Books and Publications

The Generic Closet: Black Gayness and the Black-Cast Sitcom (2021)
Alfred Martin, Jr.

Even after a rise in gay and Black representation and production on TV in the 1990s, the sitcom became a "generic closet," restricting Black gay characters with narrative tropes.

Drawing from 20 interviews with credited episode writers, key show-runners, and Black gay men, The Generic Closet situates Black-cast sitcoms as a unique genre that uses Black gay characters in service of the series' heterosexual main cast. Alfred L. Martin, Jr., argues that the Black community is considered to be antigay due to misrepresentation by shows that aired during the family viewing hour and that were written for the imagined, "traditional" Black family. Martin considers audience reception, industrial production practices, and authorship to unpack the claim that Black gay characters are written into Black-cast sitcoms such as MoeshaGood News, and Let's Stay Together in order to closet Black gayness.

By exploring how systems of power produce ideologies about Black gayness, The Generic Closet deconstructs the concept of a monolithic Black audience and investigates whether this generic closet still exists.

Soundtrack to a Movement: African American Islam, Jazz, and Black Internationalism (2021)
Richard Turner

Amid the social change and liberation of the civil rights and Black Power movements, the tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp recorded a tribute to Malcolm X’s emancipatory political consciousness. Shepp saw similarities between his revolutionary hero and John Coltrane, one of the most influential jazz musicians of the era. Later, the esteemed trumpeter Miles Davis echoed Shepp’s sentiment, recognizing that Coltrane’s music represented the very passion, rage, rebellion, and love that Malcolm X preached.

Soundtrack to a Movement examines the link between the revolutionary Black Islam of the post-WWII generation and jazz music. It argues that from the late 1940s and ’50s though the 1970s, Islam rose in prominence among African Americans in part because of the embrace of the religion among jazz musicians. The book demonstrates that the values that Islam and jazz shared—Black affirmation, freedom, and self-determination—were key to the growth of African American Islamic communities, and that it was jazz musicians who led the way in shaping encounters with Islam as they developed a Black Atlantic “cool” that shaped both Black religion and jazz styles.

Soundtrack to a Movement demonstrates how by expressing their values through the rejection of systemic racism, the construction of Black notions of masculinity and femininity, and the development of an African American religious internationalism, both jazz musicians and Black Muslims engaged with a global Black consciousness and interconnected resistance movements in the African diaspora and Africa.

Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (2019)
Simon Balto

In July 1919, an explosive race riot forever changed Chicago. For years, black southerners had been leaving the South as part of the Great Migration. Their arrival in Chicago drew the ire and scorn of many local whites, including members of the city’s political leadership and police department, who generally sympathized with white Chicagoans and viewed black migrants as a problem population. During Chicago’s Red Summer riot, patterns of extraordinary brutality, negligence, and discriminatory policing emerged to shocking effect. Those patterns shifted in subsequent decades, but the overall realities of a racially discriminatory police system persisted.

In this history of Chicago from 1919 to the rise and fall of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s, Simon Balto narrates the evolution of racially repressive policing in black neighborhoods as well as how black citizen-activists challenged that repression. Balto demonstrates that punitive practices by and inadequate protection from the police were central to black Chicagoans’ lives long before the late-century "wars" on crime and drugs. By exploring the deeper origins of this toxic system, Balto reveals how modern mass incarceration, built upon racialized police practices, emerged as a fully formed machine of profoundly antiblack subjugation.

Driven (2018)
Venise Berry

Driven, Reflections on Love, Career and the Pursuit of Happiness explores my evolution as one of those bra-burning, pants-wearing, education-getting, money-making, opinion-having, sex-enjoying, career-focused Black women who grew up in the 70's deciding to live life and live it abundantly with or without a man.

Like many career women, I flew through my twenties and thirties and forties, but fifty brought everything to a sudden stop. My fiftieth birthday was like a spiritual thief that snuck up behind me, held a gun to my head, and demanded my soul. That milestone triggered a deep longing to better understand the choices I'd made in my life, to examine my journey.

Offering words of wisdom, personal examples, cultural analysis, historical context, and suggestions for change, these essays will help readers think about the complexity of life's choices and the challenges facing women today, particularly when it comes to relationships vs. careers.

