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Find more Top 10 Black History Nonfiction
The outstanding books listed below, all reviewed in Booklist between February 1, 2013, and January 2014, provide an excellent sampling of black contributions to the American national fabric.
The Black Russian. By Vladimir Alexandrov. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (9780802120694).
In this magnetically appealing, unforgettable biography, the author tracks a man who was born into slavery, eventually moved to Europe, and established himself as a brilliant nightclub owner, only to ultimately die poor and forgotten.
The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. By Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey. Univ. of North Carolina, $32.50 (9780807835722).
How did Jesus come to be portrayed as white? And why is he an inspiration for both white supremacists and slaves? Answers are found in this thoroughly fascinating book.
Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. By Terry Teachout. Gotham, $30 (9781592407491).
The author presents a comprehensive, well-researched, and entertaining biography of America’s greatest jazz and popular-music composer and orchestra leader.
Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. By Craig Steven Wilder. Bloomsbury, $30 (9781596916814).
This is a well-researched and revealing look at the connection between American academia and American slavery.
Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation. By Jonathan Rieder. Bloomsbury, $25 (9781620400586).
On the fiftieth anniversary of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Rieder offers a sparkling reconsideration of the letter, now considered a landmark American document on a par with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Hope against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children. By Sarah Carr. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781608194902).
The author examines the broader issues of education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans and other urban areas throughout the nation as students and parents are caught in a clash of cultures and ideas on how to repair failing school systems.
I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom’s Highway. By Greg Kot. Scribner, $26 (9781451647853).
Never forgetting their down-home southern roots even as musical styles changed, the Staple Singers for decades maintained an integrity that strongly appealed to fans and musicians; this is a moving tribute.
Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. By Thomas Brothers. Norton, $39.95 (9780393065824).
The focus here is on Armstrong’s most fertile period as an instrumental and vocal innovator, and the result is an illuminating, compellingly written biography.
Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin’ Hopkins. By Timothy J. O’Brien and David Ensminger. Univ. of Texas, $29.95 (9780292745155).
In this biography of an influential bluesman, extensive anecdotal coverage of gigs and recording sessions is balanced with incisive analysis of racial inequalities in the music business.
The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation. By David Brion Davis. Knopf, $30 (9780307269096).
The dehumanizing of enslaved Africans is the “problem of slavery” on which Davis focuses in the conclusion to his well-researched trilogy on slavery in Western culture.
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