March 18, 2013

Taking the Katy

Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey
Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore: 2010) 568 pages.

track crewThe romance of the "iron horse" is a core myth in American history—indeed, my own Amish grandparents rode the rails westward to try to homestead in eastern Colorado (they failed) and my father was a railroad hobo who hopped freight trains across the country in search of work during the Depression.

But there is, as it were, an underside to this part of our national myth, and that is the role that the railroads played for the racial minority communities. Those stories are being told in dribs and drabs, but now comes Theodore Kornweibel to give us an encyclopedic look at railroads in the African American experience. Kornweibel is a "twofer": he’s an emeritus professor of African American history (San Diego State) and he’s a train buff, so he’s well-placed to cover all the converging and diverging forces the railroads represented for African Americans from the mid 19th to the mid 20th centuries.

For black folks, the railroads were slavemasters, employers, Jim Crow, and freedom. And song and art. Kornweibel seems to have covered it all. From firemen, brakemen, and porters to passengers headed northward in Jim Crow cars during the Great Migration; from "Yellow Dog Blues" and "She Took the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride" to "People Get Ready"; from Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence to Sterling Brown and August Wilson, there’s a train running through it. And Kornweibel not only tells its story, but likely has a picture of it.

-Gene Miller, Takoma Park Maryland Library staff.

Posted by library at 03:28 PM

Ghassan Kanafani

For those preferring shorter reads than Ulysses, the Friends also sponsor single discussions of shorter literary works.

Their April 9th discussion will focus on short stories by Ghassan Kanafani. Kanafani was a Palestinian novelist, short-story writer and dramatist. He was also a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 1972, allegedly by the Mossad. (Additional information )

"The main themes in his writings are uprootedness, exile and national struggle. He often used in his stories the desert and its heat as a symbol for the plight of the Palestinian people…Kanafani’s life and career as a writer was closely connected to the situation of the Palestinians, and his intense invoilvement in Palestinian affairs gave him a unique vantage point." [from Books and Writers]

Copies of the story collection, Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories are available in the Takoma Park Library. All are welcome to join the Friends Reading Group discussions, which are held in the Community Center at 7:30 p.m.

Posted by library at 03:13 PM
Recent Entries
Taking the Katy
Ghassan Kanafani
Other Web Logs
Children's Room
Teen Book Buzz
August 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
April 2014
February 2014
January 2014
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
May 2013
March 2013
January 2013
November 2012
October 2012
August 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
February 2012
January 2012
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
February 2011
January 2011
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
April 2009
March 2009
December 2008
October 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
July 2004
June 2004
April 2004
Call the desk at 301-891-7259
Contact the director by e-mail