The “six” boroughs: Staten Island

This is the third of the “six” boroughs blog series celebrating Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. We’ve already visited Queens and the Bronx. If you missed the prior posts, we encourage you to go back and read them after you’re done here.

Staten Island is the least populous borough of New York City, is the only borough not connected to the MTA Subway system, and is only accessible, without leaving New York City, by the Staten Island Ferry to/from Manhattan and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to/from Brooklyn. However, Staten Island has played an important role in the history of New York City, and has provided many frequently overlooked cultural contributions to the world.

From 1947 to 2001, New York City sent its trash to Fresh Kills, a Staten Island wetlands turned municipal dump, which at its peak receives 29,000 tons of trash per day, ranking as the largest human-made structure on earth. Now, New York’s residential garbage, close to 4 million tons of it a year, is shipped by barge and truck to distant landfills, from Niagara Falls to South Carolina. Fresh Kills received its last waste from Manhattan when it absorbed the rubble from the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001. Holding approximately 108 million tons of trash, it covers 2,200 acres, and is being turned into a park, which when completed will be almost three times the size of Central Park.

Garbage scows bring solid waste, for use as landfill, to Fresh Kills on Staten Island in 1973

The rest of New York complains that Staten Island is a sleepy, insular borough (that’s more like a suburb) that is not worth the effort of exploring. Staten Islanders argue that the rest of the city is a filled with a bunch of parochial bellyachers who have not taken the time to get to know Staten Island’s natural beauty and increasingly diverse population. What everyone agrees on, however, is that the Wu-Tang Clan is the borough’s most well-known entity—and beloved export. In Nonstop Metropolis Joshua Jelly-Schapiro interviews RZA about what it was like growing up on Staten Island.

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro: You grew up between Staten Island and Brooklyn; you lived in public housing in both boroughs. But by your teens you were in Staten Island pretty full time. How did Staten Island compare to Brooklyn in those days, when you were growing up? What do you remember of each?

RZA: One thing about Staten Island that was different from Brooklyn was the ability to walk from one neighborhood to another, to actually have a break from project life. For instance, in Brownsville, in Brooklyn, if I walked from the Marcus Garvey projects to go see my cousin Vince, who lived in the Van Dyke projects, I had to walk through four projects to get there—and each project could be considered “turf.” In fact, each building could be considered turf. But on Staten Island, you can walk from the Park Hill projects to the Stapleton projects, and in between those two projects is something else—”normal” hardworking homeowners, you know. Not projects. When I was on Staten Island I walked a lot—I’d walk from Park Hill to Stapleton, and then from Stapleton to New Brighton. I would take the route that led up Targee Street, and make the right down Van Duzer, and then take Cebra. And on Cebra and Van Duzer, I saw what we’d consider mansions then, big homes. And I think seeing another side of life, that wasn’t ghetto life—I think there was something healthy about that. When I was living in Staten Island in sixth grade, when a snowstorm happens, guess what I’m able to do—I’m able to get out, pull out a shovel, and make $15 hustling, shoveling snow. That wasn’t available in Brownsville. You had breathing space. You were able to walk a few blocks, not worried about fighting, defending, stealing, robbing—things that happen every day in the projects.

To read the rest of the interview, purchase Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas wherever books are sold.

Nonstop Metropolis

Meanwhile, please sit back and listen to some Wu-Tang Clan.

JJ Schapiro

Dance RecitalNonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

Black against Empire and Banned Books Week

By Niels Hooper, Executive Editor at UC Press

I don’t know whether to be concerned that state officials are still afraid of the Black Panthers, or take it as badge of honor that these words really do have power, but we have just been notified that American Book Award winner Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. has just become a banned book! We’re republishing it, with a striking new cover courtesy of Shepard Fairey, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party here in Oakland CA.

