Category: Non-Fiction

Common’s Freedom Road Productions and Lionsgate to Bring Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon’ to TV

Zora Neale Hurston (l), Cudjo Lewis (r) [photo via blackyouthproject.com]
by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to Deadline.com, hip hop artist and Academy-Award winner Common‘s Freedom Road Productions in conjunction with Lionsgate Entertainment, has optioned the rights to Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’, the recently discovered book by Zora Neale Hurston, to develop as a limited television event series.

Barracoon centers on 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis, who Hurston identified as the last known formerly enslaved person to survive the Middle Passage.

Hurston’s book chronicles Cudjo’s time of slavery and the profound complexities of reconstruction and freedom after the Atlantic slave trade was abolished.

This is the second project to emerge from Lionsgate and Freedom Road’s TV deal. They are already developing the Saturday Night Knife and Gun Club TV adaptation starring and produced by Common.

Princeton University Professor Tera Hunter Wins Two Book Awards From the American Historical Association

Princeton University’s Tera W. Hunter, Ph.D. (photo via princeton.edu)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to jbhe.com, Dr. Tera W. Hunter, the Edwards Professor of History and professor of African American studies at Princeton University, has earned the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in women’s history and/or feminist theory as well as the Littleton-Griswold Prize in U.S. law and society from the American Historical Association. She will receive her honors at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago this coming January.

Professor Hunter’s book Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Harvard University Press, 2017) is what garnered her the above awards. Hunter’s great-great grandparents were enslaved, freed, and married during the Reconstruction era in the U.S. In the book,Hunter used her research of court records, legal documents, and personal diaries to examine the constraints the system of slavery placed on intimate relationships.

Earlier in 2018, Hunter also garnered the Mary Nickliss Prize in U.S. Women’s and/or Gender History from the Organization of American Historians for Bound in Wedlock.

Professor Hunter joined the faculty at Princeton in 2007 after teaching previously at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Dr. Hunter is a graduate of Duke University, where she majored in history, and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Yale University.

Jeffrey C. Stewart, Elizabeth Acevedo and more Authors of Color Sweep National Book Awards

“The Poet X” and “The New Negro: The Life of Alaine Locke” cover art

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

The National Book Foundation announced Thursday that five literary works by writers of color earned all of its 2018 National Book Awards. Here are the winning novels and collections, as noted on the foundation’s website:

Fiction: “The Friend,” by Sigrid Nunez. The novel explores a woman’s grief after her best friend and mentor dies and leaves her his Great Dane.

Nonfiction: “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke,” by Jeffrey C. Stewart. The Black studies scholar chronicles the life and relationships of the first African-American Rhodes Scholar and Harlem Renaissance leader.

Poetry: “Indecency,” by Justin Phillip Reed. This collection features several poems of varying forms that explore incarceration, White supremacy, masculinity and other social and racial justice issues.

Translated Literature: “The Emissary,” by Yoko Tawada and translated from original Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani. This novel takes place in Japan, after a major disaster prompts the country to isolate itself from the world. In this society, children like Mumei are born frail, while elderly people like his great-grandfather Yoshiro have the energy to care for the youth. “The Emissary” follows the pair’s day-to-day activities and fun in the face of dystopia.

Young People’s Literature: “The Poet X,” by Elizabeth Acevedo. A Dominican-American teenage girl navigates adolescence, crushes, harassment and her Harlem community while finding her voice through slam poetry.

Source: Authors of Color Sweep National Book Awards

BOOKS: New Biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” Focuses on the Man and his Voice

by Jennifer Szalai via nytimes.com

Time has a way of sanding off the rough edges of historical memory, turning even the most convulsive, contentious lives into opportunities for national triumphalism and self-congratulation. With “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” the historian David W. Blight wants to enrich our understanding of an American in full who, for more than half his life, wasn’t even legally recognized as such. Now that Douglass is enshrined on his pedestal, shorn of what made him “thoroughly and beautifully human,” Blight notes how the “old fugitive slave” has been “adopted by all elements in the political spectrum,” eager to claim him as their own.

Plenty has been written about Douglass in the 200 years since he was born, not least by Douglass himself, who recounted his life story in three autobiographies — a paper trail of memoirs that Blight deems “both a pleasure and peril” for the biographer. In tracing an arc from bondage to freedom, Douglass cast himself as a “self-made hero,” Blight writes, while leaving “a great deal unsaid.” A number of other books have filled in the gaps — exploring Douglass’s relationships with the women in his life, for instance, as well as his fraught and transformative friendship with Abraham Lincoln — but Blight’s is the first major biography of Douglass in nearly three decades, making ample use of materials in the private collection of a retired doctor named Walter O. Evans to illuminate Douglass’s later years, after the Civil War.

Blight, who has edited and annotated volumes of Douglass’s autobiographies, undertakes this project with the requisite authority and gravity. The result is comprehensive, scholarly, sober; Blight is careful to tell us what cannot be known, including the persistent mystery of Douglass’s father (who was most likely white, and may have been Frederick’s mother’s owner). On the stuff that’s known, Blight is an attentive if sometimes fastidious guide, poring over speeches and texts with the critical equivalent of a magnifying glass. Douglass, Blight says, was a “man of words,” making this book “the biography of a voice.”

