16 Books Published by Columbia University Press on AALBC — Book Cover Collage

Click for more detail about Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem by Kevin McGruder Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem

by Kevin McGruder
Columbia University Press (Jul 06, 2021)
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At the turn of the early twentieth century, Harlem—the iconic Black neighborhood—was predominantly white. The Black real estate entrepreneur Philip Payton played a central role in Harlem’s transformation. He founded the Afro-American Realty Company in 1903, vowing to vanquish housing discrimination. Yet this ambitious mission faltered as Payton faced the constraints of white capitalist power structures.

In this biography, Kevin McGruder explores Payton’s career and its implications for the history of residential segregation. Payton stood up for the right of Black people to live in Harlem in the face of vocal white resistance. Through skillful use of print media, he branded Harlem as a Black community and attracted interest from those interested in racial uplift. Yet while Payton "opened" Harlem streets, his business model depended on continued racial segregation. Like white real estate investors, he benefited from the lack of housing options available to desperate Black tenants by charging higher rents. Payton developed a specialty in renting all-Black buildings, rather than the integrated buildings he had once envisioned, and his personal successes ultimately entrenched Manhattan’s racial boundaries. McGruder highlights what Payton’s story shows about the limits of seeking advancement through enterprise in a capitalist system deeply implicated in racial inequality.

At a time when understanding the roots of residential segregation has become increasingly urgent, this biography sheds new light on the man and the forces that shaped Harlem.


Click for more detail about Hubert Harrison The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927 by Jeffrey B. Perry Hubert Harrison The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927

by Jeffrey B. Perry
Columbia University Press (Dec 08, 2020)
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The St. Croix–born, Harlem-based Hubert Harrison (1883–1927) was a brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and activist who combined class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness into a potent political radicalism. Harrison’s ideas profoundly influenced “New Negro” militants, including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and his work is a key link in the two great strands of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggle: the labor- and civil-rights movement associated with Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist movement associated with Garvey and Malcolm X.

In this second volume of his acclaimed biography, Jeffrey B. Perry traces the final decade of Harrison’s life, from 1918 to 1927. Perry details Harrison’s literary and political activities, foregrounding his efforts against white supremacy and for racial consciousness and unity in struggles for equality and radical social change. The book explores Harrison’s role in the militant New Negro Movement and the International Colored Unity League, as well as his prolific work as a writer, educator, and editor of the New Negro and the Negro World. Perry examines Harrison’s interactions with major figures such as Garvey, Randolph, J. A. Rogers, Arthur Schomburg, and other prominent individuals and organizations as he agitated, educated, and organized for democracy and equality from a race-conscious, radical internationalist perspective. This magisterial biography demonstrates how Harrison’s life and work continue to offer profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.


Click for more detail about Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust (Anniversary) by Ira Katznelson Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust (Anniversary)

by Ira Katznelson
Columbia University Press (Oct 13, 2020)
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During and especially after World War II, a group of leading scholars who had been perilously close to the war’s devastation joined others fortunate enough to have been protected by distance in an effort to redefine and reinvigorate liberal ideals for a radically new age. Treating evil as an analytical category, they sought to discover the sources of twentieth-century horror and the potentialities of the modern state in the wake of desolation. In the process, they devised strikingly new ways to understand politics, sociology, and history that reverberate still.

In this major intellectual history, Ira Katznelson examines the works of Hannah Arendt, Robert Dahl, Richard Hofstadter, Harold Lasswell, Charles Lindblom, Karl Polanyi, and David Truman, detailing their engagement with the larger project of reclaiming the West’s moral bearing. In light of their epoch’s calamities, these intellectuals insisted that the tradition of Enlightenment thought required a new realism, a good deal of renovation, and much recommitment. This array of historians, political philosophers, and social scientists understood that a simple reassertion of liberal modernism had been made radically insufficient by the enormities and moral catastrophes of war, totalitarianism, and the Holocaust. Confronting dashed hopes for reason and knowledge, they asked not just whether the Enlightenment should define modernity but also which Enlightenment we should wish to have.


Click for more detail about From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs by Joshua Clark Davis From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs

by Joshua Clark Davis
Columbia University Press (Aug 01, 2017)
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In the 1960s and ’70s, a diverse range of storefronts—including head shops, African American bookstores, feminist businesses, and organic grocers—brought the work of the New Left, Black Power, feminism, environmentalism, and other social movements into the marketplace. Through shared ownership, limited growth, and workplace democracy, these "activist entrepreneurs" offered alternatives to conventional profit-driven corporate business models. By the middle of the 1970s, thousands of these enterprises operated across the United States—but only a handful survive today. Some, like Whole Foods Market, have abandoned their quest for collective political change in favor of maximizing profits.