What Is This Thing Called Soul: Conversations on Black Culture and Jazz Education (2017)
Damani Phillips

How does academic jazz education impact the Black cultural value of soulfulness and esthetic standards in contemporary jazz music? Through candid conversations with nine of the country’s most highly respected jazz practitioners and teachers, What Is This Thing Called Soul explores the potential consequences of forcing the Black musical style of jazz into an academic pedagogical system that is specifically designed to facilitate the practice and pedagogy of European classical music. This work tests the belief that the cultural, emotional and esthetic elements at the very core of jazz’s unique identity, along with the music’s overt connection to Black culture, are effectively being "lost in translation" in traversing the divide between academic and non-academic jazz spheres. Interviews are supplemented by original analysis of the nature and validity of these issues contributed by the author.

Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans (2016)
Richard Turner

In his new book, Richard Brent Turner explores the history and contemporary significance of the popular religious traditions, identities, and performance forms celebrated in the second lines of the jazz street parades of black New Orleans. The second line is the group of dancers who follow the first procession of church and club members, brass bands, and grand marshals. Here musical and religious traditions interplay. Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans examines the relationship of jazz to indigenous religion and spirituality. It explores how the African diasporist religious identities and musical traditions―from Haiti and West and Central Africa―are reinterpreted in New Orleans jazz and popular religious performances, while describing how the participants in the second line create their own social space and become proficient in the arts of political disguise, resistance, and performance.

Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel (2016)
Jessica Welburn, Michele Lamont, Graziella Moraes Silva, Joshua Guetzkow, Nassim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog and Elisa Ries

Racism is a common occurrence for members of marginalized groups around the world. Getting Respect illuminates their experiences by comparing three countries with enduring group boundaries: the United States, Brazil and Israel. The authors delve into what kinds of stigmatizing or discriminatory incidents individuals encounter in each country, how they respond to these occurrences, and what they view as the best strategy--whether individually, collectively, through confrontation, or through self-improvement--for dealing with such events.

Black Culture and Experience: Contemporary Issues (2015)
Edited by Venise Berry, Anita Fleming-Rife, and Ayo Dayo        

Black Culture and Experience: Contemporary Issues offers a holistic look at Black culture in the twenty-first century. It is a collection of work that creates a synergy among authors and leads to a valuable resource on contemporary issues. This anthology contains work from leading scholars, authors, and other specialists who have been brought together to highlight key issues in black culture and experience today. The goal is to help readers understand where we are and where we still need to go, what is working and what we still need to work on, what is right and what is still wrong.

Dreaming Out Loud: African American Novelists at Work (2015)
Horace Porter

Dreaming Out Loud brings together essays by many of the most well-known and respected African American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, discussing various aspects of the vocation, craft, and art of writing fiction. Though many of the writers included here are also accomplished poets, essayists, and playwrights, this collection and the essays it contains remains focused on the novel as a genre and an art form.

Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime (2015)
Deborah E. Whaley

Black Women in Sequence takes readers on a search for women of African descent in comics subculture. From the 1971 appearance of the Skywald Publications character "the Butterfly" - the first Black female superheroine in a comic book - to contemporary comic books, graphic novels, film, manga, and video gaming, a growing number of Black women are becoming producers, viewers, and subjects of sequential art.

As the first detailed investigation of Black women’s participation in comic art, Black Women in Sequence examines the representation, production, and transnational circulation of women of African descent in the sequential art world. In this groundbreaking study, which includes interviews with artists and writers, Deborah Whaley suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad.

Black Television Travels: African American Media Around the Globe (2013)
Timothy Havens

Black Television Travels explores the globalization of African American television and the way in which foreign markets, programming strategies, and viewer preferences have influenced portrayals of African Americans on the small screen. Television executives have been notoriously slow to recognize the potential popularity of black characters and themes, both at home and abroad.  As American television brokers increasingly seek revenues abroad, their assumptions about saleability and audience perceptions directly influence the global circulation of these programs, as well as their content. Black Television Travels aims to reclaim the history of African American television circulation in an effort to correct and counteract this predominant industry lore.

