20 University Press Books for Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, PUP has chosen twenty of the most relevant, intriguing books published by university presses, ranging from poetry to prose, modern critiques to historical accounts. Included are recent PUP titles, Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones, The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros by Galawdewos. Don’t miss the links to these titles’ design stories on our Tumblr design blog.

1. We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul & Steven Moss (University of Texas Press)

We could not fail

2. Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda E. Lewis & John B. Diamond (Oxford University Press)

despite the best intentions

3. Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis (Northwestern University Press)

forest primeval jacket

4. Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America by J. Lorand Matory (University of Chicago Press)

stigma and culture

5. The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Princeton University Press)

Check out a video of spreads from The Notebooks.

The Notebooks jacket

6. Thin Description:Ethnography and the African Hebrew Isrealites of Jerusalem by John L. Jackson, Jr (Harvard University Press)

Thin Description jacket

7. Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding to “The Town of George” in 1751 to the Present Day
by Kathleen Menzie Lesko, Valerie Babb, and Carroll R. Gibbs (Georgetown University Press)

black georgetown remembered

8. Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conception of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society by John A. Powell (Indiana University Press)

Racing to Justice

9. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical by Sherie M. Randolph (University of North Carolina Press)

Florence "Flo" Kennedy

10. Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley (University of Washington Press)

Black women in sequence jacket

11. Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind by Osagie K. Obasogie (Stanford University Press)

Blinded by sight jacket

12. Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard (University of California Press)

Better git it in your soul jacket

13. African American Slang: A Linguistic Description by Maciej Widawski (Cambridge University Press)

African American Slang

14. Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White by Sarah Gilbreath Ford (University of Alabama Press)

tracing southern storytelling in black and white jacket

15. Fly Away by Peter M. Rutkoff and William B. Scott (John Hopkins University Press)

fly away

16. The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman by Galawdewos (Princeton University Press)

The Life and Struggle of Our Mother Walatta Petros jacket

17. The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City by Eric Avila (University of Minnesota Press)

Folklore of the Freeway

18. Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry by Tiffany M. Gill (University of Illinois Press)

Beauty shop politics

19. Walking from the Dream: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David L. Chappell (Duke University Press)

waking from the dream

20. Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones (Princeton University Press)

Read more about the design process of Story/Time.


2015 Black History Month Reading List

We are about halfway into the month of February and well into the celebration of Black History Month. Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a commemorative theme, and this year’s is “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.” To learn more, click, here. In recognition of Black History Month, we’ve curated a must-read book list. Several of our titles have been receiving attention in the press of late, including in this Atlantic piece by Theodore R. Johnson on Leah Wright Rigueur’s new book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, and in this feature in Raw Story (via The Guardian) on F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature.  You can check out the first chapter of each book in our reading list linked below.



F.B. Eyes:
How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature

William J. Maxwell


bookjacket The Hero’s Fight:
African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State

Patricia Fernández-Kelly



The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics

Marie Gottschalk



Sea of Storms:
A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina

Stuart B. Schwartz



The Loneliness of the Black Republican:
Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power

Leah Wright Rigueur


Elizabeth Alexander to deliver the first half of The Toni Morrison Lectures today, 5:30 PM, at Princeton University

Alexander-Poster_web-image[1]Toni Morrison Lectures

“The Idea of Ancestry” in Contemporary Black Art

by Professor Elizabeth Alexander

“A Voice from the Nondead Past”:   Rethinking Lucille Clifton
April 24, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Wallace Hall, Room 300 (Please Note This is a New Location)

The recent posthumous publication of the collected poems of Lucille Clifton, and the acquisition of her archive by Emory University provide the opportunity to consider the work of this great American poet in its full dimension.    This talk will reframe her ouvre and focus specifically on the philosophical underpinnings of poems that speak across the porous scrim between life and death that is a premised understanding of Clifton’s work.