Vividly portraying the struggles, successes, and sacrifices made by these unlikely entrepreneurs, From Head Shops to Whole Foods writes a new history of movements and capitalism by showing how activists embraced small businesses in a way few historians have considered. The book rethinks the widespread idea that the work of activism and political dissent is inherently antithetical to business and market activity. Joshua Clark Davis uncovers the historical roots of contemporary interest in ethical consumption, social enterprise, mission-driven businesses, and buying local while also showing how today’s companies have adopted the language—but not often the mission—of liberation and social change.


Click for more detail about Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball by Onaje X. O. Woodbine Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball

by Onaje X. O. Woodbine
Columbia University Press (May 24, 2016)
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J-Rod moves like a small battle tank on the court, his face mean, staring down his opponents. "I play just like my father," he says. "Before my father died, he was a problem on the court. I’m a problem." Playing basketball for him fuses past and present, conjuring his father’s memory into a force that opponents can feel in every bone-snapping drive to the basket. On the street every ballplayer has a story. Onaje X. O. Woodbine, a former streetball player who became an All-Star Ivy Leaguer, brings the sights and sounds, hopes and dreams of street basketball to life. Big games have a trickster figure and a master of black talk whose commentary interprets the game for audiences. The beats of hip-hop and reggae make up the soundtrack, and the ball players are half-men, half-heroes, defying the ghetto’s limitations with their flights to the basket. Streetball is rhythm and flow, and during its peak moments, the three rings of the asphalt collapse into a singular band, every head and toe pressed against the sidelines, caught up in the spectacle. Basketball is popular among young black American men, but not because, as many claim, they are "pushed by poverty" or "pulled" by white institutions to play it. Black men choose to participate in basketball because of the transcendent experience of the game. Through interviews with and observations of urban basketball players, Onaje X. O. Woodbine composes a rare portrait of a passionate, committed, and resilient group of athletes who use the court to mine what urban life cannot corrupt. If people turn to religion to reimagine their place in the world, then black streetball players are indeed the adepts of the asphalt.


Click for more detail about The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s by Mary Helen Washington The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s

by Mary Helen Washington
Columbia University Press (Dec 22, 2015)
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Mary Helen Washington recovers the vital role of 1950s leftist politics in the works and lives of modern African American writers and artists. While most histories of McCarthyism focus on the devastation of the blacklist and the intersection of leftist politics and American culture, few include the activities of radical writers and artists from the Black Popular Front. Washington’s work incorporates these black intellectuals back into our understanding of mid-twentieth-century African American literature and art and expands our understanding of the creative ferment energizing all of America during this period.Mary Helen Washington reads four representative writers?Lloyd Brown, Frank London Brown, Alice Childress, and Gwendolyn Brooks?and surveys the work of the visual artist Charles White. She traces resonances of leftist ideas and activism in their artistic achievements and follows their balanced critique of the mainstream liberal and conservative political and literary spheres. Her study recounts the targeting of African American as well as white writers during the McCarthy era, reconstructs the events of the 1959 Black Writers’ Conference in New York, and argues for the ongoing influence of the Black Popular Front decades after it folded. Defining the contours of a distinctly black modernism and its far-ranging radicalization of American politics and culture, Washington fundamentally reorients scholarship on African American and Cold War literature and life.


Click for more detail about Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920 by Kevin McGruder Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920

by Kevin McGruder
Columbia University Press (Jun 02, 2015)
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Through the lens of real estate transactions from 1890 to 1920, Kevin McGruder offers an innovative perspective on Harlem’s history and reveals the complex interactions between whites and African Americans at a critical time of migration and development. During these decades Harlem saw a dramatic increase in its African American population, and although most histories speak only of the white residents who met these newcomers with hostility, this book uncovers a range of reactions. Although some white Harlem residents used racially restrictive real estate practices to inhibit the influx of African Americans into the neighborhood, others believed African Americans had a right to settle in a place they could afford and helped facilitate sales. These years saw Harlem change not into a "ghetto," as many histories portray, but into a community that became a symbol of the possibilities and challenges black populations faced across the nation. This book also introduces alternative reasons behind African Americans’ migration to Harlem, showing that they came not to escape poverty but to establish a lasting community. Owning real estate was an essential part of this plan, along with building churches, erecting youth-serving facilities, and gaining power in public office. In providing a fuller, more nuanced history of Harlem, McGruder adds greater depth in understanding its development and identity as both an African American and a biracial community.