Black Against Empire new cover

As Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter network says, “I read Black against Empire while on sabbatical, and it changed something in me. #BlackLivesMatter was created just a few months later. The political history of one of the most misunderstood black political efforts in our nation’s history, Black against Empire offers important considerations for today’s black liberation movement.” Banning Black Against Empire in California prisons, like trying to keep news of today’s prison strike from getting out, only makes matters worse.

Letter banning black against empire

You can pre-order the new edition of Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, With a New Preface on our website or wherever books are sold.

Niels Hooper is Executive Editor at UC Press. He has a B.A. in Modern History from Oxford University and an M.A. in History and African-American Studies from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining UC Press he worked at Verso Books in New York, at first running North American publicity, sales, and marketing, and later joining Verso’s editorial board and becoming the US General Manager.

Congratulations to MacArthur fellow recipient and UC Press author, Josh Kun

Last week we were thrilled to learn that UC Press author Josh Kun was named a MacArthur fellow for 2016.

From a Los Angeles Times profile:

“Unearthing lesser-known slices of Los Angeles history is just one reason Kun’s work has caught the attention of the Getty, the city’s Library Foundation and now the MacArthur Foundation. After a lifetime of scholarship and publishing, including “To Live and Dine in L.A.,” a book that surveyed the Los Angeles Public Library’s trove of old restaurant menus, and “Songs in the Key of Los Angeles,” which did the same for the institution’s collection of sheet music, Kun became one of 23 MacArthur fellows announced Thursday, just after midnight on the East Coast.”

His UC Press books include Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America which injects popular music into contemporary debates over American identity. His second book, co-edited with Laura Pulido, Black and Brown in Los Angeles: Beyond Conflict and Coalition focuses on the range of relationships and interactions between Latinas/os and African Americans in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the United States. We’re so excited that we have two more books coming from Josh in the next few years, one on Latin American music in the United States and another on music across the border between Southern California and Tijuana. A huge congratulations to Josh for this recognition he received for his research and scholarship.

Josh Kun is an Associate Professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. His books include Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America and Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music and the Making of Southern California.

A visit to the Nonstop Metropolis is around the corner

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas will soon be released into the world. To kick things off, we’ll be celebrating with a launch party in partnership with the Queens Museum on October 2, from 2–5 pm.

The launch party will feature:

  • Remarks by Queens Museum Executive Director Laura Raicovich, and Nonstop Metropolis authors Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
  • Hands-on map-making workshop facilitated by Queens Museum educators.
  • “Songs of the City,” a unique mix of songs and music referenced in the book.
  • Drop-in readings of essay excerpts found in the book by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Garnette Cadogan, Jonathan Tarleton, and many other contributors.
  • Book sale and signings by the authors and contributors in attendance.
Maps from Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas in the Queens Museum’s Watershed Gallery

If you’re unable to attend on Oct. 2nd, make sure you head to the Queens Museum regardless to experience the exhibition tie-in to the book which opened in April (and is currently ongoing), “Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix.” The exhibition features original artwork by Miriam Ghani and Duke Riley, a series of on-site and off-site public programming, along with gratis map/essay broadsides excerpted from the book that are tied into the event programming.

The Queens Museum has been presenting a series of public talks, walks, and urban adventures led by the essay writers from the book, artists, and other imaginative thinkers addressing topics that include water and power, linguistic diversity in Queens, walking as an embodied act, the conjoined histories of environmental and financial disaster in Lower Manhattan, wilderness in the city, and Latino radio in NYC. There will be additional educational opportunities and map-making workshops taking place during the coming months.

The launch party at the Queens Museum isn’t the only opportunity to see Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (along with many of the contributors to the project) discussing Nonstop Metropolis. Events taking place throughout October include:

You can order Nonstop Metropolis at your local bookstore, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or through UC Press.

Dance Recital JJ Schapiro

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

The “Six” Boroughs: A Focus on the Bronx

This is the second of the “six” boroughs blog series celebrating Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. If you missed the first in the series, on Queens, you can read that here.

