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Good Reads for Black History Month

February 17, 2017 - 1:18pm -- jfuentes
Black History Month display at South Providence

February is Black History Month. This commemorative month provides an opportunity to highlight important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. We asked PCL librarians to recommend some books from the library collection that celebrate the achievements of black Americans and the importance of African Americans in U.S. history. 

Here are some of their picks:

Sing for Your Life : a Story of Race, Music, and Family by Daniel Bergner

This biography tells the story of a suspenseful, racially charged and artistically intricate journey from solitary confinement to stardom. Ryan Speedo Green had a tough upbringing in Virginia: his father was absent, his mother volatile. The family lived in a trailer park and later a bullet-riddled house across the street from drug dealers. At twelve, Ryan was sent to Virginia's juvenile facility of last resort, seemingly heading for a hopeless future. Then in 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera, beating out 1,200 other talented singers. Today, he has put his difficult past behind him and is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses.

To see a short CBS video about Ryan Speedo Green see
For a longer radio interview, click on this link:

Selected by Rod Burkett, Knight Memorial Library

Having Our Say: the Delany Sisters' First Hundred Years by Sarah L. Delany and A Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

This best-selling oral history tells the story of two remarkable centenarian sisters: Sadie (who died in 1999, age 109) and Bessie (who died in 1995, age 104) Their sharp memories recall the post-Reconstruction South and Booker T. Washington; Harlem's Golden Age and Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson. Bessie breaks barriers to become a dentist; Sadie quietly integrates the New York City system as a high school teacher. Warm, feisty, and intelligent, this book is at once a vital historical record and a moving portrait of two remarkable women who continued to love, laugh, and embrace life after over a hundred years of living side by side. 

For a short video of the sisters, click here:  (video contains occasional strong language),

Selected by Julie Sabourin, Fox Point Library

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

One of the most-notable novels ever written, the author captures the essence of a young man leaving university in the New South to pursue a better life in New York City only to find that the color-line makes him virtually invisible.  Forced to understand the twisted logic of bigotry and racial injustices of a White America reveal a deeply demoralizing culture and affect on the African American soul. Every word of the text is lyrical and readers will find The Invisible Man as poignant today as when first published in 1952.

Selected by Denise Brophy, Wanskuck Library

Harlem Stomp!: a Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill 

The Harlem Renaissance, comparable to an age of enlightenment, was the result of the migration of the most oppressed individuals in the United States. The newly established railway system to and from New Orleans, Harlem and Chicago brought together the most legendary artists, writers and musicians of American history, including the likes of Madam C. J. Walker, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas, Langston Hughs, Zora Neale Hurston, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. The ensuing intellectual and political movement is an awe-inspiring truth which deserves to be celebrated, and told again and again.

Selected by Denise Brophy, Wanskuck Library

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