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Professor Simmons learned about South Africa from several expatriates living in exile in the United

States during apartheid. Willie Kgositile, South Africa’s poet laureate, was one of the first South

Africans Simmons met in the 1960s. ”He was seriously involved in progressive politics,

especially those of Africans and the Diaspora,” recalled Kgositile.



Kenneth Simmons Architect Professor and activist, Dies at 77

After a long illness, Ken Simmons, a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, died of cancer in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday July 6 at the age of 77.  His son, Ken Harlan Simmons III, also an architect, was with him.

Kenneth Harlan Simmons was known for his work in equal rights, urban planning and community development from San Francisco to Detroit, Harlem, and South Africa. Simmons was born June 28, 1933, in Muskogee, Okla. His father, Jacob Simons Jr., who attended the Tuskegee Institute and founded the Simmons Royalty Company, was considered the most successful African American in the history of the oil industry. During Simmons’ summer breaks from high school and college, he worked as an oil field hand and tool dresser on family-owned oil drilling rigs.

Simmons earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University in 1954 and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from UC Berkeley in 1963. He joined UC Berkeley a lecturer in architecture in 1968 and became an associate professor there in 1969. Simmons played a lead role in helping the university to divest from South Africa and helped establish the Black Environmental Student Association at UC Berkeley.

Simmons also worked as an architect and planner. He was a partner with Ishimaru, Oneill, and Simmons and the Community Design Collaborative, both in Oakland, Calif., and with the Bay Group Associates architectural, planning, environmental research and design firm in San Francisco. Some of his most noted work included the Dock of the Bay restaurant near the Berkeley Marina, the Black Repertory Community Center in Berkeley, and the Robert Pitts public housing development in San Francisco.While an architect and professor at UC Berkeley, Simons was appointed to the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors, where he helped to establish the district’s affirmative action program and contract equity program.

Simmons also was a director of the New Oakland Committee civic organization; co-director of the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem, New York; coordinator for housing and community development for the San Francisco Equal Opportunity Council; and project director of the Urban America Hunts Point Multi-Service Center in South Bronx, New York.

 “We were both on the faculty at UC Berkeley, where he was an inspiration to students and was of crucial practical help to many of them in following whatever goals they set out for themselves,” said Sara Ishikawa, one of Simmons’ Community Design Collective partners and a UC Berkeley professor emerita of architecture.

John Liu, a former UC Berkeley lecturer and a partner of Community Design Collaborative with Simmons in the 1980s, said Simmons inspired some of his own work in Taiwan involving social justice and community participation. “Right ideas have no boundaries,” Liu said.

Henry Ramsey Jr., a retired Alameda County Superior Court judge who met Simmons while Ramsey was a UC Berkeley law student, called Simmons “a powerful force for meaningful social and political change throughout his adult life.”

Shortly after retiring from UC Berkeley in 1994, Simmons began teaching at University Of The Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, first at the School of Town and Regional Planning and later at the School of Architecture. He also worked for the city planning department in Sandton, near Johannesburg.

At Witwatersrand, Simmons advocated for increasing the numbers of black students enrolling at the previously mostly white university. At a public speaking engagement, he recalled how he advised students: “First, I gave my students actual academic credit if they could demonstrate they were helping other students…And then I would try to address their feelings of inadequacy. ‘How many languages do you speak?’ I would ask them. Almost always, the black kids would say five, six or eight or nine.” Simmons said he would tell the students that some of their teachers and fellow students who might try to make them feel stupid speak two languages at the most.

Simmons loved jazz, books and art, and was well known for supporting community artists. He was a lifetime member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Kenneth married his first wife, Christine Morgan, in 1955, and they had two children, Margot and Kenneth II. With Joyce Redmond, he had one daughter, Annette. He married Gloria Burkhalter in 1988, and they had one daughter, Jalia.

Simmons is survived by his companion, Sebiletso Mokone of Johannesburg; four children, Margot Simmons of Baltimore, Md.; Kenneth II of Johannesburg, Annette Redmond-Simmons of San Jose, Calif., and Jalia Burkhalter-Simmons of Oakland, Calif.; five grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and friends. A memorial service for Simmons will be held at 3 p.m. on Aug. 21 in the Newton-Seale Conference Room in the R-Building of Merritt College, 12500 Campus Dr., Oakland.

