Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

Category: Book
By (author): Whitaker, Mark
Subject:  HISTORY / African American
  HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
  HISTORY / United States / State & Local / Middle Atlantic (DC, DE, MD,
  MUSIC / General
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: February 2018
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 432
Size: 9.00in x 6.00in

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*The other great Renaissance of black culture, influence, and glamour burst forth joyfully in what may seem an unlikely place-Pittsburgh, PA-from the 1920s through the 1950s.

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 readers on a rousing, revelatory journey-and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.
Review Quote*"An expansive, prodigiously researched, and masterfully told history."
Review Quote*"The fascinating and never-before-told story of Pittsburgh's black renaissance-a vibrant and creative community that produced a great black newspaper, a great black baseball team, a great black industrial tycoon, a great black painter, a great black playwright, and some of the greatest black musical talent in America.   Thank you, Mark Whitaker."
Review Quote*"Mark Whitaker says his remarkable mid-twentieth century Pittsburgh "was a black version of the story of early twentieth-century Vienna." Mr. Whitaker is so riveting a storyteller that the reader even wonders if Belle Epoque Vienna had the equivalent of a Billy Eckstine, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Strayhorn, Joe Louis, or an August Wilson."
Review Quote*"Mark Whitaker has given Pittsburgh's wondrously rich black culture its due at long last. 

Smoketown is illuminating history and an absolute delight to read."
Review Quote*"Who knew that Pittsburgh had an African American renaissance as vibrant as Harlem's and arguably more consequential? Mark Whitaker knew, and he rescues from unjust obscurity an American episode that continues to reverberate."
Review Quote*"That Smoketown is a joy to read shouldn't obscure the seriousness of its intentions. In vividly recreating the mid-twentieth-century heyday of black Pittsburgh, an almost magical locale for journalism, sports, music, politics, and business, Whitaker is also offering an alternate version of African-American history. This is a story of strength, pride, and achievement, where racism is never absent but also never more powerful than the strong will of his large, fascinating cast of characters."