One of the most enduring images of the Bronx is that of a “burning Bronx.” Memorialized by the now well-know phrase “The Bronx is Burning,” we typically think of the Bronx as a borough of misfortune and loss. In the 1950s Robert Moses and his Cross Bronx Expressway tore through the South Bronx. The 1970s brought the fires, a result of declining property values and poor management of city finances. Today, the Bronx is home to one of the five poorest Congressional districts in the U.S. However, the real story of the Bronx is one of growth, natural beauty, and creativity.

Listen to the Bronx’s Grandmaster Flash with “The Message” as we move through all that the Bronx has to offer to New York City

The Bronx is home to one of New York City’s oldest treasures: the Thain Family Forest, 50 acres of the last remaining old-growth forest that originally blanketed the area. Trees in the forest date back to the 18th century, and are situated within the New York Botanical Garden, 250 acres of over one million living plants. The old-growth forest is not only home to centuries old trees, but to wildlife habitats, including coyotes, bald eagles,  and North American river otters.


The Bronx is well-known as the birthplace of hip hop, but techniques and styles that we take for granted now were groundbreaking and spreading throughout the Bronx in the early 1970s. Grand Wizzard Theodore started scratching records in 1975, when he was only thirteen. In Nonstop Metropolis he shares his memories of growing up in the Bronx.

I lived here in the Bronx, so hip-hop was always around me. When I’d go to the train station I’d see the graffiti on the trains. When I’d go to the parks I’d see the b-boys b-boying. As far as the MCs, there were always guys on the corner harmonizing and freestyling. And then once I saw my brother Mean Gene and Grandmaster Flash with two turntables and a mixer—that’s when I realized I was born into a culture we call hip-hop.

Back the [the parties we threw] were just called jams. We would go into abandoned buildings and do jams and charge people $1.99 or 99 cents to come in. We were doing “hooky parties”—people would skip school and go to the jams and everybody would throw their book bags to the side and we’d play music until three o’clock.

Perhaps nobody better expresses the re-birth of the Bronx than Marshall Berman, whose essay “New York: Seeing through the Ruins” is included in Nonstop Metropolis. Below is an excerpt:

I can remember when I first heard “The Message” blaring from a West Harlem record shop, in the Reagan summer of 1982. Right away I was thrilled. It wasn’t so long ago that I’d lost a kid (Marc Berman, 1975-1980); I’d been pretty low. Was I moving my limbs again? Now these kids from the city’s most horrendous ruins had created a masterpiece that looked the negative in the face and lived with it, and still dreamt of coming through. I thought, if they could dream this, then damn it, we were going to come through. I knew New York still had plenty of sorrow ahead. There were homeless families all over the streets and in the subways. A dear friend of mine had just died of AIDS—and I don’t think it had even been named AIDS. I couldn’t even conceive of crack, our 1980s twist of fate. But I knew our Via Dolorosa had a long way to run. Still, of all the forms of suffering, I thought, the worst is where your imagination shuts down. Once you can imagine getting out of the hole you’re in, even if you can’t imagine how, the worst is past.

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey. Preorder your copy today.

Around the (New York City) World in a Day

This week we’re taking another look at Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas with editor-at-large Garnette Cadogan‘s “City of Walkers” map and essay.

Check in next week for more Nonstop Metropolis sneak peeks.

We are incredibly lucky to have multiple essays by Garnette Cadogan in Nonstop Metropolis. His essay “Walking While Black,” in which he writes about his experiences walking the streets in his Jamaica, New Orleans, and New York City, appeared on Lithub earlier this summer, and continues to resonate widely, in light of the discussion plus realities around ongoing excessive use of force by police towards African American males. It was widely discussed across the internet and media, including PRI, CBC, and In These Times. A version of the essay, “Black and Blue,” appears in the recently released The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. Garnette’s essay in The Fire This Time has received a lot of media attention, including a rave review in the New York Times, as well as a feature in Vice and a panel discussion on The Diane Rehm Show.

