The Autobiography Of Malcolm X

This book should be required reading in every secondary school in the country for several reasons. Let me count the whys. The Autobiography of Malcolm X illustrates how someone can emerge from the depths of crime and depravity to, not only clean themselves up and walk the straight and narrow, but go on to become a peerless intellectual and a dynamic, historic leader. The Autobiography of Malcolm X also provides a detailed, first person account of the culture and customs of the United States of America in the mid-Twentieth Century, including its legally enforced segregation and overt racism. This absolutely riveting narrative helps instill the love of reading in those who have yet to be entranced by the printed word. In short, if every high school student in the nation read this book, this would be a different country.

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization

When Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization first came ouin 1987, mainstream historians were solidly united in their belief that Greek civilization had few if any external roots. However, Black scholars had long been pointing out that Greek civilization was seeded by Africans. The academy ignored them, until, that is, Martin Bernal, a highly ranked white academician launched this massive three volume work supporting their conclusions. For a number of years Black Athena generated a spirited debate that has since all but died down. But the point has been made.

The Black Bourgeoisie

The term “bourgy,” meaning middle class Blacks with phony white pretensions, came into popular usage after E. Franklin Frazier published his 1956 book, The Black Bourgeoisie.  It  explains the history of the class divisions in Black America beginning in bondage when some of the enslaved Africans worked in the house and others labored in the fields.

Those in the house sometimes obtained freedom decades before bondage ended in the 1860s. Just as they were closer in norms and behavior to white society during the time of servitude, they naturally became more assimilated after it was over. There is a similar differential in class, and assimilation patterns, in other ethnic groups. However, since African Americans have never been able to fully assimilate, the differences between the two classes in Black America are more pronounced, poignant and deeply felt.

Black Economics: Solutions for Economic and Community Empowerment

Jawanzaa Kunjufu, who began his career as an elementary school teacher, has penned dozens of books on the African American family, society, politics and economics. He now helms his own publishing company, African American images, Shop African American Images distributing his works and that of numerous other Black writers. In Black Economics he lays out the central issues facing Black economic development for the last 150 years and identifies potent strategies to overcome them. His very first book was Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Young Black Boys.

Black Man of the Nile

Joef ben-Jochanan spent a lifetime overturning the many, many destructive myths about Africa and its history. His most popular work is The Black Man of the Nile. Africans have made massive contributions to science and civilization down through the ages. Some of the most significant took place over thousands of years in ancient Egypt and its offshoots. This massive, heavily documented work is a must-read for those interested in a view of history other than the one offered by the established educational system.

Black Robes, White Justice

New York City trial judge Bruce Wright was labeled in the press as “Cut ‘Em Loose Bruce” because of his staunch refusal to use high bail as a way to keep those charged with crimes in jail until they come to trial. For indigent clients, he set relatively low bail or no bail. As everyone should know, but few seem to realize, the thousands held in terrible conditions in city lockups before trial are all innocent. (“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty”) It is a miscarriage of justice, practiced on a massive scale, that the well-to-do awaiting trial are out on bail, while poor defendants are locked up for months or even years, prompting many to plead guilty to a lesser charge, when in fact they have committed no crime at all. In Black Robes White Justice: Why Our Legal System Doesn’t Work for Blacks, Bruce Wright documents the racism of the Founding Fathers, many of whom were slaveowners, and the pervasive injustice in the judicial system that has continued right up until today.

Blues People: Negro Music in White America

Where did the Blues, and later Jazz, and still later Rock ‘n’ Roll, come from? How did a people toiling in bondage spawn a succession of original musical forms that would come to dominate the nation and eventually the entire planet? Le Roi Jones, later to be known as Imari Baraka, takes us on a detailed, historical journey that follows the development and the proliferation of African American music from the 1600s to 1960. Read it and you will be amazed!

Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics

This thorough 1948 study by Oliver Cox examines societies all around the world. It’s key finding?  While there may be different degrees of exclusion for “lesser” races depending on the society, everywhere the “pure white” group, however that is defined, sits at the pinnacle of power. This position is maintained because those at any given level in the racial hierarchy are often reluctant to join with those “beneath” them in fighting white supremacy. Ironically, because they subscribe to the very thing they claim to be fighting, they cannot defeat it.

