This book began when I was a student in the Department of History at Purdue University, under the direction of Randy Roberts. He taught me his approach to writing history, and his guidance shaped every stage of this project. I could not have asked for a more supportive, perceptive mentor.
Other historians at Purdue also helped mold me and this book. Elliott Gorn expanded my notion of biography, and he prodded me to consider some difficult ideas. Vernon Williams deepened my understanding of the African American experience. John Larson challenged me to both think more creatively and write more clearly.
More teachers and colleagues, both at Purdue and at other institutions, read chapters and seminar papers. They posed important questions and gave excellent suggestions. My thanks go to Anita Ashendel, Robert Bell- inger, Jody Bresnahan, Susan Curtis, Chris Elzey, Kenneth Greenberg, Scott Hoffman, Art Leighton, Caleb Mason, Richard Moss, Michelle Wick Patterson, Caitlin Roper, Judith Smith, Yesuk Son, Steve Stofferahn, David Welky, and Chris Wells. My further thanks go to Debbie Butler for a canny research tip.
Ed Guerrero read the entire manuscript, and he provided invaluable suggestions and expert reassurance. My sister-in-law Lara Goudsouzian and her mother Seta Kousharian also asked vital questions after reading complete drafts. In addition, I gave talks on Sidney Poitier at a Depart- ment of History colloquium at Colby College, the Cambridge Adult Edu- cation Center, and the Armenian Library and Museum.
I owe particular thanks to my editor, Sian Hunter. She embraced the project, educated me about the publication process, and immeasurably improved the manuscript. Thanks also to David Hines, Eric Schramm, Paula Wald, and the other admirable professionals at the University of North Carolina Press.
Sidney Poitier, too, aided this endeavor. During sporadic telephone conversations, he answered my questions with grace and honesty. He also challenged me intellectually. I appreciate his cooperation and interest, and I hope that he respects my effort.
The Purdue Research Foundation funded me with a generous two-year grant. I thank the foundation, former History Department chair Gordon