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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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