Category: Books

Vanderbilt University Honors Trailblazing Student-Athlete Perry Wallace by Renaming a Street in His Honor

Perry Wallace (photo via vanderbilt.edu)

According to jbhe.comVanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee announced that part of 25th Avenue South in front of its Memorial Gymnasium will be ceremonially renamed “Perry Wallace Way” in memory of the trailblazing Vanderbilt student-athlete who integrated Southeastern Conference varsity basketball in 1967.

On December 2, 1967, Wallace made history when he played for Vanderbilt University in a game with Southern Methodist University. Two days later, he played in a game against Southeastern Conference rival, Auburn University. Wallace endured verbal abuse from fans and had objects thrown at him from the stands.

His story is told in Andrew Maraniss’ best-selling book Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Vanderbilt University Press, 2014).

After graduating from Vanderbilt University and Columbia Law School, Wallace served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Later, Wallace entered the academic world and served on the faculty of the law schools at Howard University, the University of Baltimore, and American University.

John Warner Smith Appointed Poet Laureate of Louisiana, 1st Black Man to Hold the Position

John Warner Smith (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, professor and writer John Warner Smith has been appointed by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the state’s Governor, John Bel Edwards, to serve as the next Poet Laureate of Louisiana. This appointment makes Smith the first African American man to hold the position.

“John Warner Smith’s writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community,” Gov. Edwards said.

“He is making history today as the first African American male appointed as Louisiana Poet Laureate, and I’m confident that John will serve our great state well. I want to thank the LEH for leading this search, and I congratulate all of the nominees whose writings tell the unique stories of Louisiana, the place we call home.”

Currently, Smith teaches English at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has published four collections of poetry: Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (University of Louisiana Lafayette Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness (MadHat Press, 2016), and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books-Aldrich Press, 2015). His fifth collection, Out Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in Americais forthcoming this year from MadHat Press.

Read more: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/08/john-warner-smith-is-the-first-black-male-poet-laureate-for-the-state-of-louisiana/

R.I.P. Acclaimed Author Toni Morrison, 88, Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner

Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison, who wrote the acclaimed novels “Beloved,” ”Song of Solomon,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Jazz,” and “Sula” among other works, has passed away at age 88.

According to yahoo.com, publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Morrison died Monday night at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Morrison’s family issued a statement through Knopf saying she died after a brief illness.

“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” the family announced. “The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

“Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful — a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy,” Obama wrote Tuesday on his Facebook page. “She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page.”

“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said in her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”

The second of four children of a welder and a domestic worker, Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a steel town outside of Cleveland. She was encouraged by her parents to read and to think, and was unimpressed by the white kids in her community.

Recalling how she felt like an “aristocrat,” Morrison believed she was smarter and took it for granted she was wiser. She was an honors student in high school, and attended Howard University because she dreamed of life spent among black intellectuals.

10 Books Besides ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ That Tackle Racial Injustice | PBS NewsHour

When the PBS NewsHour asked educators from different parts of the country to share their picks for some alternatives, they offered books that shift the perspective from a white girl’s point of view to people of color. The stories, many of them more contemporary than “To Kill A Mockingbird,” tackle the multitude of ways racism affects different marginalized groups in the U.S.

“Our most popular books are ‘Dear Martin,’ ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,’ ‘The Book of Unknown Americans,’ and ‘The Hate U Give,’” wrote in Cicely Lewis, a library media specialist in Georgia who created a list of books she calls #ReadWoke. “They all have characters who look like my students and face issues plaguing our society. There’s a waiting list for these titles.”

In their own words, educators select 12 books, including a popular nonfiction pick, that are great reads and help continue the discussion around racial injustice in school and in life.

The overall top pick: Angie Thomas novels

“The Hate U Give” is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. It takes up issues of racial injustice and identity, both of which resonate with many students — and it feels particularly timely in the wake of countless police shootings of unarmed black men and women. One of my students said she thinks this is a book everyone should read, and I agree. It also models for students how they can stand up and speak out against injustice.

— Adison Godfrey, English teacher in Pennsylvania

I would like to nominate Angie Thomas’ book, On the Come Up.” The main character Brianna faces an unjust suspension when a rogue white officer body slams her to the floor in retaliation to a search and seizure shake-down upon entering the metal detectors at her school. This mimics incidents that made national news about white officers body-slamming girls in class.

It sheds light on the skewed suspension of more students of color. More importantly, it shows the youthful response to the archaic mindset of prejudice that keeps black Americans stuck in a post-slavery, Jim-Crow America. Using social media to spur on the injustice of treatment — the same way television was used during the 1960s civil rights movement when white and black freedom riders were beaten.

