The Black Book

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A new edition of the classic New York Times bestseller edited by Toni Morrison, offering an encyclopedic look at the black experience in America from 1619 through the 1940s with the original cover restored.

“I am so pleased the book is alive again. I still think there is no other work that tells and visualizes a story of such misery with seriousness, humor, grace and triumph.”—Toni Morrison

Seventeenth-century sketches of Africans as they appeared to marauding European traders.  Nineteenth-century slave auction notices. Twentieth-century sheet music for work songs and freedom chants. Photographs of war heroes, regal in uniform. Antebellum reward posters for capturing runaway slaves. An 1856 article titled “A Visit to the Slave Mother Who Killed Her Child.”

In 1974, Middleton A. Harris and Toni Morrison led a team of gifted, passionate collectors in compiling these images and nearly five hundred others into one sensational narrative of the black experience in America—The Black Book. Now in a newly restored hardcover edition, The Black Book remains a breathtaking testament to the legendary wisdom, strength, and perseverance of black men and women intent on freedom. Prominent collectors Morris Levitt, Roger Furman, and Ernest Smith joined Harris and Morrison (then a Random House editor, ultimately a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning Nobel Laureate) to spend months studying, laughing at, and crying over these materials—transcripts from fugitive slaves’ trials and proclamations by Frederick Douglass and celebrated abolitionists, as well as chilling images of cross burnings and lynchings, patents registered by black inventors throughout the early twentieth century, and vibrant posters from “Black Hollywood” films of the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed, it was an article she found while researching this project that provided the inspiration for Morrison’s masterpiece, Beloved.

A labor of love and a vital link to the richness and diversity of African American history and culture, The Black Book honors the past, reminding us where our nation has been, and gives flight to our hopes for what is yet to come. Beautifully and faithfully presented and featuring a foreword and original poem by Toni Morrison, The Black Book remains a timeless landmark work.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from The Black Book


I am The Black Book.
Between my top and my bottom, my right and my
left, I hold what I have seen, what I have done, and what I have thought.
I am everything I have hated: labor without harvest; death without honor;
life without land or law. I am a black woman holding a white child in her
arms singing to her own baby lying unattended in the grass.

I am all the ways I have failed:
I am the black slave owner, the buyer of
Golden Peacock Bleach Creme and Dr. Palmer’s Skin Whitener, the selfhating
player of the dozens; I am my own nigger joke.

I am all the ways I survived:
I am tun-mush, hoecake cooked on a hoe; I am
Fourteen black jockeys winning the Kentucky Derby. I am the creator of
hundreds of patented inventions; I am Lafitte the pirate and Marie Laveau.
I am Bessie Smith winning a roller-skating contest; I am quilts and ironwork,
fine carpentry and lace. I am the wars I fought, the gold I mined,
the horses I broke, the trails I blazed.

I am all the things I have seen:
The New York Caucasian newspaper, the
scarred back of Gordon the slave, the Draft Riots, darky tunes, and merchants
distorting my face to sell thread, soap, shoe polish, coconut.

And I am all the things
I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in
silent water, dream books and number playing. I am the sound of my own
voice singing “Sangaree.” I am ring-shouts, and blues, ragtime and gospels. I am
mojo, voodoo, and gold earrings.

I am not complete here; there is much more,
but there is no more time and no more space . . . and I have journeys to take,
ships to name, and crews.

Toni Morrison, 1973

The Black Book


The Black Book

— Published by Random House —