Continental Drift: The African-African American Experience

What are the differences, and the similarities, between Africans born in the Motherland and those born in the United States? And what can be done to promote solidarity? Nigerian American FitzGerald Ajoku answers these pivotal questions and offers a riveting account of his childhood and young adulthood living in New York City. He also provides an engaging review of Nigerian history and culture as well as deep insights on some of the key nations in the African Diaspora.

Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys

This is the first book by educator, writer and publisher Jawanzaa Kunjufu. It lays out in clear detail how the educational system, the larger society and also the Black community itself, work to stymie the development of young Black boys. Kunjufu notes how all children, Black boys included, first enter school with eyes bright, eager, ready and able to learn. But somehow, by the fourth grade, many, if not most, Black boys find the classroom to be a hostile place. Their natural energy is rebuffed and seen as deviant in a system where silence, passivity and immobility are prized, and where there are few if any males in positions of authority. Those in charge of discipline see their very presence as threatening, and school psychologists are prone to prescribe drugs to control their behavior. Meanwhile, the community not only fails to stand up for them, but very often African American families socialize girls differently than they do boys, giving them fewer chores and responsibilities. What can be done? Kunjufu lays out specific strategies, including setting up organized rites of passage for Black boys, and parallel initiatives for Black girls. The spectacular success of this two-volume work inspired him to write dozens of additional volumes and set up a publishing house, African American Images, to distribute numerous other positive, uplifting books about the African American experience.

The Dahomean

This is the masterwork of the most successful African American writer in history.  His first novel, sold 500,000 copies within six months and more than a million before the year was out. It was turned into a major Hollywood production, The Foxes of Harrow, in 1948. Two more of his books hit the big screen in quick succession.  All told his 33 novels have so far sold more than 70 million copies. Never heard of him. Not surprising. His principal characters were white, and most of his readers thought he was too. He became famous writing historical romance novels, many of them set in the pre-Civil War South, reminiscent of Gone With the Wind. It was only much later in his career that his work reflected his racial identity. The Dahomean, written in 1970, is a fictional account of the early life of an African prince who is eventually captured in battle and sold into slavery. It has a strange, haunting ring of truth. In a sense, it is actually more accurate than Alex Haley’s Roots.

Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop

When, and how, did the African American image first appear on the stage? What did it look like, and how has it changed? Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen explain that during slavery white actors imitated Blacks who later imitated whites imitating Blacks. Thus Black minstrelsy began. And it is from Black minstrelsy that burlesque, vaudeville, North American theater, standup comedy, variety shows and situation comedies all sprouted. They also highlight the perennial debate in the Black community between those who applaud and those who bemoan stereotypical displays of African American culture. This is an objective assessment of the origins and development of African American cultural expression and its impact on the world.

Down These Mean Streets

In this riveting tale of growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1950s, Piri Thomas recounts how his family was broken in two by the racial divide they encountered upon coming to New York. He subsequently embarked on a dangerous quest into the heart of the Jim Crow South to assert his new found identity and claim his place in this society.

Dutchman & The Slave

It is the early 1960s. A Black man sitting alone in an empty, sweltering New York City subway car is stalked by an alluring white woman. What will he do? Keep in mind, the author is Le Roi Jones.  With his white wife he had, by then, set up a publishing company for Greenwich Village writers. He would later divorce his spouse, take on a Black one, move to the inner city and change his name to Imari Baraka. His play, Dutchman, captured the tempo and the temperament of Black America on the cusp of the Black Power movement. Not only is it available in written form, but the film version starring, William Clay who played Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, is available for free on youtube. Dutchman Full movie

The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions (Stanford Studies in Comparative Race and Ethnicity)

Why is it that African Americans who reached these shores before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock are still at the bottom of the totem pole? Why is it that every ethnic group that came after them, though at first on their level and living with them, ultimately cast them aside and use them as a stepping stone to move up the “ethnoracial hierarchy?” Nonetheless, why do African Americans ignore such vicious slights and continue campaigning relentlessly for equality for all? Vilna Treitler answers these questions and many more in The Ethnic Project. Be sure to check it out.