His essay in Nonstop Metropolis builds on the theme of walking, as Garnette walks for twenty-four hours through all five boroughs of New York City. We’re pleased to be sharing the map, along with an except of the essay below.

City of Walkers
Click to enlarge

One spring afternoon in 2015 I decided to “visit the world in a day” by walking for twenty-four hours through all five boroughs. Though the idea had the whiff of gimmickry, I thought that it would be a good exercise to have the exhaustibility of the body meet the inexhaustibility of the city. I wanted my body to be aware of its limitations (in energy, that is; I’m regularly made aware of the lines of trespass drawn because of my complexion and have inculcated rules for “walking while black”). Moreover, I thought it’d be fun to walk in a circle around New York to see what it would throw at me—my route was both planned enough and arbitrary enough to make serendipity and vulnerability meet.

I began near the northwest tip of the Bronx, in Riverdale, walking past its kosher delis and Jewish schools; to neighboring Kingsbridge, with its Irish and Dominican population; over to Arthur Avenue, where the Bronx’s Little Italy overflows with Italian American families enjoying culinary delights; across to the Grand Concourse, a thoroughfare modeled on the Champs-Élysées, where the sound of bomba greets me along with its Puerto Rican residents; along to the energetic crossroads in the South Bronx known as the Hub, nicknamed the Times Square of the Bronx, with African and Latino shoppers pouring in and out of the commercial centers; down to Le Petit Sénégal, a stretch on 116th Street in West Harlem where West Africans beckon passerby into shops and restaurants with inviting colors and smells and laughter.

You can pre-order Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas today.

Garnette Cadogan is an essayist and journalist who focuses on history, culture, and the arts. He is editor-at-large for Non-Stop Metropolis: A New York City Atlasedited by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.

The “Six” Boroughs: A Focus on Queens

These past several weeks we’ve revisited Infinite City and Unfathomable City, and made our first foray into New York City with the Wildlife map. Today we’re celebrating Queens, the largest (in area) of the five boroughs of New York City, home to both of New York’s international airports, and host to the Queens Museum, the hosting venue for Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlastie-in exhibition, Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix. Queens’ most defining characteristic, however, is that is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse place on the earth. With this blog post, we’re going to celebrate all that makes Queens what it is.

Queue up Queens’ own, Nas, as you learn more about the borough.

Seventeenth century Queens was home to a site of early religious freedom in the United States. In 1657, 31 citizens of Flushing signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a manifesto for religious freedom under Dutch rule, stating “The law of love, peace and libertie in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians….for wee are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe men.” Queens’ modern diversity is reflected in the variety and number of sites of worship. Home to Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, synagogues, baptist churches, Quaker meeting houses, and more, Queens is also home to the Unisphere, the world’s largest globe, erected at the 1964 World’s Fair, dedicated to “Peace through Understanding.”

Queens is also home to more languages than any other place in the world. The Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station sits in the heart of America’s most linguistically diverse neighborhood: a place where people from the world’s linguistically rich countries—including India, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines—converge in a single zip code.

Coptic, the last descendent of the Egyptian language of the pharaohs, has not been a language of daily life for centuries, but lives in as a liturgical language among the Egyptian Christian congregants at St. Mary and St. Antonio’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

Rikers Island, one of the world’s largest jails, holds new languages created by gangs to evade the authorities, as well as some of the first languages of the Americas, spoken by a handful of indigenous Mexican and Guatemalan prisoners who’ve effectively been stripped of their rights due to language barriers.

Mother Tongues and Queens
Click to enlarge

These are just a few of the unique and incredible things about Queens. Nonstop Metropolis explores Queens from other angles: environmental, political, and culturally.

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey. Preorder your copy today.

