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Archive for the 'African American' Category

New novel Forsaken named 2016 Okra Pick by Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.The historical novel Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr., due for release on February 1, has been named a Winter 2016 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. The Picks recognize “the best in forthcoming Southern lit, according to the people who would know.” Selections are made from titles nominated by employees of independent bookstores throughout the region. Featured titles highlight up-and-coming authors whose books are likely to become bestsellers.

Forsaken tells the story of the sensational crime committed by Virginia Christian, a young black girl who, in 1912 Virginia, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. She was the only juvenile to be executed in the history of the state. News of her crime made national headlines. Many rallied around her cause. Included among them was a young newspaperman, Charlie Mears, whose own life is indelibly altered when he crosses the color line in reporting on her case.

2016 promises to be an eventful year for Forsaken, a book SIBA says should be on every bookstore’s “To Be Read” list!

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Civil rights pioneer Fred Gray shares podium with Hillary Clinton at Montgomery Bus Boycott commemorative event

Monday, December 7th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System by Fred GrayFred Gray was among the civil rights pioneers honored by a new state historical marker to be unveiled at Alabama State University. Attorney Gray spoke at a ceremony on December 1 at 3:00 pm, joining ASU President Gwendoyn Boyd and Joe L. Reed. The ceremony in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott honored ASU alumni and employees who played a major role in the effort.

Later, Attorney Gray spoke at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, preceding special guest Hillary Clinton, whom he called “the next president of the United States.”

Fred Gray’s memoir Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

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.