— Jean Darnell, high school librarian in Houston @awakenlibrarian on Twitter

Read more via 10 books besides ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ that tackle racial injustice | PBS NewsHour

“An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones Wins Women’s Prize for Fiction

Author Tayari Jones (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

Author Tayari Jones has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her fourth book, An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, 2018)The prize, considered one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, honors the year’s best novel written in English by a woman of any nationality across the globe.

An American Marriage tells the story of Celestial and Roy, two Black newlyweds whose lives are violently interrupted when Roy is imprisoned for a rape he did not commit.

In addition to An American Marriage, Jones has also authored  Leaving Atlanta, The Untellingand Silver Sparrow

Jones is currently a professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, is a graduate of Spelman College, and holds master’s degrees from the University of Iowa and Arizona State University.

Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters

Toni Morrison and Thelma Golden (photos via artsandletters.org)

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts, to be presented at its annual ceremony in May. Toni Morrison will be awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction. The Gold Medal is awarded to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.

Thelma Golden will be recognized with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts for her significant contribution as Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Sculptor Lee Bontecou will also be honored this year.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members included Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. This year’s total expenditures on awards and grants will be $1.2 million. Continue reading “Author Toni Morrison and Curator Thelma Golden to Receive 2019 Awards from American Academy of Arts and Letters”

Entrepreneur Noëlle Santos Brings Bookstore to the Bronx By Opening Crowdfunded The Lit. Bar

Noëlle Santos (photo via thelitbar.com)

There is an article by Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times this morning about inspiring Bronx native Noëlle Santos, who is opening The Lit. Bar, the Bronx’s first general bookstore since Barnes and Noble shuttered its store there in 2016.

According to the article, Santos, a self-described millennial Afro Latina who was working in human resources at the time, came across a petition on Facebook in 2014 to save the Bronx’ Barnes and Noble (which it managed to for two more years). The petition pointed out how alarming it was that the Bronx was getting more and more cellphone stores and chain restaurants but would be left without a place to buy novels or training manuals or SAT preparation guides.

Santos, who grew up and went to college and graduate school in the Bronx, suddenly felt a radical need to do change things.

“Up to that point I had measured my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx,’’ she is quoted as saying. “I was disappointed in myself for thinking about leaving a community in no better condition that I had found it,’’ she said.

“I had never been inside an independent book store before I decided to open one.”

Santos took that inspiration and worked to make her dream real by calling the American Booksellers Association to learn how to do just that. From ABA Santos learned about a course called “Owning a Bookstore” – which was held in Florida. Undeterred, Santos pooled her vacation days and sick days to fly there and take it. In that course, she learned how to calculate sales projections, negotiate a lease, think about layouts, floor plans, foot traffic, etc.

When Santos returned to New York, she furthered her education by volunteering at small bookstores around the city in exchange for mentorship, and entered a statewide competition for entrepreneurs with promising business plans. She won, and with that prize money, opened a pop-up bookstore in the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

To open an actual store, however, Santos needed much more capital, so she started a crowdfunding campaign and called it, “Let’s Bring a Goddamn Bookstore to the Bronx.’’ With it, she quickly raised $170,000.

To read more of Santos’ story, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/nyregion/bronx-bookstore.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

To support The Lit. Bar in person, visit: 131 Alexander Avenue, Bronx, NY 10454

The Lit. Bar online: http://www.thelitbar.com

Winton Hills Academy Students in Cincinnati Win National Contest with Book about Civil Rights Icon Marian Spencer

Congratulations to fourth-grade students Serenity Mills, Janyia New, Aliyana O’Neal and Nakiyah Ray at Winton Hills Academy in Cincinnati!

These ambitious young women  won a national book-writing contest for authoring and illustrating “Marian Spencer: A Light in the Darkness” about Ohio civil rights pioneer Marian Spencer.

To learn more, go to: wcpo.com

BHM: “Ain’t I A Woman?” The Life and Legacy of Abolitionist and Activist Sojourner Truth

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

It’s February 1st, which means it is now officially Black History Month! Although we here at Good Black News celebrate the achievements of Black people every day of the year, it is always lovely when the rest of the U.S. joins in to do the same for at least 28 of them. So, for #BHM2019, GBN will be highlighting the achievements of black women, past and present, who have and are paving the way to a better future.

Sojourner Truth Google Doodle (via google.com)

And what better person to start with than today’s Google Doogle, abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, who, with “Ain’t I A Woman?” gave one of the most powerful and unforgettable American speeches of all time on what we now call intersectionality?

In 2014, Sojourner Truth was included in Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” – yet the majority of Americans don’t know who she was, what she did, or they confuse her with Harriett Tubman.

