From Publishers Weekly
This collection of 27 alphabetically arranged interviews focuses on the power of determination in confronting and overcoming discrimination. With birth dates ranging from 1907 to 1957, these ordinary people provide a cumulative picture of the changing decades. (Most of the interviews took place in 2005, although several are from the late '90s, and one dates to 1980). Among them are a bank president, baseball player, welfare rights organizer, tap dancer, engineer and blues musician. Most of the subjects are not well known (with the exception of painter Jacob Lawrence and former governor, now mayor Douglas Wilder), since Govenar is interested in untold stories. Unfortunately, few of them break out of the author's rigid format, which focuses on the impact of discrimination and segregation in their lives, lending sameness to each conversation. Still, there are some fresh moments: an entrepreneur's bout with sickle cell anemia offers a graphic portrait of that illness; a mathematician's early life as a nun and an actor's picture of Hollywood in the '30s provide fascinating glimpses of those milieus. By the end, Govenar's voices offer an eye-opening corrective for familiar stereotypes of African-Americans. (Jan. 9)
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Exploring the beloved American concept of frontier from an African American perspective, Govenar offers portraits of 24 black achievers who forged paths for themselves in the arts, culture, business, religion, and politics. Each profile begins with a short biography followed by a first-person account of obstacles overcome and achievements earned in a cross section of professions and geography. The subjects recount the social and cultural contexts for their personal struggle and how they pushed beyond racial boundaries. The collection includes L. Douglass Wilder, the grandson of slaves who became Virginia's governor; attorney Oliver W. Hill, part of the legal team that argued the landmark Brown
v.Board of Education
case; Herb Jeffries, creator of the role of the black cowboy in western movies in the 1930s; Marvin Williams, a baseball player in the Negro Leagues who later tried out for the Boston Red Sox; and Frank Mark Dean, an IBM executive and holder of three of the nine patents involved in the personal computer. This is an inspiring collection of African American achievers, most not well known. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved