Black in America
Photographer Eli Reed documents the black experience in America, from tender moments between parents and children and the deceptive innocence of rural life, to the tensions of the urban drug scene. His work seeks to show the truth, in images of black America pictured with anger and compassion.
“When I want to discover something, I begin by reading up everything that has been done along that line in the past – that’s what all these books in the library are for. I see what has been accomplished at great labor and expense in the past. I gather data of many thousands of experiments as a starting point, and then I make thousands more. “The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”
That quote still stands as the truest reflection of Michael’s approach to his own mastery, and they were the words he actually posted in gold letters to the cloth, coffee brown walls of his sound studio at Hayvenhurst.
On display in his room at Neverland.
Discussion of the issues in racism and white privilege, the intro begins:
The depth and intensity of the race problem in America is, in part, a result of a 100 year flight from that unpalatable truth. It was a stroke of genius really for white Americans to give Negro Americans the name of their problem, thereby focusing attention on symptoms (the Negro and the Negro community) instead of causes (the white man and the white community).
When we say that the causes of the race problem are rooted in the white American and the white community, we mean that the power is the white American’s and so is the responsibility. We mean that the white American created, invented the race problem and that his fears and frailties are responsible for the urgency of the problem.
Ordinary black women, more than any other group in America, have been left out of history. As Darlene Clark Hine points out in her introduction to this powerful and affecting book, “disseminating a visual history is more important with Black women, perhaps, than with any other single segment of the American population. We know all too well what this society believes black women look like. The stereotypes abound, from the Mammy to the maid, from the tragic mulatto to the dark temptress. America’s perceptions of Black women are colored by a host of derogatory images and assumptions that proliferated in the aftermath of slavery and, with some permutations, exist even today. We have witnessed the distortion of the image of black women in movies and on television. We have seen black women’s faces and bodies shamed and exploited. What we have not seen is the simple truth of their lives. This book will help to eradicate, or at least to dislodge, the many negative and dehumanizing stereotypes and caricatures of Black women that inhabit our consciousness.
What do black women look like? What do they look like at work or with their families? What faces do they choose to present to the world, and what faces has the world forced them to acquire? We can look in vain to most pictorial histories of America and even of African America for images of Black women. With noteworthy exceptions, even scholarly studies in Black women’s history tend to include few, if any, photographic images. Of the images that previously have been presented in print, the majority have been of famous Black women.
The Face of Our Past brings the ordinary Black woman to center stage, showing how she lives, loves her family, works to survive, fights for her people, and expresses her individuality. In addition to 302 cartefully chosen images, Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin provide quotations from letters, diaries, journals, and other sources.
Novelists Simone Schwarz-Bart (Between Two Worlds; The Bridge of Beyond) and Andr‚ Schwarz-Bart (The Last of the Just) present volume one of a four-part work that will be published over the next three years entitled In Praise of Black Women: Ancient African Queens, translated from the French by Rose-Myriam R‚jouis and Val Vinokurov and featuring a foreword by Howard Dodson, director of New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. A blend of oral tradition, historical accounts and 600 vivid illustrations creatively arranged and bordered by informative sidebars, this enchanting work transports the reader back in time and gives a voice to the little-known black women of the past, like Yennenga, Mother of the Mossi People. Subsequent volumes will cover slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean, modern African women and modern women of the diaspora.
The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement is well documented in prose, but for sheer emotional power, nothing can compare to the pictures from this era. It’s a challenge for a writer’s words to match the force of Bob Adelman’s photographs in this book, but novelist and essayist Charles Johnson rises to the task in his treatment of King’s life and death, as well as the heroic struggle of African Americans in the United States. Johnson, the author of Middle Passage (which won the 1990 National Book Award), offers an exceptional counterpoint to the stirring images with the depth and weight of his essays and captions. “How soon we forget that King was not only a civil rights activist,” Johnson writes, “but also this country’s preeminent moral philosopher, a spiritual aspirant, a father and a husband, and that these diverse roles–these multiple dimensions of his too brief life–were the foundations for his singular ‘dream’ that inspired millions worldwide.”