Popular Television in Socialist and Post-Socialist Europe (2012)
Timothy Havens

This collection of essays responds to the recent surge of interest in popular television in Eastern Europe. This is a region where television's transformation has been especially spectacular, shifting from a state-controlled broadcast system delivering national, regional, and heavily filtered Western programming to a deregulated, multi-platform, transnational system delivering predominantly American and Western European entertainment programming. Consequently, the nations of Eastern Europe provide opportunities to examine the complex interactions among economic and funding systems, regulatory policies, globalization, imperialism, popular culture, and cultural identity. This collection will be the first volume to gather the best writing, by scholars across and outside the region, on socialist and postsocialist entertainment television as a medium, technology, and institution.

Understanding Media Industries (2011)
Timothy Havens

This is an introduction to the media industries, a topic that sometimes has its own course but is also incorporated into courses on media criticism, media literacy, and even a basic mass media course where the instructor wishes to teach from topical paperbacks as opposed to a big textbook. The book examines the influence of media industry organization and practices on society; at the same time, it offers students pursuing both scholarly and professional careers related to the media industries a comprehensive overview of how the industries work, why they work as they do, and what the broader theoretical and practical implications of the media industries are. Questions such as "why is media industry organization important?", "how do we make sense of media industry changes?" and "what are the key issues facing media industries?" animate the analysis.

Disciplining Women (2010)
Deborah Whaley

Disciplining Women focuses on the oldest Black Greek-letter sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), established in 1908. In this innovative interdisciplinary analysis of AKA, Deborah Elizabeth Whaley combines ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, oral history, and interpretive readings of popular culture and sorority rituals to examine the role of the Black sorority in women's everyday lives and more broadly within public life and politics.

Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance (2010)
Miriam Thaggert

Focusing on the years from 1922 to 1938, this book revisits an important moment in black cultural history to explore how visual elements were used in poems, novels, and photography to undermine existing stereotypes. Miriam Thaggert identifies and analyzes an early form of black American modernism characterized by a heightened level of experimentation with visual and verbal techniques for narrating and representing blackness. The work of the writers and artists under discussion reflects the creative tension between the intangibility of some forms of black expression, such as spirituals, and the materiality of the body evoked by other representations of blackness, such as 'Negro' dialect.

Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (2015, 2nd edition)
Venise Berry

Through a chronology, a list of acronyms and abbreviations, an introductory essay, a bibliography, appendixes, black-&-white photos, and hundreds of cross-referenced dictionary entries on actors, actresses, movies, producers, organizations, awards, film credits, and terminology, this book provides a better understanding of the role African Americans played in film history.

The Making of a Black Scholar: From Georgia to the Ivy League (2003)
Horace Porter

This captivating and illuminating book is a memoir of a young black man moving from rural Georgia to life as a student and teacher in the Ivy League as well as a history of the changes in American education that developed in response to the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, and affirmative action. Born in 1950, Horace Porter starts out in rural Georgia in a house that has neither electricity nor running water. In 1968, he leaves his home in Columbus, Georgia--thanks to an academic scholarship to Amherst College--and lands in an upper-class, mainly white world. Focusing on such experiences in his American education, Porter's story is both unique and representative of his time. The Making of a Black Scholar is structured around schools. Porter attends Georgia's segregated black schools until he enters the privileged world of Amherst College. He graduates (spending one semester at Morehouse College) and moves on to graduate study at Yale. He starts his teaching career at Detroit's Wayne State University and spends the 1980s at Dartmouth College and the 1990s at Stanford University. Porter writes about working to establish the first black studies program at Amherst, the challenges of graduate study at Yale, the infamous Dartmouth Review, and his meetings with such writers and scholars as Ralph Ellison, Tillie Olsen, James Baldwin, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He ends by reflecting on an unforeseen move to the University of Iowa, which he ties into a return to the values of his childhood on a Georgia farm. In his success and the fulfillment of his academic aspirations, Porter represents an era, a generation, of possibility and achievement.