From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline

“Black studies was the discipline emerging from the 1960s that encouraged women, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans to push for their own disciplines. Black studies was literally the vanguard of the multiculturalism that is now taken for granted in the academic mainstream,” says Fabio Rojas at the outset of From Black Power to Black Studies. How did the discipline of Black Studies begin and develop, and what is its import for the academy and society? From Black Power to Black Studies sets this as its task.

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America

Recall the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for you just might get it.” Juan Gonzalez documents how the US economic empire in Latin America impoverishes the region, thus continually sowing the seeds for a bountiful harvest of Latino immigration.  He also charts the rise of Latino political power in the US and its interface with white and Black political interests, as he explores the enduring impact of Latino culture on the US and the world.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell notes that many a legend and true life story, from around the world, has the same basic theme. A young hero goes through an epic adventure in which they tackle a powerful foe or obstacle of some kind. They ultimately succeed and thereby gain tremendous powers and insights that they use to benefit others, for example, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, David, Osiris, Einstein and Freud, just to name a few. The adventure can entail war, discovery, migration, inventions, ideas, anything.  In every instance what appears to be a struggle against an external foe, turns out to be a battle with an inner demon or barrier holding them back. “’Know thyself.’ ‘All knowledge is self-knowledge,’” did not the ancient Egyptians proclaim?

Home To Harlem

What was it like living in Harlem on the eve of the Harlem Renaissance? How did the Blues percolate into Jazz in dozens of dance halls, cabarets and tiny little uptown bars? How did the migrant Black men, and women, of that time and that place meet and love and part, hopefully to meet once again? Largely derided  at the time by Black intellectuals for its stark depictions, nonetheless, Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem still stands as a lyrical snapshot of the capital of Black America in its prime.

The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors

What are the “keys to the colors?” What do “black” and “white” really mean? What is the unconscious and what is the conscious? And which rules the other? Does everything we see have a hidden, deeper meaning other than the one we consciously perceive? Psychiatrist Francis Cress Welsing answers all these questions, and more, as she probes the mindset behind US culture and that of Black America revealing deep, disturbing insights about the two.

Keep The Faith Baby

Whose statue stands at the head of the plaza at 125th and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in the center of Harlem? Adam Clayton Powell himself, striding forward, coattails flying captured in the forever of solid stone. The charismatic pastor, close associate Martn Luther King and Malcolm X, was New York’s first black Congressman. He rose to prominence in the House of Representatives and shepherded through all of the social welfare legislation of the 1960s. Keep the Faith Baby follows the rise from playboy to pastor to politician of the man who created the term, “Black Power.” The film of the same name, starring Harry Lennix and Vanessa Williams, is an absolutely accurate cinematic depiction of this informative, engaging work.

Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

Of all the subjects taught in school, history is perhaps the most intriguing. How did I, the student, and we, the society, get to where we are now? What came before, how does it shape the here and now and what awaits us on the road ahead? History is the essential, primordial inquiry. Why then is it usually blunted, denatured and sterilized? To maintain the status quo. Education, teaching, no matter what you have heard to the contrary, is certainly the oldest profession. Every parent, teacher, older sibling, wise friend, etc., has been doing this from time immemorial. But the establishment, ever fearful, of losing its power, clouds the past with myths and fairy tales, like the one that George Washington never told a lie. Even if that were true, what about the 100 African Americans he held in chains?

What is the establishment? That group in every system that tenaciously holds onto its way of seeing and functioning in the world no matter the cost to others, when, in fact, it is dialogue and discourse that is the bedrock basis of freedom and democracy. No one has the corner on truth, not James Loewen in Lies My Teacher Told Me, nor the mainstream historians touting their latest status quo re-inforcing text. That is not to say the established wisdom, in every case is wrong. But neither is it always right. We should all, on occasion, glance at things from the other side of the street and judge for ourselves. Hence, we highly recommend, Lies My Teacher Told Me.

The Medium is the Massage

Say the word “media” and everyone knows what you mean. It’s shorthand for “mass media” a shortening of the phrase, “mass media of communication.”

Marshall McLuhan, author of The Medium is the Message, penned the term in the 1960s. This is a book of very few words and many, many pictures, but it introduces some heavy concepts. So, yes, it is an easy read, but a bit tough to really understand. Let me take a whack at it.

