Mis-Education of the Negro

Carter G. Woodson

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His question of education makes it necessary.”

“The race will free itself from exploiters just as soon as it decides to do so. No one else can accomplish this task for the race. It must plan and do for itself.”  — Carter G. Woodson

The Miseducation of the Negro describes the plight of our schools like no other book. He makes it plain. Woodson says that either you are taught to value yourself primarily, or are taught to value someone else primarily. You are taught to be concerned with satisfying the needs of your community or trained to satisfy another’s. Education gives you backbone or teaches you to lean. Carter G. Woodson is the Father of Black History and “Black history is your history.” — James Baldwin

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47

Walter Mosley

In his first book for young adults, the bestselling author and master of mystery, the great Walter Mosley, weaves a powerful narrative about the nature of freedom. The life of a young slave named 47 seems doomed until he meets a mysterious runaway slave and finds himself swept up in a struggle for his own liberation.

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Astonishing Life of Octavia Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kindom on the Waves

M. T. Anderson

Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore’s proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces.
In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian’s experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

(Sequel to the National Book Award Winner)
“A novel of the first rank, the kind of monumental work Italo Calvino called ‘encyclopedic’ in the way it sweeps up history into a comprehensible and deeply textured pattern.”      — THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

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Astonishing Life of Octavia Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party

M. T. Anderson

It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them.

Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

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Black Angels

Linda B. Brown

It’s near the end of The Civil War, and rumors of emancipation are swirling. Eleven-year-old Luke decides to run away to freedom and join the Union Army. But he doesn’t find the Yankee troops he was hoping for. Instead, he finds nine-year-old Daylily, lost in the woods after suffering an unspeakable tragedy. Her master set her free, but freedom so far has her scared and alone.

Also lost in the woods is seven-year-old Caswell, the son of a plantation owner. He was only trying to find his Mamadear after the Yankees burned their house with all their fine things. He wanted to be brave. But alone in the woods with two slave children, he quickly loses all his courage, and comes to greatly depend upon his new friends. In the chaos and violence that follows, the three unrelated children discover a bond in each other stronger than family.

A touching, beautifully written narrative, Black Angels is a riveting, special read.

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Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True and Fictional Account of the Most Valiant Marshall in the West

Gary Paulsen

Born into slavery, Bass Reeves became the most successful US Marshal of the Wild West.
Many “heroic lawmen” of the Wild West, familiar to us through television and film, were actually violent scoundrels and outlaws themselves. But of all the sheriffs of the frontier, one man stands out as a true hero: Bass Reeves.
He was the most successful Federal Marshal in the US in his day. True to the mythical code of the West, he never drew his gun first. He brought hundreds of fugitives to justice, was shot at countless times, and never hit.
Bass Reeves was a Black man, born into slavery. And though the laws of his country enslaved him and his mother, when he became a free man he served the law, with such courage and honor that he became a legend.

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Nightjohn

Gary Paulsen

“To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it’s bad for them. They thinks we want what they got . . . That’s why they don’t want us reading.”
– Nightjohn
“I didn’t know what letters was, not what they meant, but I thought it might be something I wanted to know. To learn.”   –Sarny

Sarny, a female slave at the Waller plantation, first sees Nightjohn when he is brought there with a rope around his neck, his body covered in scars. He had escaped north to freedom, but he came back–came back to teach reading. Knowing that the penalty for reading is dismemberment Nightjohn still retumed to slavery to teach others how to read. And twelve-year-old Sarny is willing to take the risk to learn.

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Kindred (25th Anniversary Edition)

Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern Black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the White son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Kindred is that rare a magical artifact that walks through doors of time and skins of different color. This story, set in and out of slavery’s vice, Ms Butler implants the notion that we may be those ex-slaves who escape to a future time. Octavia is an incredibly creative writer of detailed, highly conscientious, social criticism.
“In Kindred, Octavia Butler creates a road for the impossible, and a balm for the unbearable. It is everything the literature of science fiction can be.”      –Walter Mosley
“Butler”s books are exceptional . . . She is a realist, writing the most detailed social criticism and creating some of the most fascinating female characters in the genre . . . real women caught in impossible situations.”     –The Village Voice

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Twelve Years a Slave

Austin Civil War Round Table- 12 Years a SlaveSolomon Northup

In 1841, Solomon Northup was an educated, free black man and a respected resident of Saratoga, New York. A couple of white strangers noticed Northup’s talent for playing the fiddle and engaged his services. Northup followed the two men to Washington, D.C. — and soon found himself drugged, beaten into insensibility, and confined in a slave mart in the shadow of the nation’s Capitol.

Northup describes his purchase by a slave trader and his journey to the swamps of Louisiana, where he became a slave on the cotton plantations of the notorious “Bayou Boeuf.” For twelve years he labored for a succession of masters, some cruel and some kind. Overwhelmed with the hopelessness of his plight, Northup sometimes despaired of ever seeing his family again. However, he refused to relinquish his status as a man, and once thrashed his master with a bullwhip in an astonishing display of defiance that almost cost him his life.

The story of Northup’s rescue and return to his family in 1853 is compelling, as is the thoughtful way he relates the details of his ordeal. Writing about the condition of slavery, Northup states: “There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones. Men may … discourse flippantly from arm chairs on the pleasures of slave life. But let them toil with him in the field — sleep with him in the cabin — feed with him on husks; let them behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they will come back with another story in their mouths.”

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

Michelle Alexander

“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many Black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”    —from The New Jim Crow

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander shows that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting Black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.  There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits — much as their grandparents and great-grandparents once were during the Jim Crow era.

There is a colorblind explanation for all this: crime rates. But crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the past few decades — and currently are at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have soared. Quintupled. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than Black youth.

That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with Black and Brown drug offenders.

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