As we head into the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and African American History Month, we are rounding up a selection of readings from the archives which celebrate the vital and varied contributions of black Americans today and throughout US history. These guest posts and books address social justice organizing and activism around issues of race, gender, sexuality, and difference in keeping with Dr. King’s life, work, and lasting legacy.
With 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of several key Civil Rights moments, including the march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Stars for Freedomby Emilie Raymond reminds us that the movement was not entirely just a “bottom up” grassroots effort. At the highest levels of American society, a handful of A-list Hollywood celebrities from both sides of the color line put their careers and lives on the line to raise awareness—and money—for the cause. Raymond sheds new light on how stars such as Harry Belafonte made it easier for mainstream Americans to understand the need for racial equality while also setting an example for celebrity political activism that, a half century later, is now considered the norm.
The publication of Stars for Freedom was made possible through two endowments, generously created by Virginia and Dee Wyman and Peter and Linda Capell. In 2004 the Wymans established the V Ethel Willis White Endowment to support books on African American history and culture. In 2008 the Capells created the Capell Family Endowed Book Fund to support the publication of books designed to deepen our understanding of social justice through historical, cultural, and environmental studies. We are grateful to Peter and Linda Capell and Virginia and Dee Wyman for giving us the vision that led to these events.