The methods we use to communicate are much more important than what we are communicating. For example, the introduction of the telegraph, the ability to communicate over thousands of miles instantaneously, shattered the old form of society. Likewise, television and then the internet wholly transformed us and actually rewired our brains.

But changes in transportation are also changes in the means of communication. And so, the forcible knitting together of all the world’s regions and peoples, via colonialism, was made possible, successively, by the movable sail, the steamship, the railroad, the machinegun, the airplane, etc. These changes in transportation, aided and abetted by the development and increasing sophistication of electronic communication, culminated in the world wars and ethnic conflicts in the US. The struggle amongst the ethnic groups in the US reflects and fuels

Native Son

Richard Wright’s Native Son, published in 1940 was the first novel by an African American to become a recommendation of the, at the time very influential, Book of the Month Club. It opens with a rodent fleeing for dear life in a cramped apartment before he is cornered and killed by a youth named Bigger Thomas. (And Bigger sounds like?) By the end of the story he himself is hunted, cornered and killed. Why? For acts, that yes, he committed, but was he forced to, like the rodent, in order to try and survive? Those who would outright condemn the exploits depicted in today’s “urban fiction,” should remember that the violent, hyper-sexualized Black male template was largely established by Richard Wright, in this groundbreaking book.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Say my hand is 12 inches above my desk. If every second I cut the distance in half, when will I reach it? Never. No matter how close I get there will still be more distance to traverse. That is sort of what Michelle Alexander says in The New Jim Crow. Over the years African Americans get closer and closer to full equality, only never to attain it.
First there was slavery, and once that ended, after a brief period of hope and respite known as Reconstruction, came the Jim Crow Laws of legal segregation, then came the triumphs of the civil rights movement, followed again by a surge of euphoria only to end in what we have today, mass incarceration. Even though we have had a Black president, mass incarceration and its continuing devastation remain in place.

Michelle Alexander also points out that the success of the civil rights movement has produced a cadre of Black legal professionals and politicians, who focus on Affirmative Action and other initiatives to further their own interests, while studiously avoiding the fundamental issue, namely ,that the “War on Drugs” is a screen for the wholesale oppression of the Black community via mass incarceration. She also suggests that the critique of the culture of Hip Hop misses the point. It is, to a large extent, the people’s joyful, if misplaced, celebration of themselves that would otherwise never be forthcoming.

1984 by George Orwell

In 1948, in the wake of the world shattering second global conflict, George Orwell provided his vision of things to come. He foresaw a world where governments, united in three main blocs, keep close tabs on every citizen, controlling them through false news, mindless entertainment and low doses of poison. When the year 1984 rolled around, many commented on his prescience. In the years since, has not this vision only further crystallized?

The Origin Map: Discovery of a Prehistoric, Megalithic, Astrophysical Map and Sculpture of the Universe

If Martin Bernal permitted the heresy of a white, established scholar joining the bandwagon stating and documenting that Greek civilization grew out of African civilization, writers like NAME with his book The Origin Map take things much further. He gives clear evidence that the culture that produced Ancient Egyptian civilization is not six or seven thousand years old, as popularly believed but really at a minimum, three times that age.

Othello by William Shakespeare

Othello. What a fellow. In Shakespeare’s play, Othello, the Black general of the armies of Venice in the late Renaissance, had a white wife who loved him dearly, but believing the lies of a jealous subordinate, he kills her. Was this tale somehow subtly called to mind during the O. J. Simpson trial? O J was the most lauded and beloved man who had ever played the war-like game of football, until, that is, he was charged with murdering his white ex-wife in a fit of jealous rage. Did he? But wait, let’s go back to Othello. Othello was the Black leader of the white armies of Venice? How could a Black man have held that rank? Back during the Renaissance, hard as it is to believe today, there were many prominent Black people in Europe. Yes, Europe. But the Atlantic slave trade was then getting underway. So the dehumanization of those of African descent was in its beginning stages. Did Shakespeare, the legendary English playwright, produce a perfectly timed, deftly crafted, propaganda piece? Today we are just as far ahead in time from the high point of the Atlantic slave trade as Shakespeare was back in time from it. And so, does Othello’s lingering specter affect us to the same extent as it generated animus towards Blacks when it first appeared? The knee jerk reaction to OJ Simpson may well be evidence that it does.

