Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AAL Winter/Spring Selections

Greetings! Looking forward to seeing everyone next Tuesday February 17th for our discussion of the Harlem Hellfighters!

Here's the schedule of our upcoming discussions for AAL, (all discussions meet in the Small Meeting room of the Evanston Public Library at 7 pm on Tuesdays):

Tuesday, March 17 The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen Carter

In an alternate history novel, Lincoln escapes assassination by John Wilkes Booth only to face impeachment, and Abigail Canner, a young black woman involved in his defense, helps investigate the murder of the president's counsel.


Tuesday, April 21 Stand up Straight and Sing!, by Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman, one of America's most admired and decorated singers tells her inspiring life story, from the segregated South to the world's greatest stage.She recalls in rich detail the strong women who were her role models, from her ancestors to family friends, relatives, and teachers. She hails the importance of her parents in her early learning and experiences in the arts. And she describes coming face-to-face with racism, not just as a child living in the segregated South, but also as an adult out and about in the world.

Tuesday, May 19 The Wedding, by Dorothy West

titleIn the 1950s, a girl from the black bourgeoisie in Martha's Vineyard announces her engagement to a white musician. The novel follows the impact this has on her family and the community around them.  Dorothy West's crowning achievement, this is a wise and heartfelt novel about the shackles of race and class we all wear and the price we pay to break them. It is also an unforgettable history of the rise of the black middle class, written by a woman who lived it.

Tuesday, June 16 Stokeley: A Life, by Peniel Joseph

titlePreeminent civil rights scholar Peniel E. Joseph presents a groundbreaking biography of Stokely Carmichael, arguing that the young firebrand's evolution from nonviolent activist to Black Power revolutionary reflected the trajectory of a generation radicalized by the violence and unrest of the late 1960s. Fed up with the slow progress of the civil rights movement, Carmichael urged blacks to turn the rhetoric of freedom into a reality, inspiring countless African Americans to demand immediate political self-determination 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Democracy Abroad. Discrimination at Home: Black Soldiers During The Great War

This month we'll be looking at the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, one of the most decorated American army units in World War I. Originally the 15th New York National Guard, and limited to white officers and given menial tasks, the unit of New York born soldiers were exposed to the full brunt of Jim Crow racism during their training in Spartanburg South Carolina. Ironically, this experience may partially account for the Hellfighters legendary discipline.

"What separates a soldier from a civilian is discipline — the notion of mental control and the notion of restraint,"says Max Brooks, author of a graphic novel history of the unit. "I don't think any soldier, short of a samurai, has shown more restraint than the Hellfighters at Spartanburg."

Renamed the 369th Infantry Regiment, the Hellfighters went on to be come one of the most feared and respected American units, earning the French Croix de Guerre for 171 members, and one for the unit as a whole.

Yet despite their bravery, and the adulation they received from France, the Hellfighters returned to the same racism they had left behind, culminating in the riots of the Red Summer of 1919.

Join us Tuesday February 17th as we discuss, A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighters' Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home . Unfortunately, we are low on copies, so I've also pulled 4 other books on the Hellfighters which you can read instead (ignore the "checked out" message: these are on hold at the 2nd floor desk):

by Bill Harris

By Stephen Harris.
by Patrick Lewis
by Max Brooks, (this one's a graphic novel!)

aaannnddd...what an excellent time to check out the wonderful 2 part documentary. ..
 To reserve any of these materials, call us at 847-448-8620. See you on February 17th!

Monday, January 19, 2015

August Wilson's last, as timely as ever

This Monday, January 19th, we discussed our final August Wilson play, Radio Golf. Written in 2005, shortly before Wilson's death, it draws together themes and characters from the previous 9 works in the Century Cycle: allegiance to community values versus individual success; choosing the future over the past; and the crushing weight of racist history that continues to burden African Americans well into the 21st century.

 Indeed, although it appeared 10 years ago, the conflicts in Radio Golf remain disturbingly current: gentrification, corruption, police violence. When mayoral candidate Harmond Wilks refuses to censor his speech demanding accountability for police killings of unarmed black men, we know he will lose, and we hear echos of contemporary protests like BlackLivesMatter and We Charge Genocide.

