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The new book "400 Souls" is a unique one volume community history of African Americans. The editors Ibram X. Kendi and Keyshia Blaine have assembled 90 brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five year period of that 400 year span.

The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives. Through the eyes of towering historical icons are the untold stories of ordinary people through places laws and objects.

We aired a portion of this interview today in memoriam. 

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis died on Friday, July 17, 2020. He was 80 years old. 

One of the original 13 Freedom Riders and an eye-witness to many momentous and historic occasions in the last 50+ years of working in public service, Lewis was the son of sharecroppers; he survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama; and became a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime US congressman. In 2012, Joe Donahue spoke with him in about his book "Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change." 

In celebration of Black History Month, the Palace Theatre in Albany will be presenting an evening of art, music and spoken word by some of the most talented Black artists in the Capital Region.

The Black History Month Celebration on Sunday night at 6 p.m. is a free show and open to all to attend. Music will be provided by DJ Trumastr and there will be a special performances by the Black Upstate Theatre Troupe.

To tell us more we welcome Palace Theatre Director of Community Engagement and Signature Events Karen Dyer, Palace Theatre Director of Marketing Sean Allen, and local actor, director, playwright performing at the Black History Month Celebration, Aaron Moore.

Studio Harcourt / wikimedia.org

The New York Times describes Charles Burnett as “the nation’s least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director.” On Tuesday, he speaks with fellow filmmakers Julie Dash and Bradford Young at Bard College as a part of the school’s “Creative Process in Dialogue: Art and the Public Today” series. Burnett – director of films like Killer Of Sheep and The Glass Shield – was deeply involved in the UCLA film school’s L.A. Rebellion film movement, an explosion of African-American films from the 1960’s to the 1980’s addressing social issues. He spoke with WAMC about what role he feels film plays in contemporary American life.

In "All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard - Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy," Phil Keith and Tom Clavin share the story of Eugene Bullard; the first African American military pilot, who went on to become a Paris nightclub impresario, a spy in the French Resistance and an American civil rights pioneer.

Tom Clavin joined us.

When Lawrence Jackson took the job as White House photographer in early 2009, he knew he’d have a front row seat to history. What he didn’t expect was the deep personal connection he would feel, as a fellow African American, with the President Barack Obama.

Lawrence was the only African-American photographer in the Obama White House, which gave him a unique perspective on the first African-American President. In his new book, "Yes We Did: Photos and Behind-the-Scenes Stories Celebrating Our First African American President," Lawrence’s photos and reflections give us a front row seat to this historic administration.

Book Cover - Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Steve Luxenberg is the author of "Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation" and the critically acclaimed "Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret." During his thirty years as a Washington Post senior editor, he has overseen reporting that has earned numerous national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first. "Separate" spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours: race and equality.

Award-winning author Mitchell Jackson takes us inside the drug-ravaged neighborhood and struggling family of his youth, while examining the cultural forces that led him and his family to today.

Jackson candidly explores his tumultuous youth in the other America. His book, "Survival Math," takes its name from the calculations Mitchell and his family made to keep safe—to stay alive—in their community, a small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect.

Mitchell explores the Portland of his childhood, tracing the ways in which his family managed their lives in and around drugs, prostitution, gangs, and imprisonment as members of a tiny black population in one of the country’s whitest cities. He discusses sex work and serial killers, gangs and guns, near-death experiences, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of drugs and addiction on family.

Clarence Taylor is Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College, CUNY, and author of "The Black Churches of Brooklyn," "Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools," "Black Religious Intellectuals: The Fight for Equality from Jim Crow to the 21st Century," and "Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights and the New York City Teachers Union."

His new book, "Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City," he examines the explosive history of police brutality in New York City and the black community’s long struggle to resist it. Taylor brings this story to life by exploring the institutions and the people that waged campaigns to end the mistreatment of people of color at the hands of the police, including the black church, the black press, black communists and civil rights activists.

Ranging from the 1940s to the mayoralty of Bill de Blasio, Taylor describes the significant strides made in curbing police power in New York City, describing the grassroots street campaigns as well as the accomplishments achieved in the political arena and in the city’s courtrooms.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s first short story collection, “Friday Black,” is a satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America, offering surreal tales and dystopian satire about American consumerism and race.

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kiese Laymon, Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, is the author of the novel "Long Division" and a collection of essays, "How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America."

In his new book, "Heavy: An American Memoir," he writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling.

By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

Juan Williams has covered and written about American politics for four decades. He is currently a columnist for The Hill, and was a longtime writer and correspondent for The Washington Post and NPR. Most notably, Juan is currently a cohost of FoxNews Channel's roundtable debate show "The Five," and makes regular appearances across the network.

He is also the author of numerous books, including "Eyes on the Prize," "Thurgood Marshall," "Enough," "Muzzled," and "We The People."

