"Letters from Black America"

February 15, 2009 7:51:04 AM PST
"Letters from Black America" is the first-ever narrative history of African Americans told through their own letters. The book's author, Pamela Newkirk, joined us this morning. Sample Quotes:

Abream Scriven to Dinah informing him he had been sold to a trader which is on page 7.
"Give my love to my father and mother and tell them good Bye for me and if we shall not meet in this world I hope to meet in heaven. My dear wife for you and my children my pen cannot express the griffe I feel to be parted from you all.."

Du Bois writing to his daughter Yolande as she settled into a British boarding school: P. 20.
"Remember that most fok laugh at anything unusual whether it is beautiful, fine or not. You however must not laugh at yourself. You must know that brown is as pretty as white or prettier and crinkly hair as straight though it is harder to comb. The main thing is YOU beneath the clothes and skin-- the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know the great, wonderful curious world."

Alice Walker to President-elect Barack Obama - P. 170:
"You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others carried year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be brought down before igniting the flames of ustice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear."

Talking points for Letters from Black America

1) A HISTORIC MOMENT FOR AMERICA - With President Obama taking charge of the White House, there could not be a better time for Letters from Black America. Karen Long wrote in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "As the country enters a fresh atmosphere around our latest president, Letters from Black America strikes a vital, rich chord in which to breathe the new air." Letters from Black America provides a deep historical context for Obama's presidency, and it locates our new president in that history, with the inclusion of a number of wonderful letters addressing Obama's campaign and election.
2) FIRST OF ITS KIND - Despite the importance of letters as historical markers and as literature, the correspondence of African Americans-like so much of black history-has traditionally been ignored or severely marginalized. This is the first book to tell the broad story of African American life through the letters of those who have lived it.
3) AMAZING LETTERS - There is a wealth of wonderful material in this collection. From a famous work of writing like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to poignant letters from W. E. B. Du Bois to his young daughter Yolande, there is much wit, wisdom, humor, and beauty here.
4) PERSONAL STORY - Pamela Newkirk is an award-winning journalist and author who spent years researching, compiling, and arranging letters for this collection. She called for letters through listings in newspapers, on the internet, and by word of mouth, and traveled as far as Ghana to research the project.
5) THE LURE OF LETTERS - Letter writing is a dying art, and as Newkirk stresses in her introduction, she hopes that this volume will help people to recognize African-American letters as the historical treasures that they are. In a world of instantaneous emails and text messaging, the letters in this collection are truly a special and irreplaceable piece of history.

To order "Letters from Black America," visit http://us.macmillan.com/lettersfromblackamerica.