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POINT OF RECKONING

THE FIGHT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE AT DUKE UNIVERSITY

A candid view of institutional resistance to social justice and its dismantling by determined activism.

In-depth examination of the first years of integrated education at a prominent Southern university.

Trinity College, in Durham, North Carolina, became Duke University in 1924 following a huge endowment from a tobacco tycoon. For the next four decades, writes local attorney and Duke graduate Segal, the university was a reliable bastion of Jim Crow law. As late as 1957, a Black pastor asked to complete coursework begun in New York for a master’s degree in theology and was firmly declined by Duke’s president, who wrote, “No doubt you are familiar with the traditional admissions policy at Duke University. [Since] there has been no change in this policy…I am unable to give you a favorable reply.” In 1963, the school admitted Black students—not many, and not enthusiastically—meanwhile continuing a policy of hiring Black blue-collar workers at wages far below the federally established minimum. Thanks to a forward-looking president, Duke eventually “eliminated most of the school’s de jure discriminatory policies and practices” even if the school’s most formal social events were held at a Whites-only country club off campus. Following the death of Martin Luther King, writes Segal, Black students at Duke, as everywhere, were radicalized and became more militant; in 1969, they occupied a campus building only to be brutalized by campus police. Earlier, the majority of Duke’s Black enrollees had written, “We, as a group of Negro students, are fairly convinced…that our sole purpose here at the University is confined to being conspicuous.” Their point was well taken, and even if “on matters of racial progress, Duke was at best reactive and at worst highly resistant,” racial progress did eventually follow. Segal closes his doggedly researched narrative with a list of the accomplishments of some of the occupiers of 1969, including “Brenda Armstrong, the second Black woman in the United States to become a board-certified pediatric cardiologist.”

A candid view of institutional resistance to social justice and its dismantling by determined activism.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4780-1142-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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HIP-HOP IS HISTORY

Questlove’s instincts as a superfan and artist take this history beyond the hype to something very special.

A memorable, masterful history of the first 50 years of an indelible American art form.

While historians often cast themselves as omniscient in their works, delivering facts and stories as important without acknowledging the impact of their own experiences on the narrative process, Questlove—drummer, DJ, music historian, and author of Mo’ Meta Blues, Creative Quest, and Music Is History—is forthcoming about the fact that he experienced music differently as he grew older. “I wasn’t sitting down for five hours listening to them over and over and over again, trying to unpack every nuance from every corner,” he writes, recalling his feelings decades into his relationship with the genre. “But I was—I am—a DJ, which meant that I had a professional interest in excavating the songs that worked.” The author’s observations spanning the entirety of hip-hop’s history are consistently illuminating—e.g., connecting its shift in five-year increments to the dominant drug of the period, from crack to sizzurp to opioids. However, it’s his personal connection to certain eras that make his latest book stand out. Questlove considers the late 1980s and early ’90s as the “golden age of hip-hop, when innovative MCs and innovative DJs seemed to spring up every few months, and classic albums regularly sprouted on the vine.” That era—filled with masterpieces from Public Enemy, De La Soul, and N.W.A.—is universally revered, but Questlove also recognizes that it coincides with the years between high school and when he officially became an artist—a time when he was immersed in finding inspiration and understanding the construction of hip-hop. While the author’s knowledge of hip-hop is as deep as any musicologist, it’s his passion for certain artists and songs that sets him apart.

Questlove’s instincts as a superfan and artist take this history beyond the hype to something very special.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780374614072

Page Count: 352

Publisher: AUWA/MCD

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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ON JUNETEENTH

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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