Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut is quoted as saying, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” During Black History month we celebrate the unending creative contributions of the African American community. The unlimited imagination that Black excellence has modeled through history is witnessed in the American canon; whether it is W.E.B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, or James Baldwin, representation matters. The available content in the Cedar Rapids Public Library that was created by and is about Black Americans is vast, but we’d like to highlight just a few available on different platforms.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018). The 2019 winner of the Pulitzer in the history category, “The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era” (Pulitzer.org). The book is written by David W. Blight, who is a Professor of American History as well as the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. The books comes in at 912 pages, which is hefty, but appropriate for the subject. Douglass was a fascinating person, the most photographed in history, and the details of his life written in the book animate his struggle as well as his victories. This title is available in book form available for pick up at any of the metro library locations.
The Purpose of Power: How to Build Movements for the 21st Century (2020). Alicia Garza is credited with first using the hashtag Black Lives Matter – after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. Garza, along with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors organized the Black Lives Matter movement and created a framework for change. Garza reflects on her life in this book going over situations that have both helped and inhibited her ability to organize. This is a roadmap on how to bring people together to affect change. Black Lives Matter was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. This title is available in book form available for pick up at any of the metro library locations.
Black Panther Comic Book (2016-Present). Ta Nehisi-Coates may be more known for his award winning books (Between the World and Me, We Were Eight Years in Power, etc), but it is his enduring storytelling with the Black Panther comic book series that has lit many young and old imaginations. Enter the world of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation in the world, as they face danger and change. This series is available on the streaming service Hoopla, available with a library card.
The Parable of the Sower (1993). Octavia Butler’s sci-fi masterpiece has been re-awakened by black leaders as a critical example of our modern times. Butler may have invented Afrofuturism; a cultural aesthetic that marries the African diaspora with technology. Parable of the Sower was her 10th novel, centered on a black female in a climate change future where the landscape is bleak, water is scarce, and the poor live behind walls. The character is born with something called ‘hyper empathy’ in which she feels the pain of others. This title is available as an e-book through Overdrive and can be accessed with your library card.
Otis Redding Live at the Monterey International Pop Festival with Booker T and the MG’s and the Mar-Key’s (1967). Otis Reddings’ recording career began with his song These Arms of Mine in 1962 at the famous Stax records in Memphis, Tennessee. Critics often credit his performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 as the moment when his career really set sail. 1967 was the first year of the festival and also featured Jimi Hendrix, as well as Janis Joplin. You can hear him address the crowd when he goes into I’ve Been Loving you too Long, “This is the love crowd, right?” He was playing to the young hippie crowd just becoming hip to Redding’s sound, and it was widely praised. Otis, of course, was taken from the world far too early in a plane crash in December of that same year. This album is available on our music streaming service Freegal. With your library card you can download 5 songs a week, and stream 2 hours of music a day. This entire album is 29 minutes and can easily fit into the streaming limits.