Click for more detail about Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean by James Davis Eric Walrond: A Life in the Harlem Renaissance and the Transatlantic Caribbean

by James Davis
Columbia University Press (Feb 24, 2015)
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Eric Walrond (1898-1966) was a writer, journalist, caustic critic, and fixture of 1920s Harlem. His short story collection, Tropic Death, was one of the first efforts by a black author to depict Caribbean lives and voices in American fiction. Restoring Walrond to his proper place as a luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, this biography situates Tropic Death within the author’s broader corpus and positions the work as a catalyst and driving force behind the New Negro literary movement in America.James Davis follows Walrond from the West Indies to Panama, New York, France, and finally England. He recounts his relationships with New Negro authors such as Countée Cullen, Charles S. Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, and Gwendolyn Bennett, as well as the white novelist Carl Van Vechten. He also recovers Walrond’s involvement with Marcus Garvey’s journal Negro World and the National Urban League journal Opportunity and examines the writer’s work for mainstream venues, including Vanity Fair. In 1929, Walrond severed ties with Harlem, but he did not disappear. He contributed to the burgeoning anticolonial movement and print culture centered in England and fueled by C. L. R. James, George Padmore, and other Caribbean expatriates. His history of Panama, shelved by his publisher during the Great Depression, was the first to be written by a West Indian author. Unearthing documents in England, Panama, and the United States, and incorporating interviews, criticism of Walrond’s fiction and journalism, and a sophisticated account of transnational black cultural formations, Davis builds an eloquent and absorbing narrative of an overlooked figure and his creation of modern American and world literature.


Click for more detail about Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing

by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Columbia University Press (May 20, 2014)
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A masterful writer working in many genres, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o entered the East African literary scene in 1962 with the performance of his first major play, The Black Hermit, at the National Theatre in Uganda. In 1977 he was imprisoned after his most controversial work, Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want), produced in Nairobi, sharply criticized the injustices of Kenyan society and unequivocally championed the causes of ordinary citizens. Following his release, Ngugi decided to write only in his native Gikuyu, communicating with Kenyans in one of the many languages of their daily lives, and today he is known as one of the most outspoken intellectuals working in postcolonial theory and the global postcolonial movement.

In this volume, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o summarizes and develops a cross-section of the issues he has grappled with in his work, which deploys a strategy of imagery, language, folklore, and character to “decolonize the mind.” Ngũgĩ confronts the politics of language in African writing; the problem of linguistic imperialism and literature’s ability to resist it; the difficult balance between orality, or “orature,” and writing, or “literature”; the tension between national and world literature; and the role of the literary curriculum in both reaffirming and undermining the dominance of the Western canon. Throughout, he engages a range of philosophers and theorists writing on power and postcolonial creativity, including Hegel, Marx, L vi-Strauss, and Aimé Césaire. Yet his explorations remain grounded in his own experiences with literature (and orature) and reworks the difficult dialectics of theory into richly evocative prose.


Click for more detail about Hubert Harrison The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 by Jeffrey B. Perry Hubert Harrison The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

by Jeffrey B. Perry
Columbia University Press (Nov 17, 2010)
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Hubert Harrison was an immensely skilled writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist who, more than any other political leader of his era, combined class consciousness and anti-white-supremacist race consciousness into a coherent political radicalism. Harrison’s ideas profoundly influenced "New Negro" militants, including A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and his synthesis of class and race issues is a key unifying link between the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement: the labor- and civil-rights-based work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the race and nationalist platform associated with Malcolm X.

The foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician of the Socialist Party of New York, Harrison was also the founder of the "New Negro" movement, the editor of Negro World, and the principal radical influence on the Garvey movement. He was a highly praised journalist and critic (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer), a freethinker and early proponent of birth control, a supporter of Black writers and artists, a leading public intellectual, and a bibliophile who helped transform the 135th Street Public Library into an international center for research in Black culture. His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.


Click for more detail about Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era by Houston Baker Jr. Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era

by Houston Baker Jr.
Columbia University Press (Mar 26, 2010)
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Houston A. Baker Jr. condemns those black intellectuals who, he believes, have turned their backs on the tradition of racial activism in America. These individuals choose personal gain over the interests of the black majority, whether they are espousing neoconservative positions that distort the contours of contemporary social and political dynamics or abandoning race as an important issue in the study of American literature and culture. Most important, they do a disservice to the legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who have fought for black rights.

