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Books & Authors, Diverse Voices

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865. The day was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Juneteenth's commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

From the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, which challenged Americans’ perception of the founding father because of his exploitive relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on his plantation, comes a book that sheds light on the history of slavery in America, leading up to the events that culminated in Juneteeth. In this series of essays, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Gordon-Reed weaves together American history and her own family history and eloquently pays tribute to the integral role of Blacks in shaping Texas.

 

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

From 1915 to 1970, the exodus of almost six million people who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life changed the face of America. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

 

 

Juneteenth: a novel by Ralph Ellison

In Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, Adam Sunraider, a race-baiting senator from New England, is mortally wounded by an assassin's bullet while making a speech on the Senate floor. To the shock of all who think they know him, Sunraider calls out from his deathbed for Alonzo Hickman, an old black minister, to be brought to his side. The reverend is summoned; the two are left alone. "Tell me what happened while there's still time," demands the dying Sunraider. In Juneteenth, Ralph Ellison evokes the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordinary speech to tell a powerful tale of a prodigal son in the twentieth century.

 

Black Ghost of Empire : The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation by Kris Manjapra

Beginning in 1770s and concluding in 1880s, different kinds of emancipation processes took place across the Atlantic world.  Manjapra shows how, amidst this unfinished history, grassroots Black organizers and activists have become custodians of collective recovery and remedy. Timely, lucid, and crucial to our understanding of the ongoing "anti-mattering" of Black people, Black Ghost of Empire shines a light into the deep gap between the idea of slavery's end and its actual perpetuation in various forms-exposing the shadows that linger to this day.

 

Stony the Road : Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The abolition of slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War is a familiar story, as is the civil rights revolution that transformed the nation after World War II. But the century in between remains a mystery: if emancipation sparked “a new birth of freedom” in Lincoln’s America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King Jr.’s America? In this new book, Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of our leading chroniclers of the African-American experience, seeks to answer that question in a history that moves from the Reconstruction Era to the “nadir” of the African-American experience under Jim Crow, through to World War I and the Harlem Renaissance.

 

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, Willian Huston, and Jonathan Snipes

For lovers of fantasy, this novella inspired by the Hugo Award–nominated song “The Deep” from Clipping, Daveed Diggs’ rap group, follows the descendants of pregnant African enslaved women who were thrown overboard during their forced journey to America. These water-breathing people live a near-utopian life under the sea, unaware of the true origin of their ancestry. Since the past is too traumatic for anyone to remember regularly, historian Yetu must be the keeper of memories for her people. In an attempt to escape the past and her responsibilities, she flees to the surface, discovering the world her people left behind. Yetu soon finds out that there’s more to their past, and that the world above the sea holds traumatic memories.

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

In this in-depth look into Black history, Kendi chronicles the history of anti-Blackness in America, from the arrival of the first enslaved people to the present. He uses five historical figures who are integral to American and Black history: the Puritan minister Cotton Mather, founding father Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, scholar and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, and civil rights and anti-prison activist Angela Davis. Each figure is emblematic of the attitudes of their time and is a prominent figure in the fight either for or against abolition, segregation, assimilation, or equal rights.

 

 

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In his boldly imagined first novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, brings home the most intimate evil of enslavement: the cleaving and separation of families. This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

 

 

Sweet Taste of Liberty: a True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel

McDaniel's book is an epic tale of a black woman who survived slavery twice and who achieved more than merely a moral victory over one of her oppressors. Above all, Sweet Taste of Liberty is a portrait of an extraordinary individual as well as a searing reminder of the lessons of her story, which
establish beyond question the connections between slavery and the prison system that rose in its place.

 

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