Although there are far fewer dramatic moments in Radio Golf than in some others in the cycle, it is permeated by a profound sadness. Aunt Ester is dead, her house will soon be demolished, and the rich culture of the Hill District which we have come to love over the past 9 plays is fading away. Black characters like Harmond, Roosevelt and Mame have moved into the middle class, but at a price: they have lost touch with their communal roots.

No need to lose touch with the world of August Wilson just yet! This March and April, the Goodman Theatre is hosting a Chicago celebration of Wilson's work, including  free staged readings of all 10 plays in the Century Cycle. The Piano Lesson will be performed at the Evanston Public Library on April 4th at 3:00 pm. Other Evanston events include a panel discussion April 7th at Northwestern on Wilson's work in St Paul, led by Professor Harvey Young; and actor/playwright Ruben Santiago Hudson performing Wilson’s autobiographical play, How I Learned What I Learned, March 30th also at Northwestern.

Thanks to all who have shared this marvelous year-long reading experience, especially Tim Rhoze, the original organizer; and our wonderful actors and discussion leaders: Twyla Abercrombie, James Alfred, Ron Conner, Aaron Todd Douglas, Jacqueline Williams, and Harvey Young. What a year it has been!

Monday, January 12, 2015

"11 Months" wraps, but "Coming Together Niles Township" is just getting started!

I'm so sad that our 11 Months of African American History is coming to a close this Sunday! We will celebrate with music from SOUL Creations, a reading from "Fences", food from Curt's Cafe and a preview from Goodman Theatre of their upcoming August Wilson series in Chicago.

But don't despair! There are plenty of opportunities to explore African American literature culture and history coming up both in and around Evanston.

This Sunday was the kickoff  for "Coming Together In Skokie and Niles Township", a 4 month series of book discussions, movies, and speakers all connected to themes of race. Alt
hough several books will be discussed, the primary one is

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

You can find the list of programs at

Next Sunday at 1:00 pm, before our wrap up party, Evanston Art Center is hosting the following at the Evanston Library...

Sunday January 18th, 1:00 pm Community Meeting Room, Evanston Public Library
The Evanston Art Center and Insight Arts are pleased to collaborate once again for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day program. This year we are so honored to have with us participants from the Chicago organization We Charge Genocide, a grassroots organization that  recently made headlines when they addressed the United Nations in November 2014.

Evanston Art Center Director of Education Keith Brown and Insight Arts Executive Director Craig Harshaw invite audiences to engage this new generation working in the spirit of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements as they speak about the ongoing struggles for racial justice in the United States and their experiences in Geneva. We will personally hear from We Charge Genocide and frame a broader discussion in relationship to the emergent BlackLivesMatter campaign.

annddd...looking ahead to March, you have another chance to catch
Friends Disappear: The Battle For Racial Equality in Evanston by Mary Barr
Barr explores the myths and realities of integration and racism in Evanston. Barr, who grew up in Evanston, asserts that there is a detrimental myth of integration surrounding Evanston, despite bountiful evidence of actual segregation. "In exploring the fate of her own generation of Evanstonians," Martha Biondi of Northwestern University observes, "Barr reveals the powerful role of race in structuring access to opportunity, wealth, and even to life itself."

Barr is reading and discussing her book
on Thursday, March 19, 2015, at 7 pm at the Evanston History Center in the Dawes House, 225 Greenwood Street, Evanston, IL. The presentation begins at 7pm, and a wine and appetizer reception takes place from 6:30pm-7pm. Doors will open at 6:30pm. The book is for sale at Barnes and Noble (in the Chicago section) at Bookends and Beginnings  (in the former Bookman's Alley location" and on the shelf at Evanston Public Library.

Monday, January 5, 2015

AAL authors speaking this month

Greetings! This month, two acclaimed authors whose works we have read and discussed recently will be speaking in the Evanston area: Wes Moore and Michelle Alexander

Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore, will be speaking Wednesday January 14th at New Trier's Northfield campus as part of a series sponsored by the Family Action Network. His talk is entitled, "My Work: The Search for a Life That Matters".  and is also the title of his forthcoming book. In it, he continues his quest to find a meaningful life, and he explores the lives of change makers who found deep meaning in their work and who offer lessons of grace in service.

The talk is free and open to the general public.

Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, gives the keynote speech for Northwestern University's  Martin Luther King campus observance week, January 26th at 6:00 pm. For several years, Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she helped to lead a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. Given the recent attention to police violence against African Americans, her talk is especially timely.