In the literature, speeches, and academic and public behavior of some black intellectuals in the past quarter century, Baker identifies a "hungry generation" eager for power, respect, and money. Baker critiques his own impoverished childhood in the "Little Africa" section of Louisville, Kentucky, to understand the shaping of this new public figure. He also revisits classical sites of African American literary and historical criticism and critique. Baker devotes chapters to the writing and thought of such black academic superstars as Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Hoover Institution senior fellow Shelby Steele; Yale law professor Stephen Carter; and Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter. His provocative investigation into their disingenuous posturing exposes what Baker deems a tragic betrayal of King’s legacy.

Baker concludes with a discussion of American myth and the role of the U.S. prison-industrial complex in the "disappearing" of blacks. Baker claims King would have criticized these black intellectuals for not persistently raising their voices against a private prison system that incarcerates so many men and women of color. To remedy this situation, Baker urges black intellectuals to forge both sacred and secular connections with local communities and rededicate themselves to social responsibility. As he sees it, the mission of the black intellectual today is not to do great things but to do specific, racially based work that is in the interest of the black majority.


Click for more detail about Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press by Melba Joyce Boyd Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press

by Melba Joyce Boyd
Columbia University Press (Jan 13, 2004)
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And as I groped in darkness

and felt the pain of millions,

gradually, like day driving night across the continent,

I saw dawn upon them like the sun a vision.

?Dudley Randall, from "Roses and Revolutions"

In 1963, the African American poet Dudley Randall (19142000) wrote "The Ballad of Birmingham" in response to the bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four young black girls, and "Dressed All in Pink," about the assassination of President Kennedy. When both were set to music by folk singer Jerry Moore in 1965, Randall published them as broadsides. Thus was born the Broadside Press, whose popular chapbooks opened the canon of American literature to the works of African American writers.

Dudley Randall, one of the great success stories of American small-press history, was also poet laureate of Detroit, a civil-rights activist, and a force in the Black Arts Movement. Melba Joyce Boyd was an editor at Broadside, was Randall’s friend and colleague for twenty-eight years, and became his authorized biographer. Her book is an account of the interconnections between urban and labor politics in Detroit and the broader struggles of black America before and during the Civil Rights era. But also, through Randall’s poetry and sixteen years of interviews, the narrative is a multipart dialogue between poets, Randall, the author, and the history of American letters itself, and it affords unique insights into the life and work of this crucial figure.


Click for more detail about A Covenant With Color: Race And Social Power In Brooklyn by Craig Steven Wilder A Covenant With Color: Race And Social Power In Brooklyn

by Craig Steven Wilder
Columbia University Press (Dec 15, 2001)
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Examining race, class, and society in Brooklyn over three centuries from the colonial period to the present, A Covenant with Color maps out the genesis, transformation, and dissemination of racial beliefs — observing them in action "on the ground."


Click for more detail about Dispatches from the Ebony Tower: Intellectuals Confront the African American Experience by Manning Marable Dispatches from the Ebony Tower: Intellectuals Confront the African American Experience

by Manning Marable
Columbia University Press (Mar 15, 2000)
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What constitutes black studies and where does this discipline stand at the end of the twentieth century? In this wide-ranging and original volume, Manning Marable?one of the leading scholars of African American history?gathers key materials from contemporary thinkers who interrogate the richly diverse content and multiple meanings of the collective experiences of black folk.

Here are numerous voices expressing very different political, cultural, and historical views, from black conservatives, to black separatists, to blacks who advocate radical democratic transformation. Here are topics ranging from race and revolution in Cuba, to the crack epidemic in Harlem, to Afrocentrism and its critics. All of these voices, however, are engaged in some aspect of what Marable sees as the essential triad of the black intellectual tradition: describing the reality of black life and experiences, critiquing racism and stereotypes, or proposing positive steps for the empowerment of black people.

Highlights from Dispatches from the Ebony Tower:

? Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Manning Marable debate the role of activism in black studies.

? John Hope Franklin reflects on his role as chair of the President’s race initiative.

? Cornel West discusses topics that range from the future of the NAACP through the controversies surrounding Louis Farrakhan and black nationalism to the very question of what "race" means.

? Amiri Baraka lays out strategies for a radical new curriculum in our schools and universities.

? Marable’s introduction provides a thorough overview of the history and current state of black studies in America.


Click for more detail about Black Leadership by Manning Marable Black Leadership

by Manning Marable
Columbia University Press (Mar 15, 1998)
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The history of the black struggle for civil rights and political and economic equality in America is tied to the strategies, agendas, and styles of black leaders. Marable examines different models of black leadership and the figures who embody them: integration (Booker T. Washington, Harold Washington), nationalist separatism (Louis Farrakhan), and democratic transformation (W.E.B. Du Bois).