It seems appropriate that Schlager’s new collection of primary sources concludes with the work of our nation’s first black president as the final of the many milestone in the history of African Americans. The first of the four volumes covers North American colonization and negotiation of the peculiar institution of slavery in the early United States, the second begins with the Dred Scott decision and moves through Reconstruction. The third volume spans from the early twentieth century to the Civil Rights movement, while the final volume concludes with addresses by President Barack Obama.
Each article features an overview, an excellent biographical sketch about the author, an explanation and analysis of the primary source material, a description of its publication context and contemporary audience, information about the document’s reception and impact, and materials for further study, in addition to the document itself with a glossary when appropriate. Chapters and subheading from the original sources are preserve. Each article is encapsulated in a page of well-chosen quotes from the original work, and each article is framed with essential questions which move well beyond comprehension. Timelines of key events sequence the document’s creation, reception, and historical impact. Many of the probing and thoughtful question draw comparisons with other documents in the collection, comparing themes like educational opportunity or African American military participation across time periods.
Many of the accounts will appeal to even the most reluctant historians, especially those of groundbreaking athletes Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson,and the Supreme Court decision surrounding Muhammad Ali’s refusal to accept induction into the U.S. Army. Owen’s narrative, penned after the black power display by U.S. track and field athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, contrasts that sixties militants reminded him of the white supremacists of his sharecropping Alabama childhood. Owens’ compelling passage sharply contrasts the opportunities available then with those he encountered after his 1936 Olympic victories in Berlin, when he could not afford to return to Ohio State to complete his degree and could only find employment as a playground instructor for the city of Cleveland. (Owens also recounts how he was eventually offered the dehumanizing opportunity to race against horses in exhibitions before Negro League baseball games, something he did nonetheless to save enough money to finish college).
The simultaneous presentation of the primary source and the contextual information to scaffold its interpretation include a range of twentieth-century Black Power topics often not treated in such a scholarly manner for younger readers, including the work of Stokely Carmicheal, Eldredge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers. Students will find fodder for writing on a diverse range of historical topics, including the Tulsa race riots of 1921, lynching, the Scottsboro boys case, Louis Farrakhan and the Million Man March, the National of Islam, Tuskegee syphilis experiments, and the legality of interracial marriage.
The images, most taken from news archives and Library of Congress, are well-chosen, and there are ten pages of instructional ideas for teachers, organized by era, and a subject index as well as one organized by categories like speeches, judicial decisions, and personal narratives. The books are visually well-designed, with most text in two columns per page, the significant quotes from the primary source being the only content spanning the page. The Schlager imprint offers the same dual-version access of the other Salem Press titles, with access to electronic text provided with purchase of print product. Recommended for school and public libraries.