Did you know Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the ‘godmother of rock’n’roll’ performed at Chorlton railway station in 1964? She was one of a number of legendary blues musicians who played as part of the ‘Gospel and Blues Train’ – a one-off performance contrived by Granada Television, which included turning the station (which was roughly on the site of what is now Chorlton Metrolink stop) into a scene from the wild west, with crates, chickens, wanted posters, and a large sign temporarily renaming the station ‘Chorltonville’.
It’s a piece of history that was at risk of being forgotten, until the footage recently appeared on YouTube, including this film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s performance (in the rain, just in case she was in doubt she was in the North of England…).
You can now read about this story in a beautiful new book we have produced and published in partnership with Chorlton High School.
Have you caught the dramatisation of Assata Shakur’s autobiography on Radio 4 this week? In a coincidence of timing the book has also made it to the top of Jo Manby’s review pile!
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur. First published in the UK by Zed Books Ltd, London (1988). This edition Lawrence Hill Books (an imprint of Chicago Review Press, Incorporated): Chicago, Illinois, 2014
Assata Shakur is the FBI’s most wanted woman. Since 1979 has lived in Cuba as a fugitive after being granted asylum there following her escape from prison. She is also a founding member of the Black Liberation Army and godmother of Tupac Shakur. This autobiography tells the story of the circumstances that brought her to her present day situation.
Documentation Assistant Carly Morel is currently pulling together various bits of American Civil Rights material to create a new open-ended archive collection. She highlights a couple of interesting items for us:
With US politics so much in the headlines at the moment, I thought, what better time to tackle our US Civil Rights material?
Book Review: The Black Panthers Speak, Edited by Philip S. Foner, new Foreword by Barbara Ransby (Haymarket Books: Chicago 2014)
(first published by J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia & New York, 1970)
Review by Jo Manby
The Black Panthers Speak is a bibliographic archive of correspondence, news, rules, speeches and poems – the documents that underpinned the fabric of the Black Panther Party’s (BPP) organisation.
The 2014 republishing of The Black Panthers Speak, an essential documentary history of the BPP, is indeed timely. Compiled and edited by Philip S. Foner (1910-1994), this is a new edition with an updated foreword by the writer, historian and political activist Barbara Ransby. When first published in 1970, the volume sought to counter the many misinterpretations that the BPP was subject to.
Book Review: My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon (Haymarket Books: Chicago 2012)
Review by Jo Manby
Despite the presence of a Black president in the White House, America persists in incarcerating unprecedented numbers of Black and ethnic minority males. The Sentencing Project states that ‘for Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day’. This autobiographical work, My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain reminds us of the issues the Black Panther Party (BPP) stood for, most of which, including this and other racial injustices, remain unresolved today. Aaron Dixon gives us a first-hand account of the BPP’s history.
Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago today, on the 7th April 1915. Her first recording session was in 1933, her last in 1959, the year of her death. The pre-eminent jazz singer of her day, she sold millions of records. But it was her most unlikely hit which she adopted as her signature song.
Billie Holiday with her dog, Mister, in 1947. Photograph by William P Gottlieb
The Roving Reader Files
Have you seen Steve McQueen’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning film 12 Years a Slave? If yes, you’ll know two things: one, it’s based on the true story of abducted free Black American Solomon Northup in the 1840s, and two, it’s not a barrel of laughs.
So to cheer you up, as an addendum to my last post, I’d like to highlight a couple of people featured in The Skull Measurer’s Mistake who made a stand against the kind of abuse Northup was subjected to – Granville Sharp and George Cable.