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Archive for the 'African American' Category

Civil rights attorney Fred Gray honored by Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

Friday, October 23rd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred GrayNewSouth Books salutes distinguished civil rights attorney Fred Gray, author of Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray, who received a Phoenix Award presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. recently.

Mr. Gray received the Annual Legislative Conference Co-Chairs Award, given each year to an individual who has championed civil rights and social justice issues. In reviewing award candidates, the ALC award co-chairs also seek a person who has significantly impacted on the African-American community. This year’s award co-chairs were United States House Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Terri Sewell.


Photographs courtesy Imagine Photography (top) and 609 Multi Media (bottom).

In 1955, at the age of 24, Fred Gray was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, beginning the modern day civil rights movement and his own long and distinguished career as a civil rights attorney and activist. The ALC Co-Chair’s Phoenix Award is a fitting recognition of Mr. Gray’s groundbreaking work challenging racial discrimination.

Bus Ride to Justice is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

National Trust for Historic Preservation names Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee to its End of Summer Reads list

Friday, August 21st, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee by Ellen WeissThe National Trust for Historic Preservation named Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African-American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington, by Dr. Ellen Weiss, to its “End of Summer Reads for the Preservation Buff” list on their PreservationNation blog. The blog recommends the book for “those who like their history with a heaping helping of social context.” The list of 14 titles includes classics as well as recently published works. Inclusion as a favorite by the National Trust is an honor for Dr. Weiss.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee interweaves the life of the first academically trained African American architect with his life’s work — the campus of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. In this richly illustrated architectural history, the author delves into such questions of how a black boy born in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War could earn a professional architecture degree at MIT, and how he then used his design and administrative skills to further Booker T. Washington’s agenda of community solidarity and, in defiance of strengthening Jim Crow, the public expression of racial pride and progress. The book also considers such issues as architectural education for African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century, the white donors who funded Tuskegee’s buildings, other Tuskegee architects, and Taylor’s buildings elsewhere.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee is available from NewSouth Books, or from your favorite bookstore.

Clifton Taulbert reflects on Charleston church tragedy in Huffington Post

Friday, June 26th, 2015 by Brian Seidman

The Invitation by Clifton TaulbertAt the same time bestselling author and motivational speaker Clifton Taulbert participated in the GlobalMindED leadership conference in Denver last week along with an audience of college students, a young man took nine lives in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. As Dylann Roof was being arraigned, Taulbert spoke to the conference about his memoir The Invitation, which recounts reconciliation between Taulbert and a South Carolina plantation owner who revives in Taulbert memories of his childhood in the Jim Crow South.

Fellow GlobalMindED participant Carol Carter shared Taulbert’s thoughts in the Huffington Post:

At Friday noon in South Carolina, young Dylann Roof would appear before the court, and in Denver, I would address the conference. I briefly spoke to the conference and the young people in particular — reading from The Invitation — the recent story of my encounter with a nearly ninety-year-old Allendale, South Carolina plantation owner whom I had met at the turn of the century. Our paths crossed for five years and during those years, I witnessed the possibilities of what can happen when the lingering lessons of race and place come face-to-face with the promising possibilities of the future. I wanted the audience of bright minds and even brighter futures to know that the tragedy in Charleston was our shared tragedy — not a news item soon to be replaced by another breaking story. I challenged the young people and the adults who listened in to embrace the idea that we have the capacity to both innovate and transform our culture. Beyond the conference venue, there was indeed another world — a world that needs not only the best of our minds, but the habits of our hearts in daily action. I know this is possible! I had witnessed transformation at work in Allendale’s Roselawn Plantation when Miss Camille Cunningham Sharp intentionally built in my presence the community that had eluded my childhood.

Read Clifton Taulbert’s full remarks in “Two Different Worlds, One Week” from the Huffington Post.

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

Ellen Weiss discusses legacy of Robert R. Taylor with US Postal Service

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 by Kelhi DePace

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen WeissDr. Ellen Weiss, author of Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington (NewSouth Books, 2011), recently spoke with the US Postal Service in an interview about Robert R. Taylor. Taylor, the first academically-trained African American architect in the United States, designed buildings for Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University). On February 12, the US Postal Service inducted Taylor into their Black Heritage stamp series.

In the interview, Weiss — Emerita Professor of the Tulane University School of Architecture — describes Taylor’s architectural style and legacy, which may be seen in the buildings he designed at Tuskegee as well as the industrial education programs he supervised, expanding opportunities for African American students. Weiss reveals that she first learned of Taylor when living near Tuskegee in the 1980s. When asked how Taylor might have reacted to seeing his face on a US postage stamp, Weiss says that Taylor “would have been surprised to learn that any black person was on a stamp.” Check out the USPS blog to read the interview.

Weiss’s Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee details Taylor’s life and work with rich illustrations. As Taylor worked during the era of Jim Crow, Weiss considers his work as an expression of racial pride and progress. The book received the Award of Excellence from the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

US Postal Service dedicates Robert R. Taylor Black Heritage stamp

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Brian Seidman

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen WeissThe US Postal Service inducted Robert R. Taylor, the United States’ first academically trained African American Architect, into their Black Heritage Stamp series this past week. In a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Taylor’s great-grandaughter White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett dedicated the stamp with Postmaster General Megan Brennan.

