Gates (Identities) and West (Race Matters, 1993, etc.) have compiled over 100 essays of mostly biographical material on some fairly well-known figures in the arts, military life, sports, civil rights, politics, and religion.
It’s a case of rounding up the usual suspects, with a surprise here and there. Those who make the cut include Louis Armstrong, Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jessye Norman, and Thurgood Marshall. And then there are the ones you wonder about (Spike Lee, Tupac Shakur, and Michael Jackson). The authors declare in their introduction that they sought to “focus less on individuals as isolated icons and more as individuals as part of a grand tradition.” Although it comes a little late, this clearly is one of those works aimed at cashing in on the new millennium. It may have missed the boat there, but it can still be sold for Christmas.
Diverting but hardly cutting-edge.