book of african american men

The Story of Paul Phillips

Excerpt from the book: The Other Side of Silence: Men’s Lives & Gay Identities - A Twentieth-Century History by John Loughery

Paul Phillips was a young black gay man growing up in the Midwest during the early 20th century. He was the son of a fairly prosperous middle class lawyer within a family exemplifying the aspirations of the talented tenth. Somehow, rumors of Paul’s extracurricular activities revolving around his “sexual behavior and preference” reached his father. Quite calmly and plainly, his father explained to Paul that he was living his life within an “unnatural” condition since he did not evince a desire for the opposite sex within their small segregated community. To help his son overcome this “condition,” a trip was planned to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

For a total of seven day, Paul was interviewed and examined. At the end, the doctors reported to Mr. Phillips and his wife that nothing could be done to change Paul; he would be a “homosexual” to the end of his days. And, that under Minnesota law at the time, they were required to report suspected gay men to the Rochester police, gay being a criminal offense. For whatever reason, the doctors, to the great relief of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, declined to report Paul to the law enforcement authorities.

After returning home from an exacerbating trip that required them to camp out because they were not allowed to stay in white only hotels, Mr. Phillips came to a rather judicious conclusion about the sexual nature of his son. If his son suffered from an “illness” for which there was no cure, he would allow his son to lead his life as before, but lead it with DIGNITY and caution. Mr. Phillips said to Paul:

Find yourself a friend you can trust and bring him …What you do in your own room is your own business.

Mr. Phillips feared for Paul’s welfare. He understood the dangers of clandestine meeting spots where those like his son found one another and sometimes the law waiting for them.

It took Paul sometime to find a congenial lover, but at college in Topeka, Kansas after becoming a lawyer in the mid 1920′s, he met another black man, a musician who played the organ for churches near school and together they began a relationship of mutual affection providing a respite against an often hostile and prejudiced world.

I want more heroes who look like me. 

I’m surrounded by white people, white culture, and white stories pretty much 24/7 and the narrow portrayals of black people, the black experience, and black america are so small it’s laughable. It’s sad, but we have more segregation and fewer varied depictons of people of black people now than ten years ago, and I can’t convey how sad it honestly makes me. Our American culture and media tells me I’m supposed to be this stereotype and I’m not, but people see it and think it’s accurate. My friends jokingly call me an “oreo” because I’m a nerd, and yeah I laugh about that, but it’s more of a sad reflection of the fact that they have internalized this narrow view of black people. Sadly, this is almost worst in the black community. I’m pretty pro-black if you haven’t noticed, but because I speak in a middle class fashion with correct english I was considered “white” in middle school. Instead of reading those trashy thug love novels I read Jane Erye and watched Battlestar Galactica, so I was trying to “act white”. I am not less black for what I love. No one is. We need more views and more stories. White and male needs to stop being the default for every story, because that’s a small part of the population (with waaaay too much power, but that’s a rant for another time). We need to reject these narrow definitions of possible selves associated with race. We need to reinvent the media. 

Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African American Men

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 by Tonya Bolden

AN EPIC, EVOCATIVE HISTORY-FROM JAMESTOWN TO THE MILLION MAN MARCH “In her own special, provocative language, Tonya Bolden gives a voice to the voiceless, a name to the nameless. Revelations abound in Strong Men Keep Coming, her singular take on the endless parade of black men who have fought, sung, cajoled, tricked, worked, wrote, or roped their way into the American experience… . She has assembled a most rewarding cast, a phenomenal coterie of role models and phantoms, and she has done a splendid job of telling their stories.”-Herb Boyd, coeditor Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America “Strong Men Keep Coming is long overdue [and] told in glorious detail. Bolden does an excellent job of obtaining information that’s hard to come by.”-Mosaic “Tonya Bolden has assembled an eccentric, eclectic, and highly readable collection of portraits of black male achievers. Bolden blends heartfelt tributes with humorous anecdotes.”-Washington Post Book World Spanning four centuries, Strong Men Keep Coming captures the dynamic essence of the black male experience in America, shedding new light on towering icons like Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Malcolm X, while illuminating the lives of numerous forgotten strivers and pioneers. By turns triumphant and tragic, this vital collection brings to life the strength, courage, and tenacity of a truly remarkable brotherhood of men. [book link

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Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C.

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by Jesse J. Holland

Millions of people visit the National Mall, the White House, and the U.S.
Capitol each year. If they only hear the standard story, a big question remains:  "Where is the black history?“

Packed with new information and archival photos, Black Men Built the Capitol answers this question. In this thoroughly researched yet completely accessible volume, Washington insider and political journalist Jesse J. Holland shines a light on the region’s African-American achievements, recounting little-known stories and verifying rumors, such as:

  • Enslaved black men and women built the Capitol, White House, and other important Washington structures.
  • Philip Reid, a thirty-nine-year-old slave from South Carolina, cast and helped save the model of the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol Dome.
  • The National Mall sits on the former site of the city’s most bustling slave market.
  • The grounds that are now Arlington National Cemetery were, from 1863 to 1888, a self-sustaining village for former slaves called the Freedmans Village.

Included are hundreds of places in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia that illuminate “the rest of the story€ for Washington residents and visitors alike.

[book link

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