The comedian, activist, and social critic highlights key events in black history in America.
Gregory (Callus on My Soul, 2000, etc.) notes that his perspective is unique because he was there—at least for many of the 20th-century events he chronicles. The author traces black history from the beginnings of the slave trade out of Africa, a history with which most readers are familiar. But Gregory adds further facts that got left behind. For example, regarding the horrific middle passage: “Prior to the Middle Passage sharks had a natural migration….Then [it] came along—all that blood in the ocean. The blood of millions of black people. The sharks changed their migration pattern to follow the blood.” The book is full of such eye-opening—sometimes shocking—historical tidbits, about everything from Rosa Parks to the Dred Scott decision to Pullman Porters to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Million Man March to W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and the Atlanta Compromise. The book is full of heroes and heroines, many that history books overlook—e.g., Dorothy Height, the “godmother of civil rights.” Not surprisingly in a book from Gregory, the conspiracy theories are in abundance, and many make perfect sense. Certainly, there have been white supremacists who hatched plots to defeat and even kill blacks who tried to band together for their rights. Gregory’s attitude is not one of anger, and he shows a deep respect for God: “I plant the turnips, but it’s your sunshine…your rain that waters the crops.” The author believes most in the need for progress and change, which, he admits, “does not come quickly.” But it is crucial, and it requires knowledge. “Along with my activism,” he writes, “I have spent my entire life in the pursuit of knowledge.”
Gregory’s devotion to civil rights and his global recognition add to his appealing writing style and clever sense of humor to make this a book for a wide audience.