Archive for May, 2008

Hear Randall Williams Discuss Louis Hughes’s Thirty Years a Slave

Thursday, May 29th, 2008 by Josh

Darrell Snodgrass of Checking on the Arts, a WKNO radio program, interviewed NewSouth Books Editor-in-Chief Randall Williams about the memoir Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom. Together, Snodgrass and Williams examine the book and its many facets, from birth of Louis Hughes into slavery in Virginia, to his escape from slavery and career as a nurse. Williams remarks that he’s “published close to three-hundred books now … and I think this is one of the best we’ve ever published … It will open a lot of peoples’ eyes to the realities of what slavery was like.”

Thirty Years a Slave adds to a small but growing number of available slave narratives. “There are the few celebrated [slave narratives] like Frederick Douglas,” Williams notes, “but [Hughes] was an unknown figure, and he gives us this inside look at what the plantation culture and the slave culture was like.”

Lisen to the full interview on the NewSouth Books website.

Hailed by Snodgrass as a “remarkably compelling” narrative, Louis Hughes autobiography Thirty Years a Slave tells in astonishingly vivid detail the fascinating story of slavery in the last decades of the antebellum South from the perspective of a self-educated slave. Hughes moves his readers as he tells about his five attempts at escape, about the time he stood by while watching his wife whipped mercilessly, and the joyous reunion with his brother whom he had not seen since they were slave children in Virginia.

Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom is available from NewSouth Books,, as well as your favorite online and retail booksellers.

Ruth Johnson, Wife of Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Dies at 88

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 by Josh

Ruth Johnson, wife of Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., died at age 88 Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama. A native of Winston County, Mrs. Johnson attended Haleyville High School, graduated from the University of Alabama and received her Master’s Degree in Education from Alabama State University. She worked as a teacher and librarian at a junior high school and joined the U.S. Navy WAVES during World War II.

Known by many as her husband’s “quiet source of strength,” Mrs. Johnson was described as a woman of character and integrity, having rooted herself in her mother’s teachings. In Frank Sikora‘s biography The Judge: The Life and Opinions of Alabama’s Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Mrs. Johnson recalled:

When I was a child, we were very poor. We worried about making the rent payment. During the Depression my mother told us … that if anybody came to the house looking for something to eat, that we were to feed them. And she told us to treat the Negroes the same as the whites. I’ll never forget what she told us one day. She said, “You’re not any better than anyone else. But you’re just as good.” I never forgot that.

Ruth Johnson will be buried next to her husband, Frank Johnson, at Winston Memorial Cemetery in Haleyville. Graveside services are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Thursday, May 30.

Sikora’s The Judge tells the story of Federal Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., and his crucial role in the success of the Civil Rights Movement via his decisions in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides, school desegregation, the Selma-to-Montgomery march, and the Ku Klux Klan conspiracy case in the night rider slaying of Viola Liuzzo. From The Judge:

There has been much said about the role Frank Johnson played in the Civil Rights Movement. In the Civil War, African American slaves were set free by soldiers’ blood. In the Civil Rights Movement, the great-great-grandchildren of slaves were granted the full freedoms of citizenship in large measure by a battery of southern federal judges who wrote opinions ending state-imposed segregation. Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., of Alabama was foremost among them.

Composed largely of direct quotes from Johnson, The Judge is almost autobiographical, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the key judicial decisions made during the Civil Rights Movement.

The Judge is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, as well as your favorite online and retail booksellers.

Author Ibrahim Fawal Seeks Equal Rights in Middle East

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 by Josh

The Birmingham News has published an editorial by Ibrahim Fawal, author of the award-winning novel On the Hills of God, in their May 18, 2008 edition.

In his editorial, Fawal discusses the displacement of approximately 2.5 million Palestinians by Israeli forces following the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. He examines the controversial settlements built by Israelis in the West Bank, and also the wall erected in Bethlehem. In addition, Fawal touches on his own experiences following the Second World War.

