Smoketown : the untold story of the other great Black Renaissance

by Whitaker, Mark,

Format: Print Book 2018
Availability: Available at 35 Libraries 39 of 56 copies
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Andrew Carnegie Free Library Nonfiction 305.896 WHITAK
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Summary
" Smoketown brilliantly offers us a chance to see this other black renaissance and spend time with the many luminaries who sparked it...It's thanks to such a gifted storyteller as Whitaker that this forgotten chapter of American history can finally be told in all its vibrancy and glory."-- The New York Times Book Review

The other great Renaissance of black culture, influence, and glamour burst forth joyfully in what may seem an unlikely place--Pittsburgh, PA--from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Today black Pittsburgh is known as the setting for August Wilson's famed plays about noble but doomed working-class strivers. But this community once had an impact on American history that rivaled the far larger black worlds of Harlem and Chicago. It published the most widely read black newspaper in the country, urging black voters to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party and then rallying black support for World War II. It fielded two of the greatest baseball teams of the Negro Leagues and introduced Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pittsburgh was the childhood home of jazz pioneers Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; Hall of Fame slugger Josh Gibson--and August Wilson himself. Some of the most glittering figures of the era were changed forever by the time they spent in the city, from Joe Louis and Satchel Paige to Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.

Mark Whitaker's Smoketown is a captivating portrait of this unsung community and a vital addition to the story of black America. It depicts how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal. Whitaker takes readers on a rousing, revelatory journey--and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.
Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Former CNN and Newsweek editor Whitaker (Cosby: His Life and Times) rebounds from his controversial Cosby biography with an informative and illuminating account of Smoketown, an African-American community in Pittsburgh. Centered in the city's Hill District, Smoketown thrived from the 1920s to the '50s. Though Smoketown was smaller than New York's Harlem or Chicago's South Side, Whitaker compares the flourishing enclave where his grandparents lived to "fifteenth-century Florence and early-twentieth-century Vienna: a miraculous flowering of social and cultural achievement." Smoketown's culture was made possible, Whitaker writes, by the great migration from the South and the city's exceptional educational opportunities. Whitaker writes of such prominent Smoketown figures as Robert L. Vann, publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, the most widely read black newspaper in America; playwright August Wilson, who celebrated the power of community "whether in the ordinary life of rooming houses and jitney stations, or in the grandest accomplishments of the Hill District in its heyday." He also acknowledges Smoketown's contributions to the sports world, including boxer Joe Louis and baseball stars Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, and profiles musical icons Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Billy Strayhorn, as well as photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris. Whitaker shines a well-deserved and long-overdue spotlight on this city within a city. Maps & photos. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- History.
African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- Intellectual life.
African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
African American athletes -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
Jazz musicians -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh.
African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Civilization.
Publisher New York :2018
Edition First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
Language English
Description xxi, 404 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 345-384) and index.
ISBN 9781501122392
1501122398
9781501122422
1501122428
Other Classic View