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Still I Rise is a unique achievement, one that will be valuedlike Art Spiegelman's

Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Larry Gonick's A Cartoon History of the Universe

by students, educators, collectors, and general readers for a long time to come

 

 

Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African-Americans

By Roland Laird with Taneshia Nash Laird

Illustrated by Elihu “Adofo” Bay

Foreword by Charles Johnson

 

Book Review by Kam Williams

 

One of the invaluable features of Still I Rise, the first cartoon history of black America, is the wealth of information it provides about the marginalized—and often suppressed— political, economic and cultural contributions black people have made on this continent since the 17th C . . . Using pictures, it transports us back through time, enabling us to see how dependent American colonists were on the agricultural sophistication of African slaves and indentured servants; how blacks fought and died for freedom during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars; and how, in ways both small and large, black genius shaped the evolution of democracy, the arts and sciences, and the English language in America, despite staggering racial and social obstacles.

As a contribution to illustrated history from a black point of view, Still I Rise is a unique achievement, one that will be valued by students, educators, collectors and general readers for a long time to come. Excerpted from the Foreword (page viii)

One of the challenges of raising a child for African-American parents is that most history books are written from a Eurocentric perspective, and there isn’t enough time during Black History Month to undo the damage inflicted upon impressionable young minds the rest of the year. And it is easy to underestimate the cumulative toll exacted by semester after semester of syllabus suggesting that Africans were uncivilized heathens and thus deserving of their lot first as slaves and later as second-class citizens.

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is an excellent alternative to that conventional claptrap. However, Zinn’s politically-correct encyclopedia is almost 800 pages in length and thus not exactly easy reading. Another viable option is Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African-Americans by Roland and Taneshia Laird. Originally published by the couple a dozen years ago, the text has been updated to include recent developments, including the election of Barack Obama.

The book, which borrows its title from Maya Angelou’s most famous poem of the same name, covers a surprising amount of ground despite the copious illustrations. Warning, don’t deceive yourself into thinking it’s just for kids because of all the cartoons. To the contrary, it might actually be more for adults, given the subtlety of the humor and the sophistication of the salient points it endeavors to drive home.

Arranged in chronological order, the entries start with the Jamestown settlement and winds its way to the present, cleverly touching on everything from Nat Turner’s slave revolt to the Civil War and Emancipation to lynching and Jim Crow segregation to the Civil Rights Movement, the Million Man March and the Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency. An engaging, moving and informative means of unlearning and rectifying miseducating wrongs while being thoroughly entertained and even occasionally laughing out loud.

posted 31 January 2009 

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Other Reviews

Still I Rise is a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America, told in an accessible graphic-novel form. Updated from its original version—which ended with the Million Man March—it now extends from the early days of colonial slavery right through to Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. Compared by many to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Still I Rise is a breathtaking achievement that celebrates the collective African-American memory, imagination, and spirit.

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"As a contribution to illustrated history from a black point of view," writes National Book Award-winning author Charles Johnson in the foreword of this book, "Still I Rise is a unique achievement, one that will be valuedlike Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Larry Gonick's A Cartoon History of the Universeby students, educators, collectors, and general readers for a long time to come." Newly available in an updated edition, the compelling and irreverent graphic history that recounts the entire scope of the African-American experience, now concludes with Barack Obama's groundbreaking 2008 presidential candidacy.

Still I Rise traces the epic struggles and victories of African-Americans in the face of racist obstacles and unfathomable hardships over the course of four decades. It follows the rise of slavery; the Nat Turner Rebellion; the military contributions of African Americans; the influence of the Memphis Free Speech newspaper written by crusader Ida B. Wells; the Great Depression of 1929; the birth of modern integration; Freedom Summer; the emergence of a new philosophy called Black Power; the Million Man March; and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Cultural milestones can also be found in these pages: from the Harlem Renaissance and the publication of Invisible Man to heritage festivals and contemporary artists who illuminate the complexity of African-American life.

Heroic notables and visionaries are introduced: Frederick Douglass; Sojourner Truth; Madame C. J. Walker; Malcolm X; Martin Luther King Jr.; and many more. Lesser known luminaries are also featured, including Carter G. Woodson, who became the father of Black Studies in 1915 by starting the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, who started a one-woman campaign in 2000 demanding restitution from modern companies that played a direct role in enslaving African Americans.

The insightful text is sometimes acerbic, other times perceptively humorous, and always powerfully honest. Authors Roland Laird and Taneshia Nash Laird have supplemented their first-rate scholarship with a healthy dose of attitude. And illustrator Elihu "Adofo" Bey's artwork is both energetic and uncompromising.

Taking its title from a Maya Angelou poem, Still I Rise is a moving and inspirational account of the rich history of African Americans.

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Still I Rise is an amazingly condensed cartoon chronicle of African Americans . . . brings to life the struggles and triumphs of blacks in America . . . the Lairds have packed an epic quantity of information into this engaging, well-written volume.Entertainment Weekly

Still I Rise is a quick way to satisfy the hunger we have about who we are. I gave my young son Nyere a copy of Still I Rise. He came back with a head filled with history."—E. Ethelbert Miller, Howard University

This graphic history is funny, intelligent, deeply researched, and, well, graphic. Brilliantly so. It's not just the history of African-Americans; it's the African-American history of all Americans.Russell Banks, author of Rule of the Bone

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About the Author

Roland Laird, noted African-American entrepreneur,  is CEO of Posro Media, a Trenton, New Jersey-based convergent entertainment company specializing in African American culture. One of the country's first black-owned independent comic book companies in the early 1990s, Posro published the hip hop-infused comic book series MC Squared: A Man With a Serious Game Plan and syndicated a comic strip called The Griots. A native New Yorker whose high school English teacher was Pulitzer Prize-winner Frank McCourt, Roland has degrees from Brown University and the New York Institute of Technology.

