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Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

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About the Book

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.

About the Author

Mark Whitaker
track author

Mark Whitaker is the former Managing Editor of CNN, Washington bureau chief for NBC News and reporter and editor at Newsweek magazine, where he rose to become the first African-American to lead a national newsweekly. His critically acclaimed family memoir, "My Long Trip Home," tells the story of his parents--a star-crossed interracial couple who married in the 1950s--and his grandparents, black undertakers from Pittsburgh and French Protestants who helped hide thousands of Jews from the Nazis during World War II. His latest book, "Cosby: His Life and Times," is the first major biography of an American icon, comedian Bill Cosby. Whitaker lives in New York City with his wife, journalist and educator Alexis Gelber, and they have two adult children, Rachel and Matthew.




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US Salesrank: 978073
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Bottom Line:
 3.5 / 5 - Good
 
Reviewed by: Brian McCulloh

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