A well-researched history of frustrations, defiance, and bold dreams—good for movie buffs and civil rights historians alike.

COLORIZATION

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF BLACK FILMS IN A WHITE WORLD

A chronicle of the long struggle for Black Americans to matter in movies.

Drawing on interviews with directors, actors, producers, and screenwriters, as well as published and archival sources, journalist, biographer, and Guggenheim fellow Haygood creates an encyclopedic history of Blacks’ film presence, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s scandalous epic, The Birth of a Nation. Aired in Woodrow Wilson’s White House in 1915, the movie, based on a novel about the Ku Klux Klan, soon attracted more than 25 million viewers nationwide, inciting vociferous protests among Blacks. A few years later, the enterprising farmer Oscar Micheaux offered a stark counterpoint to Griffith’s movie when he filmed The Homesteader, based on his own life. Micheaux went on to produce many other movies, casting Paul Robeson in one and, in 1930, adding talking pictures. Other movies, though, depicted Blacks in the stereotypical roles—e.g., servants and maids—that would persist for decades; between 1903 and 1927, for example, nine films were made of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 1939, Hattie McDaniel—who already had appeared in more than a dozen films—was cast as Mammy in Gone With the Wind and won an Oscar. Unfortunately, her career stagnated afterward for lack of roles. Haygood provides intriguing capsule biographies of each of his large cast of characters, including superstars Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Denzel Washington; directors Gordon Parks, Melvin Van Peebles, Steve McQueen, Jordan Peele, and Spike Lee; and groundbreaking actors Lena Horne, Diana Sands, Diana Ross, and Cicely Tyson. Many were nominated for Oscars only to lose out to their White colleagues. Other episodes from the entertainment world include scandals that erupted over interracial love affairs; George Gershwin’s tireless efforts to stage Porgy and Bess; the advent of Black action heroes in the 1970s; and incremental visibility over the years. In 1949, four movies dealt with anti-Black racism; in 1977, Roots became “the most watched TV miniseries of all time.”

A well-researched history of frustrations, defiance, and bold dreams—good for movie buffs and civil rights historians alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65687-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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