Summer Reading with University Presidents

American Visions, June-July 1998 | Go to article overview

Summer Reading with University Presidents


If you think that mind-numbing scholarly journals, complex budget reports and mile-long student course descriptions are the preferred reading among college presidents, think again. From contemporary novels to historical biographies, presidential literary passions are as diverse as the presidents themselves. In our annual spotlight on summer reading lists, we've asked three presidents of historically black universities to share their favorite written works.

ERNEST HOLLOWAY

Call me biased, but Langston University, which was founded on 40 acres in 1897 as a land-grant agricultural and mechanical school, has produced some outstanding authors. Tulsa: tale of Two Cities (Langston University, 1989), written by Langston alumna Dorothy M. Dewitty, is a history of the African-American community of Tulsa, Okla. it is a vital facet of Oklahoma history, as it chronicles the social and political conditions of one of Oklahoma's major population arteries.

Daddy, We Need You Now!: A Primer on African-American Male Socialization (University Press of America, 1996), also written by a Langston University alumnus, Herman Sanders, highlights the important role of the father, especially as it relates to African-American boys. It places great emphasis on mentoring and developing skills for success: a very good and very entertaining read.

I found Race Matters (Vintage, 1994), by Cornel West, to be very enlightening. It talks about relationships and provides historical reference points for the African-American experience. This is a very powerful book, which reminds me of the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

If time permits, I also plan to read In Contempt (Harper Mass Market, 1997), by Christopher A. Darden with Jess Walter; Journey to Justice (Ballantine, 1997), by Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. with Tim Rutten; Civil Rights Legend: An Eyewitness to History (Spectrum Communications Publishing Division, 1997), by Ozell Sutton; and Politics, Morality, and Higher Education; Essays in Honor of Samuel DuBois Cook (Providence House Publishers, 1997), edited by F. Thomas Trotter.

Ernest Holloway is the president of Langston University, Langston, Okla.

CHARLES W. JOHNSON

W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (Henry Holt, 1994), by David Levering Lewis, is certainly on my reading list for this summer. Both Lewis, whose portrait of Du Bois won for him a Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1994, and Du Bois are among the outstanding graduates of Fisk University. This book is a monumental biography of a controversial figure who was the premier architect of the civil rights movement in the United States.

I also plan to read Lewis' The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (Penguin, 1995), the most up-to-date and impressive anthology of works by anchors of the Harlem Renaissance generation. Countee Cullen was the most impressively literate of the Harlem Renaissance authors, as Gerald Early demonstrates in My Soul's High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance (Doubleday, 1991). …

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