Hope to see some of you at either of these terrific events!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

January: A Great Time for African American Books!

Happy New Year everyone! We have so many exciting events planned for January! In addition to our fabulous "11 Months" Wrap-Up Party on Sunday January 18th, EPL is offering five African American themed book discussions this month: fiction, nonfiction, plays, and graphic novels.. As usual, all books are available at the 2nd floor Reader's services desk; call 847-448-8620 to reserve copies.

This month we are launching a  collaboration with Evanston's Comix Revolution bookstore, and our discussion of March, the graphic novel biography of Congressman John Lewis takes place there. All other events are at the Main Library.

African American Literature Discussion: A Dreadful Deceit

Tuesday, January 6, 7 pm, Small Meeting Room, Main Library
A power outage forced us to close the library early the day of our December discussion, but we will be back in our usual spot this coming Tuesday to talk about Dreadful Deceit, Jacqueline Jones' examination of race versus economics, and how various individuals have defined , or BEEN defined racially over the centuries.

GLBT Book Discussion: Giovanni's Room

titleTuesday, January 13, 7 pm, Small Meeting Room, Main Library
James Baldwin, one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, was one of a handful to write from both an African American and a gay perspective. Join us for  Giovanni's Room, which chronicles a young American's sexual awakening in 1950s Paris.



League of Graphic Novel Readers: March

Friday, January 16, 7pm, Comix Revolution, 606 Davis Street (map)

The autobiography of Civil Rights legend and current US Congressman John Lewis,  March: Book One takes Lewis from rural Alabama to lunch counter sit-ins and a life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King.  Copies of March: Book One will be held at the Reader's Services desk on the 2nd floor and will be available for purchase at Comix Revolution.
The first 25 people to show up to the 1/16 meeting will receive a free copy of March, courtesy of Comix Revolution!


A Year of August Wilson: Radio Golf

Monday, January 19, 2015, 6 pm, Community Meeting Room, Main Library

So sad: Radio Golf is our final August Wilson discussion!
In 1997, entrepreneur Harold Wilks is on the verge of becoming Pittsburgh's first black mayor, but his identity is shaken when the past begins to catch up with him, revealing secrets that could be his undoing. Ultimately, he must recognize the price of his success and decide whether he is willing to pay it.



African American Literature Discussion: How To Be Black

Tuesday, January 20, 7 pm, Small Meeting Room, Main Library
titlePart autobiography, part humorous manifesto, How To Be Black chronicles Baratunde Thurston's inner city childhood, private school education and successful career at Harvard and in corporate America, using his experiences to illustrate the perils of being "The Black Friend", "The Black Employee"  "The Black Spokesperson" and, inevitably "The Angry Negro". Accompanied by essays both humorous and thoughtful by a panel of "professional black people"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When did "race" start anyway?

On December 16th, we'll be discussing the last of our trio of "race books" Jacqueline Jones' A Dreadful Deceit. Jones looks at 6 remarkable people from the colonial era through the late 20th century, each of whom posed a threat to contemporary racial hierarchies and categorizations. Here's a summary from the New York Times review:

There’s Antonio, murdered in colonial Maryland for refusing to submit to enslavement; Boston King, a former slave from South Carolina turned loyalist during the American Revolution; the Afro-Indian Elleanor Eldridge, who started several successful businesses in Providence, R.I., in the early 19th century; the Reconstruction-era Georgia politician Richard W. White; the early-20th-century educator William H. Holtzclaw, who founded a Tuskegee-like school in Mississippi; and finally the radical labor activist Simon P. Owens in mid-20th-century Detroit.

Jones' believes that race is far less important than economics, that race was created was for economic reasons, and that continuing to talk about race "keeps a destructive idea alive". But is it realistic,o r helpful to stop talking about race, when economic (and health, and educational) disparities still fall along racial lines.

That's what we'll be talking about next Tuesday! If you don't have time to read the whole book, let's focus on the chapters about Boston King, William Hotlzcclaw and Simon Owens. A couple of articles to give you an overview:

"It's the Economy": A Dreadful Deceit by Jacqueline Jones, New York Times, February 14 2014

Dreadful Deceit: Race is a Myth, Salon

See you Tuesday December 16th , 7:00 pm at the Evanston Public Library!