As related in historian Ellen Weiss’s book Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee (NewSouth Books), Taylor received an architectural degree at MIT, and was then recruited by Booker T. Washington to teach and and help design the buildings of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University). Taylor’s buildings were seen, in defiance of strengthening Jim Crow laws, as a public expression of racial pride and progress. Weiss’s lush hardcover book recounts Taylor’s life and accomplishments alongside over 100 photographs, including a full pictorial catalog of Taylor’s work at Tuskegee University.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee received the Award of Excellence from the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians.

The Norman Transcript (OK) (via the Architectural Record) spoke with Jarrett about the honor. “Anytime I face a daunting challenge and self-doubt creeps in, I think of my great grandfather, Robert Taylor, the son of a slave, who traveled from Wilmington, NC , to attend M.I.T . in 1882,” she said. “He believed that with a good education, hard work, relentless determination and a dedication to family, there were no limits to what he could accomplish. The example he set gives me strength and courage. My family is proud to stand on his shoulders and we know that it is our responsibility to embrace his values, to ensure that his legacy will be ‘forever stamped’ in the conscious of future generations.”

Robert R. Taylor 2015 Black Heritage Stamp

Read more from the Architectural Record.

Ellen Weiss’s Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Designs for Booker T. Washington is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Eugene Bullard named to Booklist Top 10 Multicultural Nonfiction Books for Youth list

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot by Larry Greenly

2014 proved to be a banner year for the YA biography Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot by Larry Greenly, and the honors continue with the new year. After receiving two awards for YA literature — the New Mexico/Arizona Literary Award and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award — the book has just been honored by Booklist magazine.

Booklist has chosen Eugene Bullard as one of the top ten multicultural titles for youth in the nonfiction category for 2015. The magazine says of the book, “The incredible story of Bullard, an African American pilot honored by the French yet shunned by Americans, receives a moving treatment here.” Booklist is a leading magazine for librarians searching for quality reading material for their collections.

The story of pioneering WWI aviator Eugene Bullard is known to military history and aviation enthusiasts, but is not as familiar to the general public. Larry Greenly recounts Bullard’s story from his birth in 1895 in Columbus, Georgia, through his combat experiences as an expatriate pilot in World War I and World War II, to his return to America.

Congratulations to NewSouth Books author Larry Greenly on this well-deserved recognition for his work. Read about all the books chosen at the Booklist website.

Eugene Bullard is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Robert R. Taylor biography featured in Journal of Architectural Education

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen WeissA new review in the Journal of Architectural Education calls Ellen Weiss’s biography of African American architect Robert R. Taylor “a vital addition to architectural history, African American studies, the history of education, history of the South, and that of campus architecture.”

In the Volume 68, Issue 2, 2014 edition of the Journal of Architectural Education, University of Miami professor Katherine Wheeler examines Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen Weiss, published by NewSouth Books in 2012. The richly illustrated biography relates Taylor’s life and early education, but most importantly his early 1890s appointment by Booker T. Washington to the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) to teach and help design the institute’s buildings. Weiss interprets Taylor designing the buildings, as well as the students helping to build them, as a progressive act, not only bolstering the campus but also serving as a point of racial pride in defiance of strengthening Jim Crow laws.

Wheeler writes that Weiss’s book deftly details “the challenges black architects faced in the South after the Civil War, as well as underlining the importance of architecture’s role in promoting racial equality. Architecture at Tuskegee was, as Weiss rightly notes, ‘a fist against the sky’ (p. 87).”

Wheeler continues, “Taylor’s position at the institute was an important one. He was initially hired to teach drawing in addition to designing institute buildings. Weiss makes an excellent point when she notes the importance of drawing at Tuskegee. Drawing not only facilitated understanding but also the planning of the work, which would have resonated with blacks who recognized that ‘slave artisans worked under white direction alone and therefore did not plan their own work’ (p. 42). Drawing, like architecture, held power, as both Washington and Taylor were well aware.”

The review notes that Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee is a dual biography of both the architect and the school. The book is complemented by “wonderful archival images of Taylor, the students, and the buildings that capture the growth and formality of the campus. … [Weiss] is also careful to tease out the possible meanings of a building and describes Taylor’s architecture in vivid language.”

Wheeler concludes that “while Taylor may never be a household name among nonarchitects, he certainly deserves recognition in our surveys of architectural history and his designs for Tuskegee. We must include him and his colleagues to present the history of the profession in all its facets. Likewise, we must recognize as Taylor did the power of architecture as not just a setting for, but also an agent of, change.”

The Journal of Architectural Education is a publication of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Download a PDF of the Robert R. Taylor review.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington, by Ellen Weiss, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

NPR’s Here and Now interviews Voices Beyond Bondage editor Erika DeSimone

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century

Voices Beyond Bondage editor Erika DeSimone was interviewed last week on National Public Radio’s “Here and Now.” In a lively exchange, DeSimone told host Peter O’Dowd about the 19th century African American literary movement celebrated in her newly published anthology, co-edited with Fidel Louis. Only recently have scholars even begun to look at the verse that appeared in scores of black-owned newspapers dating from the antebellum and postbellum periods. Not surprisingly, says DeSimone, readers have been intrigued by the beauty and strength of the poems within the book’s pages.