Source: Berkeley News

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An American Pioneer in South Africa—By Kenneth Walker—July 20, 2010—For more than 15 years, architect and entrepreneur Kenneth Harlan Simmons was the role model for African Americans who wanted to live in South Africa.—JOHANNESBURG—For many black Americans, Professor Ken Simmons was the father of the African-American community in South Africa—not just because of his 77 years or because he had been coming here longer than just about every other member of that group. His leadership was by example.

By the time Simmons died in July after a battle with cancer, he had become the role model for African Americans adopting South Africa as their homeland. During increasingly infrequent visits to the United States, three weeks was about his limit before he began feeling ”homesick” for South Africa. He would also recall trying to dissuade certain African Americans from going there. ”Those bloods would be up to no good in South Africa,” he said. ”So when they would ask, how was life here? I would lie and say, ‘No, brother, you don’t want to live there. It’s awful, really bad.”’

Although he came to South Africa to stay in 1996, he had visited several times in previous years. The seeds for uprooting a full life in the United States to move to South Africa had been planted many years before. His appetite was first whetted in his staunchly Pan-Africanist and affluent family. Simmons’ father, Jacob, was virtually the only successful African-American oil company owner in America during the early 20th century. He was born in 1901 to the granddaughter of Crow Tom, one of the few black chiefs of a Native American tribe in the United States. Jacob was personally recruited to attend Tuskegee Institute by its legendary founder, Booker T. Washington.

Kenneth Harlan Simmons was born June 28, 1933, in Muskogee, Okla., to Jacob and Eva Simmons. Simmons earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University in 1954 and an architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. He practiced architecture and later taught at Berkeley. His family’s ties to Africa were deep. Jacob Simmons made several trips to West Africa to facilitate the entry of American oil companies there.

South Africa has overtaken Ghana as the preferred point of return for African Americans living on the continent. An estimated 3,000 now call South Africa home. African Americans have been coming to South Africa for more than 150 years — first as missionaries, then sailors and educators, and later in business and the professions. In recent decades, they have come for a variety of reasons, but most feel the pull of Africa as well as the push from America.

Kenneth Simmons II, a prominent businessman, says this applied to him and his father. ”We felt the attraction of wanting to contribute to a young, African democracy, he said. ”There was also something of wanting to leave the United States behind.”

Professor Simmons learned about South Africa from several expatriates living in exile in the United States during apartheid. Willie Kgositile, South Africa’s poet laureate, was one of the first South Africans Simmons met in the 1960s. ”He was seriously involved in progressive politics, especially those of Africans and the Diaspora,” recalled Kgositile. ”He also was seriously involved in community development and establishing affirmative action for minority businesses in California. Involvement in the struggle was what brought us together. He saw the South African struggle as part of his struggle, and I saw the struggle of African Americans as part of my struggle.”

Dr. Wally Serote, executive chairman of the Freedom Park Trust, South Africa’s premier cultural, history and heritage institution, also met Simmons in the United States, but their relationship began in earnest once they were both in South Africa. Serote credits Simmons with helping prepare him for his present position. ”As our friendship developed, he was teaching architecture at Wits (Witwatersrand) University, and we started talking architecture,” he said. ”Ken made me become extremely interested in architecture. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was preparing me for my new job at the Freedom Park.”

Not long after Serote arrived to oversee the construction of Freedom Park, he asked Simmons to join him as a technical adviser. ”Ken took that very seriously. He always made constructive, positive interventions coming from technical aspects of architecture to the extent that we relied heavily on him. Many times he unraveled things which could have easily mystified us.”

Trevor Fowler, former CEO in the Office of the President of South Africa, shared many friends with Simmons during his time in exile but only came to know him once he moved to South Africa. ”There were many things I came to respect and admire about Ken,” Fowler said. ”He had two overarching principles,” Fowler continued. ”One was that he had a very passionate commitment about developing the potential of young black children in architecture and education generally. And secondly, Ken was passionate about bringing South Africans, Africans and African Americans together.”

