African-American Success Stories

Out of the Madness: From the Projects to a Life of Hope

By Jerrold Ladd

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"An incredible odyssey follows one African American's struggle through horrific circumstances, clinging to a heroin-addicted mother, attempting to get out of the violent, drug-ridden projects, and ultimately, out of sheer guts and self-education, creating a new life."

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Pushed Back to Strength: A Black Woman's Journey Home

By Gloria Wade-Gayles

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"This Spelman College English professor and poet weaves back and forth through time, fashioning a richly textured autobiographical tapestry of her emotional, spiritual, and intellectual maturation as a southern black female."

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Scatman: An Authorized Biography of Scatman Crothers

By Jim Haskins with Helen Crothers

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At the time of his death in 1986, Sherman "Scatman" Crothers had had many careers in entertainment--as a singer, songwriter, band leader, and television and film actor. In Scatman, the author of Mr. Bojangles tells the story of the man who owned "the shiniest mouth in town."

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The Blueprint: A Plan for Living above Life's Storms

By Kirk Franklin

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The gospel artist describes the family challenges that hampered his youth, his dedication to helping others, and his street-wise perspectives on such topics as faith, family responsibilities, and African-American identity.

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The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story

By Yvonne S. Thornton, as told to Jo Coudert

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"...the inspiring portrait by a loving daughter of an unusual man who was as clearheaded as he was ambitious and determined. Working two full-time jobs--and with the help of his equally remarkable wife, who worked as a cleaning woman--Donald thornton formed his bright and talented girls into a rhythm-and-blues band that played Harlem's Apollo Theater, at the same time ensuring that each of them completed her education and rose to stand on equal terms with anyone, man or woman, black or white."

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The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

By Sidney Poitier

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I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set.
--Sidney Poitier

"In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure--as a man, as a husband and a father, and as an actor.

"Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. 'In the kind of place where I grew up,' recalls Poitier, 'what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters...and that's it.' Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life. Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents. Just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition. Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life."

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The Riches of Oseola McCarty

By Evelyn Coleman

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A brief biography of Oseola McCarty, a hard-working washer woman who, without a formal education herself, donated a portion of her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi to endow a scholarship fund for needy students.

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The Seventh Child

By Freddie Mae Baxter

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"The seventh of eight children, Freddie Mae Baxter was born in 1923 in rural South Carolina. When her father left the family, her mother had to raise the children alone, and Freddie Mae went to work--first picking cotton, then cooking for the white families in town. At seventeen, she decided to go up North in search of new horizons and a better life. Now, in an astonishingly original voice, Freddie Mae shares with us the wisdom of her seventy-five years, and some vivid memories: from her childhood in the South ('Two cents was money in those days. . .') to her life in Harlem, where she played saxophone in an all-girl band ('We just jammed!') and danced at all the hot clubs ('Anyplace that there was music, you could find me'). Through the good times, bad times, and the enormous changes she's lived through, Freddie Mae has remained steadfastly optimistic and emotionally generous."

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True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity

By John W. Fountain

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John Fountain grew up surrounded by a caring, religious family who believed in him, but that didn't stop him from finding the familiar track of early fatherhood and college drop-out. His family's faith brought him out of the spiral and on the road to becoming an award-winning journalist for the New York Times.

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