Born Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree circa 1797, Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 after she became convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her.” Her best-known speech was delivered extemporaneously, in 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

The speech became widely known during the Civil War by the title Ain’t I a Woman?,” a variation of the original speech re-written by someone else using a stereotypical Southern dialect. Truth was from New York and grew up speaking Dutch as her first language, and had a Dutch accent. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth)

There are a lot of other events and details in Truth’s life, of course, including collaboration with Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, President Abraham Lincoln and varied suffragists and women’s groups – Truth was known for her persuasive speeches against slavery as well as sexism – she even once defiantly opened her top and showed her breasts during a speech when she was accused of being a man.  

But what is remarkable and often not mentioned is that she is likely the first black woman in the U.S. to attain national fame (she sold photos and autographs of herself at events to make money “I sell the shadow to support the substance”) and the first to have her voice heard in America. It is also rather ironic that many of the records of her speeches were written by white men, and thus often altered to their perception of a black, female, former slave.

Some would quote that she had 13 children who were sold away from her (she had 5 and raised most of them) or say she was raving when she was calm. Truth’s was a 19th-century case of what is all too familiar today – media distortion by the dominant culture trying to make sense of “the other”- and in her instance, white men trying to process the experiences and truths of black women.

However, Truth was self-possessed – she claimed her ownership of herself by renaming herself and writing her own Narrative in 1850. Truth traveled and spoke to hostile, indifferent and embracing crowds, fought for women’s rights and black women’s right to vote, fought for land grants and reparations for former slaves, prison reform and the end of capital punishment.

Truth was in her 80s when she died at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1999, a 12-foot high monument was built in Battle Creek to honor her. The calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church remembers Truth annually, and the Lutheran Church calendar of saints remembers her on the same day as Harriet Tubman. 

In 2009, Truth became the first black woman honored with a bust in the U.S. Capitol.

Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton honoring Sojourner Truth as her likeness is added to U.S. Capitol (photo via sfgate.com)

To learn more about Truth, you can read her autobiography The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, the biography Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter, and for children, Who Was Sojourner Truth?  or My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth written by Ann Turner and illustrated by James Ransome.

To watch a mini-biography on Truth on biography.com, go to: http://www.biography.com/video/sojourner-truth-mini-biography-11191875531

Author Claire Hartfield, Illustrator Ekua Holmes and More Win 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Claire Hartfield, author of “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” and Ekua Holmes, illustrator of “The Stuff of Stars,” are the winners of the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards honoring African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.

Tiffany D. Jackson, author of “Monday’s Not Coming,” and Oge Mora, illustrator of “Thank You, Omu!” are the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent winners.

The awards were announced yesterday at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Seattle, Washington and will be presented in Washington, D.C. at the ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition in June.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee of the ALA’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT), the awards encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts; promote an understanding and appreciation of the Black culture and experience, and commemorate the life and legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination in supporting the work of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for peace and world brotherhood.

“A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” is an exposition of the socio-economic landscape and racial tensions that led to the death of a black teen who wanted to swim, and the violent clash that resulted. In 20 chapters, Hartfield’s balanced, eye-opening account contextualizes a range of social justice issues that persist to this day.

“Hartfield’s nuanced account of unrest between African Americans and white European immigrants in early 20th century Chicago fills a much-needed gap in the children’s literature world,” said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair Sam Bloom.

In “The Stuff of Stars,” written by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrator Holmes uses hand marbled paper and collage to create a lush explosion of color that brings to life the formation of the universe while distinctly reflecting the essence of the African diaspora.

“Using oceanic waves of color, Holmes employs her trademark aesthetic to carry this creation story to its stunning crescendo,” said Bloom.

Holmes is a native of Roxbury, Massachusetts and a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The recipient of several children’s awards, Holmes received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets”; and a Caldecott Honor, Robert F. Sibert Honor, John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Non-fiction Honor for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent affirms new talent and offers visibility for excellence in writing and/or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published African American creator of children’s books. In the timely thriller “Monday’s Not Coming,” author Jackson examines friendship, child abuse, and family relationships.

“Thank You, Omu!” is a fresh take on a timeless tale of altruism and community-mindedness. Mora’s collage work is skillfully pieced together with acrylic, marker, pastels, patterned paper, and old book clippings, creating a visual smorgasbord. Mora brings to life an amalgamation of many grandmothers and captures the African spirit of generosity and community.

Three King Author Honor Books were also selected:

“Finding Langston” by Lesa Cline-Ransome; “The Parker Inheritance” by Varian Johnson, and “The Season of Styx Malone” by Kekla Magoon.

Three Illustrator Honor Books were selected:

“Hidden Figures” illustrated by Laura Freeman, written by Margot Lee Shetterly; “Let The Children March” illustrated by Frank Morrison, written by Monica Clark-Robinson; and “Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop” illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Alice Faye Duncan.

For information on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.