Black Studies

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A select range of books about Black history, religion, and literature, curated by a press based in the hometown of W. E. B. Du Bois.

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    The African American Community in Rural New England: W. E. B. Du Bois and His Boyhood Church (formerly published in hardcover as Sewing Circles, Dime Suppers, and W. E. B. Du Bois: A History of the Clinton A. M. E. Zion Church) offers fresh insight into a small New England church's role in the national civil rights movement.
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    This edition of The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois is the first to be arranged and dedicated in accordance with Du Bois’s manuscript notes. It begins with these words: "I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation which began the freeing of American Negro Slaves."  Du Bois was born in the town where Berkshire Publishing Group is located. His autobiography tells the story of a little boy, the only Black boy in his school, who became the first African American PhD at Harvard, an educator, editor, and activist, and a writer of expressive, lyrical, and accessible prose. In this book, he explains why he chose to become a Communist. While the Communism he praised did not turn out to offer the utopia so many hoped for, the problems he identified are still with us. His reasoning will resonant with modern readers who share his frustration with the continued inequities in our society.
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    The Souls of Black Folk is a founding text of the US civil rights movement, an inspiring work of literature and advocacy by a young man who drew on his own experience as a child in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a teacher in the hills of Tennessee, a father grieving after the death of his baby son. It is a book compiled in haste but nonetheless a command performance. The fourteen vivid essays are political, philosophical, historical, and personal. The first three explore the history of slavery, following by six chapters of sociological analysis in Du Bois’s resonant prose. The remainder of the book is replete with stories that show different facets of the Black experience and explain Du Bois’s statement that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” His concept of African American duality is, writes Henry Louis Gates Jr., his “most important gift to the Black literary tradition.”
  • Sewing Circles, Dime Suppers, and W. E. B. Du Bois: A History of the Clinton A. M. E. Zion Church offers fresh insight into a small New England church's role in the national civil rights movement. This is the original edition. An updated edition is also available, with the title The African American Community in Rural New England: W. E. B. Du Bois and His Boyhood Church.
  • Sherman’s Invisible Poets pioneered in the rediscovery of nineteenth-century Afro-American literature. Black poets of that century not only were invisible: they were also forced to publish ‘mute’ texts, texts doomed not to be read because of the pervasive racism in American society. Sherman’s work of literary resurrection is a signal achievement, combining deft historical detective work with a subtle critical sensibility.

    -- Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard

    Invisible Poets: Afro-Americans of the Nineteenth Century brings into view over 130 other Black men and women who published poetry in America during the century between Phillis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar. In spite of their impressive achievements, these poets’ works have been out of print, their few biographies incomplete and unreliable, and criticism of their poetry rare and often biased. The author, Joan R. Sherman, was ahead of her time in seeking "to strip myth and misinformation from their lives and to offer the most accurate biographies and bibliographies obtainable after a century of neglect." In the only comprehensive and realistic appraisal of their contributions to American literature, Sherman intensively studies twenty-six representative poets of the nineteenth century, analyzing their poetry and providing the first significant profiles of their extraordinary life experiences. About three dozen other poets also receive attention. Their work, which ranges from "militant, race-proud jeremiads to sentimental nature and love lyrics," faithfully conforms to nineteenth-century poetic standards. At the same time, it reflects the changing American political and cultural scene and provides an invaluable record of over a hundred years of Black experience as articulated by sensitive and talented American writers.
  • The Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions, the second volume in the acclaimed Religion and Society series, breaks fresh ground on the subject of African and African-American religion and its influence throughout the world.

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