Black Book



Black Book

This edition

"The Black Book" . Comp. Middleton Harris. Intro. Bill Cosby. New York: Random House, 1974. 198 pp.

Other editions, reprints, and translations

• Repr. New York: Random House, 2009 (35th anniversary edition; with new foreword by Toni Morrison).

Table of contents

"Includes uncredited poem by Toni Morrison on jacket flap, who, as senior editor at Random House, created and compiled this book. The 25th anniversary edition (2001) ["sic" actually the 35th anniversary edition in 2009] prints the poem as a preface and credits Morrison as the author. In this edition, Toni Morrison's parents Ramah and George Carl Wofford, are credited as contributors--Ken Lopez, bookseller." (WorldCat).

Reviews and notices of anthology

● Marr, Warren, II. "Journey to Black America." "The Crisis" 81.6 (June-July 1974): 213. [Google Books]
"Middleton (Spike, as most people know him) Harris has collected Negro historical materials for a lifetime--books, newspapers, documents, photos, coins, everything that portrays a bit of the story of the Negro in America. He has accumulated to the point that every room in his Brooklyn home, from the kitchen to the bedrooms, contains part of the collection, acquired assiduously and laboriously, some of it expensively, in places far and near.
"Mr. Harris is not an historian by formal education, nor would a former parole officer be expected to exert sufficient authority upon the City of New York to convince it to memorialize the doings of black folk. But Mr. Harris is an historian and four bronze plaques, honoring various Negroes, have been mounted where the public can see them because of this man's knowledge, research and perseverance.
"Now others can know part of those historical facts which Mr. Harris has catalogued and, with the assistance of Messrs. Levitt, Furman and Smith and Random House editor Toni Morrison, published in a book which can be described only as a printed scrapbook. It is chock full of period newspaper articles, historical tidbis, photos, handbills, sheet music covers, posters and patents (complete with scaled diagrams) as registered in the United States Patent Office by black inventors such as William B. Purvis, George T. Sampson, John F. Pickering, Norbert Rillieux, Granville T. Woods and others, some of whom have names which have been unknown to this day.
"In the introduction to 'The Black Book,' comedian Bill Cosby says it is a 'folk journey to Black America . . . beautiful, haunting, curious, informative and human.' He's right. And much of it is uninterpreted: the material is just there so the reader must come to his own conclusions. . . .
"A substantial portion of the material is down-beat as it must be when much of the documentation reports on conditions related to slavery, to lynching and to happenings during the Reconstruction Period. But there is a lot of pleasurable material such as twelve pages filled with reproductions of the artistry of black people during their days of heavy oppression. . . .
"There is considerably more material than one would expect on 198 pages. The reason for that is simple: the pages are large and much of the type is small. It all works out so that there is ample new information to help fill the gaps in our knowledge of the history of the American black man" (213).

Commentary on anthology

● Wall, Cheryl. "Reading 'The Black Book': Between the Lines of History." Arizona Quarterly 68.4 (Winter 2012): 105-30.
Abstract: "The article presents literary criticism of "The Black Book," edited by Toni Morrison, Middleton Harris, Morris Levitt, and Roger Furman. According to the author, the book offers readers an interactive and communal model for learning about the past which is similar to the dynamic found in storytelling. It is suggested that the text invites readers to construct their own narratives based on the facts and images it presents."

See also

(Stephanie Stokes Oliver, the editor of "Black Ink," refers to "The Black Book" as an "inspiration" for her own anthology.)

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Title Alternate label Class
Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing Bibliographic Resource