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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 listeners on a rousing, revelatory journey - and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Dr. Pepper on 05-01-18
Hopes for Pittsburgh aka "Up South"
This book provides an outstanding history of Pittsburgh as a city, but more so Black life in Pittsburgh. It lays out the struggles and challenges Blacks faced at the hands of racism, hate and ignorance. A sometimes tragic story of segregation and opportunities denied, told with as much eloquence as a gruesome story can be told. There were many stories of success celebrated in this book, mostly in sports and entertainment, but each an up hill battle. Hopefully Pittsburgh and America will one day see beyond skin color... but until then, books like this are vitally important to prevent history from repeating itself.
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