These passions were on display during Simmons’ last public presentation. He spoke at an education workshop at a Symposium of the South African American Partnership Forum — a new organization founded by South Africans and Americans to recapture the unprecedented people-to-people exchanges and support that reached their zenith during the anti-apartheid era.

Simmons spoke of trying to help young black South African students at the University of Witwatersrand adjust to a mostly white environment that was hostile to them. ”They were often made to feel marginalized,” Simmons told the crowd at the University of Johannesburg. ”They sometimes felt they had no right to be there.

”I did two things,” Simmons said. ”First, I gave my students actual academic credit if they could demonstrate they were helping other students who were having problems. And then I would try to address their feelings of inadequacy. ‘How many languages do you speak?’ I would ask them. Almost always the black kids would say five, six or eight or nine.’

”Some of your teachers and fellow students who may try to make you feel like you are stupid — at the very most — speak two,” he continued. ”Now tell me who is the bright one here, and who is not? To a person,” Simmons concluded, “the students wound up responding: ‘I never thought of it like that.’ ” To which Simmons would respond: ”Exactly!”—TheRoot 

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Jake Simmons, Jr.

 Joseph Jacob Simmons, Jr. (January 17, 1901 – March 24, 1981) was a prominent African American oilman. He “rose above humble beginnings to become the most successful and most recognizable black entrepreneur in the history of the petroleum industry.”[1] As an internationally known oil broker he partnered with Phillips Petroleum Company and Signal Oil and Gas Company to open up African oil fields in Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. In 1969, he became the first black to be appointed to the National Petroleum Council. . . . Simmons’ son J. J. “Jake” III was vice president of the family business before being recruited to work at the Interior Department during the Kennedy administration. He served as undersecretary of the Interior Department during the first Reagan administration and a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the 1980s and 1990s. Donald, an economist, took over Simmons Royalty Company. Blanche was a social worker and Kenneth, a Harvard-educated professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Wikipedia

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Staking a Claim: Jake Simmons, Jr.

and the Making of an African-American Oil Dynasty

By Jonathan Greenberg

Simmons, an oil broker, entrepreneur and civil rights activist who often applied Booker T. Washington’s principles to his business practices, became the world’s first internationally recognized black oilman. According to PW , this is a “crisply written, sympathetic biography.”—Publishers Weekly

Greenberg, a freelance journalist, has written a thoroughly researched biography of the late Jake Simmons Jr., the most successful African-American entrepreneur in the history of the petroleum industry. Simmons’s ancestors were slaves of the Oklahoma-based Creek Indian tribe, which treated their slaves with unusual dignity; this may have helped Simmons’s ancestors to strike out on their own when given the opportunity.

 Upon the uprooting of the Creek nation, many of the former slaves became wealthy landowners in the Tulsa area, leasing their lands for oil exploration at the turn of this century. Simmons, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute, was greatly influenced by its founder and president, Booker T. Washington, and in addition to an analysis of Simmons’s business expertise, Greenberg also details Simmons’s civil rights activities. This is a complementary work to another African-American business biography, John H. Johnson’s Succeeding Against the Odds ( LJ 6/1/89), and is highly recommended for most libraries.—Library Journal

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How to Create a Park

By Frederick Law Olmsted

In May 1895, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for Central Park in New York, wrote in Engineering Magazine about city parks, or “pleasure-grounds.”

To “plan” something means to devise ways of effecting some particular purpose. It has not always been thought necessary to “plan” the various kinds of pleasure-grounds. With no consistent end or purpose in mind, the members of some park commissions attempt to direct from day to day and from year to year such “improvements” as they may from time to time decide upon.

That the results of this method of procedure are confused, inadequate, and unimpressive is not to be wondered at. In order to be able to devise a consistent plan, such as may be followed during a long period of years with surety that the result will be both useful and beautiful, it is necessary, in the first place, to define as accurately as possible the ends or purposes to be achieved. As already remarked, these ends or purposes are as numerous as are the various modes of recreation in the open air.

