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Our biweekly feature highlighting the many contributions by non-mainstream individuals you might not have learned or read about. A brief fact will be posted in PLATO's Tuesday WEEKLY UPDATE email and more background on the individual and their accomplishments will be provided here.
DID YOU KNOW? for January 24 – February 6, 2023:
Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002) was a United States Air Force (USAF) general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen.
He was the first African-American brigadier general in the USAF. On December 9, 1998, he was advanced to four-star general by President Bill Clinton. During World War II, Davis was commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group, which escorted bombers on air combat missions over Europe. Davis flew sixty missions in P-39, Curtiss P-40, P-47 and P-51 Mustang fighters and was one of the first African-American pilots to see combat. Davis followed in his father's footsteps in breaking racial barriers, as Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was the first black brigadier general in the United States Army.
Click here for a review of recent DID YOU KNOW? articles.
Check back every 2 weeks for our next DID YOU KNOW? feature!
HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST by Ibram X. Kendi
Candacy Taylor traveled the country to create this “historical exploration of the Green Book” and present “a fascinating [and] sweeping story of black travel within Jim Crow America across four decades” (The New York Times Book Review).
Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America” for locating businesses that were open to and safe for African Americans.
(Available in multiple formats, including hardbound, Kindle, picture book, and ReadAloud)
This book is the UW-Madison "Big Read" Selection for 2022-23
A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, "How the Word Is Passed" illustrates how some of our country's most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.
Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith's debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.
Click here for background on why "How the Word is Passed" was selected as the 2022-23 UW-Madison Big Read book.
“Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside…And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”
Cicely Tyson was an actress, lecturer, activist, and one of the most respected talents in American theater and film history. Her work garnered critical and commercial applause for more than 60 years. Her 2 Emmys for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman made her the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress.
In 2013, Ms. Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful. A capstone achievement came in 2018, when she became the first Black woman to receive an honorary Oscar. Another highlight from her lengthy list of honors was being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
by Jason Mott
One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction | One of Philadelphia Inquirer's Best Books of 2021 | One of Shelf Awareness's Top Ten Fiction Titles of the Year | One of TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books | One of NPR.org's "Books We Love" | EW’s "Guide to the Biggest and Buzziest Books of 2021" | One of the New York Public Library's Best Books for Adults |…………..[list of awards goes on and on!]
"An astounding work of fiction from a New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott, always deeply honest, at times electrically funny, that goes to the heart of racism, police violence, and the hidden costs exacted upon Black Americans, and America as a whole."
In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, a Black author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That storyline drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and urgent: since Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
As these characters’ stories build and build and converge, they astonish. For while this heartbreaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.
Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the last ten years. And in its final twists it truly becomes its title.
Available at Madison Library – print and audio versions.
(Crown Publishing; Oct. 2021)
by Jay Caspian Kang
"A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores-and reimagines-Asian American identity in a Black and white world. In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States.
Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country's demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang's parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of "Asian America" that was supposed to define them.
The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. [From book jacket]
FORGOTTEN - The Untold Story of
D-Day's Black Heroes, At Home And At War
(Harper Collins 2015)
by Linda Hervieux
The injustices of 1940's Jim Crow America are brought to life in this extraordinary blend of military and social history--a story that pays tribute to the valor of an all-black battalion whose crucial contributors at D-Day have gone unrecognized to this day.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African-American soldiers, landed on the beaches of France. Their orders were to man a curtain of armed balloons meant to deter enemy aircraft. One member of the 320th would be nominated for the Medal of Honor, an award he would never receive. The nation’s highest decoration was not given to black soldiers in World War II.
Drawing on newly uncovered military records and dozens of original interviews with surviving members of the 320th and their families, Linda Hervieux tells the story of these heroic men charged with an extraordinary mission, whose contributions to one of the most celebrated events in modern history have been overlooked. Members of the 320th—Wilson Monk, a jack-of-all-trades from Atlantic City; Henry Parham, the son of sharecroppers from rural Virginia; William Dabney, an eager 17-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia; Samuel Mattison, a charming romantic from Columbus, Ohio—and thousands of other African Americans were sent abroad to fight for liberties denied them at home. In England and Europe, these soldiers discovered freedom they had not known in a homeland that treated them as second-class citizens—experiences they carried back to America, fueling the budding civil rights movement.
In telling the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, Hervieux offers a vivid account of the tension between racial politics and national service in wartime America, and a moving narrative of human bravery and perseverance in the face of injustice.
Available through Madison Public Library
An urgent primer on race and racism, from the host of the viral hit YouTube series, "Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man". Emmanual Acho as both video host and author takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, that many white Americans are afraid to ask - yet questions which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever.
Former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho started his online video series to give white people a non-judgmental space to ask questions about race and racism. "You cannot fix a problem you don't know you have" says Acho. “There is a fix,” he feels, “But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.”
A 2021 New York Times Bestseller and Amazon Editors' Pick: Best History
One of today's most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn --racism has a cost for everyone-- not just for people of color.
In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value "diversity" in their mission statements, I'M STILL HERE is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America's social fabric--from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness is a 2018 memoir by Austin Channing Brown. The book became a bestseller during the mid-2020 resurgence of national interest in racial injustice following the George Floyd protests.