In his new book, "What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?: Trump's War on Civil Rights," Williams denounces Donald Trump for intentionally twisting history to fuel racial tensions for his political advantage. In Williams's lifetime, crusaders for civil rights have braved hatred, violence, and imprisonment, and in so doing made life immeasurably better for African Americans and other marginalized groups. Remarkably, all this progress suddenly seems to have been forgotten, or worse, undone. 

Colson Whitehead’s novel "The Underground Railroad," tells the story of a runaway slave and re-imagines the pre-Civil War South. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award and Whitehead was recently named The New York State Writer - one of the biggest prizes in literature.

Michael Eric Dyson is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and the author of the New York Times bestseller "Tears We Cannot Stop." He occupies the distinguished position of University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and is a contributing editor of The New Republic and ESPN’s The Undefeated. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans and one of the 150 most powerful blacks in the nation.

His new book, "What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America" highlights a pivotal moment in America’s recent past. In May, 1963 a leading politician ended up learning more than he had bargained for when he asked America’s then hottest writer, and his friends over for a chat about black America’s rage. RFK walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting livid – that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy. Kennedy set about changing policy – the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways.

Every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room: disdain for black dissent, the belief that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood, and that they lack hustle and ingenuity. In "What Truth Sounds Like," Dr. Dyson deftly merges this past and our present to explore the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy – of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape.

"Down the Up Staircase" tells the story of one Harlem family across three generations, connecting its journey to the historical and social forces that transformed Harlem over the past century.

Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch capture the tides of change that pushed blacks forward through the twentieth century as well as the many forces that ravaged black communities, including Haynes's own.

As an authority on race and urban communities, Haynes brings unique sociological insights to the American mobility saga and the tenuous nature of status and success among the black middle class. Bruce Haynes joins us.

In Tayari Jones’ new novel, “An American Marriage,” newlyweds Celestial and Roy, African-American professional who live in Atlanta, find their lives shattered when Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is incarcerated. The novel explores race, loyalty, and love that endures.

"Goddess of Anarchy" recounts the formidable life of the militant writer, orator, and agitator Lucy Parsons. Born to an enslaved woman in Virginia in 1851 and raised in Texas-where she met her husband, the Haymarket "martyr" Albert Parsons-Lucy was a fearless advocate of First Amendment rights, a champion of the working classes, and one of the most prominent figures of African descent of her era. And yet, her life was riddled with contradictions-she advocated violence without apology, concocted a Hispanic-Indian identity for herself, and ignored the plight of African Americans.

Jacqueline Jones holds the Ellen C. Temple Chair in Women's History and the Mastin Gentry White Professorship in Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The 2015 revival of The Color Purple – the musical adapted from Alice Walker’s novel, with book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

The Broadway run ended in January of this year and the National Tour is now originating its multi-city run at Proctors in Schenectady, NY.

With a soul-raising score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, The Color Purple gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story. Tony Award winning Director, John Doyle, joins us to tell us more.

Doyle’s Broadway credits include, in addition to The Color Purple, Sweeney Todd starring Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris, Company starring Raul Esparza, A Catered Affair starring Harvey Fierstein, and The Visit, starring Chita Rivera.

This Friday and Saturday, The Theatre Institute at Sage will present a staged reading of the rarely-produced play Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed by Celeste Bedford Walker. The reading is directed by Lynnie Godfrey, the inaugural artist of the Scrimshaw Distinguished Visiting Artist Fund. Godfrey, an actress, singer, director and producer based in New York City, is at Sage for a week-long residency thanks to the generous support of the fund established by The Sage Colleges President Susan Scrimshaw.

Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed is a drama that tells the story of events surrounding the 1921 race disaster in Greenwood, Oklahoma. Greenwood, the premier Black Boomtown of its era, was referred to as the “Negro Wall Street”, and had successfully achieved complete economic independence from its neighbor Tulsa, Oklahoma. That all ended when 14 blocks of the town were burned down in one night. Follow the progress, success, joy and prosperity of the township of Greenwood and eventually the story of its demise.

Here to tell us more are aforementioned director Lynnie Godfrey and Theare Institute at Sage Artistic Director, Leigh Strimbeck. 

The Creative Life: A Conversation Series at UAlbany is an initiative of the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany Performing Arts Center, and University Art Museum, all of which are housed and function on the main campus of the University at Albany. Guests in this inaugural year of the series have included author Joyce Carol Oates and dancer/choreographer Savion Glover who appeared in September and October 2016, respectively.

The Manhattan Theatre Club's current Broadway production of August Wilson's Jitney, directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, is the only work from the late two-time Pulitzer Prize winner's American Century Cycle that had never previously been seen on Broadway. The play has received rave reviews and plays at the Samuel Friedman Theatre through March 12th.

