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“My mother and grandmother were great liars. Whether it was telling us that drinking cod

liver oil would make us swim like fishes or swearing that if we were bad, we would be

sold to the gypsies, both of them knew the power of prevarication.

 

 

Books by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Daughters of the Diaspora: Afra-Hispanic Writers (2003  / Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon (1999)

  The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995) / Erotique Noire/Black Erotica  (1992) / Homespun Images ( 1989)  /  Notable Black Memphians (2008)

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The Life and Legacy of Beautine Hubert DeCosta-Lee

Obituary by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

 

Beautine was born into a familythe Huberts of Georgiawho  placed a premium on education. Her mother, Lillie Ophelia, a Spelman College graduate, was an elementary school teacher and principal; and her father, John Wesley, a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago, was a college professor and principal of Cuyler Junior High School. Although they were unlettered former slaves, her paternal grandparents, Camilla and Zacharias Hubert, sent their twelve children to college, and two of them became college presidents; and her maternal grandfather, Reverend Willis L. Jones, published a book, Travel in Egypt and Scenes of Jerusalem, about his trip to the Holy Land.

With such a family legacy, Beautine became a highly educated social worker, college professor, and school administrator, who, over a forty-year career, taught at Alabama and South Carolina State Colleges, was a case worker with the Baltimore City Schools, and retired, in 1978, as Regional Specialist of Pupil Personnel Services.

Born in Hancock County, Georgia, on January 30, 1913, she grew up in Savannah and, in 1930, graduated as salutatorian from Spelman High School in Atlanta. Three years later, she received a bachelor’s degree at the top of her class from Savannah State College, where her uncle, Benjamin Hubert, was president, and, the next fall, she began graduate study at Atlanta University. It was there that she met another graduate student, Frank A. DeCosta, who was valedictorian of his class at Lincoln University and who would later receive an M. A. degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

After their 1934 marriage and the births of their two children, Beautine completed a master’s degree in social work and did post-graduate work at the Wharton School of Finance and at Columbia, Stanford, Tulane, and Chicago Universities. The DeCostas instilled in their children the same love of learning: their son earned a law degree from Howard University and eventually joined the staff of the vice president of the United States, and their daughter was the first African American to complete a doctorate at The Johns Hopkins University.

Beautine was a woman who held up the sky . . . for her family and hundreds of friends. She looked up neglected kinfolk, wrote long letters to her grandchildren, took half-dead plants to neighbors, sent off-color jokes to loved ones, drew her own Christmas cards, kept every letter that Frank wrote her from 1934 to 1967, was a walking-talking historian who never threw anything away, and regaled her tribe with hilarious tales of life with the Huberts. She was a gifted writer, one of whose stories begins: “My mother and grandmother were great liars. Whether it was telling us that drinking cod liver oil would make us swim like fishes or swearing that if we were bad, we would be sold to the gypsies, both of them knew the power of prevarication.”

She was also a classy, adventurous, and free-spirited lady, who traveled all over the world, from Haiti to Brazil, and Egypt to Portugal. When Frank was on assignment with the U. S. Department of State in Kaduna, Nigeria in 1962-63, she taught English to Hausa women, volunteered with the Nigerian Red Cross, and organized the International Women’s Club. An outgoing people-lover, she specialized in bringing people together, like the Muslims, Christians, British, Indians, and Fulani in Kadunaall of whom raved about her winning ways and, especially, her okra/tomato gumbo. She was also a political and civil rights activist, who belonged to the League of Women Voters, addressed the state legislature, campaigned for political candidates, and supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott, getting up early every morning to take workers to their jobs.

Four years after the 1972 death of her husband, Beautine DeCosta married Major Richard “Dick” Lee, a Baltimore school administrator, who died in 1998. In the 1990s, she also lost her son, Atty. Frank A. DeCosta; her granddaughter, Senora DeCosta; her sister, Ophelia Taylor; and, more recently, her brother, Lieutenant Colonel Willis J. Hubert. Survivors include a daughter, Dr. Miriam DeCosta-Willis; sister, Mamie E. Russell; six grandchildren, Judge Tarik Sugarmon, Elena Williams, Atty./Dr. Frank A. DeCosta, III, Erika McClure, Monique Sugarmon, and John DeCosta; nine great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Miriam DeCosta-Willis, author and college professor, was born 1 November 1934, in Florence, Alabama. She received her B.A. at Wellesley College in 1956; her M.A. Johns Hopkins in 1960; her Ph.D. Johns Hopkins in 1967 in Romance Languages. In 1967 she joined the faculty of Memphis State University as the first African American member, and while there agitated for more black staff members. When King was assassinated in 1968 she was in the march that erupted into violence and the police used mace on her.

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Notable Black Memphians by Miriam DeCosta-WillisThis biographical and historical study by Miriam DeCosta-Willis (PhD, Johns Hopkins University and the first African American faculty member of Memphis State University) traces the evolution of a major Southern city through the lives of men and women who overcame social and economic barriers to create artistic works, found institutions, and obtain leadership positions that enabled them to shape their community. Documenting the accomplishments of Memphians who were born between 1795 and 1972, it contains photographs and biographical sketches of 223 individuals (as well as brief notes on 122 others), such as musicians Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin, activists Ida B. Wells and Benjamin L. Hooks, politicians Harold Ford Sr. and Jr., writers Sutton Griggs and Jerome Eric Dickey, and Bishop Charles Mason and Archbishop James Lyke—all of whom were born in Memphis or lived in the city for over a decade. . .  .

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The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword by Dorothy Sterling

DeCosta-Willis makes it possible to look back in a new way into the character of wells, and, more than that, into the daily life of African-Americans a century ago.— Chicago Tribune

 

Wells and DeCosta-Willis join together across time in a scholarly collaborative dance of sisterhood to produce a work that not only holds an insightful mirror to the past, but could be used as a guidepost for African-American and other women today in living totally self-defined lives.—Tri-State Defender

 

A unique look at the life o an independent, unmarried African-American woman coping with financial hardships, romantic entanglements, sexism, and racism . . . A substantial contribution to African-American Studies—Publisher Weekly

 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

By John D'Emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America's consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D'Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin's intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, "You were capable of making the 'mistake' of thinking that you could be the leader in a revolution...at the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification."

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Word, Image, and the New Negro

By Anne Carroll

The author's analysis of how the illustrations amplify and create tension with the writing and how they empower and sometimes disempower their subjects is the first critical work in this important area. Generously illustrated. Highly recommended.— Choice

In tracing the formation of the idea of the New Negro through the vital interplay of literature, art, and social criticism, Word, Image, and the New Negro makes a superb contribution to scholarship on the Harlem Renaissance, the history of African American publishing, and modern American culture.—Eric J. Sundquist, author of To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 19 December 2008 

 

 

 

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