“Don’t Forget to Feed the Loas:” Near Ancestry in Contemporary Black Arts
April 25, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture (Please Note This is a New Location)

This talk will focus on the work of recently-deceased Eritrean-American painter Ficre Ghebreyesus and the painterly language of   “near-ancestry” in his and other black diaspora art.   Developing Etheridge Knight’s phrase “the idea of ancestry,” the talk will also look to the dances of Bill T. Jones and the work of Anna Deavere Smith and other art that speaks to intimate proximity to death and the ancestral imperative in black art.

Click here to watch the lectures via a live webcast through Princeton University’s website. The live webcast will start 10 minutes before the beginning of each lecture.

We will also be hosting a live “tweet-up” for this lecture. Follow the lecture on twitter at www.twitter.com/princetoncaas

Matthew Briones with Cornel West on C-Span

With recent immigration debates and events such as the Trayvon Martin case triggering racial anxieties,  Matthew Briones, author of Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America has been speaking out about the undiscussed and potential alliances between Asian Americans and Latina/os. Recently he spoke at the Hue Man bookstore in Harlem with his friend Cornel West about race relations and the coming election, as well as his book, which follows the life of Charles Kikuchi, a Japanese American who was sent to an internment camp alongside 100,000 other Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The event drew a very engaged crowd, and was featured on Book TV this past weekend. Check out their conversation on C-Span’s site here, and their passionate post on this election year in interracial America for our Election 101 blog here.

Cornel West and Matthew Briones talk election year in interracial America

Recently Matthew Briones, author of Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America, collaborated with esteemed Princeton scholar Cornel West on an essay for our Election 101 forum discussing this election year in interracial America. The interaction of racial and ethnic groups, particularly the  alliances between Asian Americans and African Americans, has been understudied in the US, and many actually see the two groups as pitted against one another. Read on to hear their arguments for the importance of interracial coalitions, not only in the 1940s, but especially now as we head into the election season.


“…there’s a train a-comin'”

Cornel West and Matthew Briones


As this election season envelops the nation, we have already witnessed the Republican Party pivot within a nasty primary from a usually disciplined election-year message to an array of cultural war “greatest hits,” including assaults on women’s rights and their bodies, contraception, and personhood amendments.  Meanwhile, an increasing number of state legislatures have eviscerated the few benefits workers deserve these days, quashing unions (under 12% participation nationwide) and proclaiming themselves right-to-work states (23 and counting).  In Benton Harbor, Michigan, an expanded state law permitted an unelected emergency manager to overrule and disband the duly elected city council and commissioners under the guise of fiscal discipline.  The authoritarian power grab obviated the rights and franchise of thousands of citizens, predominantly African American (90%), while this manager saw fit to prioritize the building of a sprawling new golf course (for its predominantly white [92%] and wealthier sister-city, St. Joseph) with nary a concern over poverty in the area.  In sum, we’ve experienced an unabashed assault on women, workers, African Americans, and the poor in the past year, and the best our mainstream media can provide is whether or not Snooki is pregnant.

With the publication of Matt’s new book, Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America, we wanted to recapture the gaze of concerned citizens and freedom fighters alike, to bear witness to the new “Jim and Jap Crow” taking place in 2012 interracial America.  First and foremost, readers of all colors should be extremely concerned over the insidious (but familiar) practice of voter suppression laws wending their way through state legislatures.  Some of these measures include eliminating same-day registration, limiting the timeframe for early voting, making it more difficult for ex-felons to vote, and most significantly, requiring government-issued identification cards or other similar photo ID documents.  These acts blatantly overburden the poor, college students, workers, and people of color—all of whom comprise the traditional foundation of the Democratic Party electorate.  According to Harvard legal scholar Alexander Keyssar, “[B]eefed-up ID requirements have passed in more than a dozen states since 2005 and are still being considered in more than 20 others.”  As the civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis penned in the New York Times on the eve of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, these 21st-century schemes are little more than “A Poll Tax by Another Name.”

