Black History Month: A UGA Press Reading List, Part 1

February is the month we celebrate black history. The University of Georgia Press has published many books that highlight the struggles and triumphs of people of color in the U.S. and beyond, and when we started making a reading list we realized there were too many important books to narrow it down to a single list or post. This is why we decided break the list down into installments. So here’s part one of our three-part Black History Month Reading List.

9780820351650Justice Leah Ward Sears: Seizing Serendipity
By Rebecca Shriver Davis 

The pathbreaking life and career of a resolutely independent judge

Justice Leah Ward Sears is important not only because it tells Justice Sears’s remarkable personal story and discusses her many contributions to law and history but also because it does all of that in the context of political, legal, and electoral events important to all of us. The book accomplishes the difficult task of telling the personal and inspirational story of a brilliant African American woman while also discussing some of the most difficult issues of our time. I recommend Justice Leah Ward Sears to anyone interested in women’s history, African American history, and biographies of extraordinary people.” —Angela J. Davis, author of Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor

Kennington_IntheShadowofDredScottIn the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America 
By Kelly M. Kennington

How African Americans influenced the legal culture of slavery and freedom in a border-state city

The Dred Scott suit for freedom, argues Kelly M. Kennington, was merely the most famous example of a phenomenon that was more widespread in antebellum American jurisprudence than is generally recognized. The author draws on the case files of more than three hundred enslaved individuals who, like Dred Scott and his family, sued for freedom in the local legal arena of St. Louis. Her findings open new perspectives on the legal culture of slavery and the negotiated processes involved in freedom suits. As a gateway to the American West, a major port on both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and a focal point in the rancorous national debate over slavery’s expansion, St. Louis was an ideal place for enslaved individuals to challenge the legal systems and, by extension, the social systems that held them in forced servitude.

walker_turnmelooseTurn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers 
Poems By Frank X Walker 

Speaking out on the life and loss of a civil rights leader on the fiftieth anniversary of his murder

“Searing, brilliantly realized, these forty-nine poems exhume the history of a great American hero, Medgar Evers, whose 1963 death at the hands of white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith lit a powder keg of racial unrest in the nation and ushered in a decade of political assassinations. With their deep links to African American poetic traditions of social commentary and historical excavation, Walker’s poems summon ghosts of the southern past to probe the daily horror of dehumanization under the reign of Jim Crow and the terrifying psychological roots of white supremacism, past and present.” —Minrose Gwin, author of Remembering Medgar Evers: Writing the Long Civil Rights Movement and The Queen of Palmyra

graham_begin with a failed bodyBegin with a Failed Body
Poems By Natalie J. Graham

Selected By Kwame Dawes 

Poems that consider the body as a site for revelation

“Graham’s intellectual tentacles are long, and her imagination is generous. She is constantly searching for something to pull into the body, to feed the body. Her verse is terse, marked by technical compaction, and yet it is simultaneously grandly encompassing and voracious in its interests. In her we have a poet acutely sensitive to the ways of the body, its betrayals, its pleasures, and its unknowable selves. She is an exciting new voice.” —Kwame Dawes, poet, professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and editor-in-chief of Prairie Schooner magazine

Leak_cvrcomps_1.inddVisible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas  
By Jeffrey B. Leak 

The long-awaited biography of an unsung literary legend

Visible Man enacts a straightforward deconstruction of the life and time of the poet and writer. Leak shines a piercing light on the mystery of the artist who possessed ‘moments of brilliance’; the names and cities, the spiritual and intellectual quests, the poems and short stories, the facts, it all adds up, page by page. The reader, who journeys all the crooked paths side by side with Dumas, isn’t surprised by his violent death. But still we are left saddened and disheartened by the man’s downfall and anguish, his inability to master promise, his demise on that subway platform in New York City, mainly because Leak’s blunt clarity has transported us to a place of reckoning where we are also left gazing into the collective mirror.” —Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Testimony, A Tribute to Charlie Parker

Lewis_CurseUpontheNationA Curse upon the Nation: Race, Freedom, and Extermination in America and the Atlantic World
Kay Wright Lewis 

How the specter of a race war has justified violence, molded collective memory, and permeated the rhetoric of slavery and freedom

A Curse Upon the Nation analyzes the ways Black and white extermination influenced the development of slavery. Lewis draws from newspapers, political tracts, correspondence, and court documents to describe the perseverance of racialized fears from the early seventeenth century through the twentieth. The result is one of the first sustained studies about extermination as a historiographical approach to slavery and African American history. . . . a must-read for scholars of race.” —Jessica Parr,  Black Perspectives

BurkeAllforCivilRightsAll for Civil Rights: Black Lawyers in South Carolina, 1868–1968
W. Lewis Burke 

How black lawyers in a southern state helped lay the cornerstones for the modern civil rights revolution

“The history of the black lawyer in South Carolina,” writes W. Lewis Burke, “is one of the most significant untold stories of the long and troubled struggle for equal rights in the state.” Beginning in Reconstruction and continuing to the modern civil rights era, at least 168 black lawyers were admitted to the South Carolina bar. All for Civil Rights is the first book-length study devoted to those lawyers’ struggles and achievements in the state that had the largest black population in the country, by percentage, until 1930—and that was a majority black state through 1920.

daniels_savingthesoulSaving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights 
By Maurice C. Daniels

Foreword By Vernon E. Jordan Jr. 

The first biography of a pivotal but unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement

“Donald Hollowell—a brilliant and courageous lawyer known as Georgia’s ‘Mr. Civil Rights’—has long deserved a biography to match his talents. In Saving the Soul of Georgia, this lion of the civil rights movement finally receives what he has so richly deserved. Daniels’s book is a magnificent contribution to the literature on the black freedom struggle and the local lawyers who helped sustain it.” —Tomiko Brown-Nagin, author of Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, winner of the Bancroft Prize

Cooper Owens_Medical BondageMedical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology 
By Deirdre Cooper Owens 

How pioneering gynecologists promoted and exploited scientific myths about inferior races and nationalities

“Working at the intersection of race, class, gender, and health, Owens presents a crucial platform for future researchers. This an intensive and sometimes uncomfortable read.” —Sandra Gilchrist, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

McCaskill_LoveLiberation_LRLove, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory
Barbara McCaskill 

How William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery, their activism, and press accounts figured during the antislavery movement of the mid-1800s and Reconstruction

“Barbara McCaskill demonstrates that the Crafts’ life and famous story reveal a great deal about how transatlantic literature, culture, and history have been managed and misrepresented over the years. This valuable and revealing history is the go-to study for anyone interested in the Crafts.” —John Ernest, author of A Nation within a Nation: Organizing African-American Communities before the Civil War

One thought on “Black History Month: A UGA Press Reading List, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Black History Month: A UGA Press Reading List, Part 2 |

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