African-American Success Stories

The last half of the twentieth century saw an amazing record of black accomplishments. These books chronicle the stories of people rising from poverty to success against a backdrop of segregation and discrimination. From Ben Carson, the gifted surgeon from the inner city, to the wisdom of the Delaney sisters, there are two dozen tales here that inspire and celebrate the human spirit.

Angels Along the Way: My Life with Help from Above

By Della Reese with Franklin Lett and Mim Eichler

Go to catalog

"The inspiring autobiography of the beloved singer, actor, and star of the hit television series Touched by an Angel....the story of a remarkable woman whose life has been filled with surprises. Born in the Detroit slums, Deloreese Patricia Early landed her first professional tour at thirteen, singing backup for Mahalia Jackson. By 1953 she was in New York with a recording contract, racking up hits including "In the Still of the Night" and "Don't You Know." The first woman to host The Tonight Show, Della also became the first black woman to host her own nationally syndicated television talk show. Through it all, Della has dealt with personal tragedy, such as the early death of her mother, which caused her to leave college in order to take care of her father. One night, while performing on The Tonight Show, Della suffered a potentially fatal aneurysm. When her doctor told her she had just days to live, she found a new surgeon, who trusted in the Almighty as she did. In 1983, Della's 'partner' above inspired her to become a minister. She has served ever since as the chief leader of a ministry she founded in a Los Angeles community, preaching to a standing-room-only crowd every Sunday. Here is the powerful story of a woman who is quick to credit the many miracles in her life to human 'angels,' as well as her 'partner' above."

Reserve this title

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography

By Sidney Poitier

Go to catalog

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."

Reserve this title

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

By A'Lelia Bundles

Go to catalog

The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, and widowed at 20. On Her Own Ground is a comprehensive biography of an unusual entrepreneur and philanthropist. Contains personal letters, records, and rare photographs from the family collection.

Reserve this title

Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

By John Edward Hasse

Go to catalog

No one led a band like Duke Ellington, no one led a life like Duke Ellington, and no one wrote music like Duke Ellington. One of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Ellington was acclaimed in his lifetime as a bandleader, but this biography explores his skill as a composer and musical "problem-solver." The author also guides the reader through the bewildering array of Ellington recordings, selecting and commenting on the most essential ones from each period of Ellington's career.

Reserve this title

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

By Kirk Franklin

Go to catalog

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.

Reserve this title

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

By John W. Fountain

Go to catalog

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.

Reserve this title

Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?

By Antwone Quenton Fisher

Go to catalog

"With the publication of Finding Fish, his memoir of a childhood spent in foster homes in and around Cleveland, Antwone Fisher shared with the world his story of perseverance, determination, and courage. And he also showed that within him beat the heart of an artist -- a major factor in his resilience and recovery. Now with Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?, his first collection of poetry, Antwone Fisher reveals the inner truths that took him from a tumultuous childhood to the man he is today.

"The powerful poems presented here range from impressions and expressions of Antwone's years growing up to the love that he has gained from the family he made for himself as an adult. From the title poem -- which is featured prominently in the movie Antwone Fisher -- a plaintive, haunting tribute to a childhood lost to abuse and neglect, to 'Azure Indigo,' the uplifting and touching poem about his daughters, many readers will find their own feelings and experiences reflected in this lyrical and passionate collection."

Reserve this title

Black Genius and the American Experience

By Dick Russell

Go to catalog

Offering inspiring and surprising results, and interweaving past and present, this book explores the roots of black achievement in America. It includes portraits of people such as Wynton Marsalis, Ralph Ellison, Paul Robeson, and Muhammad Ali.

Reserve this title

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black

By Gregory Howard Williams

Go to catalog

Williams tells the story of his very unusual youth. Of mixed-race parentage, he was raised as a white in Virginia and as a black in Ohio. We experience with him his pain, his struggles, and his triumphs.

Reserve this title

Laughing in the Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Power - A Journey from Prison to Power

By Patrice Gaines

Go to catalog

"An award-winning Washington Post reporter explores the twisted path she traveled to find her place as a confident black female in a world that values whiteness and maleness. Here is a rich and insightful story of a life lived on the edge by a woman formerly preoccupied with pleasing everyone but herself."

Reserve this title