On an intertwined subject, the Associated Press most recently revealed to us its 2012 corollary of “Jap Crow,” through their reportage on the NYPD’s systematic surveillance of Muslims in Newark, New Jersey, and college students of Muslim faith across the Northeast.  In a sad but not unexpected twist of partisan politics, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (R) has loudly denounced the practice, along with Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), while Democratic senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) have defiantly justified the NYPD tactic.  Hence, nearly seventy years to the day that Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942), which unconstitutionally incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast in the racialized hysteria of World War II, the AP issued an update on its ongoing investigation of America’s spying on its own citizens of color.  As one tragicomic example, they reported that an undercover policeman posed as a student to accompany a Muslim students’ organization from the City College of New York on a white-water rafting trip upstate.  Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the trip, remarked, “There’s nothing to say really about the trip, except that it was a group of Muslims.”  According to Rasul, in retrospect, the spy’s intentions now appear quite obvious: “What makes us think that we know who it was is that he was an older person, nobody saw him taking classes even though he said he was taking engineering classes. He said he had a job but somehow he was available for all the trips.”  Rasul has since admitted that he now constantly updates his Facebook status, in order to provide complete transparency for Big Brother eyes he knows are watching him.  While the federal government has not rounded up over 100,000 Americans and imprisoned them behind barbed wire as it overtly did seventy years ago, its deafening silence over the covert activity of the NYPD demonstrates that government no longer needs physical barbed wire to virtually corral and monitor Muslim Americans whom they believe prima facie are terrorists-in-the making.  The systematic oppression signified by “Jap Crow” in the 1940s has simply transmuted into its Orientalist cousin of the 21st century.

Of course, in this tragicomic phase of America culture, when it seems the plutocrats scoffing at the 99% have won the day, and the weight of simply living as “everyday people” has crushed us, as we pay our debts, feed our children, keep our neighborhoods safe, and maintain our dignity, we also bear witness to the courageous acts of resistance and protest evidenced by the Occupy Movement, promising a spring revival of its own, in many ways a humble tribute to the Arab Spring of last year.  The Right, lobbyists on K Street, and even those surfeited on Pennsylvania Avenue will be surprised when May Day draws immigrant workers of all colors—Asian brothers and sisters from Chinatown, Latina/o brothers and sisters from Boyle Heights to Queens, and proud Black brothers and sisters from Chicago to Tulsa.  They will take pause when they see members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe in Hayward, Wisconsin, military veterans in Akron, Ohio, workers at the DC Central Kitchen, and coal miners in West Virgina banding together, standing up and protesting, “Enough!  Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  And our collective fight must be waged—not only through the power of our franchise at the ballot box, but also through the strength of our voices and footfalls in the streets.  People, get ready.

Matthew M. Briones is assistant professor of American history and the College at the University of Chicago.

Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton and, in June 2012, he will return to the site of his first teaching post at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.  A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Dr. West also earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton.  A consummate teacher and mentor, Dr. West is best known for his New York Times Bestseller Race Matters (1993) and The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (1989).  He co-hosts a weekly discussion with Tavis Smiley on Public Radio International (PRI), while the two have most recently collaborated on The Rich and The Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto (2012).


“The Indignant Generation” wins the 2012 BCALA Literary Award

Congratulations to Lawrence P. Jackson, whose book The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 has won the 2012 BCALA Literary Award in the Nonfiction Category. This award recognizes excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2011. According to the BCALA press release:

“The Indignant Generation is a fascinating exploration of the development of African American literature after the Harlem Renaissance to the modern day Civil Rights Movement. Lawrence P. Jackson offers readers rare insights into the lives of key players who contributed to the breadth of writing that flourished between 1934 and 1960. From Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes to James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, Jackson highlights the unique challenges faced by the writers during the time of the Great Depression, Jim Crow, World War II and the Cold War. Dozens of illustrations and photographs enhance this stunning work that celebrates African American artistic and intellectual achievement in writing. Professor Jackson teaches English and African American Studies at Emory University.”