Thus a small tract of harbor-side land at the North End of Boston has been acquired by the park commission, in order to supply the inhabitants of a poor and crowded quarter with a pleasant resting-place overlooking the water, and with opportunities for boating and bathing. Accordingly, the plan provides a formal elevated stone terrace, connecting by a bridge spanning an intervening traffic-street with a double decked pleasure-pier, which in turn forms a breakwater enclosing a little port, the shore of which will be a bathing beach.

In the adjacent city of Cambridge a rectangular, level, and street-bounded open space has been ordered to be arranged to serve as a general meeting-place or promenade, a concert-ground, a boys’ playground, and an out-door nursery. Accordingly, the adopted plan suggests a centrally-placed building which will serve as a shelter from showers and as a house of public convenience, in which the boys will find lockers and the babies a room of their own, from which also the head keeper of the ground shall be able to command the whole scene.

South of the house a broad, but shaded, gravel space will provide room for such crowds as may gather when the band plays on a platform attached to the veranda of the building. Beyond this concert-ground is placed the ball-field, which, because of the impossibility of maintaining good turf, will be of fine gravel firmly compacted. Surrounding the ball-ground and the whole public domain is a broad, formal, and shaded mall. At one end of the central building is found room for a shrub-surrounded playground and sand-court for babies and small children. At the other end of the house is a similarly secluded out-door gymnasium for girls.

Lastly, between the administration house and the northern mall and street, there will be found an open lawn, shut off from the malls by banks of shrubbery and surrounded by a path with seats where mothers, nurses, and the public generally may find a pleasant resting-place. Plans for those larger public domains in which scenery is the main object of pursuit need to be devised with similarly strict attention to the loftier purpose in view. The type of scenery to be preserved or created ought to be that which is developed naturally from the local circumstances of each case.

Rocky or steep slopes suggest tangled thickets or forests. Smooth hollows of good soil hint at open or “park-like” scenery. Swamps and an abundant water-supply suggest ponds, pools, or lagoons. If distant views of regions outside the park are likely to be permanently attractive, the beauty thereof may be enhanced by supplying stronger foregrounds; and, conversely, all ugly or town-like surroundings ought, if possible, to be “planted out.” The paths and roads of landscape parks are to be regarded simply as instruments by which the scenery is made accessible and enjoyable. They may not be needed at first, but, when the people visiting a park become so numerous that the trampling of their feet destroys the beauty of the ground cover, it becomes necessary to confine them to the use of chosen lines and spots.

These lines ought obviously to be determined with careful reference to the most advantageous exhibition of the available scenery. The scenery also should be developed with reference to the views thereof to be obtained from these lines. This point may be illustrated by assuming the simplest possible case—namely, that of a landscape park to be created upon a parallelogram of level prairie. To conceal the formality of the boundaries, as well as to shut out the view of surrounding buildings, an informal “border plantation” will be required.

Within this irregular frame or screen the broader the unbroken meadow or field may be, the more restful and impressive will be the landscape. To obtain the broadest and finest views of this central meadow, as well as to avoid shattering its unity, roads and paths should obviously be placed near the edges of the framing woods. In the typical case a “circuit road” results.

It is wholly impossible to frame rules for the planning of rural parks; local circumstances ought to guide and govern the designer in every case; but it may be remarked that there are few situations in which the principle of unity will not call for something, at least, of the “border plantation” and something of the “circuit road.” Within large rural parks economy sometimes demands that provision should be made for some of those modes of recreation which small spaces are capable of supplying. Special playgrounds for children, ball or tennis grounds, even formal arrangements such as are most suitable for concert-grounds and decorative gardens, may each and all find place within the rural park, provided they are so devised as not to conflict with or detract from the breadth and quietness of the general landscape.

If boating can be provided, a suitable boating-house will be desirable; the same house will serve for the use of skaters in winter. In small parks economy of administration demands that one building should serve all purposes and supply accommodations for boating parties, skaters, tennis-players, ball-players, and all other visitors, as well as administrative offices. In large parks separate buildings serving as restaurants, boat-houses, bathing-houses, and the like may be allowable. It is most important, however, to remember that these buildings, like the roads and paths, are only subsidiary, though necessary, adjuncts to the park scenery; and, consequently, that they should not be placed or designed so as to be obtrusive or conspicuous.

Large public buildings, such as museums, concert halls, schools, and the like, may best find place in town streets or squares. They may wisely perhaps be placed near, or facing upon, the park, but to place them within it is simply to defeat the highest service which the park can render the community. Large and conspicuous buildings, as well as statues and other monuments, are completely subversive of that rural quality of landscape the presentation and preservation of which is the one justifying purpose of the undertaking by a town of a large public park—ArchitectureWeek

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Landscape Architecture: The Magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Effective use of citizen participation in planning decision-making processes

By Willis, Angela V., M.C.R.P., Morgan State University, 2008, 129 pages

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Fairness and Competence in Citizen Participation

Evaluating Models for Environmental Discourse

Edited by  Ortwin Renn, Thomas Webler, and Peter Wiedemann

A vital issue facing the citizens and governments of modern democracies is the direct participation of the public in the solution of environmental problems. Governments are increasingly experimenting with approaches that give citizens a greater say in the environmental debate. Fairness and Competence in Citizen Participation addresses a crucial question: How can we measure the performance of the citizen participation process? A novel approach to the problem is taken by viewing public participation as an act of communication. Drawing on Jurgen Habermas’ Critical Theory of Communication, a normative framework is developed around the central area of citizen participation and competence in knowledge verification.

 A milestone on the road of citizen participation and applied critical theory, the book provides a sound theoretical and methodological basis for the systematic evaluation of models for environmental discourse. Eight models of citizen participation are studied, from North America and Europe. Each model is evaluated and criticized in paired chapters written by prominent scholars. Audience: Planners and citizens alike will find pragmatic advice in the evaluations. Springer, Publisher

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Mary Anne Alabanza Akers, Dean & Professor

Morgan State University, School of Architecture and Planning

Dr. Akers “encourages minority students interested in environmental careers to take a holistic approach to the environmental field and integrate the needs of diverse peoples and communities into their approach. ‘Build as much of a knowledge base about ‘the environment’ as you can,’ she advises. ‘But at the same time, working in the environmental field, you also need to be aware of people’s relationships with the environment . . . not just their consumption needs, but their health, spiritual, and cultural connections with natural and built environments. It is similarly important to consider these things within the context of sustainable economic development’.” UMichigan

Addressing Design Disparities: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities— A database operated by the Center for the Study of Practice at the University of Cincinnati indicates that only 1.5 percent of licensed architects are black, notwithstanding statistics showing that African Americans account for over 12.1 percent of the US population.1 Also discouraging is the miniscule number of minorities in landscape architecture and interior design practice. According to David Rice, founder of the Organization of Black Designers, only about 2 percent of interior designers are black.2 And these percentages are not significantly improving in spite of the AIA, ASLA, ASID and other national organizations’ official commitment to address diversity and inclusivity. How then should the design professions fulfill this purpose?

As we delve deeper into these issues of design disparity and in spite of traditional, mainstream academic institutions’ efforts at implementing strategies to increase the number of underrepresented groups in design education, the question continues to be asked, “Why is there minimal progress in graduating minorities for successful careers in design?” An often overlooked partner that can help to address this disparity in design education and practice are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Of the 117 HBCUs in the United States, seven have accredited architecture programs, three offer landscape architecture degrees, and two have urban planning programs (see sidebar on page 55). Apart from this challenge of a few design programs, HBCUs continue to be the vehicle for successfully producing minority design graduates. For example, the seven HBCUs still graduate approximately 45% of all African American students with professional architecture degrees.Design Intelligence

About the HBCUs project—The high rate of disabilities in U.S. minority populations, particularly the disproportionate rate for African Americans, has a pronounced impact on independence and social participation in many communities.  The gap is likely to grow as aging, obesity and related medical conditions increase rates of disabilities. Universal design in architecture means designing all buildings to increase usability, safety and health to reflect the diversity of the human population. It goes beyond accessible design to support a higher level of independence and social participation as well as unmet needs of diverse groups, not just people with disabilities. Emphasizing universal design components in architectural curricula can help build healthy and supportive communities that reduce the constraints of disability.