The Report Of The National Advisory Commission On Civil Disorders

Since Gunnar Myrdal’s observation, in An America Delimma, that the United States’ central contradiction, the continuance of Black oppression despite the nation’s stated commitment to absolute equality, was yielding the riots of the 1940s, went unheeded, a series of even more devastating upheavals took place a generation later. And so, The National Commission on Civil Disorders, written at the height of the “long hot summers” of the late 1960s said point blank, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, — separate and unequal. . . The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and white perspective.”

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That The Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Author Robert Kyosaki grew up in Hawaii. He says his father was a civil servant who advised him to get as much education as possible, buy a house, generously utilize credit and raise your standard of living as your wealth grows. On the other hand, he says his best friend’s Dad was an entrepreneur with an opposing set  of values: a home is not always an asset, only borrow for specific projects to increase your wealth and above all “mind your own business,” that is, constantly try and increase your assets while studiously whittling down your liabilities. Critics have challenged whether or not these two “dads” actually existed with these specific ideologies.  However, whether his tale is completely factual or largely allegorical, the ideas he presents need to be seriously considered by any and everyone no matter your ethnicity.

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

Activist Angela Davis was accused, and ultimately exonerated, of the charge of aiding the deadly, failed attempt to break George Jackson out of prison. Who was George Jackson? The answer can be found in his autobiography, Soledad Brother. In the late Sixties he was seen as a prime example of an American political prisoner. Given a one year to life sentence for his involvement in a robbery, because of his outspoken defiance and political activism, prison officials kept lengthening his stay, despite the fact that his accomplices were all released within a few years. His autobiography gives deep insight into a man who refused to bend under any circumstances. He ultimately died in prison, shot while attempting to escape according to the authorities.  But valid questions have been raised about  that claim.

The Story of Motown

Before Motown white record companies thoroughly dominated the music industry, deciding how and to what extent “race records,” the name back then for music made by Blacks, would be distributed. They even put white faces on the covers of Black albums. Motown selected, produced and marketed Black artists to the entire nation while nonetheless maintaining a large, extremely loyal Black fan base.

Motown had great influence in promoting and shaping not only Black American culture but the nation’s culture as Peter Benjaminson documents in The Story of Motown.2 In 1972 Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder, produced the highly successful motion picture Lady Sings the Blues3 based on the life of Billie Holiday, which was nominated for five academy awards. Motown’s other films include The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars (1976)4 which chronicled incidents in the life of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Satchel Paige when they played in the Negro Leagues.

So we see that Berry Gordy made films about iconic Black figures using icons like Donna Ross whom he had helped create and rising stars (like Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor) solidifying their status and his own. Though Gordy did not see himself as primarily advancing Black consciousness, he took pains to present his artists and their work in the most tasteful manner and often touched on Black political themes.  The life and times of Berry Gordy and Motown Records have been the subject of an endless string of highly successful plays and films. The Story of Motown places all of them in a fairly objective historical context.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

How many, many books have been written about the life and times of Martin Luther King? For a first hand view of this towering figure of the 20th century, be sure to read his autobiography, Stride Toward Freedom. It was penned in the late 1950s, in the wake of the stunning success of the 13 month long Montgomery bus boycott, which launched the modern day civil rights movement that forever ended legal segregation. Here is Martin Luther King, in his own words, as he approached the height of his enduring fame.

Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire

That is exactly what nine year old Reginald Lewis said in Baltimore in 1950. And they didn’t when he reached maturity and became the first African American bilionaire. The keys to his success? Read the book and find out. But here’s the skinny. Work hard. No excuses. And above all plan meticulously and execute flawlessly.
He got into Harvard Law School without taking the LSAT, without connections, without excellent grades and without even filling out an application. Despite several initial spectacular failures he became an expert at leveraged buyouts, that is, using other people’s money to buy companies, then manage to great success, only to sell them for huge profits.
How many of you have heard of Le Bron James? Kanye West? Michael Jackson? Everyone and their brother has heard of them. What about Reginald Lewis? No? Well here’s your chance. Take it.