White People Like Hiking? Some Implications of NPS Narratives of Relevance and Diversity

By Laura Schiavo, contributing author featured in The Public Historian 38.4 

This guest post is published in advance of a forthcoming special issue on the National Park Service published by The Public Historian. The full article will appear in TPH 38.4 (November 2016). Sign up here for an email alert when the special issue becomes available.

Photo Courtesy of Ranger Doug's Enterprises
Illustration Courtesy Ranger Doug’s Enterprises

Last summer, an opinion piece in The New York Times asked, “Why Are Our Parks So White?” The lede introduced readers to a 58-year-old African American woman living in Seattle, in view of Mt. Rainier, who steers clear of the associated park for fear of what she knows she will find: “mosquitoes, which she hates, and bears, cougars and wolves, which she fears.” This is, of course, far from the first time the title question has been asked. For decades now, external critics, and the Park Service itself, have expressed repeated, and repetitive, concerns about the lack of diversity among visitors to Park Service units. This statistic, first noted in a 1962 congressional report about Americans’ engagement with outdoor recreation, has experienced a resurgence of attention in the media fueled by Park Service surveys conducted in 2000 and then again in 2009. The more recent survey found that those US residents who could name a unit of the National Park Service they had visited in the two years prior to the survey, “were disproportionately white and non-Hispanic.” As the National Park Service (NPS) approached its 2016 Centennial, articles lamented the failure of the Park Service to engage a diverse public, even given the outreach to communities of color associated with the anniversary. (See here.) This failure to connect with “nonwhite communities” is figured, in a similar article, as a threat to the Park Service’s “own long-term sustainability.”

My article, forthcoming in the November issue of The Public Historian (38.4), explores this prevailing narrative – that people of color do not visit parks “enough”– and argues that it is both reductive in its implications about what it means to visit the parks, and in its construction of race, including whiteness. The desire for a visiting population that better reflects the nation’s racial demographics is surely driven in large part by the admirable value that everyone benefit equally the “scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein” conserved by the directives of the Organic Act of 1916 that established the National Park Service. However, there are consequences to this logic that have not been carefully scrutinized. My paper looks at the argument’s embedded narratives, including the reduction of an appreciation for nature with park visitation and the implication that people of color do not share a concern for the environment. It analyzes the presumed link between park visitation and national belonging, and thus a threatened democracy in the face of unequal attendance. “A democracy can’t flourish without the participation of all of our citizens, yet some people from diverse backgrounds may not feel welcome in the parks,” according to a July 2015 Houston Chronicle article.

Illustration Courtesy Library of Congress
Illustration Courtesy Library of Congress

Such a logic harkens back to Frederick Jackson Turner’s attribution of the “vital forces” that fed the American character to an engagement with the “wilderness.”   Indeed, in 1916, when the Park Service was founded, it had been less than twenty-five years since Turner had delivered his frontier thesis. The Park Service retroactively incorporated national parks and monuments (including Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite, and Mount Rainier) already cherished for their majesty and beauty and already integrated into the national imaginary. Certainly, the conventional understanding of the relationship between landscape and the forging of an American identity was foremost in the minds of the men who created a model for setting aside the most pristine places not only for protection but for communion and rejuvenation. In many ways, then, the cultural logic that defined the National Park Service a century ago was a product of its historical moment, when white men became Americans at civilization’s edge.

One hundred years later, our understanding of the relationship between nature, history, and nation is arguably more complicated. Decades of scholarship have documented the variety of encounters and events significant to the nation’s history. The environmental movement of the twenty first century includes a significant global (expanded from a purely national) orientation. Demographically, we are less homogenous and more urban, and scientists and social scientists are more engaged with the urban landscape and with a widened scope of environmental protection and sustainable practices (that might not include a cross-country car ride to Yosemite!) And yet to hear some who speak for the National Park Service tell it, Turner’s thesis is alive and well: “we” are all inherently products of a “frontier experience,” and the park provides “an opportunity to go home.” My paper suggests that we look more carefully at arguments about race, inclusion, and diversity in the park system, so that rather than relying on the tropes of a century past we might engage with an altered landscape and a new century in ways more attune to all we know about race, identity, access, history, land, and national belonging.