“The Indignant Generation” wins William Sanders Scarborough Prize, is finalist for the 2011 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

Congratulations to Lawrence P. Jackson, whose book The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960 is picking up accolades left and right. The book has won the 2011 William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the Modern Language Association, which recognizes “an outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture.”

“In this magisterial narrative history of African American literature running from the end of the Harlem Renaissance to the beginning of the civil rights period, Lawrence P. Jackson expands the archive for assessing African American writing during a period that has often been reduced to protest writing. Jackson places writers into fresh contexts of cohorts (critics and editors included) and threads a clear narrative line through three heady decades jam-packed with African American authors publishing in a variety of genres and venues. Jackson is excellent on the important influence of the Communist Party, on mid-twentieth-century black literary culture, and on issues of publishing and reception. Beautifully written and rich in historical detail, The Indignant Generation should quickly become a standard work in twentieth-century African American studies and United States publishing history.”

Jackson’s work is also a finalist for the 2011 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction, from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

 “The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award™ is the first national award presented to published writers of African descent by the national community of Black writers. This award consists of prizes for the highest quality writing in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry.”


Create Dangerously is the One Book, One Philadelphia selection

Edwidge Danticat’s collection of essays, Create Dangerously, originally published in cloth by PUP and now in paperback by Vintage, has been selected for the One Book, One Philadelphia reading program. What this means is that the Free Library of Philadelphia is encouraging all Philadelphians (Is that what they are called?) to read the book and will sponsor a series of events — readings, lectures, film screenings — to foster a dialogue around the issues in the book.

Create Dangerously is a beautiful, moving book that presents Edwidge’s thoughts on what it means to be a writer; what it means to be an immigrant writer; and what it means to be an immigrant writer, writing outside of your homeland. I love the title of this article announcing the selection: “Creating dangerously, reading collectively”, as it really captures one of the themes in the book: an author may write at their own peril in order to bring important ideas about human rights to a global audience.

While I know many will pick up the paperback for economic reasons, I hope some people will opt to purchase the hardback edition. It is such an elegant and provocative package — with a printed case and a little slip of a dust jacket that is hand-printed — that it would be a lovely addition to anyone’s personal library (especially since it can be found on some online retailers for a mere $3-$4 more than the paperback!).

Edwidge Danticat on Creating Dangerously

In recent weeks, we’ve had tremendous good news. Not only has Create Dangerously won OCM Bocas Prize for Nonfiction, but author Edwidge Danticat was announced as the winner of the Harold Washington Literary Award joining earlier winners like Barbara Ehrenreich (2010), Walter Mosley (2007), Grace Paley (2002), Isabel Allende (1996), and Ralph Ellison (1992). This is an amazing honor and we extend our congratulations to Edwidge!

Edwidge Danticat at the Cambridge Forum

I don’t know how I missed this video before today, as this was taped in November. It’s still worth a watch now:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

The American Crawl reads “Create Dangerously”

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Create Dangerously yet, now’s a great time. The American Crawl is reading the book over the next few weeks and you can follow along in sort of a virtual book club.

If you want to get a jump start, try watching this video interview with GritTV:

More GRITtv


BOOK FACT: African American fraternal orders waged legal fights to defend their right to exist—fights that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where African Americans ultimately prevailed. Involving some of the lawyers who later went on to work with the NAACP, this struggle won some of the major victories in the quest for equal civil rights in America.

What a Mighty Power We Can Be:
African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality

By Theda Skocpol, Ariane Liazos, & Marshall Ganz

The authors demonstrate how African American fraternal groups played key roles in the struggle for civil rights and racial integration.

From the nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, millions of American men and women participated in fraternal associations–self-selecting brotherhoods and sisterhoods that provided aid to members, enacted group rituals, and engaged in community service. Even more than whites did, African Americans embraced this type of association; indeed, fraternal lodges rivaled churches as centers of black community life in cities, towns, and rural areas alike. Using an unprecedented variety of secondary and primary sources–including old documents, pictures, and ribbon-badges found in eBay auctions–this book tells the story of the most visible African American fraternal associations.

We invite you to read chapter one online: