect speeches to insure martyrdom.
Bobo: “You bastards, I’m not afraid of you. I’m as good as you are. I’ve ‘had’ white women. My grandmother was a white woman.”
Milam: “Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers in their placeI know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. ‘Chicago boy,’ I said, ‘I’m tired of ’em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I’m going to make an example of you — just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.'”
So Big Milam decided to act. He needed a weight. He tried to think of where he could get an anvil. Then he remembered a gin which had installed new equipment. He had seen two men lifting a discarded fan, a metal fan three feet high and circular, used in ginning cotton.
Bobo wasn’t bleeding much. Pistol-whipping bruises more than it cuts. They ordered him back in the truck and headed west again. They passed through Doddsville, went into the Progressive Ginning Company. This gin is 3.4 miles east of Boyle: Boyle is two miles south of Cleveland. The road to this gin turns left off U.S. 61, after you cross the bayou bridge south of Boyle.
Milam: “When we got to that gin, it was daylight, and I was worried for the first time. Somebody might see us and accuse us of stealing the fan.”
Bryant and Big Milam stood aside while Bobo loaded the fan. Weight: 74 pounds. The youth still thought they were bluffing.
They drove back to Glendora, then north toward Swan Lake and crossed the “new bridge” over the Tallahatchie. At the east end of this bridge, they turned right, along a dirt road which parallels the river. After about two miles, they crossed the property of L.W. Boyce, passing near his house.
About 1.5 miles southeast of the Boyce home is a lonely spot where Big Milam has hunted squirrels. The river bank is steep. The truck stopped 30 yards from the water.
Big Milam ordered Bobo to pick up the fan.
He staggered under its weight… carried it to the river bank. They stood silently… just hating one another.
Milam: “Take off your clothes.”
Slowly, Bobo pulled off his shoes, his socks. He stood up, unbuttoned his shirt, dropped his pants, his shorts.
He stood there naked.
It was Sunday morning, a little before 7.
Milam: “You still as good as I am?”
Milam: “You still ‘had’ white women?”
That big .45 jumped in Big Milam’s hand. The youth turned to catch that big, expanding bullet at his right ear. He dropped.
They barb-wired the gin fan to his neck, rolled him into 20 feet of water.
For three hours that morning, there was a fire in Big Milam’s back yard: Bobo’s crepe soled shoes were hard to burn.
Seventy-two hours later — eight miles downstream — boys were fishing. They saw feet sticking out of the water. Bobo.
The majority — by no means all, but the majority — of the white people in Mississippi 1) either approve Big Milam’s action or else 2) they don’t disapprove enough to risk giving their “enemies” the satisfaction of a conviction
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Letter to Life Editor
…The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi (By William Bradford Huie, Look January 24) is a magnificent piece of journalism…The article did something very valuable about this case. For us, the public, whose hearts were torn by it, this article took the sinisterness out of this thing; by holding it up to truth, we saw all these people in three dimensions: We could see how the men acting out of their own background could do this thing and feel justified; and we saw the boy, acting out of his convictions too. It also made the women appear more decent; after all they had tried indeed to keep the news of the incident away from their men — they were not sadistic trouble makers, as the newspapers had given the impression…The man who wrote the article must be a wonderful reporter. Many, many thanks.
Dora BerezovNew York, New York
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The Face of Emmett Till (Updated) by Big TexSo I lived in southern Mississippi. Emmett Till, this 14-year old black boy, who’d gone to Tallahatchie County, Money, Mississippi in the Delta, to visit his great uncle for summer holiday, from Chicago, was lynched. And as a child of 12, I can not remember having felt more vulnerable, more frightened, morebut at the same time more angry. And I can remember my 12-year old anger very, very much.And when I met people like Judy and SNCC in 1962, ’63, all of us remembered the photograph of Emmett Till’s face, lying in the coffin, on the cover of Jet Magazine. […] And when I met Mrs. Mamie Bradley, Emmett Till’s mother, many years later, I asked her, “Why did you not have the undertaker do some cosmetic work on his face?” And her response was that, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” Joyce Ladner Confessions of the Killers of Emmett Till
You know, I remember in interviewing people in the course of doing [Eyes on the Prize] that it was not only young black people who spoke about Till, but young white people as well, who had the idea that this is someone our age, you know, a pre-teen really, or young teen, and if you can see that happening to a young black child down in Mississippi, it’s not only black kids who say, Well, it’s not that I can’t be the teacher or nurse, but if they kill people, this is serious,” and that young white people also said, “If they’re killing people, it’s not just a matter of some folks don’t like colored people, this is horrible, and this can’t be allowed to go on. I’ve got to do something about this.Juan Williams
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Emmett Till and Dr Kings Memorial.by Eddie Glaude, Jr..Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955. They found his body horribly mangled at the bottom of the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. Till had dared to break one of the sacred rules of the Jim Crow South. He “flirted” with a white woman. He was only fourteen years old.
Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, decided to have an open-casket funeral. She wanted everyone to see what they had done to “her baby.” The Chicago Defender reported that over “250,000 people viewed and passed by the bier of little Emmett Till . . . All were shocked, some horrified and appalled. Many prayed, scores fainted and practically all, men, women and children wept.”
On September 15th, 1955 Jet Magazine published, unedited, the images of Emmett Till. Black America was stunned. For some, this was the first visual image of the brutality of American racism. For others, the dead body of Till only confirmed the disease at the heart of the United States. America was sick. And Emmett Till was to become the sacrificial lamb, which sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement that sought to heal the nation.
What did Mamie Till Mobley want us to see when she decided to leave open her baby’s coffin? What was she memorializing at that moment? Obviously, her decision called attention to the brutality of American racism. But I am convinced that she wanted to make visible all of those victims of American hatred who remained invisible. The nameless black bodies that lined the bottom of the Tallahatchie River and the spirits that were defeated daily by the systemic and dehumanizing experience of white supremacy were all captured in the brutally disfigured face of a murdered fourteen-year old boy. Perhaps she wanted that image to haunt the nation — to force us to remember those who reside in the shadows. Those images defined a generation. And they, at least for me, continue to haunt.
On the exact same day, eight years later, an estimated 250,000 people engaged in an historic demonstration before the Lincoln Memorial for civil rights and economic justice. And it was here that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In some ways, that speech stands as a third “founding” of the nation. Just as President Lincoln’s second inaugural offered a revision of the revolutionary beginnings of America, Dr. King’s words expanded the very idea of American democracy in which the promises of freedom and justice would be extended to its entire people..HuffingtonPost
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The Death of Emmett Till
By Bob Dylan
‘Twas down in Mississippi not so long ago, When a young boy from Chicago town walked through a Southern door. This boy’s fateful tragedy you should all remember well, The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till. Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up. They said they had a reason, but I disremember what. They tortured him and did some things too evil to repeat. There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street. Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a blood-red rain And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain. The reason that they killed him there, and I’m sure it aint no lie, He was a Black skin boy so he was born to die And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial, Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till. But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime, And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind. I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs. For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free, While Emmett’s body still floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea. If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that’s so unjust, Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, your mind is filled with dust. Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must cease to flow, For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low! This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan. But if all us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give, We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.
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Emmett TillS Glass-Top Casket
By the time they cracked me open again, topside, abandoned in a toolshed, I had become another kind of nest. Not many people connect possums with Chicago,
but this is where the city ends, after all, and I float still, after the footfalls fade and the roots bloom around us. The fact was, everything that
worked for my young man
worked for my new tenants. The fact was, he had been gone for years. They lifted him from my embrace, and I was empty, ready. Thats how the possums found me, friend,
dry-docked, a tattered mercy hull. Once I held a boy who didnt look like a boy. When they finally remembered, they peeked through my clear top. Then their wild surprise.
April 5, 2010
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The Emmett Till Blues
By Al Young
What they use to just do and just done it to me,
they doing it directly to all yall now, doing it
and doing it and doing it to the world.
Shoot and cut and smash my head in,
take me to the river, sink me down
you call that religion? Yeah, yeah!
It hadnt of been for my mother bring
my busted body back up to Chicago and let
Jet get pictures for the world to look at,
nobody would of known. Im long time gone.
Nowadays wouldnt be no way Id get to say
this on television, no way yall would even see
a picture of me. Do yall even know who this is
talking to you? This is Emmett Till. I died
and died and died. Soon as yall figured
America was saved, here come Guantánamo
and Abu Ghraib. Here come greed and
here come grief. The Thief of Baghdad
make they own commandments. Geronimo,
wouldnt of paid them no mind. What you think
they might pull next? Talk to me. I been done died.
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Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008)
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#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
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#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns 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. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its 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, Im 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.
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By Bart D. Ehrman
The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else’s name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptablehence, a forgery.
While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman’s introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book’s main point, is especially valuable.Publishers Weekly / Forged Bart Ehrmans New Salvo (
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By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by Philippe Lardy
This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color. There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets.
The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literarySchool Library Journal / Winner of 2012 Frost Medal / Murders of Till / Carver: A Life
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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.
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Stories by Mohammed Naseehu Ali
Vivid images of African life and familiar snippets of expatriate life infuse this debut collection by a Ghana-born writer and musician. On the fictional Zongo Street in Accra, young children gather around their grandmother to hear a creation story from “the time of our ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors” in “The Story of Day and Night.” In “Mallam Sille,” a weak, 46-year-old virgin tea seller finds soulful strength in marriage to a dominant village woman. Other stories take place in and around New York City, depicting immigrants struggling with American culture and values. A Ghanaian caregiver vows not to “grow old in this country” in “Live-In,” while in “The True Aryan,” an African musician and an Armenian cabbie competitively compare tragic cultural histories on the ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, achieving humanist understanding as they reach Park Slope:
“I looked into his eyes, and with a sudden deep respect said to the man, ‘I’ll take your pain, too.’ ” Several stories close in a similarly magical, almost folkloric epiphany, as when sleep becomes an attempt “to bring calm to the pulsing heart of Man” in “The Manhood Test.” Ali speaks melodiously but not always provocatively in these tales of transition and emigration.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 6 February 2012
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