Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Black History Month

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles selected to commemorate Black History Month

Enjoy five selections from the Choice Reviews 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, in no particular order, Outstanding Academic Titles for Black History Month.

Read a round up of content from Choice compiled for Black History Month 2022.

1. Frederick Douglass in context
ed. by Michaël Roy Cambridge, 2021

This engaging, ambitious, multidisciplinary collection examines the life and career of famous 19th-century American abolitionist and human rights leader Frederick Douglass “in a variety of geographical, political, social, cultural, intellectual, and literary contexts” (p. 4). Thirty-four prominent scholars contribute short, ground-breaking, thought-provoking chapters organized in a “a thematic rather than chronological approach” (p. 3), covering activism, politics, law, abolitionism, women’s rights, the Civil War, Reconstruction, education, religion, philosophy, art, literature, science and technology, Douglass’s residences, and more. Edited and introduced by Roy (Paris Nanterre Univ., France), this essential volume takes readers deep into Douglass’s world and influences. Frederick Douglass in Context is not meant to replace but rather extends the reach of works such as David Blight’s brilliant biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018), published to commemorate the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth. The bicentennial is also the subject of this book’s final essay, which ponders why, with so much global celebration of Douglass’s life that year, there was very little federal government response. View on Amazon

2. Peace be still: how James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir created a gospel classic
Marovich, Robert M. Illinois, 2021

This book tells the story of James Cleveland’s 1963 recording Peace Be Still, which transformed the gospel music recording business. Most previous gospel recordings were done in the studio in the usual three-minute popular music format designed to be played on the radio or as a record “single.” As a long- playing album, Peace Be Still established the model for presenting gospel music recorded live within the context of Black worship. It featured longer musical selections and included congregational participation and response. It became the bestselling gospel album of the time and was not surpassed until 1972 by Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace, which also featured James Cleveland. The 17 black-and-white photographs Marovich includes bring important people and places to life. View on Amazon

3. The movement: the African American struggle for civil rights
Holt, Thomas C. Oxford, 2021

With this latest work, Holt envisions a more complete Civil Rights Movement, one that reveals exactly what was at stake for Black Americans at the micro and macro levels of the time in their quest for equality. The unsolved and unpunished murders of Black activists and their allies, daily humiliation under white supremacist systems, lengthy prison stints with abusive guards, and abject failures on behalf of leadership also tell the story of Black resistance and the lengths to which proponents of the existing white power structure went to quell any chance of securing the “unalienable Rights” written about in the Declaration of Independence. By going well beyond representations of “individual or collective acts of heroic and charismatic male leaders” (p. 5), The Movement rightfully spotlights the laypeople who were just as crucial to the movement, despite frequent relegation to being mere bystanders needing a savior. It is without question that this work belongs in classrooms and academic libraries alike as a reminder of Black people’s commitment to themselves and what they deserve in a society that was and continues to be expressly against them. This book holds up a mirror to a pivotal, progressive, and painful time in this nation’s past, which is precisely what Americans need more of right now. View on Amazon

4. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: a photographic history
Hill, Karlos K. Oklahoma, 2021

As far as racial violence goes in US history, nothing quite compares to what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921. Hill (Univ. of Oklahoma) does not attempt a comprehensive history of the massacre, although there is a synopsis at the end, but provides a visual documentation interspersed with oral accounts. Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Mathews, who is the founder and chair of the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission, delivers a timely foreword. The photographs are compelling, demonstrating the shocking death and destruction inflicted on the affluent African American Geenwood neighborhood. The oral histories are telling and enhance the visual encounter. Hill’s inclusion of African American witness accounts, many of which were conducted in 1999, are brilliant, as are the voices of survivors, along with their photographs, which are included toward the end of the book. This photographic history of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre is a necessary volume for public, school, and college libraries to acquire. As Senator Matthews writes, “Dr. Hill and his work are nothing less than inspiring” (p. xi). This book is not easy to digest, but it is imperative to readers’ understanding of race in the American past and present. View on Amazon

5To make Negro literature: writing, literary practice, and African American authorship
McHenry, Elizabeth. Duke, 2021

To Make Negro Literature inspired this reviewer to urge colleagues to pick up a copy. The book is that provocative. Taking an approach that brings to mind Toni Morrison’s call for the resurrection of “discredited knowledge,” McHenry asserts that “certain kinds of productions and been “dismissed as unworthy of attention” (p. 14). Some have been disregarded, others discarded. Her goal is to “turn … away from the usual markers of literary achievement”  to expand  and supplement  “knowledge of the complex literary landscape” of African Americans (p. 6). McHenry is interested in who the early, poorly educated Black readers were as well as in those whose efforts were thwarted by an unfriendly white publishing world. In an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion, McHenry explores racial schoolbooks, bibliographies of Negro literature, “author others,” and literary failures. This reviewer found especially engaging the author’s assessment of Mary Church Terrell’s efforts to publish short stories and the records she kept (for posterity) of publishers’ rejections. Other chapters are equally engaging, revealing surprising information about the interstices of the African American literary tradition. View on Amazon

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