Islam in the African American Experience (2003)
Richard Brent Turner

The involvement of black Americans with Islam reaches back to the earliest days of the African presence in North America. Part I of the book explores these roots in the Middle East, West Africa, and antebellum America. Part II tells the story of the "Prophets of the City"—the leaders of the new urban-based African American Muslim movements in the 20th century. Turner places the study of Islam in the context of the racial, ethical, and political relations that influenced the reception of successive presentations of Islam, including the West African Islam of slaves, the Ahmadiyya Movement from India, the orthodox Sunni practice of later immigrants, and the Nation of Islam. This second edition features a new introduction, which discusses developments since the earlier edition, including Islam in a post-9/11 America.

Colored Sugar Water (2002)
Venise Berry

Colored Sugar Water introduces Lucy Merriweather and Adel Kelly, both dealing with life issues. Lucy is thirty-five, single, and in great shape thanks to her career as a fitness manager for a string of Texas health clubs. Adel is the vice president for human resources at American Oil, pulling in a six-figure salary and annual bonuses. Unfortunately, neither is happy.

Lucy struggles with her emotional and spiritual dreams. Her boyfriend Spencer, a basic kind of guy who loves his mama, sports, fried chicken, and Lucy in that order doesn't seem to measure up. So she decides to get out of her rut with a Sexy Soul Psychic named Kuba. Self-assured and sensitive, Kuba seems to know exactly what women want. Or does he?

Adel struggles with a husband, Thad, who refuses to grow up and a job that is less than satisfying despite its financial gains. She is eventually forced to reexamine her faith as she searches for a life that brings her closer to happiness and fulfillment.

Filled with the humor, passion, and pathos of modern relationships, Colored Sugar Water tells the story of two women who discover the power of their unique spiritual gifts.

Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America (2001)
Horace Porter

Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America addresses Ellison's jazz background, including his essays and comments about jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker. Porter further examines the influences of Ellington and Armstrong as sources of the writer's personal and artistic inspiration and highlights the significance of Ellison's camaraderie with two African American friends and fellow jazz fans—the writer Albert Murray and the painter Romare Bearden. Most notably, Jazz Country demonstrates how Ellison appropriated jazz techniques in his two novels, Invisible Man and Juneteenth. Using jazz as the key metaphor, Porter refocuses old interpretations of Ellison by placing jazz in the foreground and by emphasizing, especially as revealed in his essays, the power of Ellison's thought and cultural perception.

So Good (2001)
Venise Berry

Three very different young African-American women - Lisa, a doctoral candidate, advertising executive Danielle, and Sundiata, a newlywed - turn to one another as they search for Mr. Right.

All of Me: A Voluptuous Tale (2001)
Venise Berry

Serpentine Williamson has a good life: an exciting career as a television reporter in Chicago, a sexy boyfriend, membership in a popular gospel choir, and a family who loves her. But in the midst of her positives lies a powerful negative - her lifelong struggle with weight.

After years of buying into fads and labels, Serpentine finds her world crumbling. And, finally losing the battle to uphold her plummeting self-esteem, she breaks down and needs to be hospitalized. All of Me is a heartwarming, inspiring, and often funny chronicle of Serpentine's fight for recovery. As she learns to meet her challenges with dignity and strength she also learns to love herself, for the first time, just the way she is. All of Me will resonate with women of all shapes and sizes and will once again affirm Venise Berry as a fresh voice in African-American women's fiction, whose snappy characters, according to Rosalyn McMillan, "double-dare you to put the book down."

The 50 Most Influential Black Films: A Celebration of African-American Talent, Determination, and Creativity (2000)
Venise Berry

The Fifty Most Important Black Films in an illustrated guide to 50 of the most important and socially significant movies made for, by and about African Americans. It is a resource book, that examines of how black films have shaped and reflected the times, influenced society, and impacted black culture.

Mediated Messages and African-American Culture: Contemporary Issues (1996)
Venise Berry

Images of African Americans abound in United States' culture - on television, in films, on the radio and in newsprint. Whether in works by African Americans - most notably popular music, film and now television programmes - or works about African Americans, from documentaries to news coverage, strong images pervade our public consciousness.

Integrating applied analysis, case studies and critical perspectives, contributions from leading scholars explore key issues including: the relationship between black men and the police; the state of the African-American press; and the perpetuation of images of African Americans as poor, violent and under-educated.