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On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance Hardcover – January 30, 2007


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Hardcover, January 30, 2007
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416534881
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416534884
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former NBA superstar Abdul-Jabbar continues to pursue his inner historian (Brothers in Arms, A Season on the Reservation, etc.), using his childhood in the late 1940s to bring an engaging personal perspective to this cultural examination. Abdul-Jabbar does a fine job celebrating the already well-celebrated legacies of musicians like Bessie Smith and writers like Langston Hughes; what sets this book apart is Abdul-Jabbar's vantage from the waning edge of Harlem's cultural revolution, at a time when "white America ... was looking around for some other in vogue ethnic group" to excite their repressed urges. In a "call-and-response" format, Abdul-Jabbar alternates between straightforward history lessons and his personal take on them; thus, a chapter on "Master Intellects and Creative Giants" is followed by "How Harlem Writers Influenced My Life." Basketball fans will most enjoy Abdul-Jabbar's chronicle of Harlem's basketball team, the New York Renaissance Big Five, which in 1939 became the first black team to win a world professional title in any sport, paving the way for the integration of the ABL (forerunner to the NBA). Abdul-Jabbar's passion for history, literature and jazz, however, prove just as fundamental to the legendary Laker's journey, and this accessible, passionate account presents each "giant" as a vital part of Abdul-Jabbar's development and rise to fame.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is committed to leaving a legacy well beyond the basketball court. In his new book (after Brothers in Arms, 2004), the former Milwaukee Buck and Los Angeles Laker pays tribute to the black artists, activists, athletes, and intellectuals whose lives have shaped--and continue to shape--his own. In four sections that reflect his passions (Harlem, basketball, jazz, and writing), Abdul-Jabbar, with coauthor Obstfeld, views American history and his own life through the lens of the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of black culture that took place in New York City after World War I. On the Shoulders of Giants celebrates the lives of such influential individuals as James Weldon Johnson and W. E. B. Du Bois and the extraordinary history of the first world-championship basketball team, the New York Renaissance Big Five. (Contrary to popular belief, the "Harlem Rens," as they were locally known, were the first all-black professional team, not the Harlem Globetrotters.) Abdul-Jabbar accompanies his insightful personal reflections with a wealth of lively anecdotes (like how the slippery dance floor of Harlem's Renaissance Casino and Ballroom became the site of the Harlem Rens' first games) and hundreds of poignant and powerful quotes. Among the latter are these words of charismatic--and controversial--Harlem Renaissance leader Marcus Garvey: "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without its roots." A thoroughly accessible and engaging mix of memoir and cultural history. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Since retiring, Abdul-Jabbar has been an actor, basketball coach, and an author. His books for adults include GIANT STEPS, KAREEM, BLACK PROFILES IN COURAGE, A SEASON ON THE RESERVATION, BROTHERS IN ARMS, and ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE HARLEM RENISSANCE, and the children's books STREETBALL CREW: SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT and WHAT COLOR IS MY WORLD?, which won the NAACP award for Best Children's Book. In 2012, he was selected as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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I learned so much from reading this book.
Stixs
First things first: This book provides a very interesting and seemingly thorough review of the forms of art to emerge from Harlem.
J. V. Hennburg
I also order the book for my grandson and a friend's son.
Douglass Murray

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lester L. Carter on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here is a man who should be an inspiration to a whole generation. This book is more proof that he is more than just an athlete. This book is recommended reading for all teenagers
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Hauser on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
On the Shoulders of Giants is a good book and I commend Jabbar for writing it and other books dealing with African American heroes and black history. As a former sports star, he reaches people that other authors wouldn't, so he is doing valuable work. But this book has one very bad mistake. That mistake is the inclusion of certain quotes about the blues from the author Richard Wright.

Jabbar ends a section of the book titled "The Birth of the Blues" by quoting Wright as stating that a "submerged theme of guilt" seems to run through the blues and quotes Wright wondering whether the guilt "stemmed from the burden of renounced rebellious impulses." Jabbar then writes that Wright wondered "if the sexual nature of many of the songs isn't in fact more about the impotence of black people in failing to act on their own behalf in the face of the racism that was at the root of much of their 'blues'." Next, Jabbar writes "Weren't the blues just redirected self-loathing, the result of an oppressed people believing the oppressor's propaganda that they are not worthy?"

Jabbar does not attempt to answer these questions nor does he present alternative views to the reader. Instead, he simply ends his discussion on the birth of the blues with these questions left hanging--questions which suggest terrible things to the reader about what lies behind the blues--and moves on to a new section about W.C. Handy. This leaves the impression that Jabbar agrees with what is being suggested.

I would respond to the above with a quote from Ralph Ellison. In his essay "The World and the Jug" from his book "Shadow and Act," Ellison writes "if you think Wright knew anything about the blues, listen to a "blues" he composed with Paul Robeson singing, a most unfortunate collaboration!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sd6161 on June 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good book, but a great deal of information to take in. It surprisingly covers so much subject matter that is not even mentioned in the DVD under the same name that it is a bit deceptive. Overall, interesting and thought provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scott E. Walters on July 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I teach a course on the art and artists of the Harlem Renaissance, and this has been the best "textbook" I have found to date. The chapters alternate between a historical descriptions of different aspects of the period (music, thinkers, geography, ect.) written by Abdul-Jabbar's co-author, and Abdul-Jabbar's descriptions of how the work of the Harlem Renaissance affected his life. This alternation between history and biography is what makes the book so inspirational, because Abdul-Jabbar makes very clear his belief that history should inspire present effort. The prose is dynamic -- a "good read." The added bonus of the sections on the Harlem Renaissance basketball team and its struggles connects sports, the arts, and politics in a very rich way. I recommend this book unreservedly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rosemarie H. Hight on March 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is an eye opening account of Harlem. I didn't realize that Harlem had such a diverse group of writers, musicians, singers, etc. A very eye opening book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw the documentary of the Harlem Rens and decided to get the book to learn more about them and about Harlem in general. I just started the book but I'm enjoying it. I'm a fan of Abdul Jabbar and look forward to reading about his thoughts. The book was delivered promptly and in great condition.
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By A-Mo on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Grandsons love reading the history they are denied in school!!! Even I am learning info! Love it more then I realized!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was going to attend an evening presentation by Kareem regarding the Harlem Renaissance and wanted to read the book first. Amazon's vendor got it out quickly and this was a very easy read. It was also inspirational and very informative about the era and some of the well known figures of the day. What great information on a Harlem community that most of us in America never new existed. My only negative, if you want to call it that, about his writing style is that he tends to repeat events in later chapters. It was not annoying though, as it helped you recall instances and people that had been discussed and now were relevant to new information being written about.

This could easily be a recommended book for teachers and students of American History.

Later his personal discussion was genuine, interesting, funny and very personal. Great job.
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