Set in the early 1970s, the play follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss' son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together start to come undone.

We welcome this morning - three-time Tony Award-winning producer and actor Ron Simons, to discuss his role in producing the Broadway debut of August Wilson's Jitney.

Ron Simons is a leading Broadway producer with a list of credits that include the Tony-award winning revival of Porgy and Bess, the all-black Broadway production of A Street Car Named Desire starring Blair Underwood, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which won the Tony award for "Best New Play."

He was the Wicked Wilson Pickett, the legendary soul man whose forty-plus hits included "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." Remarkably handsome and with the charisma to match, Wilson Pickett was considered by many to be the greatest, the most visceral and sensual of the classic 1960s soul singers, and as a man who turned screaming into an art form, the most forceful of them all. He was the living embodiment of soul.
 

More than that, Wilson Pickett's journey reads like a guide to popular black American music in the late 20th century.  

For this first-ever accounting of Wilson Pickett's life, bestselling biographer Tony Fletcher interviewed members of the singer's family, friends and partners, along with dozens of his studio and touring musicians. Offering equal attention to Pickett's personal and professional life, with detailed insight into his legendary studio sessions and his combative road style, In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett is the essential telling of an epic life.

What do you think of when you hear about an African American Republican? What is it really like to be a black person in the Republican Party?

Stanford University Professor Corey Fields’ new book: Black Elephants in the Room considers how race structures the political behavior of African American Republicans and discusses the dynamic relationship between race and political behavior in the purported “post-racial” context of US politics.

Drawing on first-person accounts, the book sheds light on the different ways black identity structures African Americans' membership in the Republican Party. Moving past rhetoric and politics, we learn the importance of understanding both the meanings African Americans attach to racial identity and the political contexts in which those meanings are developed and expressed. 

In a collection of essays entitled We Gon' Be Alright, acclaimed writer/journalist Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Who We Be) takes an incisive and wide-ranging look at the recent tragedies and widespread protests that have shaken the country.

Through deep reporting with key activists and thinkers, passionately personal writing, and distinguished cultural criticism, We Gon’ Be Alright links #BlackLivesMatter to #OscarsSoWhite, Ferguson to Washington D.C., the Great Migration to resurgent nativism.

Chang explores the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity,” the roots of student protest, changing ideas about Asian Americanness, and the impact of a century of racial separation in housing. He argues that resegregation is the unexamined condition of our time, the undoing of which is key to moving the nation forward to racial justice and cultural equity.

Paul Kolnik

  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.

In 2008, a U.S. Congressional resolution designated the Company as "a vital American cultural ambassador to the world" that celebrates the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage.

Before his untimely death in 1989, Alvin Ailey named Judith Jamison as his successor, and over the next 21 years, she brought the Company to unprecedented success. Ms. Jamison, in turn, personally selected Robert Battle to succeed her in 2011, and The New York Times declared he "has injected the company with new life."

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform at SPAC in Saratoga Springs on July 8th and 9th.

    Cory Booker made headlines in 2002 when, at the age of 32, he became one of the youngest people to run for mayor of Newark. Though he lost that first race, Booker went on to be the city's mayor from 2006-2013, before becoming a U.S. Senator representing New Jersey.

The former Stanford football player joins us this morning to talk about his political career so far, his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, his new book, "United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good," and what he thinks it will take to get both sides of the aisle working together.

  In 2006, Tavis Smiley teamed up with other leaders in the Black community to create a national plan of action to address the ten most crucial issues facing African Americans. 

The Covenant with Black America, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller, ran the gamut from health care to criminal justice, affordable housing to education, voting rights to racial divides. But a decade later, Black men still fall to police bullets and brutality, Black women still die from preventable diseases, Black children still struggle to get a high quality education, the digital divide and environmental inequality still persist, and American cities from Ferguson to Baltimore burn with frustration. In short, the last decade has seen the evaporation of Black wealth, with Black fellow citizens having lost ground in nearly every leading economic category.

  All American Boys is a new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

In the book, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

New York State Capitol
flickr

The skeletal remains of more than a dozen 18th-century African-American slaves unearthed in upstate New York a decade ago will be reburied.

  The new play Veils opens on Thursday at the Barrington Stage Company on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage. This morning we meet the playwright, Tom Coash.

When Intisar, an African American Muslim student, arrives in Cairo for a year abroad, she hopes finally to be understood. She’s quickly enlisted by her liberal Egyptian roommate to help create a controversial blog debating the practice of wearing veils. Soon mounting political unrest threatens their new-found friendship.

Playwright, director, and dramaturg Tom Coash spent four years teaching playwriting at The American University in Cairo, Egypt. He was a Co-founder of the Offstage Theatre in Charlottesville, VA and has worked for such theaters as the Manhattan Theatre Club, Stageworks/Hudson, and Actors Theatre of Louisville.

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