Taneshia Nash Laird, co-founder of Posro Media, is an urban revitalization professional. In 2006, the Network Journal magazine honored her as one of "Forty Under 40" for her achievements in business and outstanding community service. Two years later, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Taneshia to the Urban Enterprise Zone Authority.

Elihu "Adofo" Bey is a freelance commercial and comic-book artist based in Atlanta. In addition to drawing The Griots strip and the debut issue of MC Squared, Adofo has illustrated album covers and CD booklets for top-selling recording artists.

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Arson and Cold Grace,

or How I Yearn to Burn Baby, Burn

 

                                                                                 By Worth Long

 

We have found you out, four face Americas, we have found you out.

We have found you out, false faced farmers, we have found you out.

The sparks of suspicion are melting your waters

And waters can’t drown them, the fires are burning

And firemen can’t calm them with falsely appeasing

And preachers can’t pray with hopes for deceiving

Nor leaders deliver a lecture on losing

Nor teachers inform them the chosen are choosing

For now is the fire and fires won’t answer

To logical reason and hopefully seeming

Hot flames must devour the kneeling and feeling

And torture the masters whose idiot pleading

Get lost in the echoes of dancing and bleeding.

We have found you out, four faced farmers, we have found you out.

We have found you out, four faced America, we have found you out.

Source: To Free a Generation: The Dialectics of Liberation, edited by David Cooper. London: Collier Books, 1969.

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Stokely Speaks; Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism

By Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Standiford Churchill Carmichael—(June 29, 1941 - November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced "Snick") and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party. Initially an integrationist, Carmichael later became affiliated with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements. He popularized the term "Black Power."

In 1965, working as an SNCC activist in Lowndes County, Alabama, Carmichael helped to increase the number of registered black voters from 70 to 2,60 — 300 more than the number of registered white voters.

Black residents and voters organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a party that had the black panther as its mascot, over the white dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot was a white rooster. Although black residents and voters outnumber whites in Lowndes, they lost the county wide election of 1965.

Carmichael became chairman of SNCC later in 1966, taking over from John Lewis. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James Meredith was attacked with a shotgun during his solitary "March Against Fear". Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers, and others to continue Meredith's march. He was arrested once again during the march and, upon his release, he gave his first "Black Power" speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence:

"It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations."

While Black Power was not a new concept, Carmichael's speech brought it into the spotlight and it became a rallying cry for young African Americans across the country. According to Stokely Carmichael : "Black Power meant black people coming together to form a political force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives to speak their needs [rather than relying on established parties]. Heavily influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon and his landmark book Wretched of the Earth, along with others such as Malcolm X, under Carmichael's leadership SNCC gradually became more radical and focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology. This became most evident during the controversial Atlanta Project in 1966.

SNCC, under the local leadership of Bill Ware, engaged in a voter drive to promote the candidacy of Julian Bond for the Georgia State Legislature in an Atlanta district. However, unlike previous SNCC activities—like the 1961 Freedom Rides or the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer — Ware excluded Northern white SNCC members from the drive. Initially, Carmichael opposed this move and voted it down, but he eventually changed his mind. When, at the urging of the Atlanta Project, the issue of whites in SNCC came up for a vote, Carmichael ultimately sided with those calling for the expulsion of whites, reportedly to encourage whites to begin organizing poor white southern communities while SNCC would continue to focus on promoting African American self reliance through Black Power.

Carmichael saw nonviolence as a tactic as opposed to a principle, which separated him from moderate civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.. Carmichael became critical of civil rights leaders who simply called for the integration of African Americans into existing institutions of the middle class mainstream.

Stokely Carmichael—Black Power Speech

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African Revolutions

                                By  Mukoma wa Ngugi

Her womb pressed against the desert to bear the parasite

that eats her insides like termites drill into dry wood. 

He is born into an empty bowl, fist choking umbilical cord. 

She dies sighing, child son at last.  He couldn't have known,

 

instinct told him - always raise your arm in defense of your

own -Strike! Strike until they are all dead! Egg shells

in your hands milk bottle held between your toes,

you have been anointed twice, you strong enough to kill

 

at birth and survive.  You will want to name the world

after yourself but you will have no name- a collage of dead

roots, tongues and other things.  You will point your sword

to the center of the earth, duel the world to split into perfect

 

mirrors after your imperfect  mutations but you will be

too weak having latched your self onto too many streams

straddling too many continents, pulling patches of a self

as one does fruits from an from an orchard, building a home

 

of planks with many faces. How does one look into a mirror

with a face that washes clean every rainy season? 

He has an identity for every occasion - here he is Lenin

 there Jesus and yesterday Marx - inflexible truths inherited

 

without roots.  To be nothing to remain nothing, to kill

at birth - such love can only drink from our wrists.  We

storming from our past to Jo'Burg eating wisdom of others

building homes made of our grandparent's bones.  We

 

gathering momentum that eats out of our earth, We standing

pens and bullets hurled at you, your enemies.  Comrade, there

are many ways to die. A dog dies never having known

why it lived but a free death belongs to a life lived in roots,

 

roots not afraid of growing where they stand, roots tapped all over

the earth. Comrade, for a tree to grow, it must first own its earth.

Source: Zeleza

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The Slave Ship

By Marcus Rediker

Guarding the Flame of Life / Strange Fruit Lynching Report

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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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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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 / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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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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update 24 February 2012

 

 

 

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