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African American Studies

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  1. 8.9 hrs • 9/27/2016 • Unabridged

    Like The Blind Side set in the world of opera, this is the touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite cultural institutions.Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing amid the urban wastelands of southeastern Virginia. His family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. His father was absent; his mother was volatile and abusive.At the age of twelve, Ryan was placed in solitary confinement in Virginia's juvenile detention center of last resort for threatening to kill his mother. He was uncontrollable, uncontainable, with seemingly little hope for the future. Thirteen years later, in 2011, at the age of twenty-five, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses.SING FOR YOUR LIFE chronicles Ryan's unlikely, suspenseful, and powerfully emotional journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Daniel Bergner takes readers on Ryan's path toward redemption, introducing us to an important and colorful cast of characters--including the two teachers from his childhood who redirect his rage into music; and his long-lost father, with whom Ryan is reunited--and shedding light on the enduring realities of race in America.

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    Sing for Your Life

    8.9 hrs • 9/27/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 10.5 hrs • 6/21/2016 • Unabridged

    This revelatory memoir by the mother of Michael Brown, the African American teenager killed by the police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, sheds light on one of the landmark events in recent history. “I wasn’t there when Mike Mike was shot. I didn’t see him fall or take his last breath, but as his mother, I do know one thing better than anyone, and that’s how to tell my son’s story and the journey we shared together as mother and son,” says Lezley McSpadden When Michael Orlandus Darrion Brown was born, he was adored and doted on by his aunts, uncles, grandparents, his father, and most of all by his sixteen-year-old mother, who nicknamed him Mike Mike. McSpadden never imagined that her son’s name would inspire the resounding chants of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and ignite the global conversation about the disparities in the American policing system. In Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, McSpadden picks up the pieces of the tragedy that shook her life and the country to their core and reveals the unforgettable story of her life, her son, and their truth. Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil is a riveting family memoir about the journey of a young woman triumphing over insurmountable obstacles and learning to become a good mother. With brutal honesty, McSpadden brings us inside her experiences being raised by a hardworking, single mother; her pregnancy at age fifteen and the painful subsequent decision to drop out of school to support her son; how she survived domestic abuse; and her unwavering commitment to raising four strong and healthy children, even if it meant doing so on her own. McSpadden writes passionately about the hours, days, and months after her son was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson, recounting her time on the ground with peaceful protestors, how she was treated by police and city officials, and how she felt in the gut-wrenching moment when the grand jury announced that it would not indict the man who had killed her son. After the system failed to deliver justice for Michael Brown, McSpadden and thousands of others across America took it upon themselves to carry on his legacy in the fight against injustice and racism. Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil is a portrait of our time, an urgent call to action, and a moving testament to the undying bond between mothers and sons.

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    Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil by Lezley McSpadden

    Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil

    By Lezley McSpadden, with Lyah Beth LeFlore
    10.5 hrs • 6/21/16 • Unabridged
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  3. 19.5 hrs • 6/7/2016 • Unabridged

    An important book of epic scope on America’s first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for change The civil war brought to a climax the country’s bitter division. But the beginnings of slavery’s denouement can be traced to a courageous band of ordinary Americans, black and white, slave and free, who joined forces to create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a movement that occupies as romantic a place in the nation’s imagination as the Lewis and Clark expedition. The true story of the Underground Railroad is much more morally complex and politically divisive than even the myths suggest. Against a backdrop of the country’s westward expansion arose a fierce clash of values that was nothing less than a war for the country’s soul. Not since the American Revolution had the country engaged in an act of such vast and profound civil disobedience that not only challenged prevailing mores but also subverted federal law.Bound for Canaan tells the stories of men and women like David Ruggles, who invented the black underground in New York City; bold Quakers like Isaac Hopper and Levi Coffin, who risked their lives to build the Underground Railroad; and the inimitable Harriet Tubman. Interweaving thrilling personal stories with the politics of slavery and abolition, Bound for Canaan shows how the Underground Railroad gave birth to this country’s first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change.

