Black List

Black List

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In The Black List, twenty-five prominent African-Americans of various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds offer their own

stories and insights on the struggles, triumphs, and joys of black life in America and, in the process, redefine "black list" for a new century.

As seen in original portraits by renowned photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and in a series of incisive interviews conducted by award-winning journalist, critic, academic, and radio host Elvis Mitchell, this group exemplifies today's most accomplished, determined African-Americans, whose lives and careers form a trail of inspiration and example for people of all races.

Spanning the arts, sports, politics, and business, the diverse accomplishments and lives of these remarkable individuals create a kaleidoscope of ideas and experiences, and provide the framework for a singular conver-sation about the influence of African-Americans on this country and on our world.

The Black List is:

Slash - Toni Morrison - Keenen Ivory Wayans - Vernon Jordan - Faye Wattleton - Marc Morial - Serena Williams - Lou Gossett Jr. - Russell Simmons - Lorna Simpson - Mahlon Duckett - Zane - Al Sharpton - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - William Rice - Thelma Golden - Sean Combs - Susan Rice - Chris Rock - Suzan-Lori Parks - Steve Stoute - Richard Parsons - Dawn Staley - Colin Powell - Bill T. Jones

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743578080
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date: 09/16/2008
Edition description: Abridged, 2 CDs, 2 hours
Product dimensions: 6.96(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.45(d)

About the Author

Elvis Mitchell is the entertainment critic for NPR’s Weekend Edition. He is a Visiting Lecturer on African and African American Studies and on Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. Mitchell was a film critic for the New York Times from 2000 to 2004, and has written for Spin, Interview, Esquire and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He is currently editor at large at Interview magazine.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is highly regarded for his strikingly intimate portraits of world leaders and major cultural figures. Fifteen books and catalogs have been published on his portraiture. He is on the masthead as a contributing photographer at Vanity Fair magazine. In 2005, he was profiled on the television show, 60 Minutes.

Read an Excerpt


by Elvis Mitchell

What is a Black List? Historically, Americans know exactly what it is: a group of people punished by being marginalized and denied work or social approval, generally for their having taken political stands. And, for African-Americans, it's yet another slap at the word black, which includes such slurs as black sheep and blackguard. The Simpsons Movie cleverly takes aim at the tired attitude toward black when Mayor Quimby is forced to deal with an emergency by declaring "code black," and Lenny groans, "Black? That's the worst color!" Another Clinton -- George, Parliament-Funkadelic founder -- bounced the taint when he proclaimed in song that he wanted to "Paint the White House Black."

With the serious attention directed at Senator Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, the concept doesn't seem as much like the dance floor science fiction that Dr. Funkenstein chuckled his way through. Although the creakily derogatory stamp on the word black predates creation of these United States, the negative connotation is the reason why, until the 1960s, respectable people of color didn't want to be called black; it was nothing short of an insult. Not until race pride shocked the country out of its ignoring and ignorant attitudes about the impact of, well, blacks on America, did the word take on a fresher and desirable aspect for many African-Americans, especially the young; the Afrocentric revolutionaries and the integrationist civil rights workers alike found something desirable about being known as black. For years before the 1960s, of course, it had the transgressive allure of cool. An underground recycling of the concept was taking place -- in those halcyon days before cable TV, the internet, and bar codes burned onto youth culture so that its shopping habits could be tracked and exploited -- in the shady bunkers beneath the Establishment, where jazz and blues musicians plied their trade for an appreciative audience of freethinkers who were disinclined to be described as Negroes, the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and a five-cent tip.

For me, the real question is, What's in a Black List? All of those past associations, as grim and lethal as an undertow, are to be obliterated by the new implications of the term that we're creating here. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and I decided that The Black List would be made up of portraits in both senses of the word: pictorial and verbal. What I didn't realize until we undertook the Black List is our essential similarity of interest; we are both primarily curious and pointed toward finding ways to get people to reveal themselves -- he with his camera, and me through questions. The results that we managed for The Black List come from the living-portraiture approach, done with a formality and familiarity that I think is rare and thrilling. The subjects reacted to this technique with a confidence born of esteem for every part of their lives, rather than just their areas of endeavor or expertise. The relationship is seen in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's smiling as he talks in depth about Harlem, Miles Davis, and his fascination with American history, as well as his days on the basketball court for UCLA, Milwaukee, and the Lakers.

Here, the term Black List becomes a reboot, a gathering of some of the most capable and, just as important, determined African-Americans, whose work and careers leave a trail of inspiration in fields ranging from politics and letters to civil rights and corporate responsibility. What they all have in common is a kind of activism, furthering the cause of African-American visibility while not...

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The Black List 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was written and organized with such excellence. A great book to hold on to for your children's children. I especially like Susan Rice, Russell Simmons, Toni Morrison, and Slash, whom I had no idea was african american. I really like the realness of Keenen Ivory that's a creative brother. I think this book is a keeper. Oh and go sister.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one piece of The Black List Project, which is designed to, through various mediums (incl., the book, an HBO special, and an art exhibit) provide greater insight into the experience of being black in America by focusing on a discrete number of prominent African Americans. While it is called the Black "List," it is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it designed to be. What it does do is show the similarities and differences between prominent blacks in a variety of disciplines, including advocacy, entertainment, politics and art, and provide their unique perspectives on being black in America.
So often the discussion about being black in America focuses on the underclass and their stories. It is unusual, and quite refreshing, to here from this slice of America.
While some subjects may not be intellectual heavyweights (and some very well are), they do all have profound things to say. Slash has an interesting story as a biracial man who many may not realize is part African American, and he has unique things to say about the music industry and its putting blacks in certain boxes. Chris Rock speaks about the issue of exceptionalism (the need to be better, stronger, faster) in a way that only a comedian can. Susan Rice brings her perspective on international issues and speaks in real terms on the fact that blacks who strive to achieve sometimes are not looked upon favorably in their own communities. In short, each individual brings something special to the table.
People who may be turned off about a book about race should understand that this is not a book that condemns whites or tries to portray blacks as universal victims. Rather, it provides a peek into the issue of race as experienced by some very prominent Americans. Sometimes that means good things (community, a unique perspective), sometimes it means challenges (loss of opportunities or slights because of skin color), but in no case is the speaker bitter or accusatory. No one should feel threatened or turned off by the "black" in The Black List.
I would encourage anyone who has an interest in American culture and history, anyone who simply would like to get greater insight into a slice of America that they are not familiar with, and anyone who simply would like to know more about some of the major African American players in America to run, not walk, to buy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s too bad the contributors of this collection lost a great opportunity. Perhaps they did it on purpose. Most all of the individuals are left of center in their politics and some lack any morality to be defined as great - Slash? Give me a break. Al Sharpton? Sure, if race baiting is your cup of tea. The surprising thing is who is not on this list - Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Jesse Peterson, Dr. Condi Rice, or even Warrick Dunn who came from nothing, has a great NFL career and gives so much back to all people including those of less fortune. This could have been a book to celebrate history and diversity in not only backgrounds but ideals for the black community - instead it is a who's who of the supposedly ¿cool.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Stories, very Inspireing !!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sean Combs and Al Sharpton??? Give me a break. The author could have chosen more qualified candidates for his book.