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MCLS Booklists

African American Heroes

Bessie Coleman
by Eric Braun
Presents the life and accomplishments of the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license.

Dancing Spirit: An Autobiography
by Judith Jamison with Howard Kaplan    
Judith Jamison is, in every sense, a towering figure. Her commanding physical presence and  extraordinary technique have made her not only a  superstar of American dance and an innovator in her field,  but also an inspiration to African Americans, to  women, and to people of all origins around the  world. Last November, Doubleday published  Dancing Spirit, this remarkable woman's  autobiography. Now, with Anchor's paperback  publication, an even wider audience can trace the steps of  her career: her early years in Philadelphia, where  she began studying dance at the age of six, her  discovery by Agnes de Mille; years of frustration  and struggle in a field that favored petite, fair,  White women; her legendary collaboration with Alvin  Ailey; her work on Broadway in the musical  Sophisticated Ladies ; the formation of  her own company, the Jamison Project, and her  retum to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as  artistic director after its founder's death in 1989.  Dancing Spirit contains vivid  portraits of many artists Jamison has worked with  including Agnes de Mille, Alvin Ailey, Jessye Norman,  Geoffrey Holder, Carmen de Lavallade, and Mikhail  Baryshnikov, to name only a few. And Jamison talks  frankly about the price exacted by a dancer's  nomadic life--rootlessness, fleeting relationships,  the obsession with physical beauty. Illustrated with  sixty photographs, Dancing Spirit  is a candid and immediate self-portrait of a  unique American artist whose work has left an indelible  mark on the world of  dance.

by Jonah Winter 
Breaking all the rules of jazz, Dizzy Gillespie found a way to make his mark in music using his instincts and talents in order to survive a difficult childhood and become one of the most famous musicians of his time.


Frederick Douglass, The Black Lion
by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. 
Describes the life and work of the man who escaped slavery to become an orator, writer, and leader in the anti-slavery movement of the nineteenth century.


Joe Louis: A Champ for All America
by Robert Lipsyte.      
A biography of Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber", who beat the German Max Schmeling on the eve of World War II and became a symbol of all-American power.

Mary McLeod Bethune: Empowering Educator
by Lissa Jones Johnson, Consultant, Kenneth Goings.
When Mary McLeod Bethune was a girl, she wanted to learn to read. At that time, there were few schools an African American child could attend. Yet Mary went on to learn, to teach, and to open her own school. Read Mary McLeod Bethune: Empowering Educator to learn about Mary's life, her career, and her impact on history. Book jacket.

Matthew Henson: Artic Adventurer
by B. A. Hoena
In graphic novel format, tells the life story of explorer Matthew Henson and his expedition to the North Pole with Robert Peary.

Onward: A Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson
by Dolores Johnson. 
Presents the life of the Arctic explorer, who assisted Robert E. Peary in his journey to the North Pole and who spoke Inuit to the natives, mastered the dog sled, and helped lead their party to their successful destination.

Satchel Sez; The Wit, Wisdom and World of Leroy “Satchel: Paige Edited by David Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, foreword by Bob Costas. 
Renowned black baseball player Satchel Paige's witty quips and savvy observations -- on everything from health to wealth, from race relations to baseball -- are an enduring part of American mythology. For example, Paige said, "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." At long last, here is a definitive collection of quotes, stories (from Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and many others), vintage newspaper articles, photos, and memorabilia that celebrates the inimitable magic of Satchel Paige. In his foreword, Bob Costas says: "Much of what we know about Satchel Paige . . . is undoubtedly true, some of it is probably apocryphal, all of it contributed to his legend as a ballplayer and one-of-a-kind personality." Illustrated.


Song in A Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage
by Pauli Murray 
This fascinating, moving autobiography reveals a little-studied voice in the modern civil rights and feminist movements. In her remarkable career, Murray, the product of a black lower-middle-class family, was a poet, essayist, lawyer, professor, civil rights advocate, and a founding member of the National Organization for Women. Before her death in 1985 she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. A strong proponent of both black and women's rights, she remained a firm believer in an integrated society with races and sexes sharing power and opportunity even in the turbulent 1960s. Given the breadth of her contacts, she was an important figure in 20th-century social history. Highly recommended for most libraries. Anthony O. Edmonds, History Dept., Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind. Library Journal


Shirley Chisholm
by Jill S. Pollack
A biography of Shirley Chisholm, an Afro-American woman who was a teacher and a Congresswoman, before running for president of the United States.

Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence
by John Duggleby.   
A biography of the African American artist who grew up in the the midst of the Harlem Renaissance and became one of the most renowned painters of the life of his people.

Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
by Juan Williams.
Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation, would have made him a historic figure even if he had not gone on to become the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. As a young lawyer, Marshall dealt with criminal cases in which blacks were routinely sent to their deaths with barely a trial, and he was once nearly lynched while defending a client. Remembered as a gruff, aloof figure, Marshall in fact had great charisma and a large appetite for life. Away from the courtroom, he was a glamorous figure in Harlem circles, known as a man-about-town who socialized with prizefighter Joe Louis, singer Cab Calloway, and other black luminaries. He lived in every decade of the century and knew every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, becoming a respected member of Washington's power elite, known for his savvy and quick wit. But beneath Marshall's charm was a hard-nosed drive to change America that led to surprising clashes with Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. Most intriguing of all was Marshall's secret and controversial relationship with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, revealed here for the first time. Based on eight years of research and interviews with over 150 sources, Thurgood Marshall is the sweeping and inspirational story of an enduring figure in American life, a descendant of slaves who became a true hero for all people. As Juan Williams shows, in page after vivid page, Thurgood Marshall fulfilled the promise of democracy and changed our history.

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist’s Journey, 1898-1939 by Paul Robeson Jr.
"Robeson . . . lives, overwhelmingly, in the hearts and minds of the people whom he touched, the people for whom he was an example, the people who gained from him the power to perceive and the courage to resist. It is not a sentimental question. He lived in our times, we live in his. . . . It is a matter of bearing witness to that force which moved among us." -James Baldwin Paul Robeson was inarguably one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. As this unprecedented biography makes clear, the essential facts of his public life are near legendary. Actor, singer, scholar, and activist-- Robeson dominated his era. His father was an escaped slave; his mother, a descendent of distinguished freedmen. With a law degree from Columbia University, a professional football career, title roles in Eugene O'Neill's plays and in Shakespeare's Othello, and a concert and film career in America and Europe, Robeson redefined the black male image. But an intensely private side to Robeson is now revealed in these pages. At last, we can know the whole man. Here is the intimate story of how the preacher's son emerged as a force of breathtaking courage, principle, and compassion. Haunted by childhood trauma and pitted against brutal racists, he battled against his enemies and his demons with a warrior's heart. Although his youth spanned the Harlem Renaissance and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, he resisted politics for years. Flowering as an artist in Europe, he emerged as a fierce symbol of anticolonial and antifascist struggles around the world. This was the Paul Robeson who returned to New York as a pioneering superstar, ready to challenge America to keep its promise to his people. The Undiscovered Paul Robeson sets out to explore the connection between the artist's soul and the passions that ruled it. Layering decades of personal conversations, extensive research, and rich insights with previously unpublished excerpts from the private diaries and letters of Paul and Eslanda Robeson, Paul Robeson, Jr., gives us a deeply felt and brilliantly conceived portrait of his father's defining struggles, triumphs, and humanity.


W.E.B. DuBois: The Fight for Civil Rights
by Ryan P. Randolph.
Examines the life of the black scholar and civil rights leader who devoted himself to gaining equality for African Americans and helped found the NAACP.




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