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    Bound for Canaan

    Read by Peter J. Fernandez
    19.5 hrs • 6/7/16 • Unabridged
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  4. 5.7 hrs • 4/14/2016 • Unabridged

    Generations of American history students grew up believing that slave rebellion was relatively rare, that slaves accepted their lot and became attached to their masters, and that they were ultimately liberated with little or no effort of their own. Liberally sprinkled with quotations from Civil War era blacks, both slave and free, Breaking the Chains gives readers a well-researched look at the lives of real slaves. From their African abductions, through their brave resistance to harsh plantation owners, to their roles in the Civil War, their own indomitable spirits shine through as the driving force behind their emancipation. Written by a teacher, world lecturer, and consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, this compelling look at history is an educational eye-opener for history buffs of all ages. Peter Francis James' vivid narration gives listeners the impression of being in the presence of first-hand witnesses to one of the most turbulent periods of U.S. history.

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    Breaking the Chains

    5.7 hrs • 4/14/16 • Unabridged
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  5. 9.0 hrs • 4/5/2016 • Unabridged

    National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown—and his surprising journey illuminates the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s legacy. A product of the complicated history of the American South, James Brown was a cultural shape-shifter who arguably had the greatest influence of any artist on American popular music. Brown was long a figure of fascination for James McBride, a noted professional musician as well as a writer. When he received a tip that promised to uncover the man behind the myth, McBride set off to follow a trail that revealed the personal, musical, and societal influences that created this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius. Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history: the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb-making facility; a South Carolina field where a long-forgotten cousin reveals, in the dead of night, a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate in England who cocreated the James Brown sound, visits the trusted right-hand manager who worked with Brown for forty-one years, and sits at the feet of Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation, his “adopted son,” the Reverend Al Sharpton. He reveals the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta, Georgia, funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather, spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife, and reveals the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s valuable estate, a fight that has destroyed careers, cheated children out of their educations, cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees, sent Brown’s trusted accountant, David Cannon, to jail for a crime for which he was not convicted, and has left James Brown’s body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin on his daughter’s front lawn in South Carolina. James McBride is one of the most distinctive and electric literary voices in America today, and Kill ’Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy: the cultural landscape of America today.

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    Kill ’Em and Leave

    9.0 hrs • 4/5/16 • Unabridged
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  6. 14.4 hrs • 2/20/2016 • Unabridged

    Stunning and powerful, Like Judgment Day is the hauntingly true story of the Rosewood massacre. Michael D'Orso's compelling journalistic prose reads like the most vivid novel as he describes the earth-shattering events of January 1923 and its survivors' patient, 70-year quest for justice. When a black man was accused of attacking a white woman in a rural Florida town, a tinderbox of racial hatred was ignited. On New Year's Day 1923, Rosewood, a town of hard-working, middle class African Americans was burned to the ground by an angry mob of whites. After hiding in frigid nearby swamps for days, the few survivors never returned. The town's existence vanished like a mirage until 1982 when a local journalist-writing an article on weekend getaways-stumbled upon the Rosewood secret. Narrator Richard M. Davidson's rich voice enhances D'Orso's masterful rendering of one of contemporary American history's most shameful tragedies.

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    Like Judgment Day

    14.4 hrs • 2/20/16 • Unabridged
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  7. 10.2 hrs • 1/26/2016 • Unabridged

