First published as a hardcover in 2009, and reissued in a revised version as a paperback in 2011, Letters from Black America fills a literary and historical void by presenting the pantheon of African American experience in the most intimate way possible — through the heartfelt correspondence of the men and women who lived through monumental changes and pivotal events, from the 1700s to the twenty-first century, from slavery to the war in Iraq and the election of President Barack Obama. The first-ever narrative history of African Americans told through their own letters, this book includes the thoughts of politicians, writers, and entertainers, as well as those of slaves, servicemen, and domestic workers. From a slave who writes to his wife on the eve of being sold to famous documents like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," these writings illuminate struggles and triumphs, hardships and glory, in the unforgettable words of the participants themselves.
Letters from Black America is an indispensable addition to our country's literary tradition, historical understanding, and self-knowledge.
Praise for Letters from Black America:
"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." —Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Ah, the lure and lore of the letter! Nowadays we turn to cell phones, e-mail and instant messaging to connect, but when you crack open Pamela Newkirk's Letters From Black America you'll see that the pen is mightier than the thumb." –Mika Ono, Essence
"An instructive, moving — even delightful — primer on the myriad facets of African-American private and public life." —Publishers Weekly
"This long-overdue collection by writers from all walks of life is moving, illuminating, and difficult to put down." —Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
"When we think of great memorials and monuments, we often envision structures crafted out of steel or stone. But I believe the letters in Pamela Newkirk's tremendous collection represent perhaps the most powerful and enduring legacy to the strength, creativity, genius, and resilience of the African American community. Letters from Black America is itself a work of art." —Andrew Carroll, editor of Letters of a Nation and War Letters
"Seldom has the intimate life of a people been more variously revealed. Think of the day when there may only be downloaded e-mail, and then thank Pamela Newkirk for the enduring significance, poignancy, and delight of her Letters from Black America." —David Levering Lewis, Julius Silver University Professor, New York University, and author of W.E.B. Du Bois
"This is an extraordinary peek at what went on behind the closed doors of black America for nearly three hundred years. Notables are reduced to human beings, and the anonymous come to life. These extraordinary snapshots of the past will provide hours of informative pleasure and delightful reading. Wonderfully done." —James McBride, author of The Color of Water