Black History Month 2009: New Titles on African-American Experiences Offer Remarkable Depth and Range

Article excerpt

Temptations will be everywhere this season if you have not enhanced your library of African-American history books in a while. University presses and commercial publishers are offering new releases on a rich mix of topics in time for Black History Month 2009. Here are some of our selections:

Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington, by Robert J. Norrell, $35, Belknap Press (January 2009), ISBN-10: 067403211X, ISBN-13: 978-0674032118, pp. 528.

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As the first full-length biography of a pivotal figure many have dismissed or vilified as an "Uncle Tom," this book puts the famed educator and his significant accomplishments into a meaningful context. Set against the backdrop of White supremacist opposition in his time, his story emerges if not as that of a full-blown hero admired by all, then at least as that of a pragmatist with understandable and worthy motives.

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, by Henry Louis Gates Jr., $27.50, Crown (January 2009), ISBN-10: 0307382400, ISBN-13: 978-0307382405, pp. 448.

The Harvard educator who took 19 prominent Americans on an extraordinary journey into the past to trace their ancestry for two PBS specials now captures the experience on paper, probing the genealogy and DNA of such figures as T.D. Jakes, Mae Jemison, Tom Joyner and Oprah Winfrey. The author does so out of a conviction that the more we know about the lives of the forgotten people who make up their family trees, the more we know about the making of America.

The Black Condition (Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience) by Howard Dodson and Colin Palmer (Editor), $24.95, Michigan State University Press (December 2008), ISBN-10: 0870138383, ISBN-13: 978-08701383 86, pp. 272.

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Offered as a teaching resource for Black studies, this is the fourth in a series of volumes. It has sections on economic inequality by William Darity Jr.; politics by Ronald Waiters; education by Linda Perkins; the military by Chad Williams; and religious experience by Michael A. Gomez. The collection is edited by the chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and a Princeton University professor of history.

And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America, by Mary Frances Berry, $30, Knopf Publishing Group (January 2009), ISBN-10: 0307263207, ISBN-13: 978-0307263209, pp. …