    The earliest known prison memoir by an African American writer—recently discovered and authenticated by a team of Yale scholars—sheds light on the longstanding connection between race and incarceration in America. In 2009, scholars at Yale University came across a startling manuscript: the memoir of Austin Reed, a free black man born in the 1820s who spent most of his early life ricocheting between forced labor in prison and forced labor as an indentured servant. Lost for more than one hundred and fifty years, the handwritten document is the first known prison memoir written by an African American. Corroborated by prison records and other documentary sources, Reed’s text gives a gripping first-person account of an antebellum Northern life lived outside slavery that nonetheless bore, in its day-to-day details, unsettling resemblances to that very institution. Now, for the first time, we can hear Austin Reed’s story as he meant to tell it. He was born to a middle-class black family in the boomtown of Rochester, New York, but when his father died, his mother struggled to make ends meet. Still a child, Reed was placed as an indentured servant to a nearby family of white farmers near Rochester. He was caught attempting to set fire to a building and sentenced to ten years at Manhattan’s brutal House of Refuge, an early juvenile reformatory that would soon become known for beatings and forced labor. Seven years later, Reed found himself at New York’s infamous Auburn State Prison. It was there that he finished writing this memoir, which explores America’s first reformatory and first industrial prison from an inmate’s point of view, recalling the great cruelties and kindnesses he experienced in those places and excavating patterns of racial segregation, exploitation, and bondage that extended beyond the boundaries of the slaveholding South, into free New York. Accompanied by fascinating historical documents (including a series of poignant letters written by Reed near the end of his life), The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict is a work of uncommon beauty that tells a story of nineteenth-century racism, violence, labor, and captivity in a proud, defiant voice. Reed’s memoir illuminates his own life and times—as well as ours today.

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    The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict

    Edited and with an introduction by Caleb Smith
    Foreword by David W. Blight and Robert B. Stepto
    10.2 hrs • 1/26/16 • Unabridged
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  8. 8.0 hrs • 12/1/2015 • Unabridged

    At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac—here is a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of Margo Jefferson’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned with distancing itself from whites and the black generality while tirelessly measuring itself against both. Born in upper-crust black Chicago—her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite—Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century, they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of postracial America—Margo Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heartwrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance.

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    Negroland by Margo Jefferson

    Negroland

    8.0 hrs • 12/1/15 • Unabridged
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  9. 7.1 hrs • 9/30/2015 • Unabridged

    In The Reckoning, Randall Robinson examines the crime and poverty that grips much of urban America and urges black Americans to speak out and reach back to ensure their social and economic success in this country. With insight, compassion, and unflinching honesty, Robinson explores the twin blights of crime and poverty—the former often a symptom of the latter—and asks questions that are critical to the rebuilding of black communities: How do we create awareness of the heroic efforts already being made and how can we bring our troubled youth to safety? A product of Robinson’s work with gang members, ex-convicts, and others who have been scarred by the harshness of life in our inner cities, The Reckoning is certain to be as important and controversial as his earlier books.

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    The Reckoning

    7.1 hrs • 9/30/15 • Unabridged
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  10. 13.3 hrs • 9/14/2015 • Unabridged

    Civil rights advocate and accomplished lawyer Michelle Alexander broaches a topic worthy of national conversation. Alexander argues that criminals convicted by our justice system face the same obstacles—legal discrimination and disenfranchisement—African Americans faced during the Jim Crow era.

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    The New Jim Crow

    13.3 hrs • 9/14/15 • Unabridged
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  11. 20.0 hrs • 8/20/2015 • Unabridged

    This is a story of the unexpected. In Destined to Witness, Hans Massaquoi has crafted a beautifully rendered memoir—an astonishing true tale of how he came of age as a black child in Nazi Germany. The son of a prominent African and a German nurse, Hans remained behind with his mother when Hitler came to power, due to concerns about his fragile health, after his father returned to Liberia. Like other German boys, Hans went to school; like other German boys, he swiftly fell under the Fuhrer’s spell. So he was crushed to learn that, as a black child, he was ineligible for the Hitler Youth. His path to a secondary education and an eventual profession was blocked. He now lived in fear that, at any moment, he might hear the Gestapo banging on the door—or Allied bombs falling on his home. Ironic, moving, and deeply human, Massaquoi’s account of this lonely struggle for survival brims with courage and intelligence.