Schools with large African American populations clearly have a greater stake in addressing this gap. But they also have much to contribute to the evolving knowledge base of universal design through their unique cultural perspective.  Although UD grew out of the American disability rights movement, its focus has been broadened to making the design of built environments, products, and communities more inclusive for populations of all ages, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds.  It is here that HBCUs can bring a unique and important perspective to universal design that promises to enrich the body of knowledge in this field and in architecture in general.

In her article,  “Addressing Design Disparities: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities”, the Dean of Morgan University’s School of Architecture, Mary Anne Alabanza-Akers, Ph.D., notes that while 12.1 percent of the U.S. population is African American, only 1.5% of licensed architects and 2 percent of interior designers are Black.Universal Design World

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Designing Healthy Communities: The Health Impact of Street Vendor Environments—A conventional solution would be to construct a bypass around the urban core – but that approach is far from being sustainable. To preserve the character of the city’s centre, highways should not be built because these structures will only increase the dark and cold tunnel effect of urban spaces beneath them. Rather, a framework that encourages satellite service centres around the city will decrease the number of vehicles entering the urban core. Banks, professional offices, medical offices and other businesses can relocate to disperse services around the city. An important part of the environmental design plan is to ‘pedestrianise’ several streets in the CBD. This move will decongest the sidewalks and encourage the use of urban spaces for more community-oriented (social, leisure, cultural, and arts) activities and active living, while increasing their economic vitality. Several cities in India and Indonesia have closed major streets to accommodate pedestrians9. Evaluations of these planning strategies have yielded positive results. Businesses have increased their sales, air quality improves, users are more encouraged to stay in these places, crime decreases and urban spaces are enlivened. Lastly, to improve the health of street vendors and urban residents living, working or visiting in the CBD, a greening movement should be embarked upon. Restoring existing parks to better health and planting vegetation around the CBD will improve air quality and decrease the effects of the urban heat during the hot, summer months. World Health Design

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DVD Description of  Wonders of the African World

Africa is a continent of magnificent treasures and cultures—from the breathtaking stone architecture of 1,000-year-old ruins in South Africa to an advanced 16th century international university in Timbuktu. However, for centuries, many of these African wonders have been hidden from the world, lost to the ravages of time, nature and repressive governments. Uncover the richness of these African Wonders with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he explores the many cultures, traditions and history of the African continent.

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Mr. R. R. Taylor, Director of Industries of Tuskegee Institute, and the first colored graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the architect who drew the plan of the library, which has received much praise from various parts of the country.  The library is open from 7 A. M. to 10 P. M., and is at all times under the supervision of a competent librarian. Free access to the shelves is allowed, and liberal privileges are permitted to both teachers and students in taking out books for use in their rooms. 

An effort has been put forth to make Tuskegee a center of information regarding negro literature, and to that end living negro authors are asked to contribute their works, and pamphlets and books of every description written by negroes are obtained whenever possible. Tuskegee Library and Carnegie

posted 18 August 2010

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The State of African Education (April 200)

Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

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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

#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

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Jefferson’s Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson’s Pillow, Wilkins returns to America’s beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America’s founding, Jefferson’s Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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Representing the Race

The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

By Kenneth W. Mack

Representing the Race tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. . . . Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he was—as nearly as possible—one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics? /

For Love of Liberty

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanaper

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: The economy is not an efficient machine.

It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. We’re all better off when we’re all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior.

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The First Emancipator

The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves

By Andrew Levy

In 1791, at a time when the nation’s leaders were fervently debating the contradiction of slavery in a newly independent nation, wealthy Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter III freed more than 450 slaves. It was to be the largest emancipation until the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. Levy offers an absorbing look at the philosophical and religious debate and the political and family struggles in which Carter engaged for years before very deliberately and systematically freeing his slaves as he attempted to provide a model for others to follow. Drawing on historic documents, including Carter’s letters and painstakingly detailed accounts of plantation activities, Levy conveys the strongly held beliefs that drove Carter through the political and religious fervor of the time to arrive at a decision at odds with those of other prominent leaders and slaveholders of the time, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Levy offers a fascinating look at one man’s redemption and his eventual lapse into historical obscurity despite his incredibly bold actions. Well researched and thoroughly fascinating, this forgotten history will appeal to readers interested in the complexities of American slavery.—Booklist

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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)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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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

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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update 11 July 2012




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