Black Classic Press Blog
Certainly the house looked most unlikely when I first saw it. As we drove up a winding country road toward the summit of a hill, there was the house set back a bit on the right side of the road. It looked like a New England salt box house misplaced in the deep South. The white paint had long since greyed, and much of it had peeled off, leaving bare dry planks. But the windows were still intact, and incongruously, the front door had in its center an elaborate carving of a noonday sun. At least it looked to me like a noonday sun. The rooms inside were much better kept than the outside would indicate. The agent— what was her name?— Miss Simpson or somebody, who looked as if Mummy and Daddy were proudly smiling that their darling had gotten this nice job selling these lovely old houses. Anyway, the agent explained that the owner used the place only a few weeks in the fall for a hunting lodge, when he and his friends came to shoot deer in the woods just beyond. The house seemed basically sound, with modern plumbing and sturdy walls. If the frame was unaesthetic and the grounds overgrown with weeds and poorly landscaped, those things could be fixed. It began to feel like a good deal.
The house was younger than the rest of the estate. It had been built around the turn of the century and later renovated two or three times over. Apparently there had been another house on the premises— the “big house” in slave parlance— but Miss What’s-her-name didn’t know what had happened to it. The property was quite extensive considering the price. There were a number of crumbling out-buildings, some of which probably did date back to antebellum days. The property was ringed by woods on three sides. There was, surprisingly, a pond with lily pads and even a family of ducks. It was the pond that sold me. I bought the property.
But no, I think that the real reason I bought this house was that it appealed to my sense of history. For two centuries this was slave territory, here in the deep South, where generations of Black people toiled and suffered and somehow survived on the distant hope of freedom. That was my specialty, Black American history, but for me the research and teaching have been more than a job— they have something to do with a sense of who I am and who my sons are. Standing on earth which was once part of an actual plantation (as the bubbly little red-headed agent joyously informed me), I did feel a tug toward buying it. There seemed a sort of poetic justice in the property’s ending up in the hands of a Black woman, to be handed down to her generations. Certainly my people had earned it.
I moved south with all kinds of trepidation. My friends told me it was too soon for me to make a major decision. But Edward had been gone for more than a year, and the old life had become meaningless. I kept seeing vestiges of Edward everywhere, taunting me with what I had had and could never have again. Then, too, I was born in the South, and after upheaval, you feel a primal urge to return to your roots.
Kenneth and David, I think, were relieved to see me starting a new life without them. They had been shocked and grieved over their father’s death, and had come with their wives and children to pay their respects and offer me their love and support. (Ken and Davie, fathers!) But grown sons have their own lives, and after that first Thanksgiving in Cleveland with Kenneth’s family, and then Christmas in Los Angeles with David’s, I knew that I needed to build a life of my own, and that’s when I revived our old dream, Edward’s and mine, to go south and teach in some small Black college. BUY BREEDER AND OTHER STORIES NOW FOR ONLY $9.56.
Did you get the New York Times on Saturday? I didn't know it at the time because I did not have the physical paper, but Saturday’s edition came out with a large article on Ta-nehisi and an equally large article on Haki and Third World Press. Nothing like this has been done before making that edition for people like me, [...]
If you’ve always wanted to work in book publishing and learn the ins and outs of production and administration from the ground up, this could be the right opportunity for you. Black Classic Press has a position open for a publishing assistant. At the direction of the publisher, the publishing assistant helps coordinate multiple aspects of Black Classic Press operations, [...]
Publisher’s Note: It wasn’t until we were halfway into the project that Jared, Todd, another key member of the project team, and I decided that A Lie of Reinvention would be a perfect counter-title to Marable’s A Life of Reinvention. We also agreed that our title would speak directly to the numerous problems that critics have identified with Marable’s book, which included [...]
Throughout the different stages of my life, I’ve always had memorable teachers. They all played a role in shaping who I am today, and I appreciate each one of them for the contributions they made to my growth as a student and person.One of my teachers in elementary school was Ms. Bacon, who was an “old school, school teacher.” [...]
Scholar, historian, author, and lecturer Dr. Runoko Rashidi credits Black Class Press Director W. Paul Coates with providing the inspiration for his latest book, My Global Journeys in Search of the African Presence(Black Classic Press, 2016). “I’ve worked with BCP in some capacity or another since the 1980s,” he said, “and I have been writing travel notes since the 1990s. [...]
Each year the American Booksellers Association designates the last Saturday in April as Independent Bookstore Day.I have always been and continue to be an avid supporter of independent bookstores, particularly those owned and operated by Black booksellers.Before officially founding Black Classic Press in 1978, I operated a bookstore in Baltimore called the Black Book from 1972-1978. And my relationship and association [...]
Today is the day. As part of National Poetry Month, thousands of people will celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem. In honor of the day, which began in [...]
Publisher’s Note: This year marks the 15th anniversary of our publication of Beyond the Frontier, an important collection poetry showcasing the early work of today’s finest Black poets. In honor of the occasion, I asked the collection’s editor, E. Ethelbert Miller, to write a post reflecting on the book’s significance then and now. In addition to Beyond the Frontier, the [...]
How an Ex-Black Panther Waged a Successful, Four-Decade Revolution In Publishing Without Planning To
The following article was published in the Atlanta Black Star on February 22 and was written by D. Amari Johnson.Paul Coates never planned to become a member of the Black Panther Party. Recently returned from a three-year military stint in Vietnam, the Philadelphia native and avid reader relocated to Baltimore in 1968, where he subsequently [...]