“There was a whole movement of poetry writing by African Americans of the 19th century . . . almost every single black-owned newspaper in the nation carried a poetry column,” DeSimone enthused. In response to Dowd’s expression of surprise, DeSimone observed that at the start of the Civil War, roughly 10% of slaves were literate. Many black Americans during the period either learned to read and write in free schools in the North or were taught by family members and friends. In poetry, she added, African Americans gave voice to joy and pain and to the harsh experiences of their lives.

The “Here and Now” interviewed coincided with a Massachusetts book tour for co-editors Erika DeSimone and Fidel Louis. They took their anthology on the road talking to appreciative audiences at two Boston Public Library branches — Mattapan, in Mattapan, MA, and Grove Hall, in Dorchester, MA — and also to Boston’s Museum of African American History.

To hear the interview and a sample of pieces featured in the anthology, visit NPR’s “Here & Now.” Voices Beyond Bondage is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Fred Gray on Case Western, Cuba Gooding Jr. in Selma

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Bus Ride to Justice by Fred GrayEsteemed civil rights lawyer Fred Gray grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, in the 1940s-50s, but to pursue his goal of “destroy[ing] everything segregated that I could find,” he had to leave the state to earn his law degree. Because African Americans weren’t allowed to attend Alabama law schools and Gray knew people who had moved to Cleveland, Ohio, he enrolled at Western Reserve, now know as Case Western Reserve University.

In recognition of the new edition of Gray’s memoir, Bus Ride to Justice, Case Western’s Think Magazine‘s Bill Lubinger spoke with Gray about his experiences at the school and about his experiences with Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other civil rights events. They also talked about the new movie Selma, produced by Oprah Winfrey, in which Cuba Gooding Jr. has been cast as Gray.

Gray spoke with Lubinger about the revelation in Gray’s new edition of Bus Ride to Justice that he and Rosa Parks had discussed, prior to Parks’s historic arrest, the need for someone to be arrested to serve as an inciting incident to end bus segregation. Gray said, “She worked at a department store a block-and-a-half from where my office was located, so we shared our lunches every day and talked about the conditions on the buses. We talked about what one should do if asked to get up and give up her seat [to a white passenger], and I knew Mrs. Parks was certainly ready to do whatever she could do to end these problems. And, of course, it developed that the opportunity presented itself and she refused to get up and give her seat and was arrested.” Gray subsequently consulted others in the community and made plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Lubinger asked about experiences at Case Western that had an impact on Gray’s life, and Gray recalled that “Professor [Samuel] Sonnenfeld, who was my faculty adviser, told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to seek assistance from more experienced lawyers and share the fee with them.’ If you notice, in all of my early civil rights cases, I always found some lawyer who had more experience than I had to be associated with on the case. It’s one of the guiding principles of my law practice.”

Finally, Lubinger asked Gray, “What do you think of the choice of Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. to play you in Selma, the upcoming movie about the civil rights movement? Any advice on how to play you?”

Gray replied, “I certainly would like the opportunity to talk with him and explain to him a lot of the details . . . and the conversations between Dr. King and me that no scriptwriter of a screenplay would know. I think he’s an excellent actor, and I’m sure he’ll do a very good job.”

Read “A Legal Legend” on the Think Magazine website.

Bus Ride to Justice is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller.

Eugene Bullard wins Moonbean Children’s Book Award, finalist for New Mexico-Arizona Book Award

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

Eugene Bullard: World's First Black Fighter Pilot by Larry GreenlyEugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot has won the Gold Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in the Nonfiction category. The mission of the awards is to “celebrat[e] youthful curiosity and discovery through books and reading” by honoring the best children’s book, authors, and illustrators. The prizes are awarded by Jenkins Group, Inc. and IndependentPublisher, and are given in 43 categories.

The story of pioneering aviator Eugene Bullard is known to military history and aviation enthusiasts, but is not as familiar to the general public. Eugene Bullard recounts Bullard’s story from his birth in 1895 through his combat experiences as as expatriate pilot in World War I and World War II, to his return to America.

Larry Greenly says of the honor, “My award is really a testament to Eugene Bullard and his amazing life. I’m truly grateful that I discovered him, and I can only hope that his legacy will grow evermore. He deserves no less.”

Eugene Bullard is also a finalist for Best Young Adult Book in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, to be announced in November.

Eugene Bullard fans know he had another talent, as a drummer, developed during his time spent in Paris. In a short piece of amazing archival footage turned up by our author, you can see Bullard playing the drums with an ensemble of American jazz musicians in a nightclub called Zelli’s. The source of the video, Critical Past, identifies the flier in its description of the brief film. This historic footage is a rare glimpse of the celebrated pilot after his World War I triumphs.

Eugene Bullard is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.