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    Destined to Witness

    20.0 hrs • 8/20/15 • Unabridged
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  12. 5.0 hrs • 2/3/2015 • Unabridged

    At last, a new audio edition of the book many have called James Baldwin’s most influential work! Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in “The Harlem Ghetto” to a sobering “Journey to Atlanta.” Notes of a Native Son inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the twentieth century, and many of his observations have proven almost prophetic. His criticism on topics such as the paternalism of white progressives or on his own friend Richard Wright’s work is pointed and unabashed. He was also one of the few writing on race at the time who addressed the issue with a powerful mixture of outrage at the gross physical and political violence against black citizens and measured understanding of their oppressors, which helped awaken a white audience to the injustices under their noses. Naturally, this combination of brazen criticism and unconventional empathy for white readers won Baldwin as much condemnation as praise. Notes is the book that established Baldwin’s voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin’s own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.

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    Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

    Notes of a Native Son

    5.0 hrs • 2/3/15 • Unabridged
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  13. 9.1 hrs • 1/19/2015 • Unabridged

    The dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom. More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America’s history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom. A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city’s major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North’s largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery. To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city’s free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city’s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood. Building on fresh evidence—including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York—Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring—full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage—and significant—the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by “practical abolition,” person by person, family by family.

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    Gateway to Freedom

    9.1 hrs • 1/19/15 • Unabridged
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  14. 16.7 hrs • 1/1/2015 • Unabridged

    Here is the myth-shattering exposé that reveals the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—shocking and controversial revelations from James Earl Ray’s attorney. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, and into his killer’s line of fire. One shot ended Dr. King’s life and forever changed the course of American history—setting into motion a massive cover-up that has withstood a quarter-century of scrutiny. After eighteen years of intensive investigation, William F. Pepper has torn away the veil of subterfuge that has hidden the truth surrounding King’s death—proving the innocence of convicted assassin James Earl Ray and revealing the evil conspiracy behind the murder of our nation’s greatest civil rights leader.

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    Orders to Kill by William F. Pepper

    Orders to Kill

    16.7 hrs • 1/1/15 • Unabridged
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  15. 19.8 hrs • 9/9/2014 • Unabridged

    In The Half Has Never Been Told, historian Edward E. Baptist reveals the alarming extent to which slavery shaped our country politically, morally, and most of all, economically. Until the Civil War, our chief form of innovation was slavery. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from their slaves, giving the country a virtual monopoly on the production of cotton, a key raw material of the Industrial Revolution. As Baptist argues, this frenzy of speculation and economic expansion transformed the United States into a modern capitalist nation. Based on thousands of slave narratives and plantation records, The Half Has Never Been Told offers not only a radical revision of the history of slavery but a disturbing new understanding of the origins of American power that compels listeners to reckon with the violence and subjugation at the root of American supremacy.

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    The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist

    The Half Has Never Been Told

    19.8 hrs • 9/9/14 • Unabridged
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  16. 13.8 hrs • 9/8/2014 • Unabridged

    Tomlinson Hill is the stunning story of two families—one white, one black—who trace their roots to a slave plantation that bears their name. Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name. LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders. A masterpiece of authentic American history, Tomlinson Hill traces the true and very revealing story of these two families. From the beginning in 1854—when the first Tomlinson, a white woman, arrived—to 2007, when the last Tomlinson, LaDainian’s father, left, the book unflinchingly explores the history of race and bigotry in Texas. Along the way it also manages to disclose a great many untruths that are latent in the unsettling and complex story of America. Tomlinson Hill is also the basis for a film and an interactive web project. The award-winning film, which airs on PBS, concentrates on present-day Marlin, Texas and how the community struggles with poverty and the legacy of race today, and is accompanied by an interactive website called Voices of Marlin, which stores the oral histories collected along the way. Chris Tomlinson has used the reporting skills he honed as a highly respected reporter covering ethnic violence in Africa and the Middle East to fashion a perfect microcosm of America’s own ethnic strife. The economic inequality, political shenanigans, cruelty and racism—both subtle and overt—that informs the history of Tomlinson Hill also live on in many ways to this very day in our country as a whole. The author has used his impressive credentials and honest humanity to create a classic work of American history that will take its place alongside the timeless work of our finest historians.

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    Tomlinson Hill

    13.8 hrs • 9/8/14 • Unabridged
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