Black Genius and the American Experience

Overview

Black Genius explores the historical roots and contemporary exemplars of black achievement in America. Interweaving past and present, Dick Russell emphasizes the importance of the traditions that nurtured black artists, scientists, intellectuals, physicians, and spiritual leaders. The author's interviews with numerous remarkable individuals, the well-known and the overlooked, offer a deeply personal and inspiring message through their own unique voices. We see how they were encouraged by mentors and families, how...
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Overview

Black Genius explores the historical roots and contemporary exemplars of black achievement in America. Interweaving past and present, Dick Russell emphasizes the importance of the traditions that nurtured black artists, scientists, intellectuals, physicians, and spiritual leaders. The author's interviews with numerous remarkable individuals, the well-known and the overlooked, offer a deeply personal and inspiring message through their own unique voices. We see how they were encouraged by mentors and families, how the creative tradition was passed form one generation to the next. This great theme of interconnectedness is played out, for example in the relationship between Wynton Marsalis and the venerable author Albert Murray. His education of Marsalis links to not only Lois Armstrong and Duke Ellington, but also to Ralph Ellison and the artist Romare Bearden. In addition to these prominent American figures, Russell brings to light men and women whose reputations have not received due recognition, and whose courage and achievements are also a beacon to aspire towards.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Seeking to provide inspiration for his biracial son, Russell (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Carroll & Graf, 1992) delves here into the roots of achievement by African Americans. From research and interviews with many of his subjects, Russell successfully explores the interconnectedness of influences across generations and ties together his overarching themes: "family and intergenerational continuity, spirituality and diligence, activism and struggle." He focuses on 24 men and nine women, some well known and many lesser knownamong them Duke Ellington, Romare Bearden, Ralph Ellison, Cheryl McAfee, Paul Robeson, Gordon Parks, Cornel West, Toni Morrison, Bob Moses, Elma Lewis, and Albert Murrayin a refreshingly atypical narrative style of juxtapositions rather than linearity. With recommended readings and notes on sources; an essential purchase for African American studies collections in public and academic libraries.Susan Hamburger Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs. Univ. Park
Kirkus Reviews
Though well meaning, Russell's intended trove of biographical essays about important and inspiring African-Americans sounds an annoyingly simplistic, jingoistic rah-rah for people (Duke Ellington, Bob Moses) who deserve much better. The former TV Guide staffer just doesnþt offer sophisticated analysis. Instead, he offers ritualistic kudos directed, perhaps, to the perpetually innocent white consumer. Russell has an irritating habit of collecting profuse quotes from a fascinating elect (Cornel West, Toni Morrison) that we have heard before but usually in better-framed, more eloquent sentences. His observations are lackluster (in West's Harvard University office, "books lay stacked everywhereþhorizontally, vertically, diagonally"). Russell does lay out the basic information about his 33 subjects, well-known and lesser-known (such as sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller and arts educator Elma Lewis). Yet neither individually nor cumulatively do these portraits approach an elucidation of genius in general, or of black genius in particular. This is a shame, since an intelligent biographical look at the African-American heritage for the general reader is long overdue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786704552
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/24/1997
  • Edition description: 1 CARROLL
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction: Bearing Witness 1
Pt. 1 A Certain Heritage 11
1 Ancestors - Ellington's Mentor: Will Marion Cook 13
2 Albert Murray and Louis Armstrong 22
3 The Craft of Ralph Ellison 37
4 From Duke Ellington to Wynton Marsalis 50
5 Variations on a Theme: Romare Bearden, Artist 70
Pt. 2 Creation under Fire 81
6 Ancestors - Meta Warrick Fuller, Sculptor 83
7 The Painters: Lois Mailou Jones and Jacob Lawrence 89
8 All the World's Their Stage: Paul Robeson and Ira Aldridge 115
9 Gordon Parks: A Lens on Humanity 141
10 Ancestors - Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator 169
11 A Teacher's Mission: Elma Lewis 177
12 The Philosophers: Cornel West and the Du Bois/Locke Legacy 200
13 Toni Morrison: Nobel Prize for Literature 227
14 Timeless Voices, Parallel Realities: James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass 247
Pt. 3 Builders of America: Science, Invention, Mathematics and Architecture 287
15 Ancestors - Lewis Latimer and the Early Black Inventors 289
16 The Laser Physicist and the Computer Wizard: Earl and Alan Shaw 306
17 Bob Moses and the Algebra Project 326
18 Ancestors - The Astronomer/Surveyor: Benjamin Banneker 344
19 The Architects: Charles and Cheryl McAfee 355
Pt. 4 Healers of Body and Spirit 373
20 Ancestors - The Physicians: Louis Tompkins Wright and Jane Cooke Wright 375
21 Byllye Avery and the National Black Women's Health Project 389
22 Ancestors - Sojourner Truth and the Nineteenth-Century Visionaries 406
23 Howard Thurman, Benjamin Mays, and the Martin Luther King Legacy 421
Acknowledgments 451
Notes on Sources 455
Selected Bibliography 475
Index 481
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