That voice took shape and sharpened over time, but it would return again and again to the banks of the Tuckahoe River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in 1818. Twenty years a slave, then almost nine years a fugitive; as Douglass himself described it in his autobiographies (having adopted his new surname from a Sir Walter Scott poem), the first decades of his life were both thrilling and terrifying. Until his abolitionist allies helped to purchase his freedom in 1846, everything he did felt provisional; he lived with the incessant fear of someone who could be plunged back into captivity at any moment.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/books/review-frederick-douglass-prophet-of-freedom-david-blight.html

Literature Professor Aaron Oforlea Wins Creative Scholarship Award from College Language Association for Debut Book

Dr. Aaron Oforlea (photo via news.wsu.edu)

via jbhe.com

Aaron N. Oforlea, an associate professor in the English department at Washington State University, has won the Creative Scholarship Award from the College Language Association for his debut book, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity (Ohio State University Press, 2017). The international honor recognizes excellence in literary criticism.

According to Dr. Oforlea, he got inspiration for his book came from his interest in “how African American men achieve their dreams and goals despite racism.” His work examines two of his favorite authors and analyzes their respective African American characters and how they navigated their challenges. Upon receiving the award, he stated, “To win the award, I think for me it’s validation that I’m on the right track, that my work is making an impact in the field.”

Professor Oforlea is the only African American in his department and the only African American literature scholar at Washington State University. He has taught at the university since 2007 and was promoted to associate professor in 2013. Prior to coming to Washington State, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of English at Santa Clara University in California.

Dr. Oforlea holds a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature/letters from California State University, Chico and a Ph.D. in English language and literature/letters from Ohio State University.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/10/aaron-oforlea-wins-award-from-the-college-language-association-for-his-debut-book/

Henrietta Lacks, Source of Famous HeLa Cells, to be Honored with Building at Johns Hopkins University

Henrietta Lacks (photo via nbcnews.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Associated Press, Johns Hopkins University and the family of Henrietta Lacks announced a new building on the school’s campus in East Baltimore will be named after the woman whose cells were taken without her consent and widely used in revolutionary cell research.

News outlets report the building will support programs promoting research and community engagement. Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the university where researchers soon discovered her cells reproduced indefinitely in test tubes.

For decades, it was not widely known that a black woman who was a patient at Hopkins was the unwitting source of the famous HeLa cells. It was only once Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was published in 2010 that Lacks’ story gained national attention. Oprah Winfrey subsequently produced and starred in a 2016 HBO biopic of Lacks’ life.

The announcement was part of the 9th Annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, NBC 4 reports. Lacks’ granddaughter, Jeri Lacks, says the honor befits her grandmother’s role in advancing modern medicine.

Last year, the city of Baltimore designated October 4 as Henrietta Lacks Day to recognize the contributions of the woman behind the HeLa cells.

Michelle Obama Announces 10-City Book Tour for “Becoming”

by Tonya Pendleton via blackamericaweb.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama will visit 10 cities to promote her memoir “Becoming,” a tour featuring arenas and other performing centers to accommodate crowds far too big for any bookstore.

The former first lady will begin at the United Center in her native Chicago on Nov. 13, the book’s release date. She will finish at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Dec. 17, Live Nation and the Crown Publishing Group announced Wednesday. In between, appearances will include Barclays Center in New York City, the Pepsi Center Arena in Denver and The Forum in Los Angeles.

Obama and former President Barack Obama each have been working on memoirs, for which they negotiated a multimillion dollar deal with Crown. No date has been set for his book, although it’s expected in 2019.

You will have to register via the link below between now and September 18, to buy tickets that go on sale on September 21st. VIP packages and Meet and Greet tickets will be available as well.

Tour Dates – Tickets available HERE. 

11/13 – Chicago, IL @ United Center

11/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum

11/17 – Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena

11/24 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden

11/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center

12/1 – Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center

12/11 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena

12/13 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center Arena

12/14 – San Jose, CA @ SAP Center

12/17 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center

Source: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/09/12/michelle-obama-announces-10-city-book-tour/

2018 American Book Awards Honor Cultural Diversity

This combination photo of book cover images shows “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965,” by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, from left, “The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits,” by Tiya Miles and “South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s,” by Kellie Jones, which are among this year’s American Book Award winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity. (University of North Carolina Press, from left, The New Press and Duke University Press via AP)

via seattletimes.com

NEW YORK (AP) — Books on human caging, early Detroit and African-American culture in Los Angeles are among this year’s winners for works reflecting the country’s diversity.

The American Book Awards were announced Monday by the Before Columbus Foundation, founded in 1976 by author-poet Ishmael Reed.

Winners included Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965 and Kellie JonesSouth of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970sTiya Miles was cited for her history The Dawn of Detroit.

Other recipients were Victor Lavalle for The Changeling: A Novel, Valeria Luiselli for Tell Me How It Ends, Tommy Pico for Nature Poem and Rena Priest for Patriarchy Blues.