From the editorial:

I was 15 years old in 1948, and not a day goes by that I do not remember the tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees streaming into my hometown of Ramallah, which did not become part of the new Israeli state. The woman who later became my wife, rose Rahib, fled her home in Lydda as a 6-year-old girl. Rose and her family walked in the stifling heat some 30 miles to Ramallah. Her father had been successful in the trucking business and had built his family a fine home. But Israeli soldiers came, stuck guns in their faces and asked the out of that home, saying “go to Abdullah,” meaning to Jordan, which was then ruled by King Abdullah.

… Perhaps it is because of the progress I have seen in the half-century I have lived in Birmingham—a city whose history is so deeply rooted in the civil rights movement—that I am prepared to look forward to a brighter future in which Jews and Palestinians can live side by side as equals. I remain convinced that if Americans truly understood what the Palestinian people have endured at the hands of Israel – in 1948, in 1967 and today – they would strongly disapprove of their government’s financial and diplomatic support of Israel’s systematic discrimination and oppression of Palestinians.

The words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. echo powerfully for me: “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

Click to read the entire editorial at the Birmingham News.

On the Hills of God Fawal tells the story of a seventeen-year-old Palestinian boy, Yousif Safi, whose life is turned upside down with the founding of Israel in 1947. As the future of Palestine begins to look bleak, Yousif is frustrated by his fellow Arabs’ inability to thwart the Zionist encroachment and by his own inability to prevent the impending marriage of his beloved Salwa to an older suitor chosen by her parents. Despite the monumental odds against him, Yousif vows to win back both his loves—Salwa and Palestine—and create his world anew.

On the Hills of God is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, as well as your favorite online and retail booksellers.

Ted Dunagan’s A Yellow Watermelon Spotlighted by Here’s Darwin

Friday, May 2nd, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Author Ted Dunagan’s book A Yellow Watermelon was featured on the NBC-15 Mobile, Alabama news’s “Here’s Darwin” segment.

Reporter Darwin Singleton visited with Ted after the author spoke with Mrs. Fulton, Mrs. W. Smith, and Mrs. Sessions classes at Dunbar Middle School on April 24, 2008. Ted spoke with the students about A Yellow Watermelon, and how the book’s setting was influenced by Ted’s youth in Grove Hill. Darwin praised the book as engaging for students, and yet “older adults find it engrossing as well.”

See a video of Darwin interviewing Ted Dunagan at the NBC-15 website.

A Yellow Watermelon is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and retail booksellers.

Patterson Biography Nobody But the People Gains Praise, Reviews

Thursday, May 1st, 2008 by Lisa Harrison

Historian Warren Trest‘s new authorized biography of former Alabama Governor John Patterson, Nobody But the People, has been receiving a great deal of press coverage recently, as newspapers have detailed numerous well-received appearances made by Trest and Governor Patterson in connection with the publication. The biography offers new insights and rich details into the life of a significant Southern politician whose career touched some of the key struggles of the twentieth century civil rights movement.

Author Warren Trest and Governor John Patterson speaking about Trest's new book Nobody But the People

The Birmingham News called Patterson’s story “a gripping chapter in Alabama history” and featured an online special report through which readers could link to audio clips of Trest and Patterson’s presentation at the Alabama Archives and History in Montgomery. The opportunity to hear a former governor in his own words was a key reason for attendance by school children at a book signing in Ashland, AL, according to an article in The Anniston Star. Reporter Andy Johns quotes First Assembly Christian School Principal Bradley Strother as saying he “hoped the students would see Patterson as an example of someone from their area who went on to the state’s top political office.”

Author Warren Trest and Governor John Patterson speaking about Trest's new book Nobody But the People

In Phenix City, AL, Patterson “signed books while swapping stories with book owners and admirers,” according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. At the Central Alabama Community College, president Dr. Steven Franks said, “We are pleased to host Gov. Patterson and that he chose us for such an honor,” according to The Outlook of Alexander City, AL. The Anniston Star features editor Laura Tutor reviewed Nobody But the People, noting that since the author worked closely with his subject, “insights, personal feelings at specific moments, are scattered throughout Trest’s story.” This insider perspective provided by the first authorized biography has resulted in attentive audiences at the numerous appearances by Trest and Gov. Patterson, as news reports show.

Nobody But the People is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and local booksellers.