Laura Schiavo teaches museum history and theory and collections management in the Museum Studies Program at The George Washington University. Her two current research projects look at the historic roots of U.S. museums and civic engagement, and the concept of inclusivity and diversity in the National Park Service. Schiavo has years of experience as a curator at the National Building Museum, City Museum of Washington, DC, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

A look back at Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

As Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas inches closer to release, we’re taking time to revisit the widely-loved, bestselling first two atlases from Rebecca Solnit and many illustrious contributing essayists and artists. Last week we spent time with Infinite City: A San Francisco AtlasThis week we’re pleased to bring you Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas.

This week we turn our attention to the second “city atlas” from Rebecca Solnit, created with co-author Rebecca Snedeker: Unfathomable City. New Orleans is a city that captures and warps the imagination, is rich in contradictions and enigmas, and is inexhaustible and boundless. Unfathomable City celebrates all that we love, cherish, and mourn about New Orleans.

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City was as well received by the media as Infinite City was. Publishers Weekly called it a “vivid portrait of one of America’s most culturally rich city” in its starred review. New Orlean’s Times-Picayune said it was an “atlas-with-attitude,” as well as naming it one of the top 10 books of 2013 for New Orleans readers.

Click to enlarge

Rebecca Solnit’s co-author Rebecca Snedeker is a New Orleans native and Emmy Award winning documentary producer and filmmaker. She is also currently the Executive Director for the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. How they came to collaborate, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune tells it:

The editors met, in classic New Orleans fashion, when friends introduced them at Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar. Solnit was here to research a book about community responses to disaster. Snedeker invited the distinguished visitor to stay at her house if work brought her back to town.

“For me, it was natural to extend that invitation,” Snedeker said. “Part of my campaign for living in New Orleans is to welcome outside people and their ideas. I think that’s part of living a healthy and inspired life while remaining dug in here. As a port city, our prosperity always came from importing and exporting — not just cargo, but also ideas.”

You can purchase Unfathomable City, as well as pre-order Nonstop Metropolis (coming Oct. ’16) on our website and wherever books are sold.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of many books, including Savage Dreams, Storming the Gates of Paradise, and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, all from UC Press.

Rebecca Snedeker is an Emmy Award–winning independent filmmaker and native New Orleanian.



Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roots with Making Roots

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roots: The Saga of an American Family. To celebrate, we’re highlighting Matthew F. Delmont’s Making Roots: A Nation Captivated, which looks at the importance of the book and original mini-series, as it was the first time Americans saw slavery as an integral part of our nations history. In Making Roots, Delmont investigates the decisions that led Alex Haley, Doubleday, and ABC to invest in and share the story of Kunta Kinte. Below is an excerpt:

Making Roots: A Nation Captivated

Roots began as a book called Before This Anger, which Alex Haley pitched to his agent in 1963. Haley signed a contract the following year to write the book for Doubleday, while he was also finishing work on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley originally planned for Before This Anger to focus on his hometown of Henning, Tennessee, in the 1920s and ’30s, and to use this nostalgic vision of rural southern black life as a contrast to the urban unrest and racial tensions of the 1960s. Haley’s vision for the book expanded after family elders told him about someone they called “The Mandingo,” who had passed down stories of having been captured in Africa and sold into slavery. This initial family store sent Haley on a research quest motivated by both personal and financial concerns. On a personal level, Haley felt a natural human desire to understand his family’s history. For Haley, like other descendants of enslaved people, this desire for genealogical knowledge was thwarted by the fact that his ancestors had been forcibly uprooted from Africa and treated as property for generations in America.

For this special occasion, we’re offering readers 30% off. Use the discount code 16M4197 on our website while checking out today.

Matthew F. Delmont is Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation and The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ’n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, both published by UC Press.