Author-filmmaker Sequoyah Guess was given a lifetime achievement award. The poets-musicians Heroes are Gang Leaders were cited for oral literature and an Editor/Publisher Award was given to the late Charles F. Harris, who championed the works of Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni and other black writers.

Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/american-book-awards-honor-cultural-diversity/?

Octavia Spencer, LeBron James Limited Series About Madam C.J. Walker Lands at Netflix

Octavia Spencer/LeBron James (photo via variety.com)

by Debra Birnbaum via Variety.com

It’s official: Octavia Spencer and LeBron James’ limited series about entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker has landed at Netflix. The streaming outlet made the announcement at its Television Critics Assn. press tour session Sunday.

The project is executive produced by Spencer and James. Spencer will star in the eight-episode series, which is based on the book “On Our Own Ground” by A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, who will also serve as a consultant.

The series will recount the untold story of how Walker, a black hair care pioneer and mogul, overcame hostile turn-of-the-century America, epic rivalries, tumultuous marriages and some trifling family to become America’s first black, self-made female millionaire.

Walker, the daughter of slaves, was orphaned at age seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. She spent two decades laboring as a washerwoman, earning $1.50 a week. Everything changed, though, following Walker’s discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women. By the time she died in 1919, she had built a beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women.

“Black Nativity” directory Kasi Lemmons will direct the pilot and also executive produce, and Nicole Asher will write. Janine Sherman Barrois and Elle Johnson will also serve as executive producers, along with SpringHill’s Maverick Carter, and Zero Gravity’s Mark Holder and Christine Holder.

The Holders optioned the book from Bundles in early 2016, and Spencer pursued the part aggressively once she learned of it. With the Oscar winner attached, William Morris Endeavor Agency pitched the series to James as his production company’s entryway into prestige TV.

“It’s so exciting for all of us to keep building SpringHill, see it mature, and continue to find its voice. We are really focused on growing with authenticity and substance,” Carter said. “For us, this is totally about great stories and great partners. Partnering with Octavia to tell the story of Madam C.J. Walker is the ideal first project for SpringHill to take an important step into scripted drama.”

Source: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/octavia-spencer-lebron-james-madam-cj-walker-netflix-limited-series-1202889368/

Missing Writings from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Long a Mystery, are Sold to Schomburg Center in NY

Malcolm X in 1964. (Credit: Associated Press)

by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

For a quarter century, they have been the stuff of myth among scholars: three missing chapters from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” reputedly cut from the manuscript after his assassination in 1965 because they were deemed too incendiary.

Their possible existence was first teased at in 1992, when a private collector at an estate sale scooped up material belonging to Alex Haley, Malcolm X’s collaborator on the book. Years later, one biographer was allowed a 15-minute look at some of the papers, but otherwise they have been mostly locked away, surrounded by a haze of cultivated mystery.

But now the unpublished material, or at least some of it, has suddenly emerged and was offered for sale Thursday at a Manhattan auction house, along with another artifact that scholars have never seen: the manuscript for the published book, which bears dense traces of Mr. Haley’s and Malcolm X’s complex negotiations over the finished text.

At the auction, an unpublished chapter called “The Negro” was picked up by the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for $7,000. There were no offers on the manuscript for the published version, which had an opening minimum bid of $40,000.

But after some hushed conversations in side rooms, it was announced that the Schomburg — located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem, and already home to a large collection of material that had been held by Malcolm X’s family — had acquired the manuscript for an undisclosed sum, along with nearly a dozen unpublished fragments that had also gone unsold.

“‘The Autobiography’ is one of the most important books of the 20th century,” Kevin Young, the director of the Schomburg, said after the auction. “To have the version with Malcolm X’s corrections, and to be able to see his thoughts taking shape, is incredibly powerful.”

The manuscripts were included in a sale of African-American historical artifacts by Guernsey’s auction house. The sale also included an item that had attracted considerable media interest in recent years: a Detroit house associated with Rosa Parks that had been bought by an artist, disassembled and shipped to Germany, then shipped back again for sale. (The house, which had a minimum price of $1 million, received no bids.)

But it was the appearance, with little advance fanfare, of the Malcolm X material that caused a stir among scholars, some of whom expressed alarm before the auction that manuscripts that had been locked away by one private collector might disappear into the hands of another.

The manuscript and unpublished pages were sold to settle debts as part of a bankruptcy case. (Credit: Jeenah Moon for The New York Times)

Komozi Woodard, a professor of history at Sarah Lawrence College who is writing a book about the final year of Malcolm X’s life, said he was “shocked” when he learned about the auction earlier this week. “If we’re trying to figure out where Malcolm would have taken us, some of those papers have clues to that puzzle,” he said.

Since Malcolm X’s assassination there have been battles over the meaning of his life, in particular its tumultuous last year, when he broke with the Nation of Islam, traveled to the Middle East and renounced his philosophy of racial separatism.

There have been equally fierce battles over his literary remains. Papers removed from his family’s home by one of his daughters and later seized by owners of a storage facility were nearly auctioned in 2002, before scholars and family members organized an effort to have the collection placed intact at the Schomburg Center.