Archive for September, 2014

Clifton Taulbert shares his Invitation with the world

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 by Ashley Stanaland

The Invitation by Clifton TaulbertClifton Taulbert and his new memoir, The Invitation, have had an exciting summer. By revealing the contrasting worlds of Taulbert’s life — his upbringing in the segregated South and his adulthood as an author and motivational speaker — as well as his own struggles with combining those worlds, The Invitation has caught the attention of readers throughout the country, as well as overseas. Taulbert’s memoir focuses on a single invitation — an invitation that forces Taulbert to face the challenges of his youth and cross the racial divides that his younger self, “Little Cliff,” would have been unable to cross.

The way Taulbert has integrated the challenges of his childhood with the success of his adult life has resonated with many, beginning in Oklahoma, Taulbert’s current home state. Recently, Clifton Taulbert was the focus of “The Trauma of Culture,” a feature story in Oklahoma Magazine that portrays the powerful consequences of the segregated world in which Taulbert was raised, including what Taulbert calls a kind of cultural post-traumatic stress disorder that made him wary to cross certain racial boundaries even as an adult.

Even more recently, Taulbert appeared at Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City as a guest presenter and gave readers an opportunity to have their books signed. KGOU, Oklahoma’s public radio, and The Oklahoman covered the event.

Oklahoma is not the only place seeking Taulbert’s wisdom. Voice of America’s Africa54‘s Vincent Makori interviewed Taulbert about his experiences growing up in the segregated South, and the lessons everyone learns from dealing with the events of their own childhoods.

Lastly, Taulbert traveled around the globe to Australia, where the Dubbo Weekender, a prominent newspaper in Dubbo, New South Wales, featured an interview with Taulbert and a review of The Invitation. During the interview, Taulbert states: “When I looked back at my life and recalled those people who were impactful … it was their unselfishness that shaped my journey — ordinary people just like you and me willing to go that extra mile for the life of someone else. It was nothing earth-shaking about their acts — ordinary caring and admonitions driven by unselfishness and consistency. I call them my ‘porch people’ and such people are not held captive by race, geography, or time.”

No matter where it is, The Invitation is a striking and bold memoir that inspires readers to face their own challenges and become responsible for change in the world.

As ForeWord Reviews writes:

“What with the damning convolutions of ignorance, disingenuousness, and angst that shadow so much of the discussion of race in the United States, it is heartening when hope glimmers, as it does when Clifton Taulbert in The Invitation unpacks his defensive prejudicial baggage acquired as an African American child growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s in a segregated Mississippi Delta.”

Clifton Taulbert’s The Invitation is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Tavis Smiley Show, Associated Press spotlight Voices Beyond Bondage poetry anthology

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th CenturyVoices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century, which seeks to reveal the largely unknown literary heritage of enslaved and free African Americans of that era, received prominent coverage recently with an Associated Press article and a discussion on the Tavis Smiley radio show.

The book, edited by Erika DeSimone and Fidel Louis, reprints 150 poems originally published in nineteenth-century black-owned newspapers, which often held open calls for poetry submissions. The recognition of this poetry helps to bring greater depth to the identity of these nineteenth-century African Americans, an identity that has been largely subsumed in popular history by the atrocities of slavery.

“The way history portrays African Americans in the nineteenth-century is really inaccurate,” DeSimone told Tavis Smiley in a recent interview. “It occurred to me that there’s really something valuable here, there’s really something that’s missing from the literary canon.”

Smiley asked DeSimone who the authors of the poems were, and DeSimone explained that they were ministers and abolitionists, “but overall these are people we haven’t heard from, these are people whose voices have not been recorded anywhere outside of these newspapers.” DeSimone added that “reading among slaves was not as uncommon as we think,” and that an estimated ten percent of slaves were literate.

Among those literate slaves was George Moses Horton, spotlighted in Jesse Holland’s Associated Press review of Voices Beyond Bondage, picked up by the ABC News and diverse newspapers serving diverse communities from Delhi, India, to Calgary, Canada. “As a black slave in rural North Carolina in the pre-Civil War South, [Horton] … wasn’t supposed to be able to compose sonnets and ballads,” Holland writes, “But on July 18, 1828, his poem ‘Slavery’ appeared in the newspaper Freedom’s Journal.” According to DeSimone, Horton would “compose poems — beautiful, complex, lush, poems — in his head and have others write them down. In fact, he’d recite these poems and sell them near [the University of North Carolina]; students paid good money to have poems ‘written’ for their girlfriends.”

Another poet in the book, Holland mentions, is John Willis Menard, a newspaper publisher, the first African American elected to the House of Representatives, and the first African American to address Congress.

The various sections in the anthology include poems about freedom, dedications to others, moral and civic perspectives, nature poems, and humor. Smiley asked, “What did black folk find humorous [back then],” and DeSimone gave as examples a “nonsense” poem, a poem decrying the hot weather, and a poetic tale of misguided lovers.

Holland concludes, “DeSimone and Louis’ work expands the field of black poetry, disproves the myth that nineteenth-century African Americans were illiterate or uneducated, and should be a welcome addition to any historian or poetry lover’s library.”

Read Jesse Holland’s “Review: ‘Voices Beyond Bondage’ expands the field of black poetry” online. You can also listen to the Tavis Smiley Show interview with Erika DeSimone from the show’s website..

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Tribute to country star George Hamilton IV by journalist Frye Gaillard

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Country music star George Hamilton IVWriter and historian Frye Gaillard was a long-time friend of country music legend George Hamilton IV, who died Wednesday. Gaillard’s tribute to Hamilton will be read at Hamilton’s memorial service.

I met George Hamilton IV in 1968 when I was a student at Vanderbilt and Robert Kennedy was visiting our campus when he was running for President. We heard that Kennedy was going to be 45 minutes late and we asked George if he would entertain the crowd of 11,000 people. George agreed. But Kennedy turned out to be two hours late and George played the whole time, keeping the crowd both riveted and patient. When the night was over, we sent George a $500 check as a modest token of our gratitude. He refused to accept it, saying that we had bestowed upon him one of the greatest honors of his life.

That was George Hamilton IV, a country music star who refused to act like one. If he had — if he had surrounded himself with the pomp and trappings of stardom — I have no doubt that he would already be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, a lapse, I assume, that could still be remedied. But George was much too humble for that, too human and fine to puff himself up, even in the wake of his #1 hit, “Abilene,” his ground-breaking albums full of Gordon Lightfoot songs, his introduction of songs by the greatest folk writers in North America — Joni Mitchel, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs — to a country music audience. If he had had a bigger ego, he would perhaps have been more impressed — more self-important in the memory — of friendships and close musical associations with Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Chet Atkins and many, many more. Or for that matter, by the time he spent with Billy Graham and his multiple performances at Dr. Graham’s crusades.

George Hamilton IV did all of these things in the course of his career, and he did more than anyone in the modern history of country music to spread its gospel to an international audience — from Canada to Great Britain, from Czechoslovakia to New Zealand, even to what was then the Soviet Union.

But above all of this, George Hamilton IV was the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever met, a man who loved his beautiful wife, Tink, his sons, Peyton and George V, and his daughter, Mary, as much as a husband and father ever could. I am saddened by his death more than I have words to express. But I am gladdened by the fact that he spent his life doing what he loved. He thought of himself as a lucky man, and he was.

Almost as lucky as the rest of us, who knew him personally or listened to his songs, and therefore touched a little of his greatness.

In addition to their friendship, George Hamilton IV is profiled in Frye Gaillard’s history of country music, Watermelon Wine.

Texas loves South, America, new work of Southern noir from Rod Davis

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Blair Johnson

South, America: A Jack Prine novel by Rod Davis

Rod Davis’s new crime noir novel has made a sweep across Texas in the past few months. Davis’s book, South, America, has been featured in newspapers across the Lone Star state from San Antonio to Austin to Dallas. South, America, which tells the story of former Dallas reporter Jack Prine catapulted into the middle of a murder plot in pre-Katrina New Orleans, has been lauded by the following Texas media:

Jim Sherman, Texas Observer

“There is much here that brings to mind the Dave Robicheaux novels of James Lee Burke, and Burke’s norteamericano version of magical realism. For readers’ sakes … I sincerely hope those sequels are on the way.”

Yvette Benavides, San Antonio Express-News

“The backdrop of pre-Katrina New Orleans is perfect for [South, America]. Davis paints it in tones that show an abiding admiration for the place and its people, and a respect for its enigmatic beauty. A gritty slice of Southern noir.”

Michael King, The Austin Chronicle

“Engaging Southern noir. There are enough loose ands here to provide Prine, and his author, with a few leads into another mystery, or more. Laissez les mauvais temps rouler.”

Gary Jacobson, Dallas Morning News

“A thriller. Author Rod Davis had me right from the start of his new novel. He sets a lively pace, with [Jack] Prine a strong addition to the growing roster of fictional Dallas investigators.”

Laura Carter, San Antonio Current

“The more the web of secrets untangles, the more engrossing the read. And even those who think they’ve figured it all out long before the last pages will likely get a jolt from a couple of late plot twists. Davis is a born storyteller.”

Additionally, the highly regarded Texas Institute of Letters has featured a quite favorable mention of Rod Davis and his new book. Davis was recently inducted in the TIL.

The buzz about South, America isn’t limited to Texas by a long shot. In the coming months Davis will be appearing at literary festivals in Nashville, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, among others. And, of course, the Texas Book Festival in Austin.

Rod Davis’s South, America is available in paperback and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Inspirational author Shelley Stewart receives honors from Vulcan Park and Regions Bank

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

Mattie C.'s Boy: The Shelley Stewart StoryShelley Stewart, author of the inspiring memoir Mattie C.’s Boy: The Shelley Stewart Story, as told to Don Keith, will be honored at the inaugural Vulcan Awards presented by the Vulcan Park and Musuem at a ceremony on Oct. 2 at The Club in Birmingham. According to, Dr. Stewart will receive the Hero Award, given in recognition of his many contributions to the civil rights movement, including helping to organize and promote via radio key events such as the Children’s March of 1963.

Dr. Stewart was also the recipient of the 2014 History in Motion Award, given by Regions Bank, for the work done by his advertising firm 02ideas. Regions profiled Dr. Stewart in the video “Dr. Shelley Stewart: Something Within.” In the video Stewart recounts stories from his boyhood following the tragic murder of his mother by his father and the hardships he endured, as well as the encouragement he received from others who made a difference in his young life. He also discusses his entry into radio, his work in the civil rights movement, and the establishment of The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, named in his mother’s honor, the mission of which is to encourage children to stay in school. The video concludes with a salute to Stewart’s optimistic spirit.

Shelley Stewart, speaking at the National Book Club Conference, August 2014
Dr. Stewart was a featured guest at National Book Club Conference, held in Atlanta August 7-9, where he spoke about Mattie C.’s Boy to an appreciative audience (pictured).

Mattie C.’s Boy: The Shelley Stewart Story is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.