“[N]othing less than an epic of Homeric proportions….Willi s’s magnificent gathering of images…rewrites American history.”—Robin D. G. Kelley
Reflections in Black, the first comprehensive history of black photographers, is a groundbreaking pictorial collection of African American life. Featuring the work of undisputed masters such as James VanDerZee, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems among dozens of others, this book is a refutation of the gross caricature of black life that many mainstream photographers have manifested by continually emphasizing poverty over family, despair over hope. Nearly 600 images offer rich, moving glimpses of everyday black life, from slavery to the Great Migration to contemporary suburban life, including rare antebellum daguerrotypes, photojournalism of the civil rights era, and multimedia portraits of middle-class families. A work so significant that it has the power to reconfigure our conception of American history itself, Reflections in Black demands to be included in every American family’s library as an essential part of our heritage. A Los Angeles Times and Washington Post Book World Best Book of 2000, and a Good Morning, America best gift book of 2000. 600 duotone photographs, 32 pages of color.
How To Eat To Live, Book 1 By Elijah Muhammad For more than 30 years, messenger Elijah Muhammad has been teaching the so-called Negroes of America on the proper foods to eat to improve their mental power, physical appearance, for prevention of illness, curing of ailments and prolonging life. Given the humble, economic conditions of the blacks in America, an inexpensive, yet highly nutritional diet was given to them by Elijah Muhammad. Before the health craze that has swept the country, Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam were head of the curve as far back as the early 30′s. This is the first of two books written with this simple, yet revolutionary way of eating.
Wesley: Subsequently [after Bad] I met him many times around the world. Man, I met him one time in South Africa and we were sitting in this palatial space. He happened to be there, I happened to be there. We sat and we started talking and chopping up, we chopped it up for like three hours, and he had a list of books, lined up all along the floor, and I looked over and I said, ‘Yo, Mike, are people just sending you stuff like that?’ and he says, ‘No, that’s what I read.’ I mean, he had everything, from the autobiography of Malcolm X, Eat To Live, he had Sri Aurobindo, [Kalki] Krishnamurthy, I mean, like these exotic books, you know? That you would never imagine Michael was down with. And we sat there three hours man, chopping it up about all of this, from metaphysics to psychology, ‘how the black man is treated.’ I was looking at him, like…
Interviewer: How the black man is treated?
Wesley: I’m telling you, it was a trip.
Interviewer: Eat To Live by Elijah Muhammad?
Wesley: Yes, sir.
Wesley: Mike, Mike… people don’t know about Mike on the real. Mike had a consciousness that could blow your mind and he could recite things that could blow your mind as well. From like the street corner stuff.
Wesley: Straight up.
Elijah Muhammad led the Nation of Islam and mentored Malcolm X, Luis Farrakhan, and Muhammad Ali.
A landmark compendium of African American achievement over the past 100 years, this text explores the lives and work of 150 men and women who have profoundly influenced our culture. Through their inspirational stories, Smith presents a compelling means for African American individuals to further explore their rich heritage and for all Americans to reflect upon a century of accomplishment. 150 photos.
Malcolm X’s searing memoir belongs on the small shelf of great autobiographies. The reasons are many: the blistering honesty with which he recounts his transformation from a bitter, self-destructive petty criminal into an articulate political activist, the continued relevance of his militant analysis of white racism, and his emphasis on self-respect and self-help for African Americans. And there’s the vividness with which he depicts black popular culture–try as he might to criticize those lindy hops at Boston’s Roseland dance hall from the perspective of his Muslim faith, he can’t help but make them sound pretty wonderful. These are but a few examples. The Autobiography of Malcolm X limns an archetypal journey from ignorance and despair to knowledge and spiritual awakening. When Malcolm tells coauthor Alex Haley, “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book,” he voices the central belief underpinning every attempt to set down a personal story as an example for others. Although many believe his ethic was directly opposed to Martin Luther King Jr.’s during the civil rights struggle of the ’60s, the two were not so different. Malcolm may have displayed a most un-Christian distaste for loving his enemies, but he understood with King that love of God and love of